Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Aesthetics of Machinery
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.