Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan地理学家段义孚
A Biography of the Famous Chinese-American Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan
May 5 2010 2010年5月5日
Yi-Fu Tuan is a Chinese-American geographer famous for pioneering the field of human geography and merging it with philosophy, art, psychology, and religion. This amalgamation has formed what is known as humanist geography.
Humanist geography as it is sometimes called is a branch of geography that studies how humans interact with space and their physical and social environments. It also looks at the spatial and temporal distribution of population as well as the organization of the world’s societies. Most importantly though, humanistic geography stresses people’s perceptions, creativity, personal beliefs, and experiences in developing attitudes on their environments.
In addition to his work in human geography, Yi-Fu Tuan is famous for his definitions of space and place. Today, place is defined as a particular part of space that can be occupied, unoccupied, real, or perceived (as is the case with mental maps). Space is defined as that which is occupied by an object's volume.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the idea of place in determining people's behavior was at the forefront of human geography and replaced any attention previously given to space. In his 1977 article, "Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience," Tuan argued that to define space, one must be able to move from one place to another, but in order for a place to exist, it needs a space. Thus, Tuan concluded that these two ideas are dependent upon one another and began to cement his own place in the history of geography.
在20世纪60年代和70年代，确定人们行为的地位的想法处于人类地理学的最前沿，取代了先前对太空的关注。 在他的1977年文章“空间和地方：经验的视角”中，段认为，要定义空间，人们必须能够从一个地方移动到另一个地方，但为了一个地方存在，它需要一个空间。 因此，段得出结论，这两种思想相互依存，并开始巩固自己在地理史上的地位。。
Yi-Fu Tuan's Early Life段义孚的早期生活
Tuan was born on December 5, 1930 in Tientsin, China. Because his father was a middle class diplomat, Tuan was able to become a member of the educated class, but he also spent many of his younger years moving from place to place within and outside of China's borders.
Tuan first entered college at the University College in London but he later went to the University of Oxford where he received his bachelor's degree in 1951. He then continued his education there and earned his master's degree in 1955. From there, Tuan moved to California and finished his education at the University of California, Berkeley.
During his time at Berkeley, Tuan became fascinated with the desert and the American Southwest -- so much so that he often camped in his car in the rural, open areas. It was here that he began to develop his ideas of the importance of place and bring philosophy and psychology into his thoughts on geography. In 1957, Tuan completed his PhD with his dissertation entitled, "The Origin of Pediments in Southeastern Arizona."
Yi-Fu Tuan's Career生涯
After completing his PhD at Berkeley, Tuan accepted a position teaching geography at Indiana University. He then moved on to the University of New Mexico, where he frequently spent time conducting research in the desert and further developed his ideas on place. In 1964, Landscape magazine published his first major article called, "Mountains, Ruins, and the Sentiment of Melancholy," in which he examined how people view physical landscape features in culture.
In 1966, Tuan left the University of New Mexico to begin teaching at the University of Toronto where he remained until 1968. In that same year, he published another article; “The Hydrologic Cycle and the Wisdom of God,” that looked at religion and used the hydrologic cycle as evidence for religious ideas.
After two years at the University of Toronto, Tuan then moved to the University of Minnesota where he produced his most influential works on organized human geography. There, he wondered about the positive and negative aspects of human existence and why and how they existed around him. In 1974, Tuan produced his most influential work called Topophilia which looked at the love of place and people’s perceptions, attitudes, and values surrounding their environments. In 1977, he further solidified his definitions of place and space with his article, “Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience.”
That piece, combined with Topophilia then had a significant impact on Tuan’s writing. While writing Topophilia, he learned the people perceive place not only because of the physical environment but also because of fear. In 1979, this became the idea of his book, Landscapes of Fear.
这篇文章，再加上恋地情结Topophilia，对段的创作产生了重大影响。在写“恋地情结”的时候，他了解到人们感知到的地方不仅是因为自然环境，还因为恐惧。1979年，这成为他的书《恐惧的风景》(landscape of Fear)的构思。
Following four more years teaching at the University of Minnesota, Tuan cited a mid-life crisis and moved to the University of Wisconsin. While there, he produced several more works, among them, Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets, in 1984 that looked at man's impacts on the natural environment by focusing on how humans are able to change it by adopting pets.
在明尼苏达大学任教四年之后，段以中年危机为由搬到了威斯康星大学。在那里，他又创作了几部作品，其中包括1984年出版的《支配与情感:宠物的制造》(Dominance and love: The Making of Pets)。这本书着眼于人类如何通过收养宠物来改变自然环境，从而观察人类对自然环境的影响。
In 1987, Tuan's work was formally celebrated when he was awarded the Cullum Medal by the American Geographical Society.
