How to Know a City: The Epistemic Value of City Tours

Philosophy of the City Journal 1 (1):31-41 (2023)
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When travelling to a new city, we acquire knowledge about its physical terrain, directions, historical facts and aesthetic features. Engaging in tourism practices, such as guided walking tours, provides experiences of a city that are necessarily mediated and partial. This has led scholars in tourism studies, and more recently in philosophy, to question the epistemological value of city tours, critiquingthem as passive, lacking in autonomous agency, and providing misrepresentative experiences of the city. In response, we argue that the mediated and partial knowledge of a city acquired through city tours is not epistemologically disvaluable. Although city tours involve the transmission of testimonial knowledge, this does not necessarily render tourists as passive and non-autonomous. Instead,tourists have the potential to participate in the generation of their knowledge actively. Moreover, we argue that city tours also provide a tourist with valuable ‘objectual’ knowledge of a city, whichhas the potential to be first-personal and active, and does not necessarily misrepresent the city’s identity. This type of knowledge is valuable both for tourists as credible epistemic agents, and for the city itself, as the knowledge generated by the tour can facilitate an accurate representation of the city and promote social transformation. We conclude by highlighting four further epistemic and ethical implications of our argument.

Author Profiles

Pilar Lopez-Cantero
Tilburg University
Catherine Robb
University of Essex


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