Moral, Ethics and Geography: An Empirical Perspective on Political, Economical and Sociability Behaviors
Ethics and morality as objects of research remain important blind spots of geography. Despite their recent attempts to reconcile the discipline’s take on ethics, geographers hardly ever investigate the individual and social production of moral and ethical systems and practices. Instead, they engage in research work in which they use shared ethical beliefs to frame spaces of injustice, practices of care, and environmental hazards. Following Durkheim’s normative stance on the social sciences, Western human geographers have reduced their research scope to comply with the moral and ethical beliefs of their scientific community. Morality is however not only limited to questions of justice/injustice and care/harm. Recent research developments in psychology and anthropology shows human morality as set of adaptive mechanisms to be much broader than the academic “Rawls vs Gilligan”—justice vs care—and to span across other normative categories. In this paper, I expose recent developments on the study of morality and ethics in psychology and anthropology, following primarily two evolutionary research strands: Moral Foundation Theory and Evolutionary Values Theory. I then describe three studies in which I begin to question both social and individual production of normative and moral systems, and their spatial correlates, using methods from political, cultural and urban geography. I finish on a theoretical opening linking contemporary French geography to John Silk’ original preoccupation on “caring at a distance,” and describe how care, but also justice, authority, in-group and purity can be part on a novel geographical inquiry on ethics.