Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 66

A Heideggerian Reading of the Philosophy of Art of Susanne K.

Langer with Special Reference to Architecture

by Edward P. Donohue Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY

Martin Heidegger is an ontologist; Susanne Langer is a logician.1 The ways in which they ground their Heidegger

philosophies of art are fundamentally different.

seeks arts grounding in being and Langer in the biological organism to which she attributes the essential organic form of art.2 Nonetheless many of the statements that they make They agree that arts

about art are strikingly similar.

significance is in the art object and not the artists own experience of actual feeling or personal biography; that, though art is an object, it is not a thing and functions differently from things; that art is not only the creation of beauty but an expression of truth; that the truth of art is grasped through an intuitive, sentient immediacy rather than the structure of propositions; that propositions spoken

2 in everydayness and through mathematical equations do not articulate what art is; that artistic space is essentially different from everyday space and mathematical space; that intrinsically art has no utility; that architecture is the creation of a human world. I am going to argue that a

logical principle that Langer proposes places her in a compatible relation with Heideggers ontology that a Heideggerian ontology would resolve ambiguities that are inherent in her own theory or art and that their views on architecture display both significant similarities as well as dissimilarities in their conceptions of space. In her major work on art, Feeling and Form, Langer makes it clear, at the outset, that the essence of philosophy is the logical clarification of ideas.3 She

claims that the logical principles of generalization and fecundity, which drive philosophy, are both in the service of the illumination of meaning.4 Since the philosophy of art is indeed philosophy, it must be deliberated within this logical context.

Meaning in artistic literature, while rich

and diverse, is, in her view, mostly ambiguous, fragmentary and in disarray6 She thinks that she can supply a principle that is general enough to be applicable to all the arts and whose fecundity can elucidate much of the confusion that saturates statements about art. So, philosophy and the

philosophy of art are about the clarification of ideas and

3 Langers contribution is to provide a concept that will logically resolve many of the important ambiguities present in writings about art.7

While purporting to remain within

the context of logic, the principle that she supplies has implications for an ontological principle of Heidegger, puts her into a relation of some concert with him9 and at some distance from her fellow logicians.10 The original concept that pervades Langers interpretation of art is her notion of the non-discursive symbol or presentational symbol.11 When Langer claims

that all art is the symbol of feeling,12 or, more specifically, art is the non-discursive symbol of sentient, emotional life, she clearly distinguishes this symbol from discursive symbols.

We need to highlight Langers meaning of the nondiscursive symbol, show how other logicians (as well as aestheticians) think about art without this principle and how this principle has ontological possibilities.

The Nature of Non-discursive Symbolism

To make the contrast between discursive and nondiscursive symbols, we should begin with Langers distinction between symbol and signal.14 essentially is a system of symbols.15 Language

When language is

4 being used symbolically (whether discursively or nondiscursively), it inevitably delivers insight. Insight is

directly related to form, structure and conceptualization.16 It does not require action or the anticipation of an actual event.17 Neither does it need to provoke any special

emotional symptom in the beholder or user of the symbol. The symbol differs from what Langer calls a signal, symptom or sign.18 The name, Richard Nixon, may

provoke, in his dog, Checkers, the tail-wagging happy anticipation of his owners immediate, anticipated presence. For me, it evokes some insight into his Presidency without expectation of his actual presence and without any invariable, emotional symptom. This distinction between the conceptual symbol and the signal operates within both discursive and non-discursive symbolism. Unlike non-discursive symbolism, discourse reports, describes that which has happened, is happening or will happen in the world.19 Non-discursive symbolism, the symbol

of art, (Langer includes ritual and religion here) does not report or describe the actual world. Since it is a

symbolism, it delivers insight into feeling without necessarily inciting it.20 Non-discursive symbolism results in emotion understood rather than emotion actually experienced.21 I can fully appreciate the artistic value of say, a rhapsodic poem, even though I am cold, wet, and there

5 is a unappetizing smell of brussel sprouts coming from the kitchen. Here the experience of art is divorced from the

actual emotions of the artist and those that appreciate art. Indeed, strong actual emotions may distort the artists or the beholders insight. Very powerful emotion may not be consonant with the envisioned symbolic form of the art object and could easily result in unstructured, and thereby inartistic emotional catharsis.22 There are several other points of distinction. The

elements of discourse have conventionally fixed meaning while the elements of non-discursive, artistic symbolism are difficult to identify and have no stable meaning. The

meaning of the elements of the work of art is bestowed by the total art object, from the artistic gestalt. Until the total artwork is envisioned or created specific elements cannot be discerned. One cannot build a work of art in the same manner as one can build a paragraph -- word by word.

Consequently, a discursive dictionary is possible with translations into other languages feasible. This is not

possible with artistic symbolism which, without constant referents, has no dictionary. Langer thus cautions us about

the use of the word, language, in relation to the arts (language of the dance, language of music, etc.). The implication here is that a book cannot be translated into a film the way that a paragraph in English can be translated

6 into French. The film and the book are two distinct While one may serve as a motif for the

artistic media.

other,23 there can be no literal translation of one into the other. From this perspective, criticisms of films made

from books by subtlety or overtly imposing the standards of one media on the other lose their legitimacy. Langer argues that non-discursive symbolism, unlike discourse, is unconsummated.24 An expression is consummated

when its affirmation includes a denial of its contradictory. If I affirm that the moon is full, then I simultaneously deny its contradictory: the moon is not full. The principle that is operating here is the principle of noncontradiction: a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same way. Discursive statements are

consummated because the principle of non-contradiction is assumed. Such statements are, in this sense, consumed or

complete. Allowing for the legitimacy of a denial within every affirmation would render discourse impossible and all attempts at speech would dissolve into babble. However,

non-discursive, artistic symbolism is not consummated in this way. Art does not have the syntax of language and its While art is

embedded principle of non-contradiction.

expressive it does not affirm anything about the world and so the concomitant denial of the opposite of the affirmed becomes irrelevant. No one can discursively affirm the

7 essential meaning of a piece of music or any other art object in the sense that it is this and its opposite is eliminated. Contradictories, polarities and ambiguities may

be quite compatible in art. Since art is an articulation of human feelings that may be essentially ambiguous and contradictory, it would be important for artistic expression to transcend the principle of non-contradiction. When we speak about art

objects, awkward contradictions are sometimes expressed: love-hate, repulsively-attractive, sweet-sorrow and the like. Language with its structural limitations does not adequately express feelings.25 Since art is not bridled with the non-contradictory principle, it can express these ambiguities with facility. Unlike discourse, there are no negations in artistic expression. When negative words are used in artistic

literature, they always function to positively articulate feeling. A musical rest is not the absence of music but, if

successful, integrated with the musical rhythm of the piece. An unpainted area within the frame of a picture is not negation but may justifiably contribute to the overall form of the work.

When Langer discusses the non-discursive, presentational symbol the ordinary meaning of the word,

8 symbol is altered. representation. Generally, the word, symbol, means a

In common discourse, the term, symbol,

stands for, is a proxy for that which is symbolized: the dove symbolizes peace, a heart stands for love. way in which symbols function in discourse. This is the

If a heart

stands for love, it cannot at the same time and in the same way stand for not-love. Here the principle of nonSince art is not

contradiction consummates the symbol.

bound by that principle, then artistic symbolism (which is all that art is) does not stand in a closed, literal relationship with that which is symbolized.26 When Langer speaks of the non-discursive symbolism, which constitutes art she is not referring to, say, the bull as a symbol of Spain in Picassos Guernica. Here, the bull is isolated

from the rest of the painting and is regarded as a literal symbol in discourse about the painting. In non-discursive symbolism, Langer is not referring to fixed correlationships between symbol and symbolized. Her

emphasis is on the form that constitutes the symbol, which is the symbol. Together with form comes a special way of This is

conceptualizing; a unique way of attaining insight.

what it means to think in music, to think in paint, to think in clay.

9 When a composer thinks in music, is there anything that the music stands for? For Langer, the music stands for Once again, this stands for

the way that feelings move.27

is not literal; it is not discursive. In order to avoid confusing music with literal representation, it is better to say that music is expressive of human feeling. Of course,

expression does not mean a symptomatic catharsis, which is peculiar, not to symbolization but rather to signals and symptoms. In music, expression means the articulation, the illumination of feeling. It is only in this sense that all

art, not only music, is the symbol of human sentient, emotional life. The dichotomy between discursive, literal representation and artistic expression affects the ways in which we experience the symbols. In discourse, the tendency is to look through the symbol. something other than itself. The symbol is proxy for

The entire reality of the

discursive symbol is exhausted in pointing to that which it represents. When I say that the fruit dish is on the

kitchen counter, I am engaging an aspect of the world through these spoken symbols. I am not at all interested in

the rhythm and texture of the sounds I make -- as I would be in artistic literature, say, poetry. in the location of the fruit dish. Here, I am interested The words are

