Durability via superfluity. Contrary to superficial logic, it is not the usefulness of a work that makes it last. Rather, it is those elements that have no clear use that elevate the work beyond a mere use object, not to speak of an object of consumption. This is because unlike utility, which is always tied to a particular time, place, and subject, the superfluous elements, its decoration, have a value of their own outside of the work itself. Because of this, the most useful of goods will lose all of its durability the moment it is unable to perform its function, while a work enriched by superfluity will retain a value beyond itself, and will be valued for this even if the primary use of the object no longer matters. The phenomenon of collecting, such as, for example, stamp collecting, would not exist if the stamps were not decorated with unique illustrations with every new issue. The illustration on the stamp is wholly irrelevant to its function, and precisely because of that it elevates a tiny piece of paper to an object worthy of collection, infusing it with a durability unmatched by any purely utilitarian good.

October 2015

Looking for a good read?

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive regular recommendations of exceptional books on a wide range of topics including history, philosophy, literature, and art. A summary of latest site updates will also be included. Sign up below: