Environmental Determinism

Topics: Environmental determinism, Determinism, Ellen Churchill Semple Pages: 3 (694 words) Published: November 2, 2010
Environmental Determinism

Environmental determinism is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture. Environmental determinism is also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, due to its definition. People who believe this view believe that humans are strictly defined by the stimulus-response theory, i.e., environment-behavior, and are not able to change.

The concept of environmental determinism has origins that date back to ancient times, when the Greek philosophers such as Strabo, Plato, and Aristotle wrote that climate influences the psychological disposition of different races. They believed that they were much more developed at their time than other cultures because of how moderate their climate was. Other early scholars also used early concepts of environmental determinism to explain not only the culture of a society but the reasons behind the physical characteristics of a society's people. Al-Jahiz, a writer from East Africa, for instance, determined that certain environmental factors explained the origin of different skin colors. He believed that the darker skin of many Africans and various birds, mammals, and insects was a direct result of the prevalence of black basalt rocks on the Arabian Peninsula. Also, in ancient China, people developed their own concept of environmental determinism, which was made famous by the B.C.E. era writer Guan Zhong. Ibn Khaldun, an Arab sociologist and scholar, was officially known as one of the first environmental determinists. He lived from 1332 to 1406, during which time he wrote a complete world history and explained that dark human skin was caused by the hot climate of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The fundamental argument of the environmental determinism argues that certain aspects of physical geography, particularly climate, influence the psychological mind-set of individuals, which in turn define the behavior and culture of the society that those...
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