Atlas of Places

Territorial Semiotics I


Architects should use the metaphor as an instrument of thought that serves the function of clarity and vividness antedating or bypassing logical processes. As Aristotle defined it, “a metaphor is an intuitive perception of similarities in dissimilars.”

The other way of thinking seeks out phenomena and experiences which describe more than just a sum of parts, paying almost no attention to separate elements which would be affected and changed through subjective vision and comprehensive images anyway. The major concern is not the reality as it is but the search for an all-round idea, for a general content, a coherent thought, or an overall concept that ties everything together. It is known as holism or Gestalt theory and has been most forcefully developed during the age of humanism in the philosophical treatises of the morphological idealism.

Kant postulates that knowledge has its origin in two basic components : intuition and thought. According to Kant all our thinking is related to imagination, which means it is related to our senses, because the only way to describe an object is through imagination. The intellect is incapable of perceiving anything, and the senses cannot think. Only through a combination of both can knowledge arise. Imagination has to precede all thinking processes since it is nothing less than a synopsis, an overall ordering principle bringing order into diversity. If we accept that thinking is an imaginative process of a higher order, then, argues Kant, it means all sciences are based on imagination.

In more recent philosophical debates, Herman Friedman replaces Kant’s concept of imagination and thought as the basic components of knowledge with the argument that the sense of sight – the vision – and the sense of touch – the haptic – are the two competing polarities, and that all intellectual activity happens either in an optical or haptic way. Friedman argues that he sense of touch is non-productive; it measures, is geometrical, and acts in congruity. The sense of sight, however, is productive; it interpolates, is integral, and acts in similarities. The sense of sight stimulates spontaneous reactions of mind; it is more vivid and more far-reaching than the sense of touch.

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Text: Oswald Mathias Ungers, Morphologie: City Metaphors, 1982

Posted: November 2018
Category: Research