Geography and philosophy

The Institute Bulletin

After joining the staff of the Institute of Education in 1994 and attending the important series of lectures attended by all students and staff, I was anxious to do what none of my geographer colleagues had done, respond to the alarming suggestion coming from one of the Institute’s most prominent and influential philosophers, Paul Hirst, that geography was not a form of knowledge.

After a good deal of thought and argument with Paul, I wrote this short paper and believed it deserved publication. An obvious place for it was in the Institute’s own Bulletin. This was a quarterly journal delivered free to all staff members of the Greater London University Institute of Education, which included all the teacher training colleges in South East England as well as the central Institute itself. I prepared the article for submission.

It had never occurred to me that I might become involved with the Bulletin other than as a possible contributing author. To my complete astonishment, in 1965 I was asked by the Dean of the Institute, Professor W R Niblett, to be Editor.

He knew I had written some books and articles but that applied to most of the lecturing staff. The only evidence Niblett had that I might be fit for the job, was that when interviewed for the lectureship I mentioned that I had started and edited a student wall newspaper in the Kenton Lodge Teacher Training College where I had worked.

Under a certain amount of pressure, I agreed to take the (unpaid) job.

Finding myself suddenly in the editorial chair, I felt reluctant now to publish my own article. After showing it to Norman Graves, the head of the Geography Department, I asked him if he would let his name appear as co-author. He agreed and made one small amendment, adding the last sentence which I recognised as a defence of the attitude to geography adopted by the department of which I was now part.

The item went into the Bulletin for Summer Term 1966. I continued to think about the forms of knowledge argument and some of my later papers (included in this web site under Philosophy), show how I came to differ more and more from Paul’s line.




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