Situated empathy: constructed theoretical discourse addressing the empathetic motivations shared by fashion design for sustainability, and the potential of Socially Engaged Buddhist Ethics to inform design practice.

Thomas, S 2012, Situated empathy: constructed theoretical discourse addressing the empathetic motivations shared by fashion design for sustainability, and the potential of Socially Engaged Buddhist Ethics to inform design practice., Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Situated empathy: constructed theoretical discourse addressing the empathetic motivations shared by fashion design for sustainability, and the potential of Socially Engaged Buddhist Ethics to inform design practice.
Author(s) Thomas, S
Year 2012
Abstract The reading of design for sustainability is terminologically manqué in the generalised environmental usage when addressing the ethical decisions and practice specific to fashion industry production; their impact on the planet and its current and future inhabitants. If fashion designers have been attempting to provide responsible stewardship for the planet there would seem to be a disparity between intent and result, and an absence of engagement both philosophically and practically. It is possible to question whether designers are capable of a more philosophical contribution, yet the sustainability rationale specific to their practice has not been fully challenged in fashion, or the core definition contextually examined from the fashion designers’ perspective. The argument acknowledges the lack of fashion design for sustainability texts, and the confusion of and requirement for a depth in language relating to sustainability and fashion. Furthermore, it is proposed that the current interpretation of sustainability does not address the holistic aspects of and benevolence inherent in sustainability as theory and practice; nor reflects the empathetic response. To inform the discourse, a life cycle analysis from a designer’s position is undertaken; the roles of empathy and equality are explored and the need for ethical behaviour and responsibility identified.

It is hypothesised that the ethics within design for sustainability theory and practice, and their current applications do not serve the long term fashion industry, humanity, and other species, which raises the question where other ethics and belief systems may be sourced. The thesis explores the synergies that Buddhist ethics share with sustainability, inclusive design, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, and social justice, and in so doing constructs new parameters for participants in the Fashion Design/Production Loop (Thomas and Van Kopplen 2005) to identify where and how philosophy can guide their reflection and response.

A consideration of different hierarchies is undertaken; pursuing other philosophies or religions as drivers for response; questioning whether Socially Engaged Buddhism and the ethics inherent in the practice offer potential guiding principles. The thesis addresses potentiality and scope for a simple, holistic, generous and engaged design response. The concept of a philosophy-directed response is considered enabling contemplation of the synergy of principles, and reflecting on design as a new Buddhist sub-field. The hypothesis proposes that there is a changing context of practice, and that empathy is integral to the holistic design for sustainability and social engagement response; recognising the transferable empathic skills within engaged design.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) fashion
sustainability
ethics
empathy
Buddhism
Social Engaged Buddhism
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Created: Wed, 27 Jun 2012, 09:03:24 EST by Guy Aron
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