Thursday, February 28, 2013
Lewis Coyne on allowing beauty to come to presence.
For Kant, perception of a particular form—the roundness, softness, and gentle scent of a petal, for example—harmonises with the faculties of the mind in such a way that the subject may judge the object to be beautiful. Heidegger, in turn, does not doubt that form plays a part. For him, beauty "consist[s] in form, but only because the forma once took its light from being and the being of beings". The principal difference lies in Heidegger's rejection of the role of a transcendental subject. Against Kant, he argues that beauty does not exist "relative to pleasure, ... as its object". Heidegger instead claims that beauty must be understood as something more than an aesthetic judgement of an object experienced by the subject—elusively suggesting that beauty draws ontologically from the "light" of being.
Let us elaborate on this possibility. It seems that Heidegger's understanding of beauty is—to some extent—compatible with Kant's notion of form playing a role in our judgement of it. However, the traditional notion of form is itself thrown into question as part of Heidegger's attempt to ontologically challenge the metaphysical ground of aesthetics. He claims that beauty is not limited to the beautiful form, but rather, because "forma once took its light from ... the being of beings," the formally beautiful being allows beauty itself to come to presence. Heidegger articulates this succinctly when punning on 'fine' and 'beautiful': "[i]n the fine [schön] arts, the art is not itself beautiful, but is, rather, called so because it brings forth the beautiful [Schöne]". Heidegger thus advances his understanding of the formally beautiful being letting beauty itself come to presence, rather than understanding beauty as the feeling evoked by aesthetic judgement of the thing, as the Kantian interpretation would have it. To give an analogous example, Heidegger describes a forest's "healing expanse" as "not that of the forest, but rather, the forest's own expanse is let into what heals". For Heidegger, the essence of healing exists above and beyond the forest which emanates healing, and likewise the essence of beauty is greater than the beautiful form. In this way, Heidegger bypasses the epistemological method of seeing beauty as a particular type of aesthetic judgement occasioned in the subject by an object, attempting instead to better understand the essence of beauty beyond the subject-object relation.
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