Heidegger and Kierkegaard: Conception of Esthetics and Art

In our new examination of Heidegger’s and Kierkegaard’s relationship of thinking we will realize that certain common aspects arise in their approach to the reality of the questions of philosophy of art. Neither of them brings any systematics to the concept of art and esthetics (similarly to Nietzsche), in spite of this in their overall treatise of this area they have some points of contact which I will devote the following pages to, and which will reveal to us their specific account of philosophy of art (which, as we will see, they both cross whenever they can);  particularly Heidegger in the course of his thinking (especially post-turn) explicitly displays an entirely new approach to the problems of art and art work. I will stress a more detailed phenomenological unveiling of Heidegger's account of the region of art, while I will focus primarily on his treatise of The Origin of the Work of Art. This treatise is already quite established with the problems of being, and therefore the essence of art is perceived not in the modern-subjectivistic sense, where the cultural achievement of an artist is examined rather it is perceived precisely from the point of view of the essence of being and its truth.



If we first look at Kierkegaard, we will discover, that although he started as an esthetician, quite soon he gained a distance from contemporary esthetics, the Hegelian type of thinking was too „esthetic“ for him, stuck in contemporary metaphysics. The Danish thinker headed toward ethics, to ethical-religious thinking, for him the esthetic element was too connected with the inconsistency of existence, with a captivation in the area of senses. Only a positively developing conflict in the inner being of an individual can with a leap lead a purely esthetic existence to a higher spiritual domain, where the birth of a higher (spiritual, intrinsic) self also appears.[1] According to Kierkegaard, a human being either lives fully esthetically (within the esthetic stage a person can also achieve a certain type of eternity), or he awakes to an ethical and religious stage of existence. That requires a certain transformation, where a human being becomes himself; he finds himself in his spiritual heart. Kierkegaard mentions: „The person who chooses only esthetically never reaches this transfiguration, this higher dedication. (...) the rhythm in his soul is only a spiritus lenis [week aspiration].[2]  It is necessary to turn from the esthetic and choose the ethical, „only thereby,“ Kierkegaard further writes, „does existence become beautiful, and ... this is the only way a person can save his soul and win the whole world...“.[3]  The esthetic element - its immediateness - must be bound; only in the ethical can an individual reach his own self and  become that what he is. Hence, also our religious ethics overall denounce „the predominantly esthetic culture of our day“.[4]  In the esthetic state of mind the Kantian „carelessness“ is the highest ardor, and that is against Kierkegaard's taste. Kierkegaard’s subjective thinker with his output of existence stands against the Kantian carelessness. Such a thinker is no abstract pundit; „he is an artist. To exist is an art.“[5]

Heidegger also tried to cross esthetics. In 1934 he wrote a short supplement to his greater treatise The Origin of the Work of Art (1935). This shorter sketch is called Overcoming of Esthetics (1935). He insists here that Kantian questioning of art is insufficient.[6]  Esthetics is according to Heidegger such questioning of art and beauty that considers a creative and consuming man, rather than the work itself, as the starting-point of contemplation. „All esthetics find the art work as an object, that is in the relation to the subject, though one seemingly abstracts from the subject.“[7]  Artwork is also understood as an object for a subject, the pivotal is without further ado the subject-object relationship. Art is also not assumed in its essence and sacredness; it is comprehended merely as „a sector of cultural carrying“. What counts is to look again on his reality, only then his hidden glow and radiance can irradiate. [8]

So, Heidegger's question then becomes the question of work, comprehended not as an object for a subject, but as the happening of truth where we are also affected in our own subjectivity (as our inward there-being). What also counts, however, is to grasp the essential esthetics, overcome it, and only then can arise „the genuine thinking about art“ [9]  It is not enough to grasp art „esthetically“, what counts is to attain the extra-esthetical. Hiding behind this Heidegger’s thought process is the renewed cogitation of truth, truth in the sense of the Greek aletheia.[10]  This new Heidegger's consideration of truth as unconcealedness (aletheia) only has been able to manage the up to now conception of beauty and truth. If unconcealedness is not newly thought over, it is not possible to properly grasp the beauty, or the essence of artwork.[11]  With a new comprehension of esthetics, the issue is not so much to base the comprehension of the work on the states of the artist, on his task which he fulfills in culture, and so on, what is now important is „how we can the work in general apprehend from the essence of truth and being“.[12]  

