Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (12): 1541-1555.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1451-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geography’s “World view”: The ontological issues of geography

Kai LIU1(), Maolin TANG2,*(), Rongzeng LIU1, Yaochen QIN3   

  1. 1. School of Resources and Environment Science, Henan University of Economics and Law, Zhengzhou 450002, China
    2. School of Geographical Sciences & Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China;
    3. Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Geospatial Technology for Middle and Lower Yellow River Regions, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001, Henan, China
  • Received:2017-06-03 Accepted:2017-07-17 Online:2017-12-10 Published:2017-12-10
  • Contact: Maolin TANG;
  • About author:

    Author: Liu Kai (1972-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in the philosophy of geography, geographical information science, urban and regional development. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    Humanities and Social Science Research Project of Ministry of Education Fund, No.15YJA720003


Contemporary science philosophy suggests that discussing ontological problems is of fundamental significance broadly within certain specific disciplines. Natural and social science research are inseparable from philosophical guidance; for instance, the philosophy of geography is the ideological basis for geography. The traditional philosophy of geography is methodology- oriented, which primarily emphasizes the “logical structure of geography explanations,” and ignores the discussion of its ontology. This study, in the context of the philosophy of science, explores the relationships between methodology, ontology, and the philosophy of geography, defines the connotations of geographical ontology, analyzes the links and differences between philosophical ontology and scientific ontology of geography, clarifies the nature of geographical ontology, and summaries its theoretical values. The ontology of geography incorporates the philosophically ontological beliefs of geographers and geographical schools and the ontological commitment of the theory of geography. As different geographers hold different philosophical viewpoints, their ontological beliefs are different; one geographical theory asserts an ontological commitment of “what is there,” which determines the nature and types of objectives the theory references. The ontological beliefs of geographers determine their epistemology, methodology, and axiology, and the ontological commitment of a geographical theory is the premise and basis of that theory.

Key words: geography, philosophy of science, ontology, pluralism, methodology, theoretical value