Heidegger and Modern Art

A Reconstructive Approach

by Eda Keskin (Author)
Thesis 362 Pages
Series: Treffpunkt Philosophie, Volume 22

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Dedication
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1 –​ Introduction
  • Part 1 –​ Conceptual Analysis
  • The Concept of Truth
  • 1.a Truth as Unconcealment [Aletheia]
  • 1.b Phenomenology, Practical “Knowing” and Care
  • 1.c The Essence of Truth as Freedom
  • Chapter 2 –​ The Concept of World
  • The Concept of World
  • 2.a World and Instrumentality
  • 2.b Life-​World, Transcendence and Language
  • 2.c World and Technology
  • Chapter 3 –​ The Concept of Space
  • The Concept of Space
  • 3.a Ontological Ground as Space, “Presence [Anwesenheit]”
  • 3.b Thinking, Region and Thingliness
  • 3.c “Art and Space [Die Kunst und der Raum]“ and Reconstructing Heidegger’s Philosophy
  • Part 2 –​ Reconstruction –​ The Method of Analysis
  • Chapter 4 –​ The Introduction to The Method
  • 4.a Content Analysis (World)
  • 4.b Material Analysis (Earth)
  • 4.c Formal Analysis
  • Part 3 –​ The Application of the Method on Modern Art
  • Chapter 5 –​ The Application of the Method on Modern Art Case Study: Joseph Beuys
  • 5.a “Strassenbahnhaltestelle [Tram Stop] A Monument to the Future [2.Fassung]” (1971)
  • 5.b “I Love America and America Loves Me” (1974)
  • 5.c “Zeige Deine Wunde [Show Your Wounds]” (1976)
  • References

←12 | 13→

Chapter 1 – Introduction

Abstract: This book offers a reconstructive approach to Heidegger’s philosophy to develop a method of interpretation focusing on modern works of art. The introduction chapter defines the scope of this work and gives introductory insights to the reader. Martin Heidegger focused on writing on numerous branches of modern art such as modern poetry, architecture, music and painting. During his lifetime, he recurrently dealt with art, while he meditated on the problem of the essence of art. His close relationships and friendships with historians of art led him to enter into many conversations about a variety of different works of art. These interests brought him to study and discuss about a variety of modern artists. He also affected the ideas of the art historians whom he met. The present work is an experiment in reconstructing Heidegger’s philosophy in order to introduce a method of analysis which can be applied to any manner of modern works of art. This method of analysis shall serve to be a new source of an alternative method for the use of art historians and philosophers who wish to apply Heidegger’s philosophy with the aim of analyzing works of art. First, it investigates the main concepts of Heidegger’s philosophy such as the conceptions of truth, world, space and related concepts. The conceptual analysis provides fundamental information on these concepts and prepares the reader for a reconstruction of Heidegger’s philosophy in order to establish a method of aesthetic interpretation. In the fourth chapter, a formal, contextual and material method of analysis is developed for the purpose of examining works of art. Finally, in the fifth chapter this new method of analysis is applied to three pieces by the artist Joseph Beuys as a case study.

Keywords: Martin Heidegger, Joseph Beuys, aesthethic theory, art, phenomenology, aesthetic interpretation, hermeneutics

i. Primary Question and Aims of the Work

Martin Heidegger focused on writing on numerous branches of modern art such as modern poetry, architecture, music and painting. During his lifetime, he recurrently dealt with art, while he meditated on the problem of the essence of art. Additionally, his close relationships and friendships with historians of art led him to enter into many conversations about a variety of different works of art. These interests brought him to study and discuss about a variety of modern ←13 | 14→artists. He also affected the ideas of the art historians whom he met. Heidegger’s discussions on works of art will be a central concern of this work. The present work is an experiment in reconstructing Heidegger’s philosophy in order to introduce a method of analysis which can be applied to any manner of modern works of art.

Accordingly, the aims of this work can be summarized as follows: This method of analysis shall serve to be a new source of an alternative method for the use of art historians and philosophers who wish to apply Heidegger’s philosophy with the aim of analyzing works of art. Due to the difficulty in analyzing Heidegger’s specific language of terminology and in addition to the fact that a clear methodological analysis of Heidegger’s philosophy has not yet been developed, the research in this field remains limited to the interpretations of the philosopher’s texts without there being a clear methodology of analysis. I believe that this present work can contribute richly to the literature by providing a clear and detailed method of analysis which has been developed from Heidegger’s explorations in art. The aim is to develop a practical method. However, this method still proves to be non-reductive, staying loyal to the complexity and depth of the philosophical interrogations of Heidegger.

