Historical Epistemology of Space

Historical Epistemology of Space

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Epstorf World Map (detail)

In the history of Western epistemological thought, there is a long tradition of dividing spatial knowledge into a purely rational part, independent of any experience in the outer world, and an experiential part. While the project on the historical epistemology of space shares the aim of identifying the different sources of spatial knowledge, it is based on a thoroughly developmental view on cognition. According to this view, experiential knowledge participates in the construction of cognitive structures which in turn constitute the basis for further experience. The project therefore focuses on the question of how the emergence and the development of spatial concepts is shaped by experience and how these concepts influence the acquisition of further experiential knowledge. Experience is understood in a broad sense, ranging from the interaction of biological organisms with their environment to the systematic acquisition of knowledge by means of the complex experimental systems of modern science. The experiential spaces that one may thus distinguish have traditionally been investigated by different disciplines, such as developmental psychology, anthropology, ethnology and psycholinguistics, archeology, and the history of science and technology. In the framework of the project, these are set in relation to each other with respect to their research potentials and results concerning the historical development of spatial knowledge.