Kindness is one of the aspects of the greater philosophic category of ‘Care’, (‘concern and solicitude for the other’) theorized since Aristotle as love and friendship for others based on esteem of self. Since Heidegger, with his particular interest in ‘dwelling’ and its innate relationship to care, it has been understood, that ‘shelter’ and ‘kindness’(as dwelling/care) are etymologically and philosophically related and cannot exist one without the other. Since Heidegger, Paul Ricoeur has extended the idea of care, to care of the Other, an ethics of the Other, and re inscribed it with human sensibility and empathetic emotion – pity, kindness, love, sympathy- in the form of ‘the kindness of strangers’ that Adam Phillips speaks of: that is , a care of the Other that goes beyond family or country. This is not a sentimental or ‘do-gooder’ impulse but the deeper more rigorous condition of acting on the understanding that we ‘are of one kind’, to reference Phillips again. A democratic reciprocity is at the heart of this impulse and equality between the one ‘giving’ sympathy and the suffering ‘receiver’ are ensured, in Ricoeur’s words, ‘through the shared admission of fragility and, finally, of mortality’.
It is this complex of ideas that interests us – that ‘kindness’ both affirms our connected humanity and acknowledges that we are mutually fragile and mortal: It is about love and death. Inscribing ideas about this into art and architecture would seem to be necessary to a practice of depth but in a culture that lacks memory and eschews mourning, the traits of individualism, fashion and consumerism have come to override a care for the communal well being in its collective and individual life journe
Pip Stokes, 2009.
(Writing about her art installation Shelter, which she created with husband Gregory Burgess.)