The formal analysis which is used by art historians such as Rudolf Arnheim, Max Imdahl and Theodor Hetzer, can also be observed in Heidegger’s later approaches to works of art with his concept of “space” and its relations to art. In Heidegger’s later explorations on space and art one can observe a formal level of discussion in his concept “place [Ort].” This concept asserts that each element in a space would have its own specific place. This interpretation could be named as belonging to a formal analysis and it demonstrates similarities to the methodologies of art historians when they interpret works of art. Resulting from the interpretations of these similarities between the methodologies of historians of art and those of Heidegger, Chapter 4 offers a method of interpretation which is formed and reconstructed from Heidegger’s philosophy, and at the same time follows the methodologies of art historians. In this new method, the results of these considerations will be asserted to be the descriptions of art at three levels, expressing different aspects of Heidegger’s philosophical analysis of the works of art.

This study has been an interdisciplinary research effort synthesizing the methods of interpretation which belong to the fields of philosophy and the history of art. The details of the methodology combining art historical interpretations, Gestalt aesthetics and Heidegger’s philosophical analysis of art will be described in detail in “v. Methodology” section of this introduction as well as the entire Chapter 4 which focuses on the methodology. Shortly, the analysis includes the ←14 | 15→formal analysis, contextual analysis and the material analysis as well as their synthesis. There is a common accepted understanding in literature is that these three levels of analysis of works of art are individually crucial for the analysis of art. In addition to this common understanding, a different aspect to this granted assumption will be explicated where it will be discussed how interdependent these levels actually are to each other. This additional questioning offers results in the explorations in this work on how much of these three different levels would contribute to each other in the creation and interpretation processes of art. This research will also apply the method to the works of art, adding the level of synthesis to them and showing how a synthesis between these levels is crucial in the practices of formation and interpretation of the works of art.

The language of this work is English because of the fact that most publications and research in this field take part in the English language. It is the specific hope of the author that the researchers in various art colleges and the departments of art history in international universities who already include Heidegger’s analysis on their curriculums would benefit in using this method of analysis in their future research. The processes employed to accomplish this work have been bilingual. In this work, Heidegger’s original German texts have been provided in the footnotes, while the original texts and the publications in German literature used for this work has been mostly translated to English language by the author herself. Furthermore, Heidegger’s texts have been translated into English by the author and it is noted in the footnotes when this has been the case. The reason for this is that some present English translations of Heidegger’s texts have significantly deviated from their original meanings in German.

ii. The Organization of the Work and Main Concepts

This study brings a reconstructive approach to Heidegger’s philosophy to develop a method for analyzing modern art. It focuses on three main concepts of Heidegger’s philosophy, namely the concepts of truth, world and space which will be elorabed in three different chapters. This work also investigates their connections to each other and to other related concepts. The development and changes in the concepts advanced by Heidegger from his earlier texts to his later texts will be thoroughly discussed in this work.

With the purpose of denoting the changes and comparisons between different conceptualizations clear, the denotations Heidegger 1 (H1), Heidegger 2 (H2) and Heidegger 3 (H3) will be used in the analysis for these three introductory chapters. These denotations will represent Heidegger’s lines of thinking and categorize his conceptualizations in three different phases. Actually, this ←15 | 16→differentiation between different phases of thinking of Heidegger is inspired by the well-known Seubold-Pöggeler discussion which will be explicated later in this study.1 These phases in Heidegger’s thinking may be summarized as follows: H1 denotes the conceptual development and usage of the concepts at the time of Being and Time. H2 denotes the concepts and his methods of thinking at the time of The Origin of the Works of Art. H3 expresses the concepts and his modes of thinking at the time of Die Kunst und der Raum (1969)2 and his later texts which include his Klee and Cezanne interpretations.

