Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wille zum Schein.

I love this passage of Ruskin’s in The Seven Lamps of Architecture where he muses about gothic vaults and whether it is acceptable to use architectural elements which pretend to be something else than they are. The metaphors are so overpoweringly beautiful that you hardly notice that they are actually pretty hard to align with the argument they are designed to support.

Now, there is a nice question of conscience in this, which we shall hardly settle but by considering that, when the mind is informed beyond the possibility of mistake as to the true nature of things, the affecting it with a contrary impression, however distinct, is no dishonesty, but on the contrary, a legitimate appeal to the imagination. For instance, the greater part of the happiness which we have in contemplating clouds, results from the impression of their having massive, luminous, warm, and mountain-like surfaces; and our delight in the sky frequently depends upon our considering it as a blue vault. But we know the contrary in both instances; we know the cloud to be a damp fog, or adrift of snow-flakes; and the sky to be a lightless abyss. There is, therefore, no dishonesty, while thereis much delight, in the irresistibly contrary impression.

I’m enjoying the rhetorics and the Victorian pecularity of making every issue a question of morality.

Schinkel’s Cathedral by the Water

No comments: