Home > Lost, pirates, roleplaying > Rationalist vs Empiricist Cartographies

Rationalist vs Empiricist Cartographies

January 15, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Some years ago I got into a massive misunderstanding with a smart, logical cartography buff about the limits of rationalism in map-making. I was contrasting rationalism with empiricism and saying the former played an important role in the history of cartographic disasters. They thought I was in favour of irrationalism and labeled me a flat Earther. So it goes across the social media beach.

Where empiricists rely on direct observation for making their maps, measuring and recording coastlines, verifying distances by traveling multiple routes, etc., (philosophical) rationalists use their reason and imagination to decide that there must be e.g. a Counterweight Continent or some place for the world’s oceans to drain into or a meaningful set of Antipodes on the other side of the world from major cities, where you could maybe find their opposites or listen through the earth to spy on their business or otherwise act on them at a distance.

nolin-world-wall-map-o344-For all this and more, this Nolin world map from 1708s (still for sale in the 1790s, in various hand-coloured versions) is a treasure trove. It features a vague but confident Northwest Passage connecting Hudson’s Bay to the Pacific via Estotiland (an apocryphal version of Viking Vinland), Antipodes conveniently marked for the enterprising Telluric surfer, and a gigantic Terra Australis Incognita, encompassing Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and a lot of the Southern Ocean.

These were ideas that either made sense to French cartographers or were too appealing to let go of – in 1708 New France encompassed Hudson’s Bay and, theoretically, most of the northern part of North America. A direct route to China that circumvented Spanish waters was the kind of thing that had to be true, economically and by the divine right of Louis XIV. Between the Revolution and the sale of Louisiana, the Republic could dream again of a Sino-French naval alliance against the perfidious English and uppity Americans. Before that, visions of enlisting Prester John’s help against the Moors and Spaniards inspired King Manuel I of Portugal to send a series of navigators around the bottom end of Africa. It stood to reason that the empires of the ungodly Hispanomoors must be bounded by True Christian goodness.

Counter-Colonial Heistcrawl, of course, makes extensive use of both rationalist and empiricist cartographies. It is currently undecided about adopting a Copenhagen interpretation to geography: the sea is wide and definitive means of location are lacking. Maybe that phantom island is misidentified, maybe it’s still out there, somewhere, and you’re just looking in the wrong place. The Isle of Pines, a celebrated free-love paradise first written about in 1667, was finally located (not without violence – cartographic, anthropological, anti-socialist, and bloody) in New Caledonia. Maybe that fabled fairyland of Calyferne (California) will yet conform to its poetic image and turn out to be an island.

(I can’t tell what this is from here, I don’t seem to have brought the right sort of telescope)

  1. Corey James Soper
    January 30, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Almost every single map I use in session works on this premise – this is a subjective possibly erroneous and possibly propagandistic document you’re using, and it gives me a lot of scope to alter a map on the fly. That hamlet you stumbled into wasn’t on the map because it hasn’t got an official charter yet, this ruin is actually on THAT side of the border but was moved for reasons of ethnonationalist propaganda, they just drew some islands here out of a sense of whimsy because noone will actually goes over there…

    • January 30, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      Yes! I’m currently (about to get back to) running 2 campaigns with this mapping philosophy.

  2. choice genie
    January 31, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Compare electric rates Texas Making an energy choice that is efficient can make a big difference in the cost of your energy bill. No need of a major investment in time or money to make sure you’re wasting less energy and saving more. Commercial Texas electric rates If your dryer isn’t providing enough heat or moving air sufficiently through the clothes, then you might have noticed they are taking longer to dry, and at times, not dry at all. Compare Electric Rates Making an energy choice that is efficient can make a big difference in the cost of your energy bill. No need of a major investment in time or money to make sure you’re wasting less energy and saving more. Texas Electric Rates place heat-resistant reflectors between radiators and walls. In the winter, this will help heat the room instead of the wall. Texas Electric Company To keep out the heat of the summer sun, close window shades, and drapes in warm weather and also pay less for power in turn. Power to Choose but also to save water by scraping dishes instead of rinsing them before loading in the dishwasher.Compare Electric Plans Most dishwashers are designed to thoroughly clean dishes that have food scraps, as compared to rinsing off. Commercial Electric Rates Texas If your dryer isn’t providing enough heat or moving air sufficiently through the clothes, then you might have noticed they are taking longer to dry, and at times, not dry at all. Compare electric plans Texas summaries the inevitable bill shock into four stages! Best electric providers Texas its energy-efficiency and also to what kind of weather the home normally sees during the heat. So, choose energy, wisely!Compare electric TX

  3. choice genie
    February 8, 2019 at 7:09 am

    Terra Australis Incognita, encompassing Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and a lot of the Southern Ocean.
    Power to Choose

    Power to Choose

  4. choice genie
    February 12, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Some years ago I got into a massive misunderstanding with a smart, logical cartography buff about the limits of rationalism in map-making.
    Power to Choose

    Power to Choose

  5. choice genie
    February 14, 2019 at 7:23 am

    They thought I was in favor of irrationalism and labeled me a flat Earther. So it goes across the social media beach.
    Power to Choose

    Power to Choose

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: