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The Existential Pleasures of Engineering

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  157 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Humans have always sought to change their environment--building houses, monuments, temples, and roads. In the process, they have remade the fabric of the world into newly functional objects that are also works of art to be admired. In this second edition of his popular Existential Pleasures of Engineering, Samuel Florman explores how engineers think and feel about their pr ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 15th 1996 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1976)
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I'm an engineer. I think engineering is fascinating. I was enthusiastic about a book by an engineer who was also literate (Florman has a Master's degree in English) and reflecting on the nature of engineering. And, let's face it, it's a hilarious title. I should have been Florman's target audience.

I hated it so much.

It's a book in three parts: first, a lament over the fall of the engineer from public adoration after the creation of the atomic bomb and an attempt to exculpate engineers from blame
May 03, 2010 Jeff rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
"Our contemporary problem is distressingly obvious. We have too many people wanting too many things. This is not caused by technology; it is s consequence of the type of creature that man is."

"I do not believe that it is up to the engineering profession to decide what is good for society, to decide for example, whether we should favor mass transit or individual automobiles, allow drilling for oil off our coasts, authorize the use of public lands for mining, or determine how much of our national
I found the title a bit misleading, thinking that this was to be a description of great engineering feats and the philosophical concepts behind them. Instead, it was an interesting discussion of the late 1970s notions, promulgated by ex-hippies or hippie apologists, that called into question the merits of science and technology, and decried such as leading humanity into a mechanistic cage. Florman pretty effectively knocks down these guys–Jaques Ellul, Charles Reich, Theodore Roszak, among other ...more
Steve Wiggins
A bit more of an introspection than a reflection of what joy might be found in engineering. For a non-engineer, it was almost like too much was going on in the background to see what was essential. Very good in parts, however. More thoughts at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Jeffrey Robinson
Should be a book in the library of every engineer out there in my humble opinion.
The first half, describing the fall of engineering from its vaunted position during the "golden era" is still quite relevant and reads thoughtfully even 30 years later. Raises a lot of issues about technology working against and with humans. Although the author tries to broaden the appeal to systems engineers and software engineers, I think this book might ring more true with those engineers that work on tangible things, the engineers who are more likely to feel the existential joy of tuning a w ...more
I really enjoyed this book, despite the middle bit, where Florman sets up some pretty obvious straw men by cherry-picking from the worst of the 1970's anti-technology writing. The beginning and end sections are well worth the read as a proper appreciation of engineering as craft, art, and (of course) existentialism.
This one looked interesting on the book shelf so I picked it up and it was nice to read something that is not in my usual genre of reads. I don't know that I agreed with everything the author said, but interesting stuff and I can see how engineers could take pleasure in their work.
Justin Elszasz
A feeble, piecemeal, whiny attempt at defending engineering from luddites, environmentalists, and hippies of the 70's. Gross misinterpretation of existentialism that goes unused anyways when describing the "pleasures" of engineering. Don't expect a philosophical treatise.
Samuel Florman combines a degree in engineering with an MFA in creative writing. Very good essayist on technology. He captures the "golden age" of civil and mechanical engineering in the middle of the 20th century.
Eric Kaun
Apr 21, 2011 Eric Kaun marked it as to-read
A nice, concise apologetics for engineering; chicken soup for the engineer's soul, and a succinct summary of its major foci and philosophies.
This is a must have for the nerd. Definitley better than what you expect.
Might be fun to read in conjunction with Marcuse's One-dimensional Man
Sady Wootten
Dated but provides some interesting things to think about.
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