Philosophies of the City


Spring 2013

Reinhold Martin, instructor

There is much literature available today on the empirical characteristics of the “global city.” A good portion of this literature also offers a cohesive conceptual frame in which to understand these characteristics. But there is relatively little work on cities today that can be described as philosophical, not in the sense of an academic discipline, but rather, as a style of critical thought. Although in the West this tradition runs from Plato to Augustine and beyond, a useful foundation for understanding the city as an object of critical, philosophical reflection was laid in the early part of the twentieth-century by a variety of German thinkers concerned with the problem of the modern metropolis. This seminar reviewed key aspects of early twentieth-century metropolitan thought. Special emphasis was given to interactions between capitalism and culture and to the social relations of modernization. The goal was not a metalanguage, but rather the elaboration of a critical discourse by which urban artifacts and phenomena can be interpreted, even as they contribute to it. Students were expected to participate in class discussion, present at least one reading to the class and write a research paper on a subject related to at least one set of readings.