Art Matters: A Critical Commentary on Heidegger's "The Origin of the Work of Art" (Contributions To Phenomenology)
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In recent years there has been a great deal of talk about a possible death of art. As the title of Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art” suggests, the essay challenges such talk, just as it in turn is challenged by such talk, talk that is supported by the current state of the art-world. It was Hegel, who most profoundly argued that the shape of our modern world no longer permits us to grant art the significance it once possessed. Hegel’s proclamation of the end of art in its highest sense shadows this commentary, as it shadows Heidegger’s essay. Heidegger’s problematic turn from the philosopher Hegel to the poet Hölderlin is born of the conviction that we must not allow Hegel to here have the last word. At stake is the future of art. But more importantly, if we are to accept Heidegger’s argument, at stake is the future of humanity. But all who are eager to find in Heidegger’s essay pointers concerning where not just art, but we should be heading, should be made wary by Heidegger’s politicizing of art and aestheticizing of politics. Both remain temptations that demand a critical response. This commentary demonstrates the continued relevance of Heidegger’s reflections.
Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), 1. 11. Ibid. 12. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Vorlesungen u¨ ber die Aesthetik, vols. 12–14 of Jubil¨aumsausgabe, ed. Hermann Glockner, 20 vols. (Stuttgart: Fromann, 1937), vol. 12, 135–136. 13. For the distinction between an ontological and an aesthetic conception of beauty, see Ernesto Grassi, Die Theorie des Sch¨onen in der Antike (Cologne: Dumont, ¨ 1962) and Walter Biemel, Die Bedeutung von Kants Begr¨undung der Asthetik and Philosophische Analysen zur Kunst der
work of art to an inquiry into what makes a thing a thing. In the following 15 pages art seems to have been forgotten, as Heidegger turns to a topic that preoccupied him throughout his long career and demanded far more of his time than art ever did. Especially relevant to the thing discussion in “The Origin of the Work of Art” is Die Frage nach dem Ding, a lecture course Heidegger gave at just about the same time, in the winter semester 1935/1936, although then the course had the title
lightning-flash of individuality which strikes and permeates the inert mass.” And Heidegger follows Hegel, when he assigns to sculpture the task of establishing the presence of the god. This presence of the god in the temple becomes here something like an integrating center. With Baumgarten we could say, the presence of the god provides a particular region, which now finds its focus in the temple with its statue, with a theme. Apollo, say, is made to preside over this place, which is experienced
community. Our modern world, to be sure, has no room for gods: as Hegel would have insisted, the Greek gods do indeed belong to a world that has perished. 106 WORK AND WORLD Heidegger agrees that the gods are absent from our modern world, but he insists that their absence be not simply accepted, but that it be questioned and thoughtfully considered. In speaking of gods, divinities, or angels his guide is once again H¨olderlin, to whom he also owes his understanding of the significance of the
that certain regions seem to demand or invite the building of a temple because their appearance seemed to hint at the powers that preside over human life. Consider his suggestion that every Minoan palace makes use of the same landscape elements: first an enclosed valley of varying size in which the palace is set; I should call this a “Natural Megaron”; second, a gently mounded or conical hill on axis with the palace to north and south; and lastly a higher, doublepeaked or cleft mountain some