Philosophical Diagram #1: Building Dwelling Thinking

In the early 19th century, there was a major split in the field between “Continental” and “Analytic”. Analytic is concerned with firmer argumentative logic, while continental sees virtue poetic and existential conclusions.

I attended a school on the continental spectrum, something my reductive and logic-lusty brain was forced to bear with. In continental philosophy, the truth is not a necessarily fixed asset, but something explore. “The journey is the destination”. These texts are incredibly dense, and so “ethereal” in meaning, that nobody can reduce them to simple language. It’s a constant “talking around” the idea that you’re talking about. Continental philosophy is obsessed with talking about the untalk-about-able, particularly apt for matters of aesthetics and existentialism.

My design methodology makes qualitative decisions to reduce a complicated idea to a solid and logical state. It gives the best answer it can in as simple and engaging way as possible.

Can I do the same with the vaguest philosophical theories?

Let’s give it a try.

This is the first attempt, in regards to Martin Heidegger (arguably the most famous and incoherent of the bunch), in his essay, one of my favorites, called “Building Dwelling Thinking”.

In it, Heidegger approaches the conflict that arose particularly clearly in his time: The magic somethingness of dwelling was being destroyed by modernist and brutalist architecture. He attempts to point at this essential something of acting and being in the world (“Dwelling”). This dwelling relies on “building”, which is really dwelling. But building is not dwelling when it does not consider the “Fourfold” (Earth, Sky, Mortal and Divinities). To build within the fourfold, to hold reverence toward all four, is to successfully participate in the space with the (means/end) of dwelling.

The most poignant example of this method of “building responsibly” is given with regard to building a bridge over a river in the forest. Building a bridge isn’t the only choice here. You could dam the river, fill it with concrete, carve a tunnel, and any number of other solutions. Building the the bridge maintains the fourfold in a way the other options do not. The space is transformed with reverence to the sky, earth, mortals and divinities. But it also does a lot with the architecture of the space. The two areas are now one. Where you built the bridge will influence the character of the space. Maybe it’s just a few huge boulders, zigzagging through the water. Whatever it is, the decision breaks the texture of the forest. It must participate in what already exists. As long as it maintains the fourfold, it is a choice that participates in “Dwelling”.

This brings up a lot of questions in today’s completely man-made digital world. Heidegger’s theory held water because every space in his world was regulated by physical, god-given laws that rested in this fourfold. But what is the earth on a computer screen? The sky? People? Gods? What is this place? Are we capable of “Dwelling” here? I feel profoundly lonely and disoriented with my new digital life. I’m not sure if I have enough friends, or if I participate enough, or what this digital “building” adds up to. If I have a friend on the internet, do I feel less lonely? Or are they disposible? What is a “space” on-screen? What makes me feel cofortable? Do we need to build an entirely new life online before we can truly dwell within it? Are we nostalgic for the “character” and wonderful meandering of Faceboook 1.0, like a childhood trip? Or the house we grew up in? Do we all share the same house? Are we more numb to our actual dwelling lives?

This diagram isn’t meant to answer anything, as Heidegger’s philosophy usually complicated things. Does it make any sense?

But there’s no doubt, our dwelling lives are being torn apart and glued back together with 0s and 1s.