It would be possible to formulate more than three different phases in Heidegger’s paths of thinking. Yet, in this work the focus is on the changes and the development of Heidegger’s ideas on art and place, emphasizing the specific changes in his thoughts on fundamental concepts used for the analysis of art. Eventually, in this work not all the texts of Heidegger which deal with the question of art will be taken for analysis. For instance, his interpretations of the ideas of Nietzsche on art or his writings on poetry are left outside the scope of this work. In this research, the details of the specific relations between his fundamental concepts of truth, world, earth and space in addition to their applications and relationships to his ideas of art will be investigated in detail.

The analysis of the fundamental concepts in Chapters 1, 2 and 3 provides fundamental information on these concepts and prepares the reader for a reconstruction of Heidegger’s philosophy in Chapter 4. In Chapter 4, a formal, contextual and material method of analysis will be developed for the purpose of examining works of art. This new method of analysis will be applied to three works of Joseph Beuys in Chapter 5.

The first chapter is devoted to the analysis of Heidegger’s concept of truth, with its relations to the concepts of freedom. The concept of truth being the most essential concept in Heidegger’s philosophy lays a foundation for the development of all of his other concepts. To start with, Heidegger’s fundamental ontology is principally founded upon this concept of truth. For these reasons, this study begins with a chapter on the analysis of the concept of truth. The analysis takes place at many different levels for the purpose of discussing different sides of the concept of truth besides its relations to other crucial concepts such as freedom and technology. A comparative approach is taken in this chapter while ←16 | 17→Heidegger’s philosophy will be discussed within the history of philosophy in conjunction with its relations to ancient philosophy, German idealism and New Kantianism. As mentioned earlier, the improvements and changes of concepts established in Heidegger’s philosophy through time are denoted with H1, H2 and H3. The first chapter, which presents the concept of truth, however does not include this categorization of H1, H2 and H3, on account of the argument that the truth as aletheia as unconcealment remains as being fundamental to Heidegger’s philosophy from his earlier texts up to his later works. In the history of Heidegger’s thinking, the first differentiation in the structure of truth comes with the introduction of the concept of earth in the Origin of the Work of Art, while it is also mentioned by Richardson to be the turn [Kehre]. To be more specific, this turn is only understandable with the discussions on his concepts of world and earth. The third form of truth as happening [Eregnis] and its coming into presence [Anwesenheit] in true space will be illustrated in the third chapter through some discussions on the concept of space. In consequence, the categorizations of H1, H2 and H3 will be first found in the second chapter addressing the concept of world and will be further approached in the third chapter which explores the concept of space.

As far as the structure of this work is concerned, Chapter 2 analyses the concept of world which is discussed in accordance to the conditions of human understanding in our daily lives. The discussions on the concept of world bring about a general perspective on how we understand and perceive the entities and the other people around us, and how we give meanings to the things that we observe every day. The discussions on the concept of world will be included as well to the analysis of the concept of earth, provided its dialectic relationship to the concept of world. Shortly, the concept of earth refers to the independent side of human existence and is emphasized with its relation to nature. With this in mind, the concept of technology will be discussed in its close relation to the concept of world. The concept of world explicates some aspects of our historical understanding of modern world. The understanding of the world and his concept of Da-sein [“being-there” in the world of human existence] relies completely on his specific understanding of truth. As a consequence, the order of the chapters in this work is validated. The second chapter focuses on the concept of world and discusses the relations of the concept of world to language and transcendence, along with its relations to the concept of earth. The turn [Kehre] in Heidegger’s philosophy is thoroughly discussed here, with the change of denotations (H1, H2 and H3).

