Philosophy of the City


In the light of the world’s rapid urbanization, the question arises in how far can cities contribute to the good life of their inhabitants. This question seems especially urgent in the current COVID-19 pandemic, in which a microorganism forced the world’s cities to a grinding halt. Two opposing traditions in the history of philosophy aim to answer this question. Following Plato and Aristotle, scholars like Arendt, Young and Sennett view the city as the place where human potential can be developed to full flourishing, and emphasize its civilizing function. Others like Rousseau, Nietzsche, Marx, and later Scott and Kishik focus on anonymous and brutal urban realities, and emphasize how the city reifies and cements power relations, in addition to presenting an epidemiological hazard. In my project, I do not characterize the city as inherently good or bad, but examine it as a non-ideal form of life in which distance and proximity are mediated among people and to non-human nature.