The Art of Moral Imagination: Ethics in the Practice of Architecture [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 66 (2/3):307 - 317 (2006)
Abstract
This paper addresses questions of ethics in the professional practice of architecture. It begins by discussing possible relationships between ethics and aesthetics. It then theorises ethics within concepts of 'practice', and argues for the importance of the context in architecture where narrative can be used to learn and to integrate past and present experience. Narrative reflection also takes in the future, and in the case of architecture there is a positive but not yet well accepted move (particularly within the 'academy') to realise the imperative nature of architecture's responsibility with respect of global sustainability. Architects, more perhaps than other professions, use the faculty of imagination in their work, and this paper therefore maintains that architects as artists are uniquely qualified to exercise 'moral imagination' when it comes to situations where moral deliberation is needed. Pragmatism has given a new impetus to the importance of imagination in moral reflection, and I focus on John Dewey's categories of 'empathy' and 'dramatic rehearsal' as descriptors of moral imagination as applied in situations. I argue in conclusion firstly that empathy between end-users and architects is an essential but not always realised part of morality in architecture, and secondly that 'dramatic rehearsal', when extended more widely that a given situation, may lead architects to question the social, political and ecological contexts of their work and thus motivate them to prioritise the 'ethical' in all the choices they make
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