09 March 2008

The Quotable Mr. B

Richard Buchanan is my new favorite when it comes to rhetoric and design. Here's a lovely quote from a writing found in Discovering Design:

We will speak of an environmental crisis, when we mean a spiritual crisis in the relation of human beings to natural order. We will be charmed by some products and infuriated by others, while remaining oblivious to their spiritual meaning. We will be mystified by the absence of an adequate cultural critique in design theory, which is based on more than materialist economics and the conflict of social classes. Finally, we will be puzzled by the failure of systems theory to reach beyond its materialist origins and explore unifying cultural ideas and values as the core of all systems.

And the closing paragraph provides a "body of knowledge" to which I may hopefully contribute: A philosophy of culture.
In the contemporary world, design is the domain of vividly competing ideas about what it means to be human. However, the exploration of design does not break our connection with the past. The central themes and commonplaces of design – power and control, materialism and pleasure, spirituality, and character – reveal deep continuities with ancient philosophic traditions. Indeed the pluralism of design in the twentieth century is intelligible because it rests on a pluralism of philosophic assumptions, which are familiar. The exploration of design is therefore, a contribution to the philosophy of culture in our time.

(from the chapter Rhetoric, Humanism and Design)

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