Is philosophy useful to industry? by Elisa Massoni

(Source: 5 November 2021 in - Interni Magazine)

According to the philosopher Leonardo Caffo, no. Unless there is an ethical shift and a more realistic view of the world on the part of businesses

The design? According to Leonardo Caffo it is philosophy, which occasionally takes the form of a bedside table. Her curating work for the exhibition Design in pratica, pratiche di design virtuoso (Design in practice, virtuous design practices), which has just ended in Padua, proves this. A journey in the twenty years of work of the Joe Velluto studio structured on the philosophical tree of the eightfold Buddhist path. In which the junction between ethics and Joe Velluto's design work is the evolutionary leap towards a design that leaves the frame of consumerism. But if an industrial design studio bases its work on a philosophy (ethics), how useful is it for industry to invest in philosophy?

Alexandra Lethbridge, Torso 07, from the series The Archive of Gesture, 2021


Can ethics be a drive for industry?

I think the company's only drive is the economic one. Beyond the moral washing, or the historical example of Olivetti (which is now a cliché), many of the ethical issues are translated into pure marketing. It is not bad at all: after all, the marketing of ecology is better than the marketing of sexism, which has guided us for forty years. But the reasons do not lie in an ethical choice dictated by the end of the patriarchy or the climate crisis. It is once again the economic drives pushing the strategies.

Alexandra Lethbridge, Statue 03 from the series The Archive of Gesture, 2020


Yet there is a lot of research and a lot of effort to facilitate the ecological transition...

Among the various indicators of the man / planet balance there is also the one concerning the unknown factor of pollution caused by new materials: not we still know what effect they will have on the environment. At a time when we are sinking, we should avoid adding materials and not using them at all. The more contemporary design should be that of emptying.

Alexandra Lethbridge, Statue 02 from the series The Archive of Gesture, 2020

And if industry were instead receptive to the themes of contemporary philosophy, what could it learn? 

Let's already see what philosophy has given to design: above all speculative research is being carried out in schools and academies. It almost seems that the least of the problems is planning. It is a return to origins: Sottsass, his Scritti di notte (Writings at night), the manifesto La vita come gioco (Life as a game)… It is philosophy, not a project. As for the industry, however, the problem is to use it to do moral washing . Or at best to rewrite posters, identities, branding.

Alexandra Lethbridge, Statue 04 from the series, The Archive of Gesture, 2020


Is this a bad thing?

The interesting part in my opinion is that today philosophers are able to describe the world, they know more precisely than others what is happening. After all, today the philosopher is a kind of enlightened creative director. There are concrete examples: Roberto Casati, the director of the Institut Jean Nicod at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, did some research on what it means to do without digital maps. An analysis that has been used a lot by companies. It is a transposition of lateral thinking: the value for the industry could be this.

Alexandra Lethbridge, Torso 01 from the series The Archive of Gesture, 2020


And from the point of view of inspiration? Can an industry be philosophy driven?

That would be nice. But I deal with the imbalance of anthropocentrism, with the suffering of the non-human. With these premises, which for me are fundamental, it is difficult to say that what the industry does makes sense, unless it has a moral, not an aesthetic apparatus. Without this step, I do not believe that industry will be able to orient itself and stop, for example, causing damage to the planet.

The photos in the article make p the art of Alexandra Lethbridge's photographic project The Archive of Gesture, which focuses on the theme of gesture and its misunderstanding, exhibited premiered at Other Size Gallery in Milan, from 9 September to 15 October 2021.

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