GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2010, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 947-958.doi: 10.11821/yj2010050019

• Theory and Methodology • Previous Articles    

The geographical methodology between subjectivity and objectivity

YE Chao, CAI Yun-long   

  1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, The Center for Geographical Science Study, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2009-08-24 Revised:2010-02-06 Online:2010-05-20 Published:2010-05-20


The subjectivity and objectivity are an important pair of category of the geographical methodology, and the problem about them focuses on whether scholars should introduce their values into the process of scientific study. This paper defines the values and purposes of geographers as subjective things, and the external scientific or philosophical theories as objective things for geography. According to analysis of the category of objectivity, we firstly show that there is a kind of features cross-paralleled on specialization and interdisciplination in the course of scientific development. Secondly, the theoretical pluralism of the scientific philosophy have strongly influenced the geographical methodology: the frequent interdisciplinary researches after World War II have helped us to expand the scope of the geographical thoughts and contents; and with the theoretical evolvement of the scientific philosophy from Kuhn's Paradigm to Lakatos's Research Programs to Feyerabend's theory of "Anything goes", the geographical methodology has undergone the process from a single paradigm to the pluralism. Finally, the theories of sociology of scientific knowledge make many geographers feel that geographical knowledge often develops under the special social and cultural context so that there is not methodological consensus, and geography is reshaped by rhetoric and discourse. According to analysis of the category of subjectivity, we intend to indicate that the researchers can not break away from and get rid of his value judgments, and their value can not be "neutral" in the study. For the value judgments in the course of research, scholars should be wary of it and hold the principle of strict and integrated logic. As for the teleology, the destination of the whole study lies in "return to self" like humanism, that is from the subject back to the awareness for us. In short, in combination of subjectivity with objectivity, the methodology, including geographical methodology, is the product of interaction between the general rule of scientific and philosophical development and the values and purposes of the scholar himself or herself.

Key words: scientific philosophy, sociology of scientific knowledge, geographical methodology, value judgment, subjectivity and objectivity