chapter  8
22 Pages

Empirical philosophy and the nature of sensations

In The Genius of Architecture, Le Camus de Mézières defines a theory of expression that assumes that all shapes, colors, light, and textures employed in the design of a building act upon the senses to induce “certain predictable sensations in the observer.”1 Although he makes no explicit reference to the empirical philosophy that was transforming the very nature of knowledge in the eighteenth century, the subtitle of his treatise, The Analogy of That Art [architecture] With Our Sensations, suggests a connection to the sensualist philosophy of John Locke and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac. For them, knowledge was directly tied to sensory perception because the senses reacted consistently to particular forms, just as particular combinations of musical tones were associated with different moods. They also rejected the existence of innate ideas in the mind that would provide a pre-understanding of objects. Like Locke and Condillac, Le Camus de Mézières believed that knowledge is acquired through sensory perception. He obliquely acknowledged the influence of empirical philosophy in the introduction to his architectural treatise, writing that the “principles concerning the analogy between the proportions of Architecture and our sensations are founded on those of the majority of the Philosophers. We cannot go astray by following nature.”2