Argument From Design

The Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, Broadway and Fifth Avenue
Flatiron Building (built 1902) at 5th Avenue, Broadway, and 23rd St. in Manhattan

During the last few weeks, I’ve been spending some time in the area of Madison Square Park, around Broadway and 23rd St, often referred to as the Flatiron District, because the Flatiron building, across the street from Madison Square Park is the main focus of attention in that area.  What has drawn me to that area of late was first my discovery of one of my favorite stores on 23rd St.:  the Home Depot, and, then, this summer, the Antony Gormley art installation of 31 bronze nude men situated in Madison Square Park and on top of buildings that surround the park. I love these public art installations that the City always has. Last year it was waterfalls, this year nude bronze men. I can hardly wait until next year.

Bronze Man by Antony Gormley
One of 2 Bronze Men by Antony Gormley in Madison Square Park on Display from March through August 15, 2010

Spending some time in the Flatiron District made my fondness for it to expand. I also became aware that the great writer Edith Wharton was associated with this area of the City.  I suddenly got the urge to read The House of Mirth. My copy from Amazon arrived this morning.  The book begins in Grand Central Station.  What was “funny” is that Rhinebeck, New York is mentioned on the second page, which seems so appropro.  At the end of the second page–I quote:  Her discretions interested him almost as much as her imprudences:  he was so sure that both were part of the same carefully-elaborated plan.  In judging Miss Bart, he had always made use of the ‘argument from design.’

Gormley's Bronze Nude Man Standing on Top of the Flatiron building

Having no idea what “argument from design” meant, I looked it up.  It means the argument that there has to be a God because of the elaborate design of nature, and the world.  It’s as if there can’t be a design without a designer, and the earth is certainly designed and formed according to rules of nature.
So, who invented those rules?  I think this is rather a brilliant way to describe a person.  It’s as if everything about Miss Bart were part of an overall plan.  It’s interesting that Edith Wharton, whose great love in life was interior decorating, would be attracted to this metaphor.


Bronze Man on building
Antony Gormley's Nude Bronze Man on Top of Building on Fifth Avenue. You can see this guy in first photo, at top of blog. He's on the right, between the two lines, but you have to really look hard to see him.

A few pages later, in the House of Mirth, Ms. Bart runs into an old friend of hers in Grand Central Station, and he takes her up to his apartment for tea. She says to him: “If I could only do over my aunt’s drawingroom I know I should be a better woman.” That sounds to me like the same type of modern woman who thinks that if she could just find the right outfit to wear, her life would come together.

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