Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Climate of Philosophy: Images and How They Speak to Us!

I'm reminded of the comments Heidegger makes about Van Gogh's Peasant Shoes. Heidegger regards the shoes as coming into being from concealment, the truth of their being is shown. The true practical nature of the shoes is rendered weathered, worn and worldly in Van Gogh's canvas.

Thus, art work has a revelatory power set truth in motion. Since I have moved to some brief flirtations with Italian futurism, the deep love of Friedrich's work, and I am now harkening back to the day where after leaving my undergraduate days, I went to the Cleveland Museum Of Art and witnessed Anselm Kiefer's Lot's Wife.

At the time, I was reading lots of Arendt, and thinking about the problem of evil. I immediately thought of the train tracks that went into Oblivion, like the famous tracks that are pictured into Auschwitz . This image struck me with the sense of abandonment evoked by the empty railroad tracks. A friend looking onward used the phrase "post-apocalyptic." There is some sense of abandonment, isolation or void left by this work. The landscape is ripped asunder.

This post has no real philosophical purpose. These are just the images that strike me. Some philospohical things may be said. Sartre seems fairly misanthropic suffering through WWII, and Adorno has even said that no poetry, no beauty is possibly articulated after Auschwitz. The climate of philosophy is entrenched in a modern dreariness, and one can understand why some thinkers offer an emancipatory component in their thinking.

In addition, I'm wondering if our contemporary culture of void -- the Heideggerian groundlessness left in Heidegger's wake -- bespeaks the silence we all suffer. God is dead. Science is uncertain, and the analytic optimism through scientism is left wanting in me (and many other Continentals, I imagine). Even Husserl in the Krisis, says "The dream is over [of founding phenomenology, I suspect]". The dream and confidence we should have in the world and our philosophical ability is surpasssed by the limit of our own cruelty in the past century.

Of course, maybe these images can be taken as signifying avenues for reasons to be moral. While we can be skeptical of ourselves and the claims we make about morality, we should be prompted for the ever-growing demand that morality imposes on us. Through these images, at least for me, the abandonment, the desolation and the very landscape speak volumes about how we should treat ourselves and this Earth.

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