Meeting a friend in a corridor, Wittgenstein said: ‘Tell me, why do people always say it was natural for men to assume that the sun went round the earth, rather than that the earth was rotating?’ His friend said, ‘Well, obviously, because it just looks as if the sun is going round the earth.’ To which the philosopher replied, ‘Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth was rotating?’
Quoted in Derek Gregory, Ideology, Science and Human Geography, 1978
Ideology, Science and Human Geography was the first book I knew I didn’t understand and not coincidentally the first book I ever purchased for myself on my meagre grant funds.* We had been assigned it as third years by Gerry Kearns, Gregory’s own student at Cambridge (and teller of embarrassing stories about DG).
I’ve always loved this quote and the fact the DG starts with scenes from Fowles’ French Lieutenants’s Woman. The contrast between the certitudes of positivism and the ambiguity and multitudinous interpretations of the novel both confirmed and deepened my interest in nonpositivist approaches which continue to this day.
Several years later DG visited our department while I was in grad school and again gave a series of powerful and thoughtful lectures (though a bit too entranced at the time with Sayer’s realism). This visit (and several others) was due to the incredibly generous and much-missed Peter Gould.
IS&HG was featured as a revisited classic in PiHG in 1993.
*And I still have it, though for many years it was possessed by John Krygier, but he kindly gave it back to me.