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The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (Thomas Dunne Book) 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312141042
ISBN-10: 0312141041
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

...clear, erudite, and occasionally eloquent, a useful read for engineers given to self-scrutiny and a stimulating one for the layman interested in the ancient schism between machines and men's souls. -- Time Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Gracefully written . . . refreshing and highly infectious enthusiasm . . . imaginatively engineered.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“A useful read for engineers given to self-scrutiny, and a stimulating one for the layman interested in the ancient schism between machines and men's souls.” ―Time

“An urbane, witty, intellectually far-ranging, large-spirited hymn to homo faber.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“Enchanting.” ―The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Series: Thomas Dunne Book
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition (February 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312141041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312141042
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Florman is a civil engineer. He writes about engineering, society, man's relationship to technology and nature, overpopulating, pollution, and other critical technology-related issues. He writes the best essays about these topics I have ever read. In general, he supports the status quo and he is an optimist, but he is not blind to the shortcomings of technology and dangers like overpopulation and over development. Much of this book is devoted to a gentle rebuttal of the 1960s anti-technology philosophies embraced by Mumford, Reich and Schumacher. Florman presents all points of view. He leans over backward to present opposing points of view accurately, by quoting authors at length.
Florman writes about product safety, industrial standards, risky research and development in unproven technology, job satisfaction, social alienation, recruiting women into engineering, and many other topics. He illuminates the discussion with examples drawn from history, ancient and modern literature, grand opera, Tom Lehrer songs, and rock music. He writes with such wit and clarity you almost feel it is a shame he became a civil engineer instead of an author, or a historian or journalist. Nearly every page has some quotable, piquant paragraphs like these:
"Our contemporary problem is distressingly bvious. We have too many people wanting too many things. This is not caused by technology; it is a consequence of the type of creature that man is. . . ."
"It is common knowledge that millions of underprivileged families want adequate food and housing. What is less commonly remarked is that after they have adequate food and housing they will want to be served at a fine restaurant and to have a weekend cottage by the sea.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book for new engineers. For a student who is choosing to learn mechanical, civil, aerospace, electrical, software, or another engineering discipline. For the high school student contemplating academic options. For the university student working through courses. For the apprentice engineer working on real problems for the real world for the first time.

For all of these it can be invaluable to know that the engineer is not only defined by the science and math geeks finding something they are good at. That is important. In addition the engineer has a valuable role in society. And the creative and analytical urges that may separate the student from the crowd are fundamental urges of the human. We create. We build. And we take joy from this. It is in the genome - from the baby working over the blocks to The Skunk Works building a U2 or SR-71.

Samuel Florman has written a philosophy text on why engineers do what they do, and feel what they feel. The mature engineers will have fought through any resistence and anti-technology populist imagery. We learn to laugh and reflect on Chaplin caught in the gears, and keep an eye on overwhelming those who the technology should serve. Indeed, the practicing engineers will also have learned to deal with the guilt tossed our way by the league of environmentalists who treat modern technology as a planetary evil.

Those engineers will enjoy this book but probably not be altered by it. As we know from the numbers, fewer and fewer students are entering the engineering professions each year. This is where the book is important. One of the most rewarding and fulfilling professional directions is often considered a social problem through negative "press", reinforced by peer treatment in school.
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Format: Paperback
Samuel Florman gives himself a significant task: to explain who engineers are, what motivates them, how they derive pleasure in their work, and, most importantly, how their work is connected to the overall progress of civilization and the human race. He succeeds brilliantly, in a work that has deservedly become a classic.
Florman covers a great deal of ground in his book, with a focus on the last 150 years of the engineering profession. He quotes extensively from other works of literature and culture (from Homer to Paul McCartney), and has obviously read widely and thought deeply about his subject matter. He spends a good portion of his book refuting the views of people he calls antitechnologists, whose views were popular among the Sixties counterculture crowd. But ultimately, what Florman accomplishes is to provide a constructive, pragmatic philosophy of the Engineering profession, that allows society to move forward to solve the never-ending set of problems that we face.
As a good work of philosophy (or science) should, Florman's book (originally published more than 30 years ago) provides an intellectual framework for interpreting events of today. Although the views of the "strong" antitechnologists have failed to incite a large-scale revolution of Americans returning to the agrarian villages of yesteryear or the communes of the Sixties, the battle between technophiles and technophobes continues unabated. Florman's book provides insights into the debates over issues such as energy policy, environmentalism, genetically modified foods and drugs, land use policy, globalization, as well as the future direction of the U.S. economy, especially after the technology/Internet boom and bust of the late `90s and early `00s.
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The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (Thomas Dunne Book)
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