Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar (Tuesday - Week 2, MT22)

Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar

Heidegger’s treatment of art in terms of its disclosive function gets its fullest expression in the essay “The Origin of the Work of Art.” To a surprising degree, reception of Heidegger’s essay has been shaped by a short critical essay by the art historian Meyer Schapiro, entitled “The Still Life as a Personal Object – A Note on Heidegger and Van Gogh.”  Schapiro pilloried Heidegger for basing his interpretation of the painting on a fiction, a “fanciful description” that is “grounded rather in his own social outlook with its heavy pathos of the primordial and earth.” But, I argue, Schapiro’s critique of Heidegger is flawed in multiple respects.  Schapiro bases his critique on factual assumptions that are unwarranted.  And he misunderstands the central claims that Heidegger makes about the philosophical significance of van Gogh’s painting, and of art more broadly.  Understanding where Schapiro went wrong thus opens up the possibility of reappraising Heidegger’s engagement with van Gogh.  I will argue, in conclusion, that Heidegger’s approach to art is of a completely different kind than the aesthetic interpretation practiced by Schapiro.  Heidegger is not interested in decoding the symbolic or representational meaning of the work.  He is not interested in the subjective intentions or psychology of the artist. He instead treats the painting as itself making a contribution to phenomenological ontology – of facilitating an “unmediated description” of the being of equipment.  

Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph SchearManuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall