Professor Hugh J. Silverman

Department of Philosophy

Stony Brook University

Fall Semester 2006

Tues& Thurs 5:20-6:40

Protocol # 7:

Heidegger’s Origin of the Work of Art - III

September 28, 2006

These notes are prepared by Mariya Norenberg and Arsalan Memon (Teaching Assistants).

These notes do not replace attendance in the class which is mandatory.

They are to serve as a reminder of what was discussed in class.

They are to assist students in understanding the readings and what is presented in class. (HJS)

Protocol by Mariya Norenberg and Arsalan Memon (revised by HJS)



        At the end of last class, we were discussing Van Gogh’s painting of the shoes, which according to Heidegger, reveals the world of the peasant woman. That world involves her shoes, which are her equipment.

        What does it mean to make visible the happening of truth (aletheia) in the work? How is the truth actually seen? You do not actually or physically see the truth, but it is brought out figuratively. The happening of the truth becomes visible in the world of the work of art. The truth shows itself as a world in the Lichtung or " clearing." (as in a forest clearing). The interpretation circumscribes the world and the world is brought out -- disclosed..

      The possibility that the interpretation is incorrect should be considered. It is possible that the shoes do not even belong to a peasant woman and it is simply Heidegger’s version of what happens in the painting. This question introduces an important theme in aesthetics. Is aesthetic judgment (1) simply anybody’s opinion (de gustibus non disputandum) or (2) does the knowledge of the truth of art belong to its creator? Heidegger would disagree with both views. It cannot be the artist, for we often do not even know the artist’s opinion. What if the artist named a painting something that does not actually resemble anything in it? The qualities, essences of the painting, such as roundness, blueness, simplicity are much more important to the world of the truth of the painting than what the artist says it is. The evidence provided by the artist about the thingness of the work does not legitimize the work according to Heidegger.  It is not the case that it is everyone’s opinion either. According to Heidegger once an artwork is created, it is no longer the property of the public or the artist.

         Instead, while in the presence of a work of art in the thinking process about the work of art you are entering into a space in which truth happens. The spirit, atmosphere, the world of the painting reveals itself.

        This can also be seen with an example of nonrepresentational art or a work of architecture such as the Greek Temple. The Greek Temple in Paestum located on the western coast of Italy reveals a truth in itself as well. The Temple is not portraying anything; it does not refer to anything. There is a presence of god in the Temple. This describes a world that is not visible with eyes, however it is visible conceptually or intellectually. As Heidegger says, “By means of the temple, the god is present in the temple. The presence of the god is in itself the extension and delimitation of the precinct as a holy precinct….It is the temple work that first fits together and at the same time first gathers around itself the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline acquire the shape of destiny for human being. The all-governing expanse of this open relational context is the world of this historical people.” (OWA, 41)

          In thinking about the Temple, the world of the Ancient Greeks who built the Temple and worshiped there, is revealed. This place was significant to them both artistically and religiously. The Temple for the first time makes visible, “clears and illuminates” the world that surrounds it (OWA, 41). “The Greeks called this emerging and rising in itself and in all things phusis” (OWA, 41). Phusis leads to Nature or physics.

       Heidegger’s fourfold (i.e. earth, sky, mortals, and divinities) is visible in the open space as well. The mortals and divinities are all present in the Open space of the Temple in relation to the earth and sky. Earth is the sheltering of the world of the Temple. “Earth is,” Heidegger goes on to say, “that whence the arising brings back and shelters everything that arises without violation. In the things that arise earth is the sheltering agent. The Temple-work, standing there, opens up a world and at the same time sets this world back again on earth…” (OWA, 41)

       The truth -- the world that is opened up -- is contained by the Temple or the frame of the painting, the aesthetic hermeneutic circle. The truth does not overflow everywhere; there is a sense of "Enframing" or Gestell, which comes from stellen (to place, to posit, or to put) [see the Addendum to OWA].. Everything that is inside the circle, that is disclosed in the circle, excludes what is outside the circle. In short, the gods, the peasant woman appear enframed in the interpretation.