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Because Love, Life, Goethe: How to be Happy in an Imperfect World is one of the most marvellous books I have ever read, I was excited to learn that John Armstong, the philosopher, was yesterday's RSA Thursday speaker. He spoke about a new book , The Promise of Civilisation; about how money and power might be used well, about the power of spiritual prosperity to guide material activity, and about how that spiritual prosperity consists above all in self-knowledge and authenticity.

Because Love, Life, Goethe: How to be Happy in an Imperfect World is one of the most marvellous books I have ever read, I was excited to learn that John Armstong, the philosopher, was yesterday's RSA Thursday speaker. He spoke about a new book , The Promise of Civilisation; about how money and power might be used well, about the power of spiritual prosperity to guide material activity, and about how that spiritual prosperity consists above all in self-knowledge and authenticity.

As always, I mentally wrestled throughout with the design angle on all of this. Actually his example of high civilisation was a masterpiece of urban design in Edinburgh's New Town, and he refers readily to "objects" that speak to him of civilisation, so it's not much of a stretch.

So what are the habits of a civilised designer? In what respect is he or she spiritually prosperous and self-knowing? The ones I can think of really know, but do not vulgarly over-estimate, the full stretch of what design can do, and find ways to express how design relates to the world around us. Next question: who was the more civilised: Victor Papanek or George Nelson?

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