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The Artistic Philosophy of Heidegger, by Lulu Zhao

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The Artistic Philosophy of Heidegger

By Lulu Zhao

German (existentialism) philosopher Martin Heidegger(1898-1976) is an original thinker in the history of modern western philosophy. He related art to existing problems, and combined philosophy with poetry in the context of an extensive and profound cultural background. He believed that this will lead to a new theory of artistic philosophy. Heidegger’s work is unique in western modern philosophy and aesthetic history. Therefore, Heidegger embodies the depth of western philosophy and the aesthetics of modern art in the eyes of many modern western philosophers and aesthetes.

Investigation into and reflection on the artistic essence and origin is a principle of the whole Heidegger artistic philosophy. His examination method of artistic essence and origin is different from the traditional method. It’s usually considered in the west that the origin of the artwork is creation activity by the individual artist. But Heidegger thought that the artists are artists because of their works. The origin of the artwork is the artist and the origin of the artist is the artwork. In the relationship between artist and artwork, they both depend on something called art, which is in advance of them, which both precedes and exceeds them. Art is a substance that make artist and artwork come into deep contact with their identity. In Heidegger’s view, the artist is the expert of an artwork and the work emanates from art, both are originated in art itself. Therefore, it is only the investigation of the essence of art that can lead to a grasping of the essence and origin of artwork and artist.

Heidegger thought that the essence of art is not material. In the history of western aesthetics, whether art is defined from the angle of material properties, or summarized from the perspective of perceptual variety, or analyzed from the view of the relationship between material and form, people cannot grasp the origin of the artwork and essence of art. Art is not an instrument with added aesthetic value. In Heidegger’s view, the essence of the artwork opens to us when we investigate it from the perspective of existence, rathen than as an existent within a traditional aesthetic approach. He says that characteristics of the artwork, as well as instruments and substances, come towards our apprehension when we consider the existence of the existent. From this perspective, Heidegger reveals, describes and formulates a series of questions about aesthetic essence.

1. The artwork presents the existence of the existent, and it brings to appearance the truth about the existent.

Heidegger says that the artwork opens the existence of the existent. This kind of opening is aletheia and the truth of the existent which occurs in the artwork. The truth of substance is already in the artwork, and art exists in and through this truth. The classical German philosopher thought that the essence of art is the spontaneous implanting of truth. The truth appears in and through the artwork. It is neither implanted by the artist nor taken from anywhere.On the contrary, it appears itself spontaneously. In art the truth creates self-substance. Heidegger sees art as being deeply connected to truth and not only to beauty.

2. Beauty is a way that the truth exists. Beauty is an appearance of the truth in and through the artwork.

Aesthetic appreciation is not utilitarian pleasure and it can be judged neither according to a subjective nor to an objective standard. The existence of beauty is the original existence of truth, the skill of spontaneous self-emergence of and about the truth, and the special path of self-creation about the truth. The first appearance of the existence of truth is called beauty,which has 3 layers of main meanings: the first, beauty is generated, but not established. It is neither inherent by objectivity nor given by subjectivity, but rather generates and appears step-by-step with the unfolding of existing process. The second, beauty is the self-emergence of truth, the brilliance of truth. The third and last, truth and beauty originate from the existence of the existent, and both are created by existence. The brilliance of truth is the appearance of beauty. In one word, beauty is as well the aletheia of truth.

3. Artistic creation is the generation of truth, the essence of art is to make the truth emerge. The generation of truth makes the work become real artwork.

Art creation is a kind of generation, and so is the artwork. They both totally depend on the essence and generation of truth. The truth creates itself in existence, and establishes itself in the artwork. Art is a kind of generation of existence. It creates the openness of the existent explicitly, or contributes to the truth, and the generation here is an artwork. Creation is this kind of generation. The creativity of the artwork means that the existence of truth forms in condensation under the circumstance of the image.

4. The nature of art appreciation and enjoyment must be understood starting from the existence of the artwork as creation.

The interest and appreciation of art, according to Heidegger, is not an aesthetic experience. Appreciation is not so-called aesthetic appreciation from subject to object, but rather observation of the spontaneous truth in the artwork. Without creation artwork cannot be formed, without observation artwork cannot function. Observing artwork shouldn’t lead people to other individual experiences, but the truth which is generated in artwork. Art is created observation (from people) of the truth of artwork.

5. The essential meaning of art is history and it is a special way to make the truth become historical truth.

Heidegger thought that art generates as poetry and it is of a kind of historic significance not only in artistic external meaning but also in the meaning of time process. In  the time process, art appears and disappears together with all other things, to provide history with a variational dimension. Therefore, art is history in the main meaning of its creating history. Heidegger said that art is historic, and art as historic art is the creative preservation of truth. He claimed that the origin of art should be revealed from the historic perspective. So the truth becomes a kind of historic, special path from the perspective of the existence of the existent.

From the perspective of the existence of the existent, Heidegger has revealed the origin of art and some important problems about art, such as the generation and creation of art, the truthfulness of art, and the historic reality of art. He reflected that he didn’t solve the constellation of the mystery, just understood it.

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