In For By Three, Iain Thomson on art contra nihilism
Heidegger’s central postmodern insight into the inexhaustible plurality of being serves best to justify and promote a robust liberal tolerance, a tolerance intolerant only of intolerance itself. That may initially sound relativistic, but this is a tolerance with teeth, because ontological pluralism undermines all fundamentalist claims to have finally arrived at the one correct truth about how to live, let alone to seek to impose those final answers on others.
Rather than despairing of the possibility of such an inherently pluralistic, postmodern understanding of being ever arriving, moreover, Heidegger thought it was already here, embodied in the “futural” artwork of artists like Hölderlin and Van Gogh, simply needing to be cultivated and disseminated in myriad forms in order to “save” the ontologically abundant “earth” (with its apparently inexhaustible plurality of inchoately meaningful possibilities) from the devastation of technological obliviousness. When Heidegger stresses that thinking is at best “preparatory” (vorbereitend), what he means is that great thinkers and poets “go ahead and make ready” (im voraus bereiten), that is, that they are ambassadors, emissaries, or envoys of the future, first postmodern arrivals who, like Van Gogh, disseminate and so prepare for this postmodern future with “the unobtrusive sowing of sowers”. As this suggests, new historical ages are not simply dispensed by some super-human agent to a passively awaiting humanity. Rather, actively vigilant artists and particularly receptive thinkers pick up on broader tendencies happening partly independently of their own wills, then make these insights central through their artworks and philosophies.