N° 446
Elements of a Historical Epistemology of Space (TOPOI – Towards a Historical Epistemology of Space)

The essay presents an outline of a historical epistemology of space in the sense of a developmental theory of forms of spatial thinking. Starting with the natural conditions of spatial cognition through to concepts of space imposed by advanced disciplinary science, manifestations of spatial thinking in different cultures and historical epochs are sketched. The essay attempts to contribute to an assessment of the epistemic status of human spatial knowledge by highlighting genetic and structural relations between the different forms of knowledge. While the occurrence of each new form depends on specific socio-cultural conditions, its concrete realization does not solely depend on these conditions, but also on the cognitive structures it builds upon and on the further experience made possible by these conditions. Different forms of spatial knowledge do not replace each other in historical succession; they are simultaneously present within single societies and influence each other.