About deception

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Kylemore Abbey, Connemara

Back view of Kylemore Abbey

Economizing for effect at Kylemore

A philosophical tactic in this study is to insist on multiple kinds of unity. Critics often pit true or authentic unity against false or apparent unity, but what we are dealing with are different kinds of unity. We need normative distinctions, not between unity and its counterfeit, but among different kinds of unity. I have suggested complexity as a criterion for that distinction.

-- I appreciate your desire not to use unity as an honorific term, and I commend that attempt to move away from Plato's legacy. Yet you must admit that some of today's places are more than just simplified, they are deceptive; their unity is a surface effect, their spectacle hides a lack of substance, their depth is contrived. Look at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, for instance. It's a Victorian stage set. Terms like falsity and deception have to be used if we are to see what's really going on.

-- I still shy away from those terms. There is deception, but I'd rather see it not as the basic event of a place, but as one element in a complexity, so that the deception can be defanged by being seen as one part of a larger movement. The deception or falsity in the place no longer dominates the place's reality once we see it in context. The effect is still to undo the deception, as you want, because the deception will only work when it monopolizes the field of vision. But it is dangerous to make deception the essence of the place. It is better to widen that field of vision than to rail at the deception while still keeping it in the center.

Kylemore Abbey imitates Scottish "castles" that imitated Gothic imitating early medieval crenellated buildings. This is not so much dishonest as it is play-acting in a self-important way. It is more complex than a lie. For instance, the builder economized by not continuing the crenellations around the back, and by avoiding stone facing where it would not be visible from the ground. This undercuts the military bluff, but that had already been contradicted by the large windows in the front facade.