"Dwellings and Dwelling in the Twilight of Modernity"

Lecture by Prof. Duane H. Davis, UNC Asheville | October 29, 2009

Department of Philosophy Lecture Series, November 5, 4pm, Hailstones 2

July 15, 1972, 3:32 p.m. (more or less):

Dwellings and Dwelling in the Twilight of Modernity

Prof. Duane H. Davis, University of North Carolina, Asheville


Architect and critic Peter Blake has somewhat facetiously designated July 15, 1972 at 3:32 p.m. as the end of modernity in architecture.  How do we value our lived space in the twilight of modernity?  How do we dwell?  What are the dangers of modern dwelling and modernist dwellings?  In this paper I will call attention to the modernist over-emphasis of functionalism and efficiency in lived spaces—both commercial and private.  While I do not pretend that we have access to any perspective outside of or beyond modernity, it is important to offer a critique of modernity from within modernity.  I draw upon the French existential-phenomenologist philosopher Merleau-Ponty’s early work, where he elucidates a structure of behavior, as well as upon his lectures on nature near the end of his career. I suggest that we look to our animality to better understand our own dwelling and dwellings, for we value our dwellings aesthetically and we share this capacity with other species.