Dr W Large
Truth and Art
23 February 2007
We must understand H's essay in terms of its historical context. We might thing of the historical situation in Germany at the time as the collapse of a world - H's work, starting with OW, increasing focuses on the passing away of worlds. The WA is what establishes a world, because it allows truth to be seen.
Truth in the WA for H is not about representing something (so that we might think that a picture is a correct representation of thing) but showing what things really are. For truth to happen does not mean that there has to be correct representation at all. This notion of truth is quite different from the analytic concept of truth which is about beliefs and assertions - is this statement true of false. H is deny this as a way of conceiving truth. What he is denying is that this is the only way of thinking of truth, and also that it is the most important and fundamental.
The more fundamental notion of truth is showing or disclosing. This a reveal the true nature of the chair not by talking about it, but by sitting on it.
Moreover if things did not show themselves we would not be able to make assertions about them. They first of all have to be, before we can say anything about them. And 'be' here means makes themselves manifest.
What truth is in general is unconcealment - and things can only be brought out of concealment if the world in which they are itself is brought out of concealment.
This is what the WA does - it brings a world out of concealment as a whole. Van Gogh's A Pair of Shoes does not correctly represent the shoes, nor does it tell us how to use them, rather it reveals the world as a whole in which these shoes have their place.
How the WA of art does this by placing the world in relation to the earth. World in OW means the same thing as it did in BT - the world is not a sum of things nor is it an idea rather it the web of meaning in which things and people have their place.
Every world is the opening up of certain possibilities or paths.
But what do we mean by earth? It is the planet or the soil on which we stand? In the OW, it does seem that the latter is meant. The earth is the materiality of things which is given meaning by the intelligent form of the world. The earth is what the world works on and places. But this would be to use the concept of formed matter from Aristotle which H has already rejected.
Thus the very idea of earth as substance or matter which stands beneath the forms of things belongs to a philosophical conception of a certain world. What we want is a notion of earth that would be true of any or all worlds.
How then does H define earth? As emergence, sheltering and supporting.
If we think of this relationship in terms of plants, we can see that they sprout from the earth, but as also maintained by the earth. It is this relation to earth that is universal to all worlds - worldly things are both arise from and are sheltered by the earth.
This is the dark background of all our activities, thoughts and feelings. We might call this dark background a familiarity which is at the heart of our world.
Letting the world world means arranging and organising things in the world - this means caring, using and manipulating things. But even in this use there is always something that resists are arranging. This resistance is the earth rising up within the world.
Thus the world and earth appear in the way in which they resist and constrain one another, but also in how the support and relate to one another.
The analysis of earth should not refer to any particular world interpretation of it. It is what resists in any world. In this way, earth resists any conceptualisation. Whatever world we are in, there is always that which resists any conceptualisation. Rather than seeing this as a bad thing; i.e. a lack of knowledge, it is what gives weight to our world
The modern technological world is about mastery - controlling and determining nature which we understand in a causal manner. In promoting this world we have destroyed all the other worlds on this planet, but there isn't any reason why we should prefer this world than any other. In the end this isn't about a rational argument but 'force'.
The establishing of a new world and the destruction of an old depends on something not revealing itself. What does not reveal itself is the 'desirability of the new world itself'. It withdraws from our circumspection, such that if somewhere were to ask why do you want this world, we would really be sure. This withdrawal, which is true of every world, is what we call earth. In its very withdrawal it supports and maintains this world. Thus in a world dominated by efficiency and usability, the values that maintain this world have to remain invisible so as to allow this world to have its force and power, and it is precisely for this reason that we can't say what the earth is, for if it is conceptual
available to us, then it is only through the intelligibility of the world, and even if we can speak of the earth through its resistance to a world this does not mean that we have said what the earth is positively.
What WA do is set forth a world - that is they things appear in the worlds that they inhabit.
The WA isn't the only activity or thing which lets things appear of 'shine' - thinking of a philosopher can, or a political act or decision or sacrifice, which are shining deeds that can reveal and sustain a world - all this reeks of Nazi ideology.