Before we proceed to a more detailed exploration of The Origin of the Work of Art from the perspective of the just suggested clue, let us take note of Heidegger's important notes about esthetics in his book about Nietzsche. Esthetics is here aisthetike episteme, the knowing about the sensory perception, about the sensational behavior of man in the relation to the beautiful. The term esthetics then originated in the 18th century as a description for contemplation about art and beauty.[13]  „Great art“ has still in Heidegger's view its significance, since it opens the absolute, and it exists in relation to the truth of beings as a whole. Dominance of esthetics and esthetic relationship to art, however, in the modern age signifies the fall of great art, art has lost its essence and its immediate relationship to its basic task – to show the absolute – how Hegel managed to express in his esthetics: he brought into view that great art is at an end. „The final and greatest aesthetics in the Western tradition is that of Hegel.“[14]  In Hegel's footsteps also followed F. Th. Vischer and W. Dilthey. From contemplation about art and poetry can arise important information that can further cultivate thinking, and a „proper actuality of the `spirit`“ can develop.[15]  In the 19th century, however, natural historical approach to esthetic phenomena begins to prevail over the „psychological“ one. Nietzsche can then summarily say: „aesthetic is nothing else than applied physiology“.[16]  It was as if Nietzsche alone took something from this contemporary discourse (he was in its captivity), and he attempted, as Heidegger displays, to discuss the art as an object of physiology, and he sketched his plan „Toward the Physiology of Art“.[17]  Art is according to Nietzsche the object of physiological esthetics, where the physiology of art is followed and in it are discussed natural occurrences (the physical appearances of creative life), which relate to the surged states of a high. In this sense, in Heidegger's eyes, Nietzsche's deliberation about art is actually esthetics. He called it „extreme“ esthetics: it explores extreme states of bodyliness, it leads to a „grand style“.

Nietzsche, however, is stuck in the totality of his metaphysical thinking (will for power, eternal return of the same, etc.); he does not overcome the traditional conception of esthetics. It is necessary to return to the envisaging of the essence of art. According to Heidegger, Nietzsche touches this essence when he speaks about the „grand style“ which leads from a creative high to beauty. Suddenly, we are able to experience and „grasp the unity of the reciprocal relation of rapture and beauty, of creation, reception, and form, as the grand style. Here the essence of art is real“.[18]  We see that Heidegger just at this moment of his interpretation agrees with Nietzsche (although he does not, similarly to Kierkegaard, achieve a complete crash of esthetics); Heidegger evidently takes from him imprints of the classical grand style. To a „more complete crash“, however, we need more an original transformation of our existence and knowing.  The genuine breakthrough which begins to take place in Heidegger, is not present in Nietzsche yet: he remains stuck in his metaphysical determination of being and beings.

Let us question in a few steps – along with Heidegger – the essence (essential determination) of art and artwork, since we have prepared the ground with a general sketch of esthetics in the 19th century. Let us first of all establish what account of truth Heidegger’s thoughts are based on since he is able to cross over Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and smash contemporary metaphysics and esthetics.


Being, Truth, and Lighting

Where does actually lie the effect of artwork on present reality? This is not a common ontic causality. The effectiveness of artwork and its effect on the present lies according to Heidegger „in a change ... of the unconcealedness of what is, and this means, of being“.[19]  Unconcealedness is understood in the sense of the aforementioned aletheia, the truth which is on a new level of Heidegger's consideration. This truth is always the truth of being and beings, and it is exactly in genuine artwork that a metamorphosis of being itself takes place, the fate of being.[20]  According to Heidegger this is the fate in which being itself sends its own being, it is appropriated as an event of appropriation (Ereignis); this is how existence is in a quite certain way lighted, and the lighting also brings an artwork through which the truth takes place. Being is thus considered to be epochal (in the respective self-seizures); thenceforth is the story or history of being. Only since the fate of being is our concrete history considered; hence our existence can receive its essential destiny.

