Formalism around 1800: A Grudging Concession to Aesthetic Sensibility

  • Paul Guyer Professor, The Department of Philosophy, Brown University
Keywords: architecture, Marc-Antoine Laugier, Arthur Schopenhauer, aesthetics, “primitive hut”


This paper compares the outwardly similar structural formalisms of Marc- Antoine Laugier and Arthur Schopenhauer (who uses many of Laugier’s examples). Laugier purports to base his aesthetics on an historical argument from the “primitive hut”; but his preferences are really based on aversion to structurally and programmatically non-functional elements. His preferences show disregard for purely aesthetic considerations, such as pleasing proportions. Schopenhauer’s formalism is based on his cognitivist approach to aesthetics, according to which architecture is above all supposed to demonstrate relations between load and support, but in spite of this shows greater sensitivity to sensory beauty.


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