Wednesday, 12 September 2012

'The Destruction of Architecture' a criticism

Before starting my PhD I thought it might be a good idea to revisit my Masters dissertation (full text here, PDF format), the piece of writing which made concrete desire to take on a doctorate.
I now see I really missed the point! I spent the majority of the writing combining the thoughts of three diverse thinkers into an alternative view of society and then resorted to an irritatingly architectural language in the closing sections which is still based on the reliance on an objective reality, something which I thought I had discarded in the preceding chapters. Perhaps I only realise this now as I've had time to overthink these concepts.

Ian McGilchrist's 'The Master and His Emissary' allowed me to view and expand on the Heideggerian model which my original text relied on. McGilchrist explains that there are two main modes of thinking, illustrated by the 'left brain-right brain' cliché (this is only used to illustrate his ideas; while some brain functions are localised to the brain's hemispheres they are not a prescribed as this now debunked archaic paradigm). These modes of thinking can be described as 'abstraction' and 'metaphor.' Abstraction breaks our world down into discrete chunks we can understand, wresting theses 'bits' from their context, perceiving them in isolation. The alternative mode does the opposite. It looks at the entire picture and sees the connection between things. It manifests through metaphor and creativity.

The revelation of this text was that abstraction, despite it's apparent domination of modern life, is subservient to metaphor, illustrated by the beguiling notion that music preceded spoken language as a method of communication amount humans. understanding depends on metaphor.

These ideas became reinforced by a chance encounter with the work of physicist and consciousness philosopher, Dr Tom Campbell. I had encountered the famous 'Double Slit,' experiment before I started listening to Dr Campbell's lectures online, but I had never heard it described so elegantly, nor had its startling implications ever been spelt out so fully to me.
The themes of this experiment are too large to discuss in this already bloated post, but essentially Campbell's theory (which he playfully names 'My Big TOE,' TOE being Theory Of Everything) suggests that our concept of objective reality is false and is actually a probabalistic infomration field. This field seeks to lower it's level of entropy (uncertainty, chaos) and does so in an evolutionary fashion (this links up neatly with Richard Dawkins' description of Darwinian evolution as described in 'The Selfish Gene,' particularly when Dawkins begins to describe it as a concept which reaches beyond the idea of genes). As the system evolves and it's level of entropy decreases, the system becomes more and more stable and rules are 'imposed' (these become the basics of Newtonian physics). These give the illusion of an objective reality.

These two notions, 'abstraction as servant to metaphor' and 'reality as a field of probabilities,' hold the potential for a powerful tool for examining society. The pieces don't quite fit in my mind however...yet...

To return to my master's thesis, I suppose the aim of this initial piece of writing was simply to straighten out several key concepts and ensure I had an understanding of them. If I were to define an objective now it would be trying to understand how architecture's purpose could be re-understood considering this new model of subjective reality.

A bit lofty at the moment, I know. I hope there's nothing wrong with starting off this big!

As an aside, the two theories outlined in this post, that of Ian McGilchrist and Tom Campbell, have been severly squashed to fit into this post and I have probably done them a massive disservice! They involve major paradigm shifts and dramatically challenge the 'common sense' notions of reality and the self. If you are interested please seek out their books and particularly Tom campbell's numerous lectures, available free on youtube. This is a good place to start.

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