…on trigg’s absence of reason

branden davis

In Dylan Trigg’s 2006 book The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason, we are shown an idea that rationality has a claim to permanency & order. Reason in the shadow of decay is transient. Rationality doesn’t always neatly allow for the un-pure ruin, entropy & eventual decline. That reason ‘should’ flourish is what the ruin contradicts, a ruin stands as a testament for the irrational & the soon to be post-rational. “Unable to rationalize decline, the aim of reason has been to shadow the mutable by affirming the permanent, the illusion is not dead.”[54] The assumed supremacy of reason is not easily dislodged with the corrupting power of architectural failure. “At the end of its present narrative, history’s morbid nostalgia toward reason has prevented us from ascribing virtue to decline & vice to formal abstraction.”[55] The ruin is in silent certification of the fallibility & insufficiency of reason to hold itself as sovereign & as the only answer. Can we cling to reason in the face of destruction, if destruction itself is irrational?

Trigg seeks to challenge the presupposition of reason’s progress as ‘homogenizing.’ Reason’s homogenizing demands adherence to a predetermined set of rules & guidelines. If reason is normalizing it is also rule & lawmaking set of stricture by which it imposes onto our experience of ruins, buildings, & daily-living. This critique is overlaid with a sense of nostalgia. In other words, a common way to understand things is to suggest that way things were in the past is a good indication for how they should be in the present & future. This type of problem is related to the ‘is/ought’ problem. With the ‘is/ought’ problem the confusion is between how something is described and the way things should be. Because something is a certain way today, need not be prescription for how it ought to be in the future. Nostalgia becomes the best example of this rationalism. When we are nostalgic, we are tacitly suggesting that the past was somehow better than things are now. Reason makes such demands onto things, ruins, & people. According to this logic, things should be a certain way because they worked better in the past.

A so-called homecoming that is linked to nostalgia is the yearning for a past that was better than now. The impossibility of rectifying a glorified past becomes a glaring revenant of the ruin, because the ruin’s past could also be idealized to a revivified fault of never matching the present. With nostalgia, the present is deficiently reflected in the ruin—reasonably & temporally.

Reason has the infiltrated our thinking as an emblem of progress. Reason’s progress often manifests as authoritarianism, a unified, unbiased truth that regulates & enforces by virtue of its logic. Whatever falls outside of this is deemed unreasonable & irrational. A ruined building is an instance of such a falling away of reason’s imposing sovereignty.

–aurelio madrid

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