10 transparent in the sense that they become invisible like a glass windshield through which I contact the world. Since artistic symbolism is not literally representative, the meaning of transparency differs. Transparency no longer means to see a reality through a symbolic vehicle because the discursive dichotomy between symbol and symbolized does not apply. The artistic symbol

is not fundamentally a means through which something is discursively known can be made. -- about which consummated statements

One does not look through the artistic symbol;

one looks at it.28 If the beholder is familiar with that medium, the art object is entirely and immediately open to her view. At an essential level nothing is dissembled in art.29 It is in this sense that the artistic symbol is transparent. Artistic symbolism is neither a means to make statements about the actual world nor a means to stimulate actual feeling in the beholder. Fundamentally there is no

intrinsic necessity to look through or beyond the immediacy of the given art object. The artwork is itself articulate;

it is iridescent. Arts symbolism does not point to anything other than itself as expressive of human sentient, emotional life.30

Langers Controversy with Other Logicians about Art

11 Without the notion of the non-discursive, presentational symbol, Langer observes that the Positivists have at least a truncated, if not entirely flawed view of art. Langer traces one of the roots of their position to

the assumption that anything that can be conceptualized must be cast into symbolic form and that language is the fundamental symbolic form.31 Since art is not language used

discursively, it falls outside the domain of the symbolic; it is therefore not within the realm of the conceptual. is not an articulate expression. It

Art is indeed expressive

but for these logicians, it is an opaque manifestation of emotion. In Langers words: According to our logicians,

those structures are to be treated as expressions in a different sense namely as expressions of emotions, feelings, desires. They are not symbols for thought but

symptoms of the inner life, like tears and laughter, crooning or profanity.32 For such logicians, anything that cannot be articulated through the proposition falls outside the field of the rational and into the vividly felt but rationally obscure category of human feeling. The

polarities are clear: either propositional clarity or emotional impenetrability. Langer claims to come between

the horns of this dilemma through the rational character of the non-discursive symbol.

12 According to the epistemology that Langer finds spurious, the nonlinguistic sensory stimuli that incite such emotion may also have the capacity to be elevated to a cognitive level. Here the theory is that the life of the The senses are bombarded by

senses is originally in chaos.

a welter of impressions that need to be sorted out if any significance is to be made of them. These formless For these

impressions need to have form imposed on them.

logicians, it is the abstract activity of linguistic structures that accomplishes this shaping of the sensory data. The classification systems of vocabulary and the

logical structures inherent in syntax perform this illuminating service. Sensory activity that resists this

structure remains ineffable. Against this view, Langer argues that we do not experience the sensory world as a chaotic datum, which requires an abstract logical movement inherent in language to sort it out. Our merest sense-experience is a process of formulation.33 Even at a sensory level, we do not

encounter a formless world.34 A tendency to organize the sensory field into groups and patterns of sense-data, to perceive forms rather than a flux of light-impressions, seems to be inherent in our receptor apparatus just as much as in

13 the higher nervous centers with which we do arithmetic and logic.35 If our encounter with the material world began with sheer sensory sensitivity, our initial experience of it would be blooming, buzzing confusion.36 Langer finds it difficult to understand how, out of this bedlam, our sense organs would perceive things rather than mere dissolving sensa.37 Unless the mind which primarily operates with

meanings has sensory organs that provide it basically with forms, she does not know how the hiatus between perception and conception, sense-organ and mind-organ, chaotic stimulus and logical response, is ever to be closed and welded.38 Langer thinks that the senses grasp objects, not raw data, and the object is a form which is at once an experienced individual thing and a symbol for the concept of it, for this sort of thing.39 Seeing, for example, is

not a passive, meaningless storing of impressions that wait for the action of an organizing mind. the visible world begins in the eye.40 Our understanding of Langers notion of

the non-discursive symbol allows her to illuminate this sentient world of form that is also where art lives. Langer is now in the position to point out that the realm of the logician/mathematician does not exclude other legitimate areas of cognitive life. With her introduction

of the non-discursive symbol to address the rational

14 character of sensory life, the dichotomy of abstract conception or non-rational sense/feeling breaks down. As

another cognitive area opens up, the assumption that the world that is described by physics (and emulated by positivistic logicians) is the only world that is capable of rational articulation is wrong. There is, in fact, no such thing as the form of the real world; physics is one pattern, which may be found in it, and appearance, or the pattern of things with their qualities and characters, is another. One construction may indeed preclude the other; but to maintain that the consistency and universality of the one brands the other as false is a mistake.41 Since discursive expression primarily comes through language with its propositions, non-discursive expression is not linguistic, not propositional yet still intelligible. Its intelligibility is not mediated by language and the logic of discursive propositions. and directly perceived. It is immediately given

The immediate, non-propositional

grasp of the world is entirely compatible with Heideggers phenomenology of Dasein as always already in the world.