The Origin of the Work of Art is already completely defined by the question of being. But already the book Being and Time tries to awake the understanding of the sense and truth of being. The being is no entity; it is something that is „the darkest of all“.[21]  And the truth of this being „is only in so far and as long as there-being (Dasein) is“.[22]  So it happens through our inward being (Dasein).[23]  And as Heidegger further strongly reveals, in artwork there is, by work just the truth of being, the truth of being (which takes place in the artwork, from the artwork, and through the artwork). For example in Van Gogh's painting of the pair of peasant shoes Heidegger shows what shoes really are, when they emerge in the unconcealedness of their being. „If there occurs in the work a disclosure of a particular being, disclosing what and how it is, then there is here an occurring, a happening of truth at work.“[24]  Artwork reveals being in its being, the truth takes place in it. Here springs forth the reality of artwork, its being and truth. Heidegger summarily expressed this with the words: „What matters is a first opening of our vision to the fact that what is workly in the work, equipmental in equipment, and thingly in the thing comes closer to us only when we think the being of beings.“[25]  A disclosure of being and the truth of beings takes place in artwork, the truth as if it entered the artwork, became the artwork, and only then can also the reality of art in its historical metamorphosis be born along with the destiny of being.

In The Origin of the Work of Art Heidegger establishes also for the unconcealedness the notion of lighting (Lichtung); its proper happening is then lightning (Lichten), and what is lighted by the lighting as the up in the happening of lighting is that what is lighted (Gelichtete): into it enters the totality of beings and from it in turn is going out (shrinks back).[26]  The lighting enables our comportment to the being, its encountering us. „Thought of in reference to what is, to beings, this lighting (clearing) is in a greater degree than are beings. This open center is therefore not surrounded by what is; rather, the lighting center itself encircles all that is, like the nothing which we scarcely know.“[27]  The lighting is from the side of beings nothing, and yet it is something more being than particular being (existent). The lighting then has the character of being, it essentially prevails „in the midst of the totality of beings“ and is an „essentially open place“. The lighting (unconcealedness) is the notion for the revealing of being: the truth or destining of being takes place in the lighting; it is the fundamental (chaotic) openness (open) as the precondition of all brightness and thinking, it enables the experience with entities (although it is no being). The lighting is at the same time an open place for the revealing of beings, and a place where something can show itself only in the present: the truth takes place in the light of lighting.

The lighting itself, however, is according to Heidegger at the same time concealed. This concealment happens in a double way: as (self)denial and as a dissembling (this happens from the side of man). The lighting is first the word for disclosing (unconcealedness) and also the word for the continuity of revealing and concealing. To the lighting itself belongs self-refusal, the essential moment of the non-existent lighting (nothing) is its self-refusing beginning. The discovering of lighting is therefore essentially limited lighting given by the double concealing: refusal and dissembling. Heidegger writes: „The lighting is pervaded by a constant concealment in the double form of refusal and dissembling. (...) The nature of truth, that is, of concealedness, is dominated throughout by denial. Yet this denial is not a defect or a fault, as though truth were an unalloyed unconcealedness that has rid itself of everything concealed. If truth could accomplish this, it would no longer be itself. This denial, in the form of a double concealment, belongs to the nature of truth as unconcealedness. Truth, in its nature, is un-truth.“[28]  Unconcealedness is consequently fond of hiding itself, as Herakleitos said; the truth is the continuity of being-uncovering and concealing, and the concealing happens just like self-refusal and dissembling. This is how the essential nature of the authentic truth is the „primal conflict“ of the lightning and concealing of being: in this primal conflict „that open center [the open, the lighting of being] is won within what is, stands, and from which it sets itself back into itself“.[29]  

The question about the structure of the happening of unconcealedness then arises from the clarification of the happening of the opening world and closing earth. This is where the conflict between the world and earth is discovered, that is rooted in the primal conflict.


