The danger of a simplistic geographical determinism
in the spiritual life is that it makes everything too easy.
Thus the mechanism of geographical determinism
itself is being threatened since the environment is being destroyed.
Cook admits to being influenced by Diamond's geographical determinism
with Holocene climatic conditions opening a window of opportunity that humans exploited in order to evolve genetically and culturally.
Other traditions promote self-actional causes in cultural idiosyncrasies and individual uniqueness (e.g., Great Culture and Great Man histories), and object to "geographical determinism
" and the vision of humans as "passive robots helplessly programmed by climate, flora, and fauna" (p.
McNeill prefaces this book with a quotation from Fernand Braudel about Braudel's passionate love the Mediterranean, which the author evidently shares, just as he shares generally the latter's geographical determinism
. Yet he never pursues some of Braudel's most brilliant and suggestive insights into the mountains of the Mediterranean, such as the idea of "mountain liberty," developed in the first few pages of Braudel's opus.(1) But McNeill's book has other virtues, and will be of interest to historians and geographers of the Mediterranean world.
To say so does not require subscribing to any suprahistorical geographical determinism
. It does mean recognizing the impact of conspicuous geophysical facts on agricultural, industrial, commercial, and settlement patterns.
We are only ourselves to the extent that we are works of bricolage, a mystical fusion of geographical determinism
, genetic inheritance, and cultural-historical transmission.