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FC-02 - Epistemology

Epistemology is the lens through which we view reality. Different epistemologies interpret the earth and patterns on its surface differently. In effect, epistemology is a belief system about the nature of reality that, in turn, structures our interpretation of the world. Common epistemologies in GIScience include (but are not limited by) positivism and realism. However, many researchers are in effect pragmatists in that they choose the filter that best supports their work and a priori hypotheses. Different epistemologies – or ways of knowing and studying geography – result in different ontologies or classification systems. By understanding the role of epistemology, we can better understand different ways of representing the same phenomena.

FC-03 - Philosophical Perspectives

This entry follows in the footsteps of Anselin’s famous 1989 NCGIA working paper entitled “What is special about spatial?” (a report that is very timely again in an age when non-spatial data scientists are ignorant of the special characteristics of spatial data), where he outlines three unrelated but fundamental characteristics of spatial data. In a similar vein, I am going to discuss some philosophical perspectives that are internally unrelated to each other and could warrant individual entries in this Body of Knowledge. The first one is the notions of space and time and how they have evolved in philosophical discourse over the past three millennia. Related to these are aspects of absolute versus relative conceptions of these two fundamental constructs. The second is a brief introduction to key philosophical approaches and how they impact geospatial science and technology use today. The third is a discussion of which of the promises of the Quantitative Revolution in Geography and neighboring disciplines have been fulfilled by GIScience (and what is still missing). The fourth and final one is an introduction to the role that GIScience may play in what has recently been formalized as theory-guided data science.