Disengaging Design from Bodily Ways of Knowing: implications for theory, by Kathryn Moore

Many of the problems found between philosophy and architecture can be traced back to current theories of perception. This paper offers an alternative view based on a radical new definition of perception that has startling consequences for conceptions of language, intelligence, meaning, the senses, emotions and subjectivity. The core argument (Moore 2010) has been developed by taking one of the main preoccupations of contemporary cultural discourse, the argument for and against the existence of universal truth, and carrying it into the perceptual realm by adopting a pragmatic line of inquiry which questions the very nature of foundational belief. Building on the work of Dewey, Rorty and Putnam it moves debate away from the arcane and unknowable metaphysical miasma into the real world informed by knowledge and ideas, making tangible connections between theory and practice, ideas and form, nature and culture.  Briefly setting out the main premise that questions the existence of a sensory interface, suggests that the concept of visual thinking is simply a philosophical construct and that not only language, but also perception is interpretative, this paper is concerned with developing a greater insight of the implications for theory of disengaging design discourse from primitive bodily or sensory ways of knowing, separating it from psychology and using a fresh, common sense approach to bring materiality back into the picture.

Challenging the foundations of critical inquiry affects the way we think about the nature, goal and value of theoretical discourse. Considering the consequences of moving theory into an inherently ambiguous realm that is neither transcendental nor empirical, it will set out the implications of developing theory without pre-linguistic starting points of thought, concepts of absolute truth or subconscious essences, but grounded in materiality, values and culture. Rather than being preoccupied with psychological processes, it argues there is an urgent need to refocus and develop theory that is insightful enough to inform design by explaining what ideas have been worked with, explaining the content of what is perceived rather than how it is perceived. The new agenda for theory from this perspective therefore is to delve into the particularities, appropriateness and expression of certain ideas in built form, given the place, time and context.

Set within landscape architecture this new approach impacts on other design disciplines and is relevant to those working at the intersection of psychology, epistemology, cognition and philosophy.

Harvard Citation Guide: Moore, K. (2010) Disengaging Design from Bodily Ways of Knowing: implications for theory, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: https://isparchitecture.wordpress.com. [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

One thought on “Disengaging Design from Bodily Ways of Knowing: implications for theory, by Kathryn Moore

  1. What you describe is what I identify to be true aesthetic psychology, especially the pragmatic philosophy associated with the concretization of metaphysics, something which I by no means wish to criticize.

    What is radical here is the conjunction between object-as-system and space-as-qualia, something that is very interesting to psychological theories of architecture interpreted as Qualifics, e.g. philosophy.

    What may be examined then is if this is a take-off or landing point in terms of concepts generated, or in terms of architectural theorems, for it may be that the two run opposite ways, or it may be that the terms generated are more subliminal or non-acting than anticipated.

    I don’t mean this as a form of humor, but out of concern for progenesis,

    Idealism may for instance take the form of “modal realism” which may seem a superfluous term to architects, yet simultaneously seems dominant of architecture to philosophers that think hard on it.

    The key problem in the haze of speculation may be that there is a conjunction between concretism (realism) and virtualism (anaxial perspectivism) that still entails an object. While anaxial perspectivism may come directly from theoretical discourses, including pragma, concretism requires paradoxically intellectualizable objects, by distinction from bad choices.

    The resolution is then not characteristically in terms of isms, just as you describe, but does involve intellectual pragma as a defining value for objects— in some sense, although not without open-endedness.

    I find this intriguing, although I am not an architect.

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