15 Heidegger views propositional logic as grounded in metaphysics.

The Metaphysical Ground for Logical Truth

Heidegger insists that logic, even formal logic, must have some reference to being and thereby requires some clarification of the grounding of being -- an ontology. He

offers several reasons for the nexus between metaphysics and logic. From the perspective of the history of philosophy,

logic has been tied to metaphysics. In his, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Heidegger points to Leibniz as one important example of this connection. Leibniz makes the distinction between necessary and contingent truths. The paramount test for necessary truth In a closed

would be the reduction to identity.

mathematical system where truth is measured by internal logical consistency and traceable to given mathematical axioms/definitions reduction to identity is facilitated. When Leibniz moves away from mathematics and the domain of necessary truths to the realm of the contingent this reduction to identity is not possible. The standard for the truth of this kind of knowledge is a relation to identity that Leibniz considers to be adequate. In adequate

knowledge that which is known is the totum of the requisita

16 i.e., that which, as a whole, constitutes the reality of a thing42 The identity here is not an empty sameness but a

unity understood as the compatibility or the coherency of all the elements. What is known in adequate knowledge is

the coherent connection of the things mutually compatible determinations.43 This appears to be the highest form of

contingent knowledge that human beings can achieve but it falls short of the essence of real truth. The reason for

this, in Heideggers analysis, is that Leibniz tries to deduce the integrations of adequate knowledge from the abstract form of identity in necessary knowledge.44 This standard for absolute truth, which humans can pursue but never attain is related to Leibnizs understanding of the knowledge attributable to God. God is the eternal being

intuitively surveying, at once, the world of contingency in an eternal present. This is the intuition that corresponds Only now it becomes fully

to the grasp of formal identity.

clear how this concept of knowledge is connected with the idea of what simply is and its being. Intuitus and

identitas, as essential characteristics of truth and knowledge, the logical in the broadest sense, are derived from the simplicitas Dei as guiding ideal of what, in the genuine sense, is.45 Leibniz discussion of logic is driven by a metaphysics of God.

17 Although Heidegger points directly and at some length to Leibniz monadology, he does not confine his remarks solely to him. For Heidegger, an understanding of

philosophy and philosophical problems must take place within historicity, the temporal evolution of philosophy itself. This is consonant with Heideggers position that Daseins understanding of the truth of being takes place within its temporalization, which includes philosophys historicity. In addition to the historical aspect of the problem, Heidegger finds the metaphysical dimension in an analysis of logic itself. He takes the word, logos, in its original Within the statement is found the

meaning of statement.46 truth.

The logical ground for the truth of the judgment has

been sought in logical principles such as the principle of contradiction, the principle of identity and the principle of sufficient reason. Since contradiction can be grounded

in identity, the latter has been used as the ground of truth. That which can be grounded in identity is intuited as the truth. Yet there is a more primordial level of being

than the proposition that seeks verification in logical principles. Using Heideggers illustration, when I make the judgment that the board is black, I take the concept of board and the concept of black and unite them with the copula is. The unity between board and black presupposes a

18 bifurcation of them. Taken as two separate classificatory I do not So this

concepts, I unite them with the copula.47

originally experience board and black separately.

conceptualizing activity together with its intentionality is accomplished by the thinking subject or, more accurately for Heidegger, by Dasein. Within the logic of the judgment, The truth of the

there is present at its heart, Dasein.

judgment cannot be grounded intrinsically with no reference to this source. Dasein. The ground for the truth of the judgment is

Only in Daseins understanding of being can the

truth of logic be established. This analysis can also be applied to Langers statements about art. When she claims, for example, that She is

all art is symbolic, she is engaging in discourse. describing what is.

From the logicians perspective,

symbolism is a concept that is included in the concept of art. If the logician is Leibniz, then symbolic as well as

many other predicates are contained in, and coherently unified with the concept of art. If the integration of

these predicates is complete then we have adequate knowledge of art, which approaches, but necessarily falls short of, the intuitive immediacy of Gods eternal vision of art. For Heidegger, there is a more fundamental level of being