Possibilism (geography)

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Possibilism in cultural geography is the theory that the environment sets certain constraints or limitations, but culture is otherwise determined by social conditions. In Cultural ecology Marshall Sahlins used this concept in order to develop alternative approaches to the environmental determinism dominant at that time in ecological studies. Theory by Strabo in 64 BC that we, humans, can make things happen by our own intelligence over time. Strabo cautioned against the assumption that nature and actions of humans were determined by the physical environment they inhabited. He observed that humans were the active elements in a human-environmental partnership.

The controversy between geographical possibilism and determinism might be considered as one of (at least) three dominant epistemologic controversies of contemporary geography. The other two controversies are 1) the "debate between neopositivists and neokantians about the "exceptionalism" or the specificity of geography as a science [and 2)] the contention between Mackinder and Kropotkin about what is - or should be - geography."[1]

Possibilism in geography is, thus, considered as a distinct approach to geographical knowledge, directly opposed to geographical determinism.

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  1. ^ José William Vesentini, Controvérsias geográficas: epistemologia e política, Confins (magazine) - Revue Franco-Brésilienne de Géographie