User:LGreg/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge (LG seminar)/Group 1/Truth/Peach

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Comparing Truth in Architecture and History of Art - By Yu K., Lola K., and Minnie H.[edit | edit source]

What are its truths?[edit | edit source]

Within architecture, truth is both relative and subjective. The concept of truth is developed by the notion of expressing a statement that is either rejected or accepted as "true". Relating to this, it can be said that buildings themselves create a statement or express ideas by their mere presence/existence. A pre-modern example of this would be the expression embodied by a cathedral, and a modern example would be architecture that serves as a platform for advertisement. In these cases, the buildings would be considered to be correct for their function and purpose, however it is subjective to assume that all buildings are correct based on their function. Architecture is arguably a mathematical discipline, therefore has theory and rules that are followed to create spaces in a "correct" way, a technical or empirical truth.[1]

Similarly, the study of History of Art is something that is largely subjective but also follows mathematical rules. It is true in that the art is studied in terms of its historical context, therefore looking into the factual events that occurred surrounding the artwork's creation, according to accurate records. However, the analysis of the art itself is considered to be subjective, since events and possible influences can be interpreted in considerably different ways depending on who is analysing the work. Much like architecture, on the other hand, the analysis of Art History takes into account compositional techniques that are evident in the work; this would cause History of Art to be true in an empirical sense.[2]

How does it come to realise/evaluate the truth?[edit | edit source]


One defines what relates or not Architecture. The main consensus on this subject is that architecture is not only about the construction of a building structure, but also about the artistic creation of what makes up a building (light, interior, technical aspects of access to facilities), as well as the analysis of architectural styles from ancient times studied by anthropologists, archaeologists, historians...[3]

It is subjective to evaluate the visual aspect of architecture, as it relates to tastes towards an architect's own style. We cannot define what is "good" and what is not from this point of view. However, the creation of construction plans requires absolute certainty of the feasibility of an architectural project. A positive truth emerges from the use of mathematics, geometry and engineering to keep the building in place in defined proportions and with these specific materials.[4] Furthermore, the study of architectural theories overtime has developed (with the use of science such as mathematics, physics and later the advent of technologies) that have made it possible to approach old buildings. More knowledge on ancient civilizations and their relationship to architecture have resulted from this. This use of science has allowed the borrowing of styles over time, such as churches in the Roman style during the Renaissance.[5]

History of Art: As Art History focuses its study on artwork over the millenia, art historians establish theories that stand for truth. They agree on terms and principles that classify and define certain artworks, by finding common points of analysis between them. For instance, the Canon of Art History is one of the most common ways of defining famous artworks across different time period like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Renaissance... Therefore, a constructivist truth is widespread in this dicipline, as it makes certain analytical criteria universal.[6]

The main goal of History of Art is to question the artwork. Each interpretation is different. There is no such thing as "absolute truth" in this discpline as it is defined by its process of understanding a work of art, its features, its message, its techniques. Moreover, what is said to be an artwork by historians has evolved throughout the years, which makes it difficult to come up with an exact definition of Art.

However, the history of art bears some commonly accepted criteria for analysis. Thus, if the substance is subjective, the form of analysis is quite common, and the historian is invited to focus on particular criteria (such as light, color, period, subjetc...).

What the disicipline evaluates is the process of research and understanding the works. Its purpose is to reveal the truth about these works, but it is also in line with the almost impossible nature of explaining a work of art in its entirety.

The purpose of these two disciplines is discussed. Some philosophers (such as Samuel Davies) refute the fact that architecture serves any other purpose than to create practical and useful objects where others say that the creative process of building construction is an art form[7]. Similarly, some will see art history as the analysis of human culture through artworks, while others will emphasize a technical approach to the works[8]. This discussion highlights the fact that the truth about the purpose of architecture and history of art is not absolute. Therefore, « truth » in some of these humanities is more a matter of the philosophy of art and architecture than of the two disiciplines themselves.

Is truth important to the discipline?[edit | edit source]

It is first crucial to realise the freedom of expression confirmed by artistic license. Thus, artists do not have the obligation to portray the absolute truth. Moreover, truth can be relative and art is the perfect discipline that can use this quality to reimagine reality to a uniquely interpreted artwork. Appreciating art, unlike taking a stand for or against a cause in life, does not require a yes or no to statements. It requires only that the viewers look and appreciate, that they experience as richly and fully as possible the feeling and attitudes involved in the worldview that is presented. Philosophers and scientists are concerned with whether materialism is true; appreciators of art are concerned only to capture the feeling appropriate to the worldview in question. However, for the two disciplines of history of art and architecture this view becomes challenged by the fact that science becomes intertwined with art. Without the absolute truth in measurements or construction, architecture would not be possible as a quantitative discipline. Moreover, history of art needs to recognise the complexity of truth in history and historians must adhere to the correspondence of truth.

  4. Mathematics and architecture, From Wikipedia <>
  7. Fisher, Saul, "Philosophy of Architecture", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),➞ URL = <>.
  8. History of Art Degree page, Univeristy of Oxford website