Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Talk by Barry Allen (McMaster University) at Bogazici on “ENGINEERING AESTHETICS” 01/11/2013

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Department of Civil Engineering


Seminar on



Prof. Barry Allen

Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Boğaziçi University

Professor of Philosophy at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada

Friday, November 01, 2013, 3:00-4:00 PM

Vedat Yerlici Conference Center, Room 1

Engineering Building 5th Floor


Abstract: Works of engineering (for example a bridge, ship, or aircraft) resist the separation, traditional in aesthetic theory, between how they look, or what it is like to perceive them, and how effective or efficient they are. As a result, it is impossible to take a disinterested stance. We cannot separate an assessment of aesthetic value from an appraisal of technical achievement. How well such objects work cannot be separated from how well they look, or the aesthetic quality of their perception.

Works of engineering thus require us to reconsider the idea that aesthetic quality is merely subjective, or a matter of how people feel, without regard to physical qualities or real changes in the physical world. Appearance and functionality are not as independent as aesthetic theory traditionally tends to assume. In this lecture I explain this argument with several examples, mostly drawn from modern bridge engineering.



Barry Allen is Professor of Philosophy at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. He received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University in 1986. He is the author of four books, including “Artifice and Design: Art and Technology in Human Experience” (2008). This semester he is a visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy at Boǧaziçi University, where he is teaching a class on Chinese philosophy.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

October 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm

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