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Martin Heidegger:  1889-1976

LX:5 | Thingly Aspect of the Artwork

In order to discover the nature of the art that really prevails in the work, let us go to the actual work and ask the work what and how it is.

Works of art are familiar to everyone. Architectural and sculptural works can be seen installed in public places, in churches, and in dwellings. Art works of the most diverse periods and peoples are housed in collections and exhibitions. If we consider the works in their untouched actuality and do not deceive ourselves, the result is that the works are as naturally present as are things. The picture hangs on the wall like a rifle or a hat. A painting, e.g. the one by Van Gogh that represents a pair of peasant shoes, travels from one exhibition to another. Works of art are shipped like coal from the Ruhr and logs from the Black Forest. During the First World War Hölderlin's hymns were packed in the soldier's knapsack together with cleaning gear. Beethoven's quartets lie in the storerooms of the publishing house like potatoes in a cellar.

All works have this thingly character. What would they be without it? But perhaps this rather crude and external view of the work is objectionable to us. Shippers or charwomen in museums may operate with such conceptions of the work of art. We, however, have to take works as they are encountered by those who experience and enjoy them. But even the much-vaunted aesthetic experience cannot get around the thingly aspect of the art work. There is something stony in a work of architecture, wooden in a carving, colored in a painting, spoken in a linguistic work, sonorous in a musical composition. The thingly element is so irremovably present in the art work that we are compelled rather to say conversely that the architectural work is in stone, the carving is in wood, the painting in color, the linguistic work in speech, the musical composition in sound. "Obviously," it will be replied. No doubt. But what is this self-evident thingly element in the work of art?
 
Presumably it becomes superfluous and confusing to inquire into this feature, since the art work is something else over and above the thingly element. This something else in the work constitutes its artistic nature. The art work is, to be sure, a thing that is made, but it says something other than the mere thing itself is, allo agoreuei. The work makes public something other than itself; it manifests something other; it is an allegory. In the work of art something other is brought together with the thing that is made. To bring together is, in Greek, sumballein. The work is a symbol.
 
Allegory and symbol provide the conceptual frame within whose channel of vision the art work has for a long time been characterized. But this one element in a work that manifests another, this one element that joins with another, is the thingly feature in the art work, It seems almost as though the thingly element in the art work is like the substructure into and upon which the other, authentic element is built. And is it not this thingly feature in the work that the artist really makes by his handcraft?
 
Our aim is to arrive at the immediate and full reality of the work of art, for only in this way shall we discover real art also within it. Hence we must first bring to view the thingly element of the work. To this end it is necessary that we should know with sufficient clarity what a thing is. Only then can we say whether the art work is a thing, but a thing to which something else adheres; only then can we decide whether the work is at bottom something else and not a thing at all.

Source

Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought.  Trans. Albert Hofstadter.  Perennial 2001. p. 18-20.


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Tutelage of Perception
The Museum 

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:64 | that That

When we are seeking the essence of "tree," we have to become aware that That which pervades every tree, as tree, is not itself a tree that can be encountered among all other trees. (4)


Source

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays.  Trans. William Lovitt.  Garland Publishing 1977. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Genuine Happiness 

Works and Days

Concepts are Discursive

Documents

 


 

LX:33 | The 'Claro, Pero' Paradox

After everything we have said it is worth considering whether, if we immediately demand a propositional explanation of the highest idea, we are proceeding in a truly Platonic manner. If we ask in this way we already deviate from the path of authentic questioning. But inquiry into the idea of the good generally proceeds along this false track. One straightaway wants to know what the good is, just like one wants to know the shortest route to the market place. The idea of the good cannot be integrated into this uncomprehending way at all. It is thus no wonder if through this way of questioning we do not receive an answer, i.e. if our claim upon the intelligibility of this idea of the good, as something to be measured in terms of our ruling self-evidences, is from the very beginning decisively repulsed. Here we recognize – how often – that questioning also has its rank order.

This does not mean, however, that the idea of the good is a ‘mystery.’, i.e. something one arrives at only through hidden techniques and practices, perhaps through some kind of enigmatic faculty of intuition, a sixth sense or something of the kind. The sobriety of Platonic questioning speaks against this. Instead, it is Plato’s basic conviction, which he expresses once again in his old age, in the so-called Seventh Letter (342 e-344), that the highest idea can be brought into view only through the method of stepwise philosophical questioning of beings (asking down into the essential depth of man). The viewing succeeds, if at all, only in the comportment of questioning and learning. Even so, what is viewed remains, as Plato says (341 c 5): ‘it is not sayable like other things we can learn.’ Nevertheless, we can understand the unsayable only on the basis of what has already been said in a proper way, namely in and from the work of philosophizing. Only he who knows how to correctly say the sayable can bring himself before the unsayable; this is not possible for just any old confused head who knows, and fails to know, all kinds of things, for whom both knowing and failing to know are equally important and unimportant, and who may accidentally stumble upon a so-called puzzle. Only in the rigor of questioning do we come into the vicinity of the unsayable. (70-1)


Source

Heidegger, Martin. The Essence of Truth.  Trans. Ted Sadler.  Continuum 2002. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Questioning Builds A Way
Fertility of the Didactic Action
The Philosopher
The Red Ink
A Fundamental Quality of an Act
Standing Toe to Toe
A Snobbish Idiot

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


 

LX:4 | Questioning Builds A Way

In what follows we shall be questioning concerning technology.  Questioning builds a way.  We would be advised, therefore, above all to pay heed to the way, and not to fix our attention on isolated sentences and topics.  The way is a way of thinking.  All ways of thinking, more or less perceptibly, lead through language in a manner that is extraordinary.  We shall be questioning concerning technology, and in so doing we should like to prepare a free relationship to it.  The relationship will be free if it opens our human existence to the essence of technology.1  When we can respond to this essence, we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds. (3-4)


[1] "Essence" is the traditional translation of the German noun Wesen.  One of Heidegger's principal aims in this essay is to seek the true meaning of essence through or by way of the "correct" meaning.  He will later show that Wesen does not simply mean what something is, but that it means, further, the way in which something pursues its course, the way in which it remains though time as what it is. 


Source

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays.  Trans. William Lovitt.  Garland Publishing 1977. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The 'Claro, Pero' Paradox; The Most Basic Sphere of Concern is Schooling;Standing Toe to Toe

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:97 | Artist, Work of Art, Art

Origin here means that from and by which something is what it is and as it is. What something is, as it is, we call its essence or nature. The origin of something is the source of its nature. The question concerning the origin of the work of art asks about the source of its nature. On the usual view, the work arises out of and by means of the activity of the artist. But by what and whence is the artist what he is? By the work; for to say that the work does credit to the master means that it is the work that first lets the artist emerge as a master of his art. The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other. In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names - art. (17)
Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought.  Trans. Albert Hofstadter. Perennial 2001.