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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: August 2018

5 - Glorious and Transcendent Places


Architectural guides to the great towns and cities of the world aim to tell visitors which buildings are most worth visiting. They may highlight outstanding houses, train stations, department stores, even factories, shops, and office blocks, but by far the largest number of buildings will fall into just three categories. First, there are political buildings – palaces, parliaments, city halls, fortresses, and the like. Second, there are cultural buildings such as art museums, opera houses, and concert halls. Third, and often the largest category, are religious buildings – churches, cathedrals, monasteries, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Why is this? Such guides cannot presuppose anything about the political, cultural, or religious interests of those who use them. The guide's recommendations must rest upon aesthetic reasons. But why should it be the case that the most architecturally impressive buildings in almost any locality will include religious buildings? This chapter aims to frame an answer to this question. To do so it is necessary to begin by exploring some basic issues in the philosophy of architecture.

Architecture, Appearance, and the “Decorated Shed”

The philosophy of architecture is a relatively young subject.While architectural theory broadly construed has a long history, it was some 200 years before architecture was fully incorporated into the subject matter of the philosophical aesthetics that arose in the course of the eighteenth century. Part of the reason for this is that architecture makes little appearance in the writings of the major philosophers who laid the foundations of philosophical aesthetics. Francis Hutcheson's Treatise on the idea of beauty (1725) devotes just a few paragraphs to the subject, David Hume's essay Of the Standard of Taste (1741) makes no mention of it, and Immanuel Kant's hugely influential Critique of Judgment (1790) has only a few sentences here and there. Hegel's Lectures on the Fine Art, published posthumously in 1835, gave architecture sustained attention, but the Lectures were far less influential than Hegel's principal writings, and in any case, the general direction of philosophical aesthetics had already been set by then.

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Philosophy, Art, and Religion
  • Online ISBN: 9781316450789
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