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GEOG 250
Elvin Wyly

Paths to Understanding the City Acquaintance with cities comes from firsthand experience and sensory perceptionsight hearing touch taste smell Knowledge about cities comes from abstract logical reasoningMost urban scholars are now suspicious of the clear distinction between knowledge about and acquaintance with citiesIn the middle years of the twentieth century the social sciences became quite obsessed with rational quantification and systematic theoriesThe Heisenberg uncertainty principle It is not possible to observe something without changing it in some wayDespite its limitations rational abstraction remains important because1 It has political legitimacy 2 It helps build common ground through shared languages and methods3 It guards against relativism4 It can be balanced and integrated with subjective knowledge and acquaintance with urban lifeIt is possible to integrate the two paths by using mixed methods to highlight different aspects of the urban experienceDisciplines and the City Formal boundaries between disciplines emerged about two hundred years ago in Europe in the context of systems of formal education the rise of the nationstate and the growth of industrial societyThe field of urban studies emerged precisely at the time when the boundaries between traditional disciplines were being questioned blurred and contestedInterdisciplinary fields are growing because 1 many important questions cannot be understood solely through established disciplines 2 new things emerge that defy old categories and definitions and 3 most disciplines have relatively short historiesIn 1798 the German philosopher Immanuel Kant described the university as
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