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Windows Through a Window: A Philosophical View

posted on 2023-05-24, 05:52 authored by Jeffery MalpasJeffery Malpas
The image of the 'house of fiction', with its many views from many different windows (see James 1908), was obviously never intended by James himself to refer to anything other than the practice of literary fiction. Yet the image is nonetheless an apt one whether or not it is the literary or historical that is at issue - in both cases the idea of a single 'scene' viewed from several different positions provides a useful way of understanding the way both literature and history operate in relation to their subject matter. The use of the image may be thought, however, implicitly to assimilate history, and so also historical writing - whether in relation to planning or anything else - to a kind of literature, even if not necessarily fictional literature. Certainly, within the philosophy of history, the work of theorists such as Hayden White (1987) has often been taken to show, first, how history itself draws on elements from fictional literary discourse, and, second, to argue that this means that history is always framed by its literary character - by the conventions of the literary, its genres and styles - and that this undermines any claim to objectivity, so that history does indeed seem almost to become fiction (see Curthoys and Docker 2010). Following such a line of reasoning, and employing James' metaphor, the literary windows through which history looks never allow it a view of the scene alone; instead, the scene is always framed, always structured, always given within a specific mode of presentation, and in being so, what history offers is never just the scene, but always and only a view of the scene that is itself determined by the window as much as by the scene. If this is true for history, then it must also be true, of course, for the history of planning.


Publication title

Windows Upon Planning History


K Friedhelm Fischer and U Altrock






School of Humanities



Place of publication

New York



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Copyright 2018 Individual chapters, the contributors

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Urban planning

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