The Architecture of Philosophy

Let's begin with the assumption that there are forms. Not Forms, in the Platonic sense, but forms, shapes. I want to assert this: the world is shaped. Shapes abound, visibly and invisibly.

Occasionally, a shape loses its form, dissolves, melts, becomes another shape.

And, of course, shapes are not fixed. They move, morph, shift. But they're still shapes as distinct from amorphic....what? What would there be if not shapes?

I suppose this becomes a whole lot weirder when I say that ideas and concepts enjoy shape, as well. So does affect. How?

Well, first, affect. This is easy. Have you ever walked in a room and said, "Eeesh! It feels weird in here." And then you walk somewhere else, perhaps in the same space, and you say, "Ah, it's better over here." That mood, that affect, has a spatial limit. It has a shape.

Its shape is more complex than that. After all, a mood — an affect — has a consistency and rhythm. A mood can be dense or meshed or pleated.

Now what about ideas and concepts? How can we say they have a shape? Well, we do say things like, "That's a big idea" and "It's a little thought." In what sense do we say such things?

A big idea tends to cover more territory; it accounts for more things. A small idea tends to be local — it's about your hometown, not about the whole country or world or humanity. So ideas have a jurisdiction and hence some geometric components.

And, like an affect, an idea has a consistency and rhythm. It has an architecture, as it puts different things together in a certain relationship. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari map Descartes cogito: there's an I, a doubting, a thinking, a being that exist in a very particular relationship (Nietzsche, Derrida, Deleuze would each create a different architecture of these elements).

A philosophy, I proffer, is not an explanation of the world and its whys. Philosophy is an assembling of elements, of shapes, into a new architecture.

Like an architect building a space, once a philosopher builds one component, other elements are limited, necessitated, prescribed. A room here that has this or that door, these are those windows, this or that plumbing means the next room must "fit" somehow. This is true of a philosophy, as well. Once Nietzsche says all is will to power, certain things become necessary, they follow.

This is what I've always enjoyed about writing longer essays and books: the construction of ideas and affects. To write a philosophy is to shape ideas and moods into a particular play of relationships.

I want to say, then, that if we agree that the world is shaped — there are shapes — then making sense of this world becomes a subset of architecture.


Geoff said...

I recently read Leszek Kolakowski, and found something in it that I enjoyed from you: "Philosophers neither sow nor harvest, they only move the soil"

Think: sandcastles. Epic shapes, built on foundations of sand.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Love it. But, frankly, I do like to imagine there is some sowing and harvesting. That said, I'm happy to move the soil, as long as there's gloves.

Vlad said...

What shape do beside that it is? I mean, okay, shape is. It exists. It can shifts, become another shape etc... But what else is it do?

And, about 1st example, what about if no a one but a two friends enter the room, and both feel weird there. Can one of them say "yep...its weird here...its a kind of a secret room, maybe there is a some hidden treasure here?" - and can he, by saying it manually change the shape of the affect of the room from "weird" to "interesting, exciting"?

Daniel Coffeen said...

First: it's not that shapes per se do things — although they do. It's that beginning with shape shifts how we think about things like limits, liberty, the ethical, how we go in the world.

And, two: As anyone enters a room, he or they change the room, necessarily. We are constitutive of the mood. Sometimes, the gesture of one person can shift the space for everyone — just think of a loud lunatic in the middle of a restaurant, or a bunch of kids running around. It's an ever shifting calculus of interactions.

Vlad said...

Thats amazing :) thats sooooo cool and interesting :) seriously, your answer for me like from another universe :) from other rules :) i couldnt even possibly think in this way :) but now i can :) a little :) Thank you :) that's so awesome to read you :) your thoughts usually make my day :) and i can think about them for the whole day :) and its great! :)

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