Historicity is a crucial aspect involved in Heidegger’s discussions on art. Accordingly, each work of art would reflect a specific understanding of the ←17 | 18→world, which explicates the historical and time-dependent understanding of human beings. For instance, Heidegger offers the case of a Greek temple arguing that this temple carries the understanding and truth of its time to a future time. According to the philosopher, a good work of art reveals the truth and the world of the people’s lives such as what can be seen in Van Gogh’s “A pair of Shoes (1886).” Heidegger evaluates the painting of Vincent van Gogh to be a satisfying work of art through his argument that it may reflect the truth of a peasant woman’s life. According to my own observations, Vincent van Gogh had a similar approach to the art in general while in a letter to his brother Leo he writes: “If a peasant painting smells of bacon, smoke, potato steam – fine – that’s not unhealthy – if a stable smells of manure – very well, that’s what a stable’s for (…). But a peasant painting mustn’t become perfumed” (letter to Theo, 30 April 1885). Heidegger emphasizes that a good work of art can be produced only by the authentic understanding of Dasein (human existence), which can discover the “light” of truth, being free from the shadows of the ordinary ways of thinking in daily life. This idea is also established in his analysis of Plato’s cave analogy in GA 34, Vom Wesen der Wahrheit. Zu Platons Höhlengleichnis und Theätet (Winter-semester 1931/32). Heidegger considers that art can reveal the authentic Being of the people by allowing various ways of thinking which are different than the common ways of understanding in our daily lives. In consequence, he researches the possibility of an aesthetic knowledge. Furthermore, he defines art with its capacity of expressing the historical truth and understanding. He claims that a work of art can carry the historical meanings to the future generations through a manner of symbols, such as what is viewed in a Greek temple. By gazing upon the Greek temple, the perceivers uncover historical information towards another way of understanding that belongs to the past. Nevertheless, technology has also its way of revealing the truth. Heidegger examines in “Die Frage nach der Technik [The Question Concerning Technology] (1953)” that technology and art have the same essence, defined to be “poesis” even though they reveal a multitude of modes and levels of truth. The discussions on the relations between the technology and art following their ontological differences and similarities allow for an analysis on the technicality of the works of art and their aesthetic or ontological functions in the modern age. Eventually, these discussions lead to other dialogues on the differences and similarities between technological and aesthetic knowledge. Related discussions on the concepts of world and technology will be found in Chapter 2.

Heidegger’s examinations on the concept of world in Being and Time and his later discussions about the concept of earth allow for the forming a level ←18 | 19→of material analysis arriving from his philosophical work. Heidegger’s concept of world is originated in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] and denotes the holistic structure of our patterns of understanding in our daily lives. Shortly, it includes people’s understanding of the mere things, of themselves and of the other people. He examines that mere “things” are understood by people according to their usages, in an analysis of equipment that belong to our daily lives. According to this analysis of instruments, the Zuhanden (“ready-to-hand”) and Vorhanden (“present-at-hand)” are two modes of the intentionality observed in people towards the things in their daily lives according to this specific perspective of instrumentality.

The concept of thing [Ding] in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] (1927) was revised by Heidegger later in the discussions of Dinglichkeit [thingliness] of the works of art in The Origin of the Works of Art (1935-36). Here, the concept of world is depicted in contrast to the concept of earth. The text indicates the strife [Streit] between these two concepts. Furthermore, the truth in a work of art cannot be perceived directly, it remains always partly hidden. It means that the content of the work of art, which explicates the dialectic between the concepts of world and earth, which can reveal the “truth as unconcealment” up to a limited point. Besides, the material side of the works of art has its own independency from the “world” of the understanding of artist. The strife between the concepts of world and earth demonstrates the strife between the differences of materiality and human understanding. In Chapter 2, the concepts of world and earth will be examined with their dialectical relationship to each other.

Heidegger’s concept of space will be explored in Chapter 3 on account of his understanding of truth as a new dynamic and “happening” based concept. This new understanding of truth is defined to be the fourth dimension of space, denoted as “Anwesenheit [presencing].” In this new conceptualization of space, space is prior to time when it comes to the founding of ontological truth seen in the late philosophy of Heidegger. Detailed discussions about the concept of space, as well as the related discussions on this new understanding of truth and time will take place in this chapter. Discussions on Heidegger’s interpretations of Cezanne, Klee and Chillida on account of his concept of space will also be addressed in Chapter 3.

As mentioned previously, the research into of all three fundamental concepts gives us the key structure required to reconstruct Heidegger’s theory for an adequate analysis of modern works of art. For this reason, Chapter 4 aims to develop a method of analysis drawn from Heidegger’s philosophy. In this method, the concepts of truth and world will be fundamental in order to analyze the material and contents of the works of art. Next, his conceptualization of space allows us ←19 | 20→to analyze the works of art formally. The structure of formal analysis in how the concept of space and related concepts will be used for this aim will be discussed in Chapter 4.

