Wednesday, September 03, 2014
In the NY Times, Adam Kirsch asks should literature be considered useful?
There is a whole school of Darwinian aesthetics that explains art as a useful adaptation, which historically must have helped those who made it or those who enjoyed it to improve their chances at reproduction. To Martin Heidegger, however, this way of looking at art would appear exactly backward. Equipment, tools, “gear,” are for Heidegger what we don’t notice or pay attention to so long as it is working. A hammer in good condition is like an extension of the person using it, a way for him to work his will. It is only when the tool breaks that it escapes the banality of usefulness and takes on determinate existence as a piece of wood and a piece of metal, with its own weight, hardness and luster. Literature, in this sense, is a tool that is always broken.
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