Wittgenstein on Architecture, by Jochen Schuff

In two crucial respects the few scattered remarks Wittgenstein devoted to architecture are in line with what he has to say about art, or aesthetics in a more general sense. First, architecture is to be understood in a certain relation to gestures, or reactions, and its meaningfulness will depend on these reactions, or gestures. That architecture is, in Wittgenstein’s words, a gesture, or that we are inclined to react to it with a gesture, points to the bodily, or embodied, approach Wittgenstein takes towards judgement as well as meaning in aesthetics. Wittgenstein’s most explicit remarks in this vein refer to the case of music, but some of them to the case of architecture. Wittgenstein’s picture of artistic meaning, in which it is grasped primarily by certain bodily reactions towards individual works of art points towards a conception of autonomy of artistic meaning underlying his thought on aesthetics. This conception corresponds to the conception of linguistic autonomy Wittgenstein is discussing in the Philosophical Investigations. In both cases, meaning is tied to our activities – the ways we use language, or deal with art. Second, the way we deal with architecture can be compared, in illuminating aspects, to the activity of the philosopher. Not only can music or architecture in certain respects be compared to language (an analogy, as Wittgenstein is well aware, should not be exaggerated). But Wittgenstein also draws a number of analogies between the work of artists and art critics and the work of the philosopher. In some of these instances, he mentions architecture explicitly. Thus the philosopher in some respects bears resemblance to the artist, or, for that matter, the architect, and in other respects bears resemblance to the art critic. In my paper, I will discuss these contexts on the background of which I believe Wittgenstein’s remarks on architecture are to be read. I am sceptical as to whether Wittgenstein’s use-theory, if there is such a thing, can be readily applied to a philosophy of architecture. Instead I will focus on the role assigned to architecture both in Wittgenstein’s conception of art and its importance and in his indications of appropriate philosophical methods.

Jochen Schuff

Harvard Citation Guide: Schuff, J. (2015) Wittgenstein on Architecture, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 22 June 2015, Available at: http://isparchitecture.com. [Accessed: 22 June 2015].

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