This thesis sets out to explore some of the ways in which the methods
of inquiry employed in urban planning tend to guide the perspective
taken on substantive concerns in that field. It endeavours to
accomplish this task by showing that there are certain underlying
presuppositions that are implicitly rather than explicitly accepted
by making use of any method of inquiry, but focuses on aspects of
models of social/spatial phenomena as these are employed in urban
planning as instruments for prediction and control rather than copies
of segments of reality—either making existential claims about it
or postulating structural isomorphisms.
Urban planning is taken to be a "social practice" within which thought
and action are mutually determined through continuous dialectical
processes involving the planners and those who are being investigated
and affected by plans. The strong presence of a knowledge component
in the thought/action continuum of planning makes relevant a range
of ontological and epistemological problems linked with the view
taken of science and its methods and procedures of inquiry, and with
the way the world of man and society and its manifestation in urban
life is looked at. It is argued that the way in which society is
theorised about has implications for the methods employed in its
study and hence for the planning process seen as a process of inquiry.
To the extent that alternative theoretical perspectives on societyare possible — indeed,three such perspectives are identified and
explored: naturalism, interpretative or humanistic approaches,
critical theory of society — there are corresponding approaches to
"social practice" including the mode of planning to be adopted in
the regulation of societal affairs in the city. Technological and
humanistic approaches to urban planning are distinguished, the latter
comprising interactionist and critical modes. The technological
model derives its strength from a policy science approach which is
informed by a view of science akin to positivistic naturalism.
It introduces a range of sharp divisions into inquiry — theory from
observation, method from substantive content, values and norms from
facts as the unassailable foundations of empirical knowledge, ends
from means — which are taken to be unacceptable at least in the realm
of ethically relevant action that planning consists of
Rejection of this conception of a technological planning approach is
advocated but this does not necessarily entail rejection of scientific
approaches to planning as a whole. Rather, the strictures concern
the particular view of science, and its methods and procedures, which
informs the technological model. It is that view of the "logic of
science" which is held to impose unnecessary restrictions on what is
to count as legitimate knowledge of the world, and its replacement
seems particularly urgent. The conceptualisations that are to be
found in the "newer" philosophy of science are taken to provide
plausible alternatives to the "old empiricism", though they do not
afford as unified a view of knowledge as may appear at first glance.
Such views of science, however, render the application of scientific
methods and procedures in urban planning much more credible.
The view of knowledge which the author finds most convincing is one
that recognises the important role played in it by human contribution;
accepts the many culturally given elements in any cognitive endeavour;
acknowledges the strong presence of metaphorical elements in theories
and models of aspects of reality; concedes that there are alternative
equally valid ways of conceptualising experience and that assessment
of their validity as correspondence with "objective" facts may have
to take second place in the light of considerations such as
convenience, instrumental effects, or aesthetic criteria; regards
a strict separation of the realm of theory from the realm of
observation as untenable; and does not suffer epistemological shock
from any consequences of relativism that such views might entail.
For this is accepted as part of man's epistemological predicament.
Such a perspective on knowledge would have implications for the
proliferation of theories and models accounting for the same set of
phenomena, and for pluralism and tolerance in goals and methods
of inquiry; and implications for the way in which knowledge is to be
related to "practice" in the realm of ethics, politics, and planning.