Notes on Moral Geography taken from the Internet


Excerpt from: Making of the Western Mind - U. of Ca. Extension, Santa Cruz - Professor William Fredlund - - August 11, 2005

Dante's Inferno: A summary

HELL is the logical extension of this misery through eternity, with the soul now deprived both of the value of human remorse and of divine mercy. The sin is externalized in all of its ugliness, brutishness, and evil, stripped bare of the veneer with which we all are wont to plate our peccadillos. Any time we feel inclined to feel pity for one of the souls Dante encounters, we would do well to remember that the poem's fiction is that the soul is exactly where (according to the poet) it ought to be and where it has chosen to be (even if the pilgrim--as opposed to the poet--sometimes expresses the pity we are likely to share). The souls often present revisionist autobiographies, but we would do well to be suspicious readers of them since Dante's fictional world is based on a moral geography: where the souls are is our starting point in evaluating who they are.





from: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.02.08 on - August 11, 2005

T.J. Cornell and K. Lomas (edds.), Urban Society in Roman Italy. London: UCL Press, 1995. Pp. xii, 221. £38.00. ISBN 1-85728-033-4.

Reviewed by Mary E. Hoskins Walbank, Institute of the Humanities, The University of Calgary.


Three papers are based on evidence from Pompeii and Ostia, the best-known urban sites in Italy. A. Wallace-Hadrill's essay is really two in one (39-62). In the first part, "Pompeii and the historian", he reviews the present state of research and publication on Pompeii, including the creation of the computer databank, set up in 1986, its objectives and current limitations. This is an extremely useful summary. Some of the preliminary analyses are then used in the second part, "Public honour and private shame". W-H has made important contributions to our knowledge of urban society (four major articles form the basis of his recent book, Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Princeton 1994). Now he extends this work by examining the urban texture of Pompeii and the way in which Roman moral values defined the different types of use of space. One of W-H's strengths is the way in which he relates literary and archaeological evidence in examining social history: familiar material is used in a new way. This essay begins with Seneca's well-known passage, "Virtue is something lofty, elevated and regal ... Pleasure is something lowly and servile ... Virtue you will meet in the temple, the forum and the senate house ... Pleasure you will find lurking and hanging around in the shadows, round the baths and saunas and places that fear the aedile..." W-H uses recent archaeological research, including an important study of wheel ruts from which a traffic system and density of use can be deduced, to establish a physical geography of Pompeii that matches Seneca's moral geography. Bars and cookshops were excluded from the symmetrical, open space of the forum, temples and other public areas and from the route used on formal or festival occasions This central area is balanced by the irregularly shaped blocks and winding streets of Regio VII, just to the east of the forum, with its stinking fulleries, bakeries and popinae. Thus, the areas associated with public office and religion, and the offices held by freeborn decurions and magistrates, are separated from that part of town providing the services which bring intense physical satisfaction, such as eating, drinking and sex, and which are controlled predominantly by those of servile origin. W-H uses the location of brothels, which he defines with precision, to illustrate this moral and physical geography: they are hidden away on the narrow back streets. The public baths illustrate an ambivalence in society in that the entrance is on the main street as befits an important public building, while the back entrance provides easy access to a brothel area. (Should we be entirely surprised at these arrangements? Zoning into public, residential and commercial areas is commonly found in modern North American cities; brothels or their equivalent are often located centrally near places of entertainment.) W-H's point is that if we wish to examine the ancient economy in the context of ancient ideology and culture, then we must take into account the symbolic and spatial separation of what the Romans considered to be virtue and vice -- definitions that may or may not match ours -- and also the fact that they were enabled to exist and flourish alongside one another.





from The American Historical Review, Vol. 110, No. 2, April 2005 - - August 11, 2005


Indolence and Regeneration: Tropes and Tensions of Risorgimento Patriotism





Enlightenment political theorists such as Montesquieu, who believed in the role of climate in shaping human attitudes and institutions, spatialized the male-female binary by attributing traits traditionally associated with the female to "Orientals" and southerners.50 Italy certainly fit in this latter category.

Note 50.Ê Moe has recently called attention to the north-south axis in Montesquieu that is at times conflated with the more notorious Europe versus Asia opposition (View from Vesuvius, 23–27). He also points out that by the nineteenth century Montesquieu's name became almost synonymous with the climatic theory. And this in spite of the fact, we should add, that Montesquieu's writings contained a rather more complex view of the factors shaping human institutions and the character of peoples: on this complexity, see Jean-Patrice Courtois, "L'Europe et son autre dans L'Esprit des Lois," in L'Europe de Montesquieu: Actes du Colloque de Gênes (26–29 mai 1993), Alberto Postigliola and Maria Grazia Bottaro Palumbo, eds. (Naples, 1995), 309–28.

