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Abysmal: A Critique of Cartographic Reason by Gunnar Olsson

By Gunnar Olsson

Humans depend on cause to consider and navigate the summary international of human relatives in a lot a similar manner they depend on maps to review and traverse the actual global. ranging from that easy statement, popular geographer Gunnar Olsson bargains in Abysmal an astonishingly erudite critique of how human inspiration and motion became deeply immersed within the rhetoric of cartography and the way this cartographic reasoning permits the robust to map out different people’s lives.A spectacular interpreting of Western philosophy, faith, and mythology that pulls on early maps and atlases, Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, Gilgamesh, and Marcel Duchamp, Abysmal is itself a minimalist advisor to the terrain of Western tradition. Olsson roams generally yet continually returns to the issues inherent in cause, to query the outmoded assumptions and glued principles that considering cartographically includes. a piece of ambition, scope, and sharp wit, Abysmal will entice an eclectic audience—to geographers and cartographers, but in addition to someone attracted to the historical past of rules, tradition, and paintings. (20061024)

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Centuries later it was this error that took Christopher Columbus not to the India he knew but to the real Terra Incognita of the Americas, an unknown and dangerous world literally beyond the limits not only of the Greek oikumene but of his own imagination, an invention more than a discovery. 42 Ptolemy was clearly obsessed by the idea of making the invisible visible, of capturing the wholeness of the world—up and down, front and back, north and south, east and west—everything in the same all-embracing picture.

15 True to his boldness, he put the island of Thule on that line, by definition the northern boundary of the temperate zone, the latitude at which the circumpolar stars are always visible. No one knows exactly how far north Pytheas actually ventured or which places he did visit. Most debated are his references to Thule, by the majority of modern commentators held to be Iceland, by some to be Shetland or the Norwegian coast around Trondheim. 16 Here was literally the dangerous edge of 27 28 M A P P I N G S the world, with summer daylight lasting up to six months, a land of firethrowing volcanoes and boiling springs, a sea with freezing fog, ice-slush all around, solid ice rumored to be a day away.

10 But time plays its own game of truth and consequences and today Pytheas is considered neither a madman nor a liar. What in hindsight makes him so remarkable is that he never lost his bearings, a characteristic which makes him a living illustration of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s oft-quoted remark that “if I were sometimes to see quite new surroundings from my window instead of the long familiar ones, if things, humans, and animals were to behave as they never did before, then I should say something like ‘I have gone mad’; but that would merely be an expression of giving up the attempt to know my way about.

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