The World and the Earth

The world and the earth belong to Heidegger's view of the open. The open happens in the midst of beings. The world, however, is not simply the transparent open, and the earth simply does not correspond with concealing and closure. „The earth is not simply the closed but rather that which rises up as self-closing. World and earth are always intrinsically and essentially in conflict, belligerent by nature. Only as such they enter into the conflict of clearing and concealing.“[30]  So the earth is also something rising up, not only closing. It is what gives rise to beings (trees, plants, mountains, etc.), on what the world (the world without the earth does not exist) develops, where the place of dwelling originates for man. As the place is something that displays itself: that carries us and encircles us (all the visible, perceptible, tangible), that feeds man. The main manner of earth is the bringing-forth of space.

So the earth, according to Heidegger, certainly corresponds to what the Greeks called fysis: „the emerging and rising in itself and in all things“. „It clears and illuminates, also, that on which and in which man bases his dwelling. We call this ground the earth.“[31]  The earth accordingly essentially grounds (in Heidegger's interpretation here outlined) in that upsurgence of fysis like that what hides, what again conceals back what is rising. As the everlasting arising of that which conceals (and what once again turns back in itself) is the earth identical with fysis (the nature). Being has according to Heidegger its dark side (the earth as the concealing and the closure, the depth of being) and the bright side (the world).

The man dwells on earth and creates here his work, for example a temple standing on a solid rock, on earth. The truth, as we already know, takes place in the work. The temple, „This presence of the god is in itself the extension and delimitation of the precinct as a holy precinct“.[32]  The earth and the world respond towards-one-another, the world without the earth does not exist. The world is opened up with the temple that stays here on the solid ground of the earth. In the work of a temple the truth, the holy and the sacred opens up, „and the god is invoked into the openness of his presence“, he is celebrated in the temple.[33]  The world alone is not indeed something merely like an object, it is more entifying than only as perceptible and sensible; the world is worlding (Welten der Welt): at that time it opens with the grace of gods, and also their loss, and also things can essentially prevail in their space, once nearby, once remote. And the man has the world when he essentially prevails in the open of that what is, then he can open the world with his work, to constitute it.[34]  In the holy world the truth can happen in a magnificent way, since man ecstatically prevails in the amazement and respect for the world, he puts forth its beauty, majesty, and truth. The being of work constitutes the world.

During this constituting of the world, the earth is formed. In what sense? Heidegger suggests: „The work moves the earth itself into the open of a world and keeps it there. The work lets the earth be an earth.“[35]  The work forms the earth, it brings forth the earth in the open of the world, and so constitutes the world, when it leaves the earth in the earth. Now we ask, how does the essential unity of work take shape from this point? It is clear: the world and the earth belong together (though essentially different, they are never separate). The earth with its self-seclusion is not simply hiding: „the earth is not uniform, inflexible staying under cover, but unfolds itself in an inexhaustible variety of simple modes and shapes. (...) the painter ... uses pigment, but in such a way that color is not used up but rather only now comes to shine forth. To be sure, the poet also uses the word – not, however, like ordinary speakers and writers who have to use them up, but rather in such a way that the word only now becomes and remains truly a word.“ [36] This is how the earth penetrates the world, and the world contains it and retains it in itself. The world and the earth exist in an essential contention, they innerly belong together. „The earth cannot dispense with the open of the world if it itself is to appear as earth in the liberated surge of its self-seclusion. The world, again, cannot soar out of the earth's sight if, as the governing breadth and path of all essential destiny, it is to ground itself on a resolute foundation.“[37]  From the contention of the world and the earth comes forth the work. The culmination of the essential contention is the work that molds the world, and so constitutes of the world. The dynamics of work alone and its unity („repose of the work“) emerge from the development of this conflict. Heidegger finally wrote: „The work-being of the work consists in the fighting of the battle between world and earth.“[38]  How does the truth of work take place specifically from this point? We can continue to ask that together with Heidegger.


The Being of Work

As we have seen, the truth happens as a primal conflict between clearing and concealing (relatedness of lighting and double concealing) in the relatedness of earth and world. One of the ways that the essential truth takes place is through artwork.  The contention of the earth and the world develops in the work as the happening of truth (the unconcealedness of beings), „the truth is at work in the work“.[39]  In Gogh's picture the truth takes place, the whole of beings reaches unconcealedness, and unconcealedness - the truth of work happens in relation to the whole of beings, to being in general. The truth as conflict of the world and earth implants itself into the work. The self-concealing being here lightens, the light of being shines through the work. „This shining, joined in the work, is the beautiful. Beauty is one way in which truth occurs as unconcealedness.“[40]  From the unity of opposites, from the contention of earth and world, the essence of truth and beauty can thus form in the work, the essence of repose and unity of the work which consists in itself.

To the work and its being also belongs the fact that it is created by someone - an intermediary: „If there is anything that distinguishes the work as work, it is that the work has been created.“ [41] Only then the art can happen - when the artist (technites) will make the truth by work. In order for true artwork to arise, an authentic artist must be present,[42] the artwork originates from the artist's activity, it comes forth from the process of creating. An integral part of the being of work is the fact that an artist creates it. The essential way through which the truth establishes itself in the being is that it happens („fulgurates“) in the artwork. „... the impulse toward the work lies in the nature of truth as one of truth's distinctive possibilities by which it can itself occur as being in the midst of beings.“[43] 

The conflict of the competing sides (the earth and the world) opens up in the formed beings. The beings is fulfilled in the expression (opened up in the projecting of artist) in the openness of truth. In this establishing of truth in the beings according to Heidegger the expression „must set itself back into the heavy weight of stone, the dumb hardness of wood, the dark glow of colors. As the earth takes the rift [expression] back into itself, the rift is first set forth into the open and thus placed, that is, set, within that which towers up into the open as self-closing and sheltering“.[44] The earth is utilized through the creation of work and the rendering of truth.

And then the conflict, established in the expression, takes shape here through the creation of work.  The truth of the work settled and turned into the form of the work. The truth can then shine through the gap of the formed expression, and the work can rest in itself. „The more essentially the work opens itself, the more luminous becomes the uniqueness of the fact that it is rather than is not.“[45] The created work is suddenly here, the created work (when the conflict settled itself through the expression into the form) generates the actual reality of work. The event of truth can shine through (be present in the work) the being of work during the opening of the being, the truth, as we already know, takes place. Here the truth transferred and adapted itself into the being of work. The created work can have such a quality that during our persistence at work, it can lift us out of everydayness, „out of the realm of the ordinary“.[46]

One of the important ways of persisting at work is then according to Heidegger its preserving. To the reality of work belongs, in addition to its artist's creation, also its preserving by a preserver (philosopher, critic, literary historian, art historian, etc.). Preserving then belongs to the essential nature (being) of the work. The preserver has the ability to plunge himself into the truth of the work, if he is a true preserver. „Preserving the work means: standing within the openness of beings that happens in the work. This `standing within` of preservation, however, is a knowing.“[47] What kind of character must the knowing of the preserver proposed by Heidegger have?

The knowing is carried by a specific willing that in the beings truly knows what it wants. According to Heidegger, as he explains in his fundamental work Being and Time, a willing is the wise resoluteness of existential self-transcendence in which we open up to the beings and being. That willing in itself retains a trait of non-willing (as strongly emerges out of Heidegger's later thinking) in which existence frees the truth of being itself, in which a work lets itself be a work. „Knowing that remains a willing, and willing that remains a knowing, is the existing human being's entrance into and compliance with the unconcealedness of being.“[48]  The open there-being here casts away the customary subjectivistic decisionism, and re-solutly (meaning wise resoluteness) also opens up the unconcealedness of being itself. The human existence then can essentially stand forth in the lighting of beings (in the lighting of being), open up properly to the unconcealedness that was settled into the work.

In case of the preserver, the wise resolute willing with its knowing settles itself knowingly in the truth of the work: „ ... only thus remains a knowing, does not deprive the work of its independence, does not drag it into the sphere of mere experience, and does not degrade it to the role of a stimulator of experience.“[49]  One is not concerned with the mere enjoyed experience from work,[50] the important thing is to help the perceiver of the work come closer to the belonging of truth that happens in the work. So it can underlie a historical experience of individual there-being in relation to the unconcealedness, but here underlies historically also a being-with as ontological dimension between there-beings, the existential dimension of communication one there-being with others there-being. The art work and its preserving can co-compose the human history this way, only as far, however, as a work is preserved in truth, if the singularity of the work does not fall in the mere „ongoing activity“. Is it possible to only operate with art?

Heidegger answers this question in his Contributions to Philosophy which he wrote between 1936-1938. With the expansion of mere art enterprise, a fall into no-art can take place in history. History can at that moment entirely lack real art. According to Heidegger the no-artness has its roots in a certain type of knowing,[51] that, although it copes with certain contemporary rules and current perform models, it is never true art. One not comes to the understanding of the essence of art, one not comes at the decision of the truth of original being (Wahrheit des Seyns). The art is confound with the mere enterprise, it is no-art. But hat situation can penetrate the true knowing that is able to make up the other and exceptional beginning of art. That knowing draws from „the essence of authentic appropriation that one names there-being“.[52]  The true knowing can afford the truth of being.

In our advancing we have clarified Heidegger's view on art: its reality forms authors and preservers at the same time. The work, in order to be the work, needs the artist and the preserver, at the same time the work as if it composed both, by virtue of work they are what they are: the artist forms work, draws as though from the spring of one's own self; the preserver then cares about the work, brings it „into movement and happening“.[53]  What is art after all, in what lies its essence?


The Art

Heidegger's understanding of the reality of work will lead us to the proper insight of the essence of art. Art appears in the artwork, art incubates in it. What takes place in art? Heidegger asks and urgently answers: „Art ... is the becoming and happening of truth.“[54]  In the art the truth presents itself, the truth as unconcealedness settles in the work in the form. In the forming of work comes out the truth of being and beings. What is only semblantly true is in the real work shattered – but it can be lightened. The clearing of beings can happen: „The nature of art, on which both the art work and the artist depend, is the setting-itself-into-work of truth.“ [55] Further: the truth in its lightning and concealing „poetizes“. The essence of art is for Heidegger poetic, it opens the reality so that all changes, nothing is how it was previously. „All art ... is ... essentially poetry,“[56]  because through its power the coming of the truth of beings as such takes place. Let us clarify what character has this poeticizing that opens itself in the project of the creator who receives the new measure of being.

Heidegger does not perceive poeticizing here as poesy, that is poetry in the narrower sense. In a more inclusive sense „all art is essentially poeticizing“, thus also architecture, music, and painting. In this poeticizing happens total „illuminating projecting of truth“. To poesy Heidegger ascribes (which is evident also in this treatise), as much as already perhaps Kant, the most significant place among the respective species of art. Here the language itself essentially poetizes. „... poetry in the narrower sense is the most original form of poetry in the essential sense, since language is the happening in which for man beings first disclose themselves to him each time as beings.“[57] The language that can bring out the being of beings, for Heidegger touches the essence of poeticizing itself, whereas the other arts already happen in certain open sayings and namings which lead them. „They are an ever special poeticizing within the clearing of what is, which has already happened unnoticed in language.“ Poeticizing is a signifying of the unconcealedness of beings, signifying of the conflict of the world and the earth, nearness and remoteness of being. The essence of art is the poeticizing. In the projected saying the human world can historically come forth.

We have fathomed that the truth happens in poeticizing in general, that poeticizing is the grounding of truth, that it is such projecting of truth that annuls previous certainty and usualness in the grasping of the world. A totally new truth, denying the up till now usualness, opens up from the work. This founding of the new happens from the overflow of the bestowed creator which from his poetic project opens up the open of the new essential world, and does this out of the relationship to its fleshly ground, in relationship to the truth of being. Poetic projecting is a free bestowing and grounding that as if with a leap[58] transcends all the current and foregoing.

