The One Will Kiss the Other

Notre-Dame De Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris as "the bible of stone"

Victor Hugo in the book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1831) argues that the printing press, the bible of the word, will kill architecture, the bible of the stone. Transferring and preserving information through architecture has become simpler and easier through the book, and most importantly has been embraced by the mass as a new system of communication.

“A book is so soon made, costs so little, and may go so far! Why should we be surprised that all human thought flows that way?” (p. 180)

Hugo’s tone seems a bit bold, determining that architecture’s appeal will soon vanish, and swipe with it human thought.  Historical media innovations (i.e. cinema, then television, and now the internet) do reflect on major cultural shifts. However, it does not necessarily disregard a previous and major communication system.  On the contrary, it may even be inspired by the previously-accepted system (i.e. early cinema being inspired by stage productions), developing a new and nostalgic reputation for that system, forming a unique place for it in our collected memory and in our daily lives.  This is how I view architecture today.

Will this be how my children will view the book as they immerse themselves in digital and mobile information literacy?

October 29, 2009. Columbia University Doctorate. 2 comments.

Bruno Latour about inside the Cave, outside the Cave, and in short, a search for space

Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk about "Networks and Spheres" at Harvard University, 2009.

Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk about "Networks and Spheres" at Harvard University, 2009.

I had to revisit this week’s text “Politics of Nature” by French Theorist and Science Philosopher Bruno Latour (2004) in order to understand and process his view about “Science” versus “the sciences”, nature versus politicized nature, and political ecology (with and without parentheses).

Latour argues that (political) epistemology refers to the integration of politics and scientific validity into everyday life, and that people tend to use Science (the politicization of “the sciences”) as the ultimate explanation of something, and stop it at that.  Such practice is harmful to a discourse as it short-circuits discussions, while attempting to define the scientific inquiry as ultimate truth.

As a result, even with progressed scientific findings, observations are essentially centralized by a few people and political streams (i.e. the Green Movement, politicizing nature), missing out on a democratic discourse and alternative world views.  Thus, Latour argues that Western political thought has confused Science with the sciences (the daily life activities, deeply rooted in the social), paralyzing itself from questions and challenges, reducing itself to the prison of the Cave.

“Since Enlightenment can blind us only if (political) epistemology makes us go down into the Cave in the first place, there exists a much simpler means than Plato’s to get out of the Cave: we not climb down into it to begin with!” (pg. 16).

Facts should not be separated from values, and (political) epistemology causes just that.

Following the discussion group and class participation I was intrigued to read a more recent text by Latour, possibly connecting his social and scientific theory to current technological developments and identity hybrid.  An interesting presentation entitled “Spheres and networks: two ways to reinterpret globalization” (February, 2009) explores global space in search for a “sustainable, durable, breathable, and livable” school of thought, or as Latour defines it – “a thought experiment” (though it is impractical, it should be able to discriminate between arguments).

Latour offers a distressing portrait of human development, arguing that “modernists have no place, no hookup, no plug-in for harnessing in any plausible way the revelations of science about what it is to be material and objective”.  We may assume that we live in the sweet honey of scientific objectivity (“Science”), but in fact Latour says as he turns to the school of Architecture and Design at Harvard University, Modernism itself is homeless.  More than we need real-estate we need a “realist estate” : An artificial construction instead of a utopian one.  If there is one thing we should not recycle, it is the notion of nature.

Once again, more questions than answers, and more food for thought.

October 17, 2009. Tags: , . Columbia University Doctorate. 3 comments.

Plato’s “Repbulic”: The Lovers of Wisdom and Truth

Allegory of the Plato's Cave

Allegory of the Plato's Cave: The virtue of wisdom "belongs to something more divine" (p. 212)

Is preparing a person to lead an examined life a feasible educational objective? What claim on educational practice should it have?

Plato’s allegory of the cave (Chapter 7) asserts that the knowledge of “the forms” (ideas) constitutes the highest sense of reality.  Only those who seek intellectual knowledge are free from imprisonment, and see the truth.  In order to do that, one must leave the visual realm and enter the thinking realm.

However, once a person experiences intellectual enlightenment, s/he must come back to the cave in order to educate the mass.  This part of the allegory suggests that educators have an ethical role in society of facilitating the ‘freedom process’ (refered to as the “turning of the soul”) for the people, who are sitting inside the cave bonded and chained, staring at shadows on the wall.

And I ask, what’s a person to do if they like to stare at shadows on the wall?

Yesterday I felt overwhelmed by the written word and by life in general, so I escaped to watch some shadows on the wall, permitted by semi-new technologies – I went to the movies.  I got immersed in a cinematic experience created by the Cohen Brothers, entitled “A Serious Man”.  The film portrays a Physics professor (enlightened by Plato’s definition – both in terms of his outstanding mathematical knowledge and didactic qualities and practice), whose world is falling apart despite his high intellect, ethical values and dedication to education.  The falling apart process becomes his everyday reality, his existential truth and his great suffering.

Reading this week’s text and watching the movie raises many questions in my mind, i.e. why should people be literate? Why should it matter if the person doesn’t know what “s/he missing”?  Is one reality (‘truth’) higher or more valid than another? Isn’t reality merely a perception and can change from one person to another or be triggered by a mood or an event?

More questions than answers…

Another question is how are people who possess the philosophic gift use their intellectual powers?  Why would they return to a cave when there is a threat for their lives and great resistance by the prisoners?  This was one interesting aspect of the film: The Physics professor was a serious man with intellectual curiosity, seeking truthful living with educational intensions. Nevertheless, and possibly as a result, it was not accepted with love in society, weighing in a great despair for the man and his family.  What autobiographical message does the film bring about related to truth seeking, intellectual value and education?  Food for thought.

Here is a trailer of the film.  Plato would have loved the last line about the Rabbi.

October 7, 2009. Columbia University Doctorate. 4 comments.