Chapter 5 will be dedicated to the application of this new method for the analysis of the modern works of art. For this purpose, three works of Joseph Beuys are chosen as case studies. The scope of this work will not be limited only to the works of art or to the artists that Heidegger wrote on. As aforementioned, the aim of this work is to reconstruct Heidegger’s philosophy to reveal a possible method to analyze different works of art. Each work will be analyzed according to formal, contextual and material analysis. As the fourth step, a synthesis of these levels will be discussed. The details of this new method will be explicated more in part iv. of this introduction.

iii. Development and Change of the Fundamental Concepts

To begin with, this study does not disregard the earlier conceptualizations initiated in The Origin of the Work of Art due to the fact that Heidegger adjusted his thoughts in later years. However, the concepts of earth and world in addition to the concept of truth will be applied for the purpose of interpreting the contents of works of art. The various stages in Heidegger’s thought will be taken as distinct phases in the development of his ideas. Herrmann and Seubold also argue for the differentiations between distinctive phases in his thought. In this study it will be demonstrated that late Heideggerian thought may lead to a formation of a more formal defined aesthetics. Especially in Die Kunst und der Raum, Heidegger focuses on formal characteristics while his earlier texts focus more on the historicity, content and materiality of works of art. Taking Heidegger’s thoughts as a complete chronicle, this method of analysis brings singular levels of formal, content and material analysis together. In order to develop such a system of interpretation, the aesthetic interpretation methods of Theodor Hetzer, Max Imdahl and Rudolf Arnheim will be examined.

The changes observed in Heidegger’s earlier philosophical efforts towards later developments in his thinking have further been studied by Andreas Luckner where he deals with the concept of “thing”. According to Luckner, the concept of “thing” in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] with its analysis of things was reconstructed after Kehre [turn]: To say it more explicitly, he argues that Heidegger in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] did not consider the things in their phenomenal independency as he is unable to decouple the existential solipsism of authentic existence of human beings. Therefore, he ←20 | 21→seeks to rid the concept of metaphysical-dependent thinking in his later philosophy. As a result, his ideas on technology as in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] and his later writings differ from each other where he claims that the possibility of technological acting should be researched within the conditions of acting only and within itself.3

Likewise, Richardson analyzes the development of Heidegger’s thinking and he provides that when Heidegger began his career at Freiburg, Neo-Kantianism was in full command of German universities and only two problems were philosophically acceptable: The critical problem of knowledge and the critical problem of values. By that time, the problem of Being and ontology had long been dissolved by Kant himself. There were some reactions to this new trend which were influenced by Brentano. One of the reactions was Husserl’s phenomenology and the other was Neo-Scholasticism, which reflected primarily on the ideas of Brentano, St. Thomas and Aristotle. Richardson indicates that both of these thoughts had influence on Heidegger’s thinking; Neo-Scholasticism helped him to trace a path through medieval and ancient thought, while phenomenology opened him to the perspectives of contemporary thought. The effects of phenomenology can be seen in his habilitation thesis in 1915, where the effects of Neo-Scholasticism can be seen in his early years of teaching ancient philosophy as well as on the work of Augustine.4 Richardson argues that Heidegger seeks to dissolve the dilemma between realism and idealism by overcoming subjectivism through discussing the intimate correlation between the Being and human being. In this way, the reason of human beings and the senses of beings would be something more than mere entities and more than the fabrication of consciousness. The influences of Max Scheler and Wilhelm Dilthey can also be seen in Heidegger’s philosophy with Scheler’s emphasis on philosophical anthropology as a basis for ontology, along with Dilthey’s arguments on historical transformation of the world which rely on a transformation in the world-view of human beings as essentially historical consciousness. Richardson asserts that those are the major influences and he regards the influence of Kierkegaard and Kant as being minor inspirations on Heidegger’s philosophy.5

←21 | 22→

Heidegger’s expression of fundamental ontology which undertakes to lay bare the foundations of ontology is found in his earlier philosophy. Richardson argues that after 1929 the description “fundamental ontology” disappears completely, while in 1949 Heidegger defines and criticizes the word “ontology” as being another name for metaphysics and asserts that metaphysics should be abandoned.6 This may be defined as a significant change between the stages of H1 and later periods of H2 and H3. “Thinking” of Being however, remains present throughout all of his entire philosophical pursuits. Richardson claims that the question about the sense of Being continues through Heidegger’s entire work in an effort to “think” over the Being-process. Still, the consideration of Being has been viewed as a change from earlier to later thought. According to Richardson, the change can be explained by the so-called “turn [Kehre]”.

