EGU23-1204, updated on 22 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Takings from the History of Science for Geo-philosophical Studies

Martin Bohle1,2,3
Martin Bohle
  • 1Ronin Institute, Montclair, NJ, USA (
  • 2International Association for Promoting Geoethics, Rome, Italy
  • 3Edgeryders, Brussels, Belgium

Professional experiences led geoscientists initially to put together epistemic-moral hybrids [1], e.g. The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics  [2]. Then, combining geosciences and political philosophies more comprehensively, geo-philosophical assessments of human practices as part of the Earth System emerged [3] [4]. These assessments describe the Human-Earth Nexus amalgamating insights into (i) the dynamics of the Earth System; (ii) socio-historical features of human societies; (iii) philosophical appraisals of socio-political choices.

Scholars of the history of science recently developed a theory of the evolution of knowledge [5] [6] [7]. Applied to societies experiencing anthropogenic global change, they discern the concept of an ergosphere to depict the essence of the Human-Earth Nexus. “With their rapidly evolving culture, humans have introduced an “ergosphere” (a sphere of work, as well as of technological and energetic transformations) as a new global component of the Earth system, in addition to the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere, thus changing the overall dynamics of the system.“ [6, p. 7].

The historians’ theory of evolution of knowledge offers geoscientists notions (e.g. borderline problem, economy of knowledge, and external representation) for assessing human practices, e.g. (i) a ‘borderline problem’ defined as: “problems that belong to multiple distinct systems of knowledge. Borderline problems put these systems into contact… (and sometimes into direct conflict) with each other, potentially triggering their integration and reorganisation” [7, p427]; (ii) an ‘economy of knowledge’ defined as: “societal processes pertaining to the production, preservation, accumulation, circulation, and appropriation of knowledge mediated by its external representation” [7, p.429]; (iii) an ‘external representation’ defined as: “any aspect of the material culture or environment of a society that may serve as an encoding of knowledge” [7, p. 224].

Concluding: (i) taking a geo-philosophical perspective means, per se, specifying a borderline problem, an economy of knowledge, and an external representation; (ii) the theoretical findings of the history of science offer a standardised methodology for geo-philosophical studies, namely asking: What borderline problem? What economy of knowledge? What external representation? Responses will discern sharper the socio-historical features of geo-philosophical topics, be it geoheritage or the Human-Earth-Nexus.

[1] Potthast T (2015) Toward an Inclusive Geoethics—Commonalities of Ethics in Technology, Science, Business, and Environment. In: Peppoloni MW (ed) Geoethics. Elsevier, pp 49–56

[2] Di Capua G, Peppoloni S, Bobrowsky P (2017) The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics. Ann Geophys 60:1–6.

[3] Di Capua G, Bobrowsky PT, Kieffer SW, Palinkas C (2021) Introduction: geoethics goes beyond the geoscience profession. Geol Soc London, Spec Publ SP508-2020–191.

[4] Bohle M, Marone E (2022) Phronesis at the Human-Earth Nexus: Managed Retreat. Front Polit Sci 4:1–13.

[5] Rosol C, Nelson S, Renn J (2017) Introduction: In the machine room of the Anthropocene. Anthr Rev 4:2–8.

[6] Renn J (2018) The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science in the Anthropocene. HoST - J Hist Sci Technol 12:1–22.

[7] Renn J (2020) The Evolution of Knowledge - Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene. Princeton University Press, Oxford, UK

How to cite: Bohle, M.: Takings from the History of Science for Geo-philosophical Studies, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-1204,, 2023.