The First Six are the Final Causes

If you went to school back in the year 200 or so, you’d probably study Mr. Aristotle of Athens, Greece, a well known philosopher who wrote on ethics, politics, learning and others subjects. He described any action as having 4 parts to it, or four causes, the First, Material, Efficient and Final causes. What if we applied this lens to the City, or even this mega-city here Toronto?

Back in old 1998 the former six municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto merged into the present City. They were Toronto, East York, Etobicoke, North York, York and Scarborough. As you probably guessed, these six places or communities are the Material Causes in this story. In the case of ‘metropolitanized’ and amalgamated Toronto, you could say the First Cause from 1954 (the start of ‘Metro’) was the unified federation of the whole of York County, from Steeles down to Lake Ontario with Humber and Rouge as the natural regional boundaries.

This early regionalizing of York County allowed for a new suburban programme to start up, a type of Metro Suburbanism that standardized roads and sewers and enlarged conservation programmes while blocking out plots along main corridors for new commercial and town centres. Today’s City of Toronto now makes up the full south watershed of York County and ends at a natural plateau area, Steeles Avenue. Within this metro-space there are metro areas, meaning non-Core areas with their own sub-centres and networks of amenities, e.g. Leaside, Scarborough, Rexdale, Forest Hill. A metro area isn’t a neighbourhood, it’s a community resembling a municipality that requires a unique set of services and regulations. A metro area isn’t necessarily large. For smaller places like former City of York in west Toronto, a really strong case has to be made today for tailored government and landscape management within the larger City. The case can only be made by illustrating how a place is a socially and economically distinct piece in an expanding regional puzzle. The major communities of Toronto, like East York , Scarborough, etc, are the material causes for the City of Toronto. Because six of them endure as units of services and governance, these six geographies of culture and economy also represent the Efficient Causes of today’s and tomorrow’s Toronto.

An efficient cause is an application of something to a process in the pursuit of a Final Cause or planned outcome. This means application of the concept East York or “York” to all City operations would be towards or in pursuit of a vision or final cause of York. It’s something that began awhile back as a first cause but is still visibly taking shape — [the vision of] a metropolitan community.

If you’re building a chair, the application of saws, lathe techniques, etc are your efficient causes. This use of tools and techniques implies the smart use of information and collective knowledge in order to produce good, excellent and well-functioning chairs. Likewise for managing and growing one of Toronto’s six districts. Tools and techniques responsive to the local material cause will produce better sub-cities that excel relative to the region in being well-functioning city centres within the City. The development of the City through Place-based Governance and Growth Management requires a City Plan with room for varying District Plans, visions, designs and growth regulations, in other words a plurality of efficient causes working toward a singular Final Cause — the future healthy, happy, natural, productive, cosmopolitan Toronto.

Now building a chair ain’t like maturing a City, but imagine you got six carpenters working away on one chair. Even if you split up different parts, it ain’t all going to fit and feel right when it’s assembled. The chair needs a visual and structural unity to it. If you got multiple carpenters, perhaps cooperation is more about timing, for example one man prepares the wood, one sands, one details, etc. This way of approaching pluralism focuses cooperation on shared processes (efficient causes in the production of the city) instead of owned places, the material. It suggests that City administration could thrive on Core and diverse suburban specializations, where City work is perceived as a network of collaboration centres across Toronto and in relation to its growing neighbours. This network and set of federated metropolitan visions would be future Toronto’s Efficient Cause.

Not exactly a chair but a super City to rest and invest in.

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