National Geographic : 1899 Nov
THE RATIONAL ELEMENT IN GEOGRAPHY ination," as Tyndall put it. The second or structural class has at least the negative merit of not being dangerous, but it fails to satisfy the student who has left empiricism in search for rational ism in his geographical work. The third or explanatory, ra tional, and genetic class is stimulating to the investigator, but it is objected to by conservatives as involving grave risk of error, because the explanations on which its terms are based may be incorrect. It is interesting to inquire which of these classes of terms a geographer shall employ in his studies or which a teacher shall use with his scholars. The practical worker will at first probably employ some terms from all three classes, because he finds no one class complete in itself. According to his temperament, he will feel a preference for one class or another, and he will very likely venture now and then to suggest new terms appropriate to his favorite class, if his attention and interest are directed closely to a special field of research where existing terms are insufficient for his needs; but as soon as he begins to use the genetic class he finds that the success of his work is marked by the freedom and confidence with which he can use explanatory terms, and that just as the greater includes the less, so the genetic include the empirical and the structural. The teacher, as well as the investigator, will then feel an increasing discontent with the blind and dull empirical terms, however safe they may be, and with the structural terms, however essential they may be. He will press forward in the hope that all the land forms with which he is concerned may in due time be vouchsafed as full and certain explanatory descrip tion as many of them have already received. A double reward comes to the teacher who leads his scholars beyond empirical description toward rational explanation: a much greater interest is excited in geography as its meaning is found to be richer, and soon afterward a greater power of obser vation is developed in response to the discovery of many corre lations among the elements of land forms that springs from their explanation. Herein lies the practical value of a method that may thus far seem chiefly theoretical. A concrete case may be illustrated by the diagrams on pages 470 and 471. Empirical description will see a narrower and a broader canyon: the walls of the first consist of cliffs and slopes; the walls of the second consist of cliffs, slopes, and platforms. No correlation is sought for between structure and form, for empirical description does not concern itself with correlations.