Consequences of the mechanistic view

The picture of the world as a machine doesn’t have an “I” in it. The “I”, what it means to be a person, the inner experience of being a person, just isn’t part of this picture.

The 20th-century Mechanical-rationalist world view causes two consequences which made the idea of order fall apart:

  • The experiencing individual is not part of the model; everything is seen as transcendent, external reality (-> Lakoff’s Experientialism).
  • We no longer have a clear understanding of value.
    • Value is sidelined as a matter of opinion, not intrinsic to the nature of the world.

If all statements of harmony, beauty, what is better or worse, what has more life or less life, are considered matters of opinion, then rational discussion about buildings should be impossible.

A new world view

We need a new worldview which intentionally sees things in their wholeness, not as parts or fragments, and which recognizes life as something real, as something physically existing — even in apparently inanimate things like buildings.

[A] theory in which statements about relative degree of harmony, or life, or wholeness — basic aspects of order — are understood as potentially true or false. This means we shall have a view of the world in which the relative degree of life of different wholes is a commonplace and crucial way of talking about things.

We need to be able to discuss statements of value as shared truths.

Designers, who make choices based on feeling, are to a certain extent utilizing this capacity. Our drive to try to explain everything (purely mechanically?) leads to ideas like A/B testing. Alexander is making a case for accepting statements about values as facts.

Connection to cognitive science

In a way here Lakoff’s Experientialism comes together with Alexander’s idea of beauty: we need to put the experiencing individual back into the model we have of our world, and allow certain statements we might consider subjective opinion as facts. Alexander frames these statements as relating to harmony. Lakoff talks more about metaphysical and epistemological aspects of what it means to add the experiencing individual to our model of the world; Alexander is extremely pragmatic about its effects on building, Lakoff is extremely comprehensive in rendering the mechanistic world view as obsolete.

Something here resonates in connection to the current socio-political environment where everybody wants to be entitled to their own opinions and sometimes these opinions replace facts. Alexander carefully distinguishes between idiosyncrasies and the kind of “opinions” that are part of this shared truth.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/Preface/5 Descartes# #book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/Preface/7 A new vision of architecture#

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