Abbé Boulah’s Invitation

Abbé Boulah’s Invitation

This is the first post in what I hope to be a series of  interesting exchanges with people working or just wondering about the same issues. There are a number of such issues, that at first glance may seem to be all over the place, but I sense they are connected in some fundamental ways. The issues will touch upon design, the design process and discourse, the difficulties in that process (such as time management challendes), or the evaluation of the kinds of arguments we use all the time in design, planning, policy-making; the education for planning; urban revitalization, the paradox of freedom and power; the problem of ‘truth’  and how it relates to design and planning issues; and more.

The preoccupation with ‘design’ and planning may seem too professionally narrow. My view is that design and planning are everywhere:  we are all designers, all planners. And the look at many of the world’s problems from such a ‘design’ or ‘planning’ perspective may prove surprisingly fruitful;  at the very least, it is my hope that it will be discussed. This perspective will open up a set of questions that should be investigated, discussed, and any agreements arising out of them made more widely known.

To start things off, I will make a preposterous and perhaps pretentious claim:  Aristotle’s statement about humanity’s basic quest quest for true knowledge, true insight has, in my opinion led to a preoccupation with ‘truth’.  I see humanity argue  at least if not more about what we OUGHT to do, about design, plans, policies, decisions, than about the world IS like. But the preoccupation with truth about what IS has led logic, for example, to grievously neglect the examination of the kinds of arguments we use all the time in discussions about what OUGHT to be. From the point of view of formal, deductive logic, these arguments are not valid, their conclusions at best ‘inconclusive’. Therefore, no systematic method for evaluating these arguments has been developed.  There is never just one single argument about a planning decision that would have to be demonstrated to be valid and its conclusion true, to support a decision.

Politicians and decision-makers talk suavely about ‘carefully weighing the pros and cons’ — but nobody can point to a systematic and transparent process for just how to do that.  I have attempted to develop such a method, and while it certainly needs work, the main result is that the design and planning discourse must be re-thought and re-organized if this approach is to be integrated into the process.  This is one of the main tasks to be addressed, and I submit that it is significant far beyond the boundaries of the design and planning professions.

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