According to Heidegger in this peculiarity of the leap happens the „unmediated character of beginning“. „Bestowing and grounding have in themselves the unmediated character of what we call a beginning.“[59]  The ingenious accomplishment of the bestowed creative there-being (subject) tunes (non-subjectvistically) in the self-unmediated (being), and prepares itself patiently for the genuine beginning that in advance surmounts covertly all that comes, and this with regard to future. „A genuine beginning ... has nothing of the neophyte character of the primitive.“[60]  The initial bestowing and grounding is the advanced leap from the foregoing to the entirely new future, it is the fight with what is common and generally received. Only so is the art the grounding „... in the sense of instigation of the strife of truth: founding as beginning“.[61] This new founding has happened for the first time in Heidegger's view in Greece (= the first beginning): at that time beings in their entirety claim the new beginning, back then art was for the first time essentially founded, the unconcealedness of beings took place. This truth crosses to the artwork and „comes into being, that is, becomes historical“.[62]

In the light of Heidegger's account of being and truth it appears that art as poeticizing is historical „founding in triple sense of bestowing, grounding, and beginning“. Art essentially founds history, it lets the truth come out. „Art, founding preserving, is the spring that leaps to the truth of what is, in the work.“[63]  From the founding leap of the creators and preservers comes out (incubates; Ursprung signifies embryonic state, beginning, origin, and source) the true art work, and it can also establish the authentic historical existence of a nation. We can in our philosophical knowing ask whether it is here that art arises, whether it is near the beginning, and if it is the origin. This mindfulness can prepare the space for art, the way for the creators, the location for the preservers. Through the new acquired essential determination of art can again happen the truth and beauty, and our western dwelling can form propitiously.


In its smugness art ceases to be frothy („blinking“ how Nietzsche would say), it begins to fill again its „substantial“ (how Hegel would say) function and to perfect our temporal existence. If we finally take another look at Kierkegaard, we can recall that the Danish thinker strived for „the life out of all the illusions“[64]  Although he was a religious thinker, his esthetic figures effectively helped in the deconstruction of the philosophical-ontological and epistemological pretensions of his time (Hegelianism) and without doubt have induced Heidegger's thinking (along with Nietzsche’s destruction of metaphysics). Kierkegaard's basically Socratic thinking led to the demand of the artistic truth, the truth of artwork. Kierkegaard himself had become the true contemporary witness of truth. His shaping was essentially maieutic, it was supposed to awaken those with esthetic illusions, and with a leap head for the element of truly live art and the knowing of a free subjective thinker. This knowing beared with „roundabout communication“[65] could efficiently aid to the weeding-out of contemporary illusions about art, as it was in Heidegger's thinking.

The essence of art can be defined only from real artwork. This work again arises only from action of a genuine artist and creator. The creation of such artist reaches on the happening of truth in work, on the happening of truth of being itself. The existing artist transcends contemporary illusions and fully turns toward the artwork which he forms, and he so brings to the people primordial beauty and truth. This way art is the beautiful setting (ecstatic projecting) of truth in the work that is carried through the beginning relationship of an existing artist to the being of beings in general.



This paper focuses on finding Heidegger's account of esthetics and art, concretely in the relationship to Kierkegaard's thinking. The paper emphasizes the analysis of Heidegger's Origin of the Work of Art. This treatise is already utterly determined by the problem of being, and the essence of art is understood here just from the essence of being and its truth. In the human being, the truth appears through the essentially acquired knowing. From the artwork we can establish the essence of art, and we can again propitiously form our western being. One can get out of esthetic illusions and through a leap arrive at the element of real live art. The creation of a true artist amounts to the event of the truth of being.

© Jiří Olšovský

[1] Cf. my work Inwardness and Existence. Introduction to Kiekergaard's thinking, Akropolis, Praha 2005, p. 176.

[2] S. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, II, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New York 1987, p. 167.

[3] Ibid., p. 178.

[4] Ibid., p. 226.

[5] S. Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Vol. I, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 1992, p. 351.

[6] M. Heidegger, Zur Überwindung der Aesthetik. Zu `Ursprung des Kunstwerks`, in: Heidegger Studies, Vol. 6, Duncker and Humboldt, Berlin 1990, p. 5.

[7] Ibid., p. 7.

