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  Concerned with the unique and the particular (cf. nomothetic). The term originated at the end of the nineteenth century when W. Windelband and N. Rickert made a famous distinction between the nomothetic and idiographic sciences which, they claimed, entitled history to be regarded as radically different from other forms of intellectual inquiry (see Kantianism). Their arguments have been challenged by other historians and philosophers of science, but made a forceful entry into geography through the Hartshorne-Schaefer debate over exceptionalism, when traditional regional geography was represented as essentially idiographic and incapable of contributing towards effective generalization. These claims were subsequently revived during the quantitative revolution: both Bunge (1962) and Haggett (1965) argued that \'one can do little with the unique except contemplate its uniqueness\', and although Chorley and Haggett\'s influential Models in geography (1967) did \'not propose to alter the basic Hartshorne definition of geography\'s prime task\', attempts there and elsewhere to establish a model-based paradigm nevertheless marked the re-emergence of a nomothetic geography \'after the lapse into ideography\' (Burton, 1963). Some geographers would (then and now) reverse this charge, in the belief that a preoccupation with abstract models constituted the real lapse: certainly, the emergence of idealism within geography was accompanied by equally polemical claims that the human geographer \'does not need theories of his [or her] own\' (Guelke, 1974). Whatever one thinks of Guelke\'s specific proposals, a number of traditions which would otherwise contest his philosophy nevertheless agree that \'the avoidance of the unique is not a requirement of science\' (Guelke, 1977). From the perspective of historical materialism, for example, Massey (1984) contends that:

Variety should not be seen as a deviation from the expected; nor should uniqueness be seen as a problem. \'General processes\' never work themselves out in pure form. There are always specific circumstances, a particular history, a particular place or location. What is at issue … is the articulation of the general with the local (the particular) to produce qualitatively different outcomes in different localities.It is exactly this issue which is at the very centre of the revival of interest in areal differentiation and the reconstruction of a theoretically informed regional geography. Thus, Johnston (1985) argues that:

[R]egional geography must focus on the unique characteristics of the place being studied, but must not express them as if they were singular [emphasis added]. This means that regions must not be studied solely as separate entities. They are part of a much larger whole …. We need a regional geography that finds a middle course between on the one hand the generalising approaches, which allow for no real freedom of individual action, and on the other the singular approaches, which argue that all is freedom of action.(Cf. contextual approach; structuration theory.) All of these formulations are simplifications, of course: it is not so much a matter of connecting \'the\' general to \'the\' particular as one of recognizing the hierarchy of concepts which are involved (see realism). But they all register a significant advance over the combative opposition of the nomothetic and the idiographic. (DG)

References Bunge, W. 1962: Theoretical geography. Lund, Sweden: C.W.K. Gleerup. Burton, I. 1963: The quantitative revolution and theoretical geography. Canadian Geography 7: 151-62. Chorley, R.J. and Haggett, P., eds, 1967: Models in geography. London: Methuen. Guelke, L. 1974: An idealist alternative in human geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 64: 193-202. Guelke, L. 1977: The role of laws in human geography. Progress in Human Geography 1: 376-86. Haggett, P. 1965: Locational analysis in human geography. London: Edward Arnold; New York: John Wiley. Johnston, R.J. 1985: The world is our oyster. In R. King, ed., Geographical futures. Sheffield: Geographical Association, 112-28. Massey, D. 1984: Introduction. In D. Massey and J. Allen, eds, Geography matters! A reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-11.

Suggested Reading Harvey, D. 1969: Explanation in geography. London: Edward Arnold; New York: St. Martin\'s Press, 49-54. Johnston (1985).



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