Retirement and Legacy 退休之后
During the late 1980s and 1990s, Tuan continued lecturing at the University of Wisconsin and wrote several more articles, further expanding his ideas in human geography. On December 12, 1997, he gave his last lecture at the university and officially retired in 1998.
Even in retirement, Tuan has remained a prominent figure in geography by pioneering human geography, a step that gave the field a more interdisciplinary feel as it is no longer simply concerned with physical geography and/or spatial science. In 1999, Tuan wrote his autobiography and more recently in 2008, he published a book called, Human Goodness. Today, Tuan continues give lectures and writes what he calls “Dear Colleague Letters.”
To view these letters and learn more about Yi-Fu Tuan's career visit his website.
Samples of Professor Tuan’s Dear Colleague Letters
October 24, 2009
Let’s say that I have a house and my two most precious possessions in it are my young daughter and my cat. A fire broke out. I had to choose between saving my daughter and my cat. I saved the cat. My daughter perished. You can imagine the outrage! And yet, conceivably, a cat lover or two might say that I did the right thing. Here is another scenario. I have a house and my two most precious possessions in it are my cat and my pet rock. A fire broke out. I saved my pet rock, abandoning my cat to the flames. More and possibly even greater outrage! Don’t I realize that the rock is a piece of mineral without feelings? But that’s not how I see my rock. To me, it is a friend–a friend of undeviating constancy, a round object that warms my hand in winter and cools my cheek in summer.
My point is that we humans are poetic animals–that we naturally assign human personality, motivation, and feeling to beings that don’t have them. The evidence lies in our language, which is chock-full of metaphors. When I say to my scientific geographical colleagues that they are poets, they are none too pleased, but they can’t escape the label, for don’t they say the mouth of the river, an arm of the sea, the spine of a ridge? Moreover, when their leg bangs against the leg of their desk, don’t they glower at it as though its obstructiveness was intentional?
We love our kin–we love people who look like us, who have dark hair and brown eyes as we do. As for people with blond hair and blue eyes, well, they can be tolerated but not loved, for they are not one of us. What if people look even more radically different? What if they are hairy, what if their jaws recede and their arms dangle almost to their knees? Well, we won’t want to be close to them. In fact, we would be repelled by their ugliness–their grotesque appearance. Yet what I have just said is not true–or rather, not quite true–for there are creatures who fit the description I have given, but far from being repelled by them, we embrace them as cousins thrice-removed. Who do I have in mind? I have in mind the mountain gorillas. It is a peculiarity of our species that we can favor other species more than our own–love our animal pet more than we do a human child. Remember that in eighteenth-century Britain, a nobleman’s horses were housed in handsome stables; by contrast, the men who served them lived in dark, smoky cottages. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded long before the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In nineteenth-century Britain, stray cats and dogs were being taken care of when children seven or eight years old slaved in factories, suffered choking smoke and grime as chimney sweeps, and were sent to prison for stealing an apple.
How come? Well, we humans are compelled to love creatures unlike us because we were and are totally dependent on them. Domestication is a long-drawn and often cruel procedure. Nevertheless, in its early stages, we humans had to treat the animals we wished to domesticate with tender, loving care. That loving attentiveness has not totally disappeared even when techniques of domestication have matured to the extent that personal attention and care was no longer necessary. Another factor is our need to see our virtues vividly. Animals, serving as metaphors, answer that need. Thus the dog stands undeviatingly for loyalty, the cat for independence, the horse for elegance, the tiger for power, the lion for nobility, and the panda for cuteness. But that still leaves out the mountain gorilla. What does it stand for? The vulnerability of hulk? Innocence behind threatening appearance?
“Lucidity, I maintain, is almost always desirable.”
September 18, 2009
I attended a reception honoring undergraduates of Letters & Science who have received scholarships in recent years. It was held in Tripp Common of the Memorial Union. When I walked in, the hall was already packed with students, parents, relatives, and donors. Some were standing in line for the hors d’oeuvre. I joined them, for I didn’t want to miss the College’s largesse. With food and drink in hand, I looked for a table and found one that had not been occupied. Of course, I expected to be joined by others, but no one came. All the other tables meanwhile blossomed with bright happy faces—students and their proud parents—smiling, talking, eating. As I sat there nibbling at the food on my plate, I felt decidedly odd. Why was I there? I don’t normally accept open invitations of this kind. I accepted this one because Cathy Webb wrote me a letter, inviting me to the reception as a future donor. She mentioned the scholarship in my will and said that she hoped it would be many years before it is activated. Her words rang in my ears as I stared into space and imagined myself a ghost hovering benignly over the crowd, an actual benefactor and not just a potential one.