[8] Cf. M. Heidegger, Vorträge und Aufsätze, in: the same, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. 7, V. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2000, p. 39.

[9] Zur Überwindung der Aesthetik, op. cit., p. 6.

[10] In order for art to be again „the decisive shape of truth“, in: M. Heidegger, Básnicky bydlí člověk, Oikúmené, Praha 2006, p. 169.

[11] Cf. Zur Überwindung der Aesthetik, op. cit., p. 6.

[12] Ibid.

[13] M. Heidegger, Nietzsche, I, transl. D. F. Krell, Herper Collins Publishers, San Francisco 1991, p. 79-80.

[14] Ibid., p. 84.

[15] Ibid., p. 90.

[16] Ibid., p. 91.

[17] Ibid., p. 94.

[18] Ibid., p. 137.

[19] M. Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, in: the same, Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2001, p. 70.

[20] „The history of the nature of Western art corresponds to the change of the nature of truth.“ (The Origin of the Work of Art, op. cit., p. 79.)

[21] M. Heidegger, Being and Time, transl. J. Macquarrie, E. Robinson, Blackwell Publishing 2005, p. 23.

[22] Ibid., p. 272.

[23] The unique place for the clearing of being is human being, and so there-being itself (in its soul, heart) is precisely „lighting“ (it lights up and opens), illuminated of one's own as the being-in-the-world.

[24] The Origin of the Work of Art, op. cit., p. 35.

[25] Ibid., p. 38.

[26] Ibid, p. 52. This relation in detail screens e.g. F.-W. Herrmann, in: Heideggers Philosophie der Kunst. Eine systematische Interpretation der Holzwege-Abhandlung „Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes“, V. Klostermann, Frankrurt am Main 1980.

[27] The Origin of the Work of Art, op. cit., p. 51.

[28] Ibid., p. 53.

[29] Ibid., p. 52.

[30] Ibid., p. 53-54

[31] Ibid., p. 41.

[32] Ibid., p. 40.

[33] Ibid., p. 42.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., p. 45.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid. p. 48.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid., p. 55.

[40] Ibid., p. 54.

[41] Ibid., p. 55.

[42] Heidegger differentiates appropriately craft work from artist's creating of work, just like he thinks about the essence of creating from the aspect of truth. The craft's fabricating is of another kind, although a craft's trait belongs also to the artwork. Cf. ibid., p. 63.

[43] Ibid., p. 60.

[44] Ibid., p. 61.

[45] Ibid., p. 63.

[46] Ibid., p. 64.

[47] Ibid., p. 65.

[48] Ibid., p. 65.

[49] Ibid., pp. 65-66.

[50] Already by Kierkegaard happens to the distance from common or sophisticated experience. Cf. Niternost a existence, op. cit., p. 38.

[51] Similarly Kierkegaard criticizes contemporary Hegel's knowing in which he has gone particularly about the forming of system that arises rather from the conception of continual world-historical movement and from the rational arrangement of state. In the eyes of Kierkegaard the absolute thinking of Hegel's provenience disregarded from the concrete existence, from the temporality of the happening of human existence, from its oppressiveness, anxiety, despair, and so it blocked to rise existence in its staying against the absolute (god).

[52] M. Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis); the same, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. 65, V. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1989, pp. 505-506.

[53] The Origin of the Work of Art, op. cit., p. 69.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid., p. 70.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid., p. 72.

[58] The full spring movement explicate distinctively S. Kierkegaard; cf. Niternost a existence, op. cit., pp. 198-217.

[59] The Origin of the Work of Art, op. cit., p. 73.

[60] Ibid., p. 74.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid., p. 75.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, Vol. VI, (6228), ed. H. V. Hong, E. H. Hong, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and London 1987.

[65] Cf. Niternost a existence, op. cit., p. 218-239.


Jiří Olšovský

Existenciální filosof a básník. Působil v Masarykově a ve Filosofickém ústavu AV ČR jako badatel (PhDr., Ing., Ph.D.). Zabývá se převážně existenciální a fenomenologickou filosofií (M. Heidegger, J. Patočka, T. G. Masaryk, S. Kierkegaard).