September 16, 2010
Thomas Was and Madiha Hamdi
The Origin of the Work of Art
Work and Truth:
Truth can be thought of in numerous ways. Correspondence theory means that your claim corresponds to something in the world. To be in accordance with Coherence Theory, your claim must be consistent with itself, regardless of its application in the world. The third way to think about Truth is truth as disclosure.
Disclosure can be thought of in the same vein as unconcealedness, or deconcealing something. Heidegger also refers to this as unshieldedness (unverbogenheit in German). It can also be thought of as dis-negation. Using the word as such implies a coming out of concealedness. The word Aletheia translated means non-forgotten. Etymologically, Lethe is a mythical river of oblivion and forgetfulness. The prefix, A is a negation of that. In Plato's dialogue Meno, he talks about how the soul is eternal and when being reborn in a new body the soul is dipped in the River of Lethe to forget what it knows. For Plato aletheia is a non-forgetfulness or a uncovering of forgetfulness. The Greek words for body and prison are very similar, soma and sema, respectively. Pythagoras thought that the soul was something perfect, and that it was imprisoned in a body. The extent to which the soul lives its life prosperously, educates itself, participates in good philosophy, determines the second incarnation of itself. When the soul is born, it is dipped in the river of forgetfulness where it loses all its thought and knowledge. It then spends its whole life trying to recollect those things.
In “The Origin of the Work of Art”, Heidegger says that artwork opens up the Being of beings. The ontological hermeneutic circle consists of Being, Dasein, and beings. Truth happens within the circle. Truth (German Warheit) is an event-- not a discovery--that is happening immanently.
Art is truth setting itself to work. It is within the hermeneutic circle that truth does this. Truth looks like art, it happens within the work.
The open is the space of disclosure, where truth comes out of concealment. The Open opens up Being, deconceals it. This is applicable to art in that the truth of beings happens within the work. This is the happening of the circle.
Dasein, as we have said, is the only being that can ask about its relation to Being. In the late 1930’s, Heidegger replaces it with the word Ereignis, which translates as your own. This is because we make truth our own, not in the subjective sense, but in the sense that we appropriate it.
Truth and Art
An example is the Greek temple at Paestum, south of Naples. It is a temple to the Goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus. Heidegger says the temple itself portrays nothing, but something holy is happening. The temple is the work of art, and disclosure is reached by looking at it. The disclosure happens in the relations of the sky and earth, and the immortal (divine) and mortals. This establishes the worlding of a world and the earthing of the earth. The world sets up and the earth shelters and between these two the Open or unconcealedness is reached. It is important to include that Heidegger makes no provision for the idea of subjectivity. When we observe the temple, or art in general, it is not a feeling that overcomes us, not an emotional, psychological, or spiritual response as we know it. Truth is happening within the work, and we are merely witnessing the disclosure of it. It is not subject to interpretation by feelings we encounter when observing it.
In Heidegger’s addendum he writes about the Ge-Stell. The Ges-Stell is something that sets up a framework for the disclosure of the truth. This is what the work of art does, it allows the world to be set up and the earth shelters it. This interaction is then “fixed-in-place” by this Ges-Stell.