The crucial difference of thinking from Descartes to Heidegger is described by Richardson. Accordingly, Descartes seeks some fundamentum incossum veritatis, by which the man himself may become the arbiter of his own truth. Therefore, truth does not only become conformation but also verification of this conformity. He discusses Descartes’ understanding of transcendence, which characterizes all metaphysics whereupon it does not become a passage towards something unto non-human, whether an Idea or God rather unto a subjectum which is in some form related to human nature. Richardson claims that “foundational thought [das wesentliche Denken]” of Heidegger overcomes this truth as conformity (as is discussed in first chapter of this work in greater detail), so that it also overcomes the ideas of metaphysics, technicity, logic and humanism. He argues that it must be a process which is non-subjective (better pre-subjective) therefore non-presentative (but pre-presentative), non-logical (but pre-logical), not rational (but pre-rational). Further, the attitude of foundational thinking is to let beings be and render them free unto themselves. It tries to meditate Being as the process of truth, as a lighting-process in beings.7

Truth as unconcealment (aletheia) for Heidegger reveals a dialectic between Being and being-in-the-world of “there [Da]” while Richardson argues that Being maintains a primacy over its “there.” It seeks dominance in the process of revealing and concealing itself through its there and according to its own nature. On the other hand, it needs its “there” to be able to be itself, the coming-to-pass of unconcealment. To think of Being is to see the truth of Being in which ←22 | 23→there-Being [Da-sein] is existent. Richardson argues further that Being discloses itself to and in its “there”, but since it is Being which holds the primacy and is pre-existent, Being is conceived as sending itself unto its “there”. This “self-sending” process which proceeds from Being is a sort of “self-emitting” or it brings about a new concept of “mittence [Geschick]” of Being. Being discloses itself to the nature of man by a plurality of irregularities, which Heidegger calls “intermittence [Ge-schick-te].” Intermittence constitutes history [Geschichte]. As a consequence, foundational thought must consider Being as Being-as-history and it is seen as a profoundly historical thought.8 In the introduction to Was Ist Metaphysik? [What is Metaphysics?], Heidegger argues that the “there” is the open-ness of Being as such and “there”-being is the domain where Being essences [Wesensbereich] within which human being “stands” or into which s/he can “enter.” It happens as if there-Being [Da-sein] were somehow that region wherein Being and human being encounter and define one another mutually. Richardson claims that it is only possible through “e-vent [Ereignis]”, when he argues in 1944 that there is some middle point between Being and “there-being” which somehow gives rise to both, similarly to what is found in Heidegger’s discussions of this “middle-point” in Was heißt Denken? (1952). In Identität und Differenz [Identity and Difference] (1957), he writes about an origin that lies deeper than human being and Being and it permits them to belong to each other as an ultimate simplicity which is called singulare tantum. This absolutely ultimate (Thing) is what he calls the “e-vent” of truth.9 Richardson translates the concept of Ereignis as “e-vent” in his works. In this study, for the term Ereignis translation “happening” will be used.

Furthermore, Richardson maintains that an ontological difference breaks out in the phase of Ereignis (happening)-thinking. Accordingly, Being which arises out of the “event” is simply Being in as much as it emits itself in any given intermittence. Then, Heidegger would mean as Being as e-vent insofar as it is the process through which the ontological difference breaks out.10 In the early philosophy of Heidegger intermittence has not been described as the processes of truth, in which the ontological Being shows itself in the ontic level as entities. This is a huge point of difference between early Heidegger and later Ereignis (happening)-thinking (between H1 and H3 in this work). Another point of difference which is claimed by Richardson, is how Heidegger’s earlier thinking deals with Being ←23 | 24→asserting finite Beings emerge from concealment, while the phenomenon which he is dealing with is finite. He argues that in H1, the Being itself is necessarily finite and existence is time-limited and approaches its end as death. In Heidegger 2 according to Richardson, Ereignis (happening)-thinking leaves the finitude of Being open. It is possible that certain phenomena, albeit finite in themselves yet they can be beyond themselves even beyond their finitude.11

Their interdependency of “there” and Being belong to Heidegger 2 which denotes the “thinking of Being [das Denken des Seins]” and it has its roots in early Heidegger 1 in Sein und Zeit [Being and Time].12 In this work, the naming of these phases of Heidegger’s philosophy is crucially different than that of Richardson. In this work, the phases of H1, H2 and H3 are taken as three phases which imply the developments of his thoughts on art.

