Hmmm…. is there such a thing as pleasure which is not existential?
There were two things about reading The Existential Pleasure of Engineering in which I took pleasure, existential or otherwise; (1) it was only 160 pages long, and (2) the author referenced great or interesting literature on nearly every page.
The cover of the book has a blurb that reads, “Enchanting.” The New Yorker. I have decided that this must be a warning that the book has some kind of hex / enchantment on it that makes book reviewers lose perspective. The blurbs on the back cover use the following adjectives: brilliant, infectious, urbane, witty, intellectually far-ranging, large-spirited, one of the most perceptive, thoughtful, engaging, superb, vivid, literate, delightful, wise, clear, erudite, and eloquent. Wow, this book must be either enchanting or enchanted. The reviewers were under the influence of a magic spell.
Fortunately for me, I purchased this book more than a decade ago (probably seduced by a charm) but set it on the shelf and did not read it until this week. That must have given the enchantment time to wear off, because I was barely able to drag my way through the text. Even when the author was referencing Plato, Aristotle, Dostoevsky, Kafka or Homer I found myself wondering what the relationship was between his reference and his argument.
The author prefaces his book with the following statement:
At first glance, engineering and existentialism appear to have nothing to do with each other. The engineer uses the logic of science to achieve practical results. The existentialist is guided by the promptings of his heart, which, as Pascal said, has its reasons that reason cannot know. The existentialist most typically sees the engineer as an antagonist whose analytical methods and pragmatic approaches to life are said to be desensitizing and soul deadening–in a word, antiexistential. To show that this adversary relationship is based on a misapprehension of the nature of the engineering experience is–as can be surmised from the title–a principal objective of this book.
I love the premise. I didn’t love the book.