Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Aesthetics of Machinery: German engineering has always devoted considerable attention to melding aesthetics and physics. With its sleek appearance, 450 horsepower engine, and aerodynamic design, the 2010 Audi RS5 is a perfect example of how German (automotive) engineering combines beauty and power. And there is a unique philosophical tradition in German engineering that can be traced back to philosophers like Immanel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer. In general, it calls for balancing the idealism of design with the pessimism of production. The idealism of design necessarily precedes the pessimism of production, as Kant's eighteenth-century idealism became eclipsed by Schopenhauer's nineteenth-century pessimism. Largely considered the last Enlightenment philosopher, Kant focused on the "thing in itself" (noumenon), which is a belief that the objective nature of a thing is known only to the mind. This kind of thinking can be contrasted with sensory perception and its emphasis on the appearance of a thing (phenomenon). Schopenhauer criticized Kant's idealism as being blind to the idea that a thing's aesthetic value often supersedes its moral worth. In fact, Schopenhauer replaced Kant's noumenon with the human "will to live" (Wille zum Leben). The "will to live" gives people a sense of practicality, which helps them to be more realistic (and pessimistic) when confronting the Truth behind the world and its appearances.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
On the Constantinian Shift: When Roman Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity in 312 AD, the religion emerged from its otherwise underground status. The following year he issued the Edict of Milan, which legalized Christian worship throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine I's conversion experience (depicted in the above picture) occurred just before his legions were about to fight in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Prior to 313 AD, Christians faced persecution from Roman authorities - examples included being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum for public entertainment or being crucified (upside down at times) as Saint Peter was. In their willful attempts to worship the Trinity, early Christians often assembled in caves marked by the fish symbol (ichthys) because in ancient Greek the word for "fish" was the same as "savior." With their symbolic use of language, they not only avoided certain persecution, but also established basic theological decrees to govern the Church's liturgical processes. These processes eventually became standardized in 325 AD at the First Council of Nicaea, where early Church Fathers achieved consensus on the elemental beliefs of Christianity.