The birth of ethics from the spirit of tectonics

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This book is about the morality of architecture. It is more precisely about moralizing buildings. People talk about architecture morally all the time – but it is not clear how and if architecture is moral. Nor is it clear what people mean most of the time when they talk about ‘the ethics’ or ‘the morality’ of architecture. Sometimes moral talk about architecture is about a building, sometimes about the architect – and at other times it is about something else yet. If the subject matter is incredibly diverse here, so is the role of such talk. Moral talk about building commissions decides their fate, sometimes significant amounts of public expenditure. Moral talk decides the public favour of architects, as it scandalizes some and glorifies others. Moral talk writes history. And most of all, moral talk sticks. We do not quite know how to parse it, or how to get rid of it. And we certainly do not know when it is valid. In fact, we have no idea if any of it ever is. We therefore need ways to test such talk more systematically. We need to understand what such statements are really about, when they are meaningful, what is behind them, and what the conditions for their truth are. We need to understand how to disarm such statements, when necessary – and how to back them up, when required. What we need, in short, is an ethics of architecture, and this book provides one. It tells us how to systematically test moral statements about architecture. And it explains how architecture can be moral, when it is. For otherwise we would not even know what to test for. spanning the works of Vitruvius, Cicero, Kant, Semper, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and others, this wide ranging study argues for the continuity of a moral outlook across twenty centuries of architectural production in the West. Drawing on State of the Art research in contemporary ethics and the philosophy of language, The Birth of Ethics from the spirit of Tectonics argues for a radical revision of where philosophy and architecture meet.