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BETH MOORE MILROY Planning, the Humanities, and the Circulation of Ideas In his essay 'Inhumanities of Planning Revisited/ John Dakin says, first, that planners do not pay enough attention to the humanities and, second, that planners would do a better job if they incorporated more of the 'new humanities' into their thinking and practice. Thirdly, the way forward requires a change in the knower in order to change the value weight given to things known. First, I agree that the core of planning practice is driven by utilitarian principles that have little regard for the intrinsic value of ecosystems, and a monolithic rationalism that weighs delight and pleasure in cities against order, and always seems to choose order. However, academic planners and others peripheral to day-to-day development regulation are actively engaged in ransacking the humanities for better ideas. Most of this article is a discussion of what planners are looking for and finding. On the second point, the way planners use what they find in the humanities is significant. Professor Dakin's view seems to be that ideas from the humanities need to be folded into planning to give it more substance or bite. Against this 'souffle' approach whereby one field is collapsed into the other, I would suggest that planners use the humanities as a source of critiques of culture and society. Those insights can be used more like a 'lightning rod' to create a critical tension around planning 's practices in making the world a better or worse place in which to live. Further, mutuality is absent from Professor Dakin's view of how planning and the humanities should be related. He sees a one-way street running from the humanities to planning, as if planners had nothing to offer those working in the humanities. He assumes that the humanities develop 'truth' and that planners, the poor cousins, apply it as best they can. In this view, applying knowledge concretely is less glorious than thinking it abstractly. The irony is that when planners turn to the humanities these days, especially to philosophy, they find no broad consensus on how to recognize 'truth' but rather an interest in examining how people develop 'truth-in-context.' This is the stuff of planners' daily practice: dealing with the experience of locally situated, contextually bound constituents. To recognize mutuality is to value making philosoUN1VERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 PLANNING, THE HUMANITIES1 AND THE CIRCULAnON OF IDEAS 489 describe six ways in as their theories and prjrlctlces. DO THE HUMANITIES INFLUENCE PLANNERS? The view that the humanities have plannJmg aPl,ea:rs to be sut)sti:lntJLatE!d and the OH,Cll)l1lt\es 1-".............''''.. 490 BETH MOORE MILROY sian A/not-A approach (it's residential or it's commercial or it's retail or it's institutional); that a subject is a person in a body who brings only a mind to discussions in the public sphere; and so on. Ongoing discussion of these themes is found in particular in three journals directed towards teachers of planning, and in a fourth with a broader social science orientation. Each came into being or hit its stride in the 1980s and none was part of Stevens's study.2 The discussion is part of a process of trying to reconstnict planning as a tool of social decision-making but with a non-utilitarian and nonrationalist grounding. Of course, this has taken planners back over the philosophical premises, the ethical bases and social history that helped shape planning through the century. Reconstruction and translation into practice occur slowly. Professor Dakin's reminder that slow may not be fast enough is quite appropriate. On the other hand, those attempting to find the new ground see the problem as being much more complex than Professor Dakin implies it is in his essay, and less likely to be solved by borrowing from the humanities. For instance, he properly draws attention to the need to put the sustainability of the planet first, but there is no point sending folks to the humanities to find an environmental ethic because there isn't one there (although several such ethics are in the making...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 488-503
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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