The well-known Pöggeler-Hermann controversy on this topic will be analyzed in this study as it offers many crucial points of discussion. Whereas Hermann argues that Heidegger holds a unique discussion on the philosophy of art and his discussions would be valid for analyzing all types of art, Pöggeler argues that his later philosophy views works of art from a slightly romantic perspective while they would be no longer relevant for the discussion of modern works of art for this reason.13 On top of that, Pöggeler claims Heidegger does not have a philosophy of art, because of the fact that he does not concentrate specifically on art itself, but he rather uses the analysis of art to approach the ontological questioning of Being. Similarly, Heidegger also analyses a multitude of various phenomena that include technology, art, politics, religion, instruments, etc. in search for the Being. Briefly, Pöggeler finds the Origin of the Works of Art has a romantic position. He brings about three reasons for his argumentation: 1- After his political engagement in 1933/34 which ended up being unsuccessful he confronted his political relations and conducted a subsequent analysis on the workings of government. 2- He does not consider nor discuss art in relation to the technological developments of his own time. Therefore it does not allow modern art to find place in his discussions. 3- Heidegger defines art to be powerful and he emphasizes its history-forming function.14 On the other hand, Seubold discusses the ambiguity of Pöggeler’s position and indicates that Heidegger gave up this ←24 | 25→romantic position in his later philosophy.15 Furthermore, he argues against Pöggeler’s assertion, claiming that at the time of The Origin of the Works of Art, his another seminar on Nietzsche and art does not demonstrate a romantic position at all. Moreover, the Epilogue to The Origin of the Works of Art supports Hegel’s idea of the end of art while it does not express a romantic position. Subsequently, in 1936/38 another text “Beiträge zur Philosophie [Contributions to Philosophy]” discusses artlessness [Kunstlosigkeit] and „artless history [kunst-loser Geschichte]“, in which neither a romantic position is illustrated.16

Pöggeler further argues that Heidegger reconsiders his thinking in The Origin of the Works of Art later. On the contrary, Herrmann does not criticize this argument, claiming that in the 1956 written Epilogue nor in Heidegger’s later handwritten notes in the The Origin of the Works of Art, Heidegger’s ideas found in The Origin of the Works of Art have been changed. Seubold supports Pöggeler’s idea, emphasizing one of Heidegger’s handwritten notes in which he asserts that his investigations in 1935/37 were not in the least satisfactory while the truth itself remains hidden in clearing [Lichtung] and in the entities which are illuminated.17 Seubold explores how one should understand this description of the „unsatisfactory [unzureichend].“ He claims that this statement clearly expresses that Heidegger became distant to his ideas seen in The Origin of the Works of Art.18 Herrmann’s argument concentrates on the point that Heidegger identifies himself with numerous texts which he had composed, but at the same time he holds an imminent critique in a reduced position. Hermann suggests that each and every text of Heidegger retains validity and they should be considered being different phases in the history of his thinking.19 Eventually, Herrmann warns that one cannot describe The Origin of the Works of Art as being a philosophy of art. Otherwise, it would be an absolution of one stage in the history of his ←25 | 26→thinking and that any specific idea found in this context would come to an absolute end at that point.


In this publication, the author attempts to develop an aesthetic theory from Heidegger’s phenomenological concepts. She analyzes Heidegger`s concepts of truth, world, space, and related concepts and establishes a formal, contextual and material method of analysis for the purpose of examining works of art. This new method of analysis is applied to three pieces by the artist Joseph Beuys as a case study.

Biographical notes

Eda Keskin (Author)

Eda Keskin has been working for years on phenomenology, art history, and the philosophy of Heidegger. With this work, she has earned the academic prize of the "Luther-Urkunde" of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.


Title: Heidegger and Modern Art