The fact is, although I was bodily present at the reception, I felt as unreal and disconnected from what went on as I would if I were pure spirit—and the year not 2009 but, say, 2012. At this point of my reverie, a young man was brought to my table by an assistant dean. His family couldn’t come and I obviously needed company. Immediately my ghost rejoined my body and I felt real again. The student is Matthew O’Brien. He is in his third year, majoring in materials science, modern history, and African Studies. Yes—all three! Astonishing, isn’t it? He politely asked about me, what I do, and I found myself telling him about doing fieldwork in Panama in 1959, as part of a naval project to blast—with nuclear bombs!—a new canal through the Panamanian isthmus. How ancient I must seem to Matthew. Sitting by me, it could occur to him that even his grandfather is young. The other side of the coin is, how incredibly young Matthew looked to me. If I had a grandson, he could be older. At this point, my thought turned to the parents. What images raced through their minds as they looked proudly at what they had contributed to life and world. “Oh death, where is thy victory?” must have a real meaning for them—not just a familiar phrase from the Bible, but a personal shout of triumph.
You may detect a note of envy in me, a life-long bachelor, when I start to talk about parents. On the other hand, I am immensely grateful to them for lending me their talented offspring. At times, I feel that the parents just might envy me, for I see their children, often on an one-on-one basis, when they are most attractive and intellectually alert. The parents toil to pay the bills and I get the benefit. Even in the brief time I chatted with Matthew, I felt charged up by his vigor, intelligence, and hopefulness. I was also delighted to hear a student’s official remarks from the podium. She is Kimberly Krautkramer, a senior in molecular biology and philosophy. What a promising combination of disciplines! Kimberly is surely heading toward a brilliant career. Finally, while waiting for the program to begin, I watched slides projected on the screen that showed comments by scholarship recipients. One said something like this. “I am grateful to my professors at UW. As Marcel Proust said, ‘Teachers are the gardeners of my soul.’” After this, dear colleague, it is hard to be dour even if the arthritis still hurts.
May 5, 2010
Bobby, the last Kantian in Nazi Germany
Ethics is about others, is it not? It is about how we see the other and feel a responsibility for the other? Curiously, the answer is “no”–or rather, “no” in two great ethical-philosophical traditions, the Indian and the Greek. At the center of these two great traditions is personal salvation. Of course, to attain personal salvation one must satisfy certain conditions. To Indians, it is right action, each of which, however small, is a step up the karmic path; and though the action is done ultimately for oneself, it does have the effect of benefitting others. As for the Greeks, salvation begins with self-knowledge. With true self-knowledge, how can a man do wrong? And how can he not benefit others if only as virtue personified? Think of Socrates, a good man, and I would love to be in his company. But compassion is not in his vocabulary and history does not say that he ever fed orphans or consoled widows.
In contrast to the self-focus of Indians and Greeks, Jews focus on the other–on responsibility for the other. There are no less than 36 references to the stranger in the Jewish bible. Can any other holy book match this? Maybe the Christian, but then Christian ethics is an extension of Jewish ethics. Note that the other in the Judeo-Christian tradition is a stranger, not a kinsman or a neighbor with whom one can so easily bond through familiarity and the promise of mutual assistance. Immanuel Kant universalized Judeo-Christian maxims to include all peoples. Yet how feebly this principal has taken hold even in Kant’s native country, Germany, and even among philosophers in his native country, of whom the most notable is Martin Heidegger.
What do these potted stories lead up to? They lead up to the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995). His early works show that he was steeped in the Western philosophical tradition, and that among his heroes were Kant and Heidegger. In a Nazi concentration camp, he had time to reflect on Kant’s universalist ethics and Germany’s total disregard of it, and the irony that his own much admired hero, Heidegger, had joined the Nazi party. Levinas came up with two conclusions. One is that words, however persuasive at an intellectual level, have little or no impact on action, and a reason for this ineffectiveness might be that, at a subconscious level, Western philosophy (remember the Greeks), like Indian philosophy, is centered on the individual–on developing personal virtue rather than on working for the good of the other. The second conclusion is that when the other does swim into focus he is a kinsman or a neighbor, and not a stranger. Heidegger’s sympathy for Nazism lies in the appeal of this primitive tribalism, and his achievement, the draping of a sophisticated veil of words over it.
Levinas reflected on his camp experience in a two-page essay. “Halfway through our long captivity, for a few short weeks, a wandering dog entered our lives. We called him Bobby, as one does with a cherished dog. He would appear at morning assembly and was waiting for us as we returned from work under guard. He jumped up and down and barked in delight. For him there was no doubt that we were men.” “This dog,” Levinas added, “was the last Kantian in Nazi Germany.” He did so without the brain to universalize, and he did so because his instinct was such as to favor a species other than his own (Stephen Stern, "How Judaism redeems Western Philosophy" Tikkun, May/June 2010).