Spaced Out and Down By Law : Geography, Politics and the Ethics of Homelessness

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In the introduction to Geography and Ethics: Journeys in a Moral Terrain, Proctorclaims that ‘there is a strong resonance among all the essays [in the edited volume] as to thegeographical embeddedness of ethics, an argument made implicitly or explicitly that geographymatters in finding clarifications of, or solutions to, ethical questions’. There is no doubt thatgeography, broadly enough construed, can function so as to clarify not only ethical questions butpolitical, social and legal ones as well. While not denying that geographical considerations ofvarious kinds have contributed to discussions about vagrancy, the meaning and use of publicspace, public welfare in relation to urban development, race and class relations and the like,I shall argue that geographical considerations by themselves have little relevance to the questionof the morality of the growing legislation of what has come to be known as anti-vagrant or antihomelessnesslaws. Discussions on the relationship between facts and values have advancedconsiderably since Hume’s infamous is–ought distinction, and the interplay of facts and valueshas been increasingly asserted in contexts far removed from that invoked by Hume. Whileconsiderations of fact and value cannot be neatly separated in many cases, I discuss two essays inwhich geographers make little, if any, case for a connection and show little awareness that a casedoes have to be made—that facts, even when nicely described, do not by themselves speak value.Geography is then contrasted with architecture with regard to the issue of the embeddedness ofethics in these fields. It has recently been argued that in architecture there is no clear separationbetween ethical issues and architectural or design problems. Ethics, it is claimed, is intrinsic to(embedded in) the practice of architecture, but extrinsic to most other disciplines—includinggeography.Introduction:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-112
JournalEthics, Place and Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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