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In the introduction to Geography and Ethics: Journeys in a Moral Terrain, Proctor claims that 'there is a strong resonance among all the essays [in the edited volume] as to the geographical embeddedness of ethics, an argument made implicitly or explicitly that geography matters in finding clarifications of, or solutions to, ethical questions'. There is no doubt that geography, broadly enough construed, can function so as to clarify not only ethical questions but political, social and legal ones as well. While not denying that geographical considerations of various kinds have contributed to discussions about vagrancy, the meaning and use of public space, 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 question of the morality of the growing legislation of what has come to be known as anti-vagrant or anti-homelessness laws. Discussions on the relationship between facts and values have advanced considerably since Hume's infamous is-ought distinction, and the interplay of facts and values has been increasingly asserted in contexts far removed from that invoked by Hume. While considerations of fact and value cannot be neatly separated in many cases, I discuss two essays in which geographers make little, if any, case for a connection and show little awareness that a case does 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 of ethics in these fields. It has recently been argued that in architecture there is no clear separation between 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—including geography.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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