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The Existential Pleasures of Engineering

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  243 Ratings  ·  23 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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Feb 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: loathed
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
Mete Rodoper
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a book that was written by experienced engineers for the engineers. Also, I wanted to learn more about the feelings of these experienced engineers about the profession over years of practicing. I would say that this book has answers to most of these questions and additionally it sheds light on better engineering ethics and practices as well. However, I must say that this book's main area is to provide a reasoning for the internal driving force of an engineer with philosophy.

Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 first half of this book poorly reasoned, and full of mischaracterization of people's arguments, and it soured me on the book for a long time. Eventually I got around to reading the second half, which is better, but it fails to achieve what I'd hoped from it. There are a few choice quotes, but I didn't find much substance that was relevant to either engineering or philosophy, today.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it liked it
As a socialist, I often get frustrated when writing something written by a liberal for their universal assumption that the capitalist mode is simply "human nature." Even moreso when the author is arguing against someone else who also fails to see that capitalism is the problem. This is the case for the first part of this book, in which Florman argues against the "antitechnologists", perhaps more accurately described as primitivist anarchists. The latter group posits that technology in itself is ...more
Jack Ziegler
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: engineering
I enjoyed this book. It helped me to remember some of the things about engineering that I don't always remember.

It also reminded me of the arguments that I use to feel - more than have - as an insecure engineering student that engineers were not valuable. Certainly that isn't true. It surprises me that those arguments don't seem to happen any more. But, maybe that is only because I am a long way past college and spend most of my time with people that are also engineers.

Updated July 2017
The one
Wayne Clark
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I bought this book at the Duke University bookstore in December 2000, started to read it over the holidays that same year, but soon lost interest. At the time, I was immersed in my engineering career and was not in the mood to read about the existential pleasures of something that I lived every day.

After I retired, I picked up the book again with a whole different attitude and with a different objective. I was looking for guidance on what overall direction my reading should take now that I am in
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This is philosophy of engineering 1970's style, explaining the end of the age of the engineer as public hero, and the engineer's transition in public opinion into a much maligned elitist technocrat. The current view of engineers as nerdy "smarter-than-thou" introverts evolved out of the political and public opinion debates of several decades ago. My question is - how do we get out of the mess we're in now?
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering
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.
Steve Wiggins
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
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
Apr 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
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.
Joshua Bowen
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Tough read. Not very exciting. But some very interesting and insightful thoughts regarding the art of engineering. Definitely a graduate level read for those with a true passion for the engineering profession.
Jan 16, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Adam Wright
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting discussions about the role of technology/engineering in our society and responses to the detractors who seek a return to agrarian/simple lifestyles.

Discusses a lot about why people who engineer find it fun and rewarding.
Eric Kaun
Apr 21, 2011 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.
Feb 10, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a must have for the nerd. Definitley better than what you expect.
Sady Wootten
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering
Dated but provides some interesting things to think about.
Chris Velez
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for engineers.
Jeffrey Robinson
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Should be a book in the library of every engineer out there in my humble opinion.
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Scott Stoddard
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Mar 31, 2013
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Aug 28, 2017
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