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In the concluding sections of the Primato, after arguing that the internal diversity of Italy constituted a veritable synthesis and mirror of Europe and one of the reasons of its superiority, Gioberti provided some outlines of what he called a "moral geography" of the country. In a few pages, he described the characteristics of Piedmont, Lombardy and Venetia, Liguria, Tuscany and Latium, Naples and Sicily, and praised the two cities of Florence and Rome, which he considered the best expression of the "Italian genius." He placed the "true heart" of the country in the center of the peninsula, in Tuscany and Latium, with their capital cities Florence and Rome, "the two undivided centers of language, civilization, religion" not only of Italy but also of Europe and the world.74 In contrast, the Piedmontese and the Neapolitans were two extremes in terms of character traits, and in a sense they compensated for each other: "The Neapolitans are the opposite of the Piedmontese, and they err by excess, as the latter err by lack: in the former the imagination, the courage, the passionate enthusiasm, the mobility, the luxuriant thought, affect, and style are present in great quantity and are even too abundant, in the latter they are often missing or scarce ... in such peoples military value is not rare, even though the French maintain the opposite."75 The great artistic and scientific achievements of the Neapolitans from antiquity to more recent times were the spontaneous result of their "genius," more than of their "discipline," and one could only imagine what even greater achievements they would be capable of if they only learned this "northern" virtue. Thus while consolidating certain commonplaces about the south, Gioberti's descriptive strategies also valorized, as Nelson Moe has observed, some aspects of southern-ness, which may in part account for the success of the Primato.76

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from The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia (author H.R.M.)  in - August 11, 2005





The problems of geography had been lightened by the destructive criticism of the French cartographer D Anville (who had purged the map of the world of the last remnants of traditional Kant. , fact unverified by modern observations) and rendered richer by the dawn of the new era of scientific travel, when Kant brought his logical powers to bear upon them. Kants lectures on physical geography were delivered in the university of Konigsberg from 1765 onwards.i Geography appealed to him as a valuable educational discipline, the joint foundation with anthropology of that knowledge of the world which ~as the result of reason and experience. In this connection he divided the communication of experience from one person to another into two categoriesthe narrative or historical and the descriptive or geographical; both history and geography being viewed as descriptions, the former a description in order of time, the latter a description in order of space.

Physical geography he viewed as a summary of nature, the basis not only of history but also of all the other possible geographies, of which he enumerates five, viz. (I) Mathematical geography, which deals with the form, size and movements of the earth and its place in the solar system; (2) Moral geography, or an account of the different customs and characters of mankind according to the region they inhabit; (3) Political geography, the divisions according to their organized governments; (4) Mercantile geography, dealing with the tradein the surplus products of countries; (5) Theological geography, or the distribution of religions. Here there is a clear and formal statement of the interaction and causal relation of all the phenomena of distribution on the earths surface, including the influence of physical geography upon the various activities of mankind from the lowest to the highest. Notwithstanding the form of this classification, Kant himself treats mathematical geography as preliminary to, and therefore not dependent on, physical geography. Physical geography itself is divided into two parts: a general, which has to do with the earth and all that belongs to itwater, air and land; and a particular, which deals with special products of the earthmankind, animals, plants and minerals. Particular importance is given to the vertical relief of the land, on which the various branches of human geography are shown to depend.

. . . .

The argument from design had been a favorite form of reasoning amongst Christian theologians, and, as worked out by Paley in his Nalural Theology, it served the useful purpose of emphasizing the fitness which exists between all the inhabitants of the earth and their physical environment. It was held that the earth had been created so as to fit  the wants of man in every particular. This argument was, tacitly accepted or explicitly avowed by almost every writer on the theory of geography, and Carl Ritter distinctly recognized and adopted it as the unifying principle of his system. As a student of nature, however, he did not fail to see, and as professor of geography he always taught, that man was in very large measure conditioned by his physical environment. The apparent opposition of the observed fact to the assigned theory he overcame by looking upon the forms of the land and the arrangement of land and sea as instruments of Divine Providence for guiding the destiny as well as for supplying the requirements of man. This was the central theme of Ritters philosophy; his religion and his geography were one, and the consequent fervour with which he pursued his mission goes far to account for the immense influence he acquired in Germany.