The efficacy of the political, if it is not already too late to speak of such things, depends on the unity between imagination, speech and action. Implicit in this simple unity is the central role of imagination and images at the root of the speech/action twofold. Today this ancient unity founded upon the phantasmagorical has been fractured and the possibilities of reunification seem remote. This paper will attempt to speak of such foundations in the context of enchanting and animating the contemporary idea of service in relation the discipline of architecture and the buildings we make. If service can be considered de-ontological or duty bound one must search for a sense of ethical duty grounding any notions of service. This is important because finding the inception of service can serve to boost our current attempts to better meet the demand to socialize the work of the architect. To ignore these questions would be to further marginalize both the education of architects and the practice of building.
Ancient philosophy offers us a way to begin our search: Aristotle argued that human knowledge (science) should be divided into three categories: life of theory, life of action, and poetics. Life of theory seeks knowledge for its own sake. Life of action (politics and ethics) concerns conduct and goodness in action. Poetics (poiesis) aims at the making of beautiful or useful things including the voicing of rhetorical speech. What becomes of human action when it dominates the poetic life and the life of theoretical sciences? As a corollary, what becomes of the life of the theoretical sciences and the arts when superseded and dominated by the practical? Drawing from diverse sources such Aristotle, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Mies van der Rohe (works and words) this paper will attempt to make sense of the idea of service for educators and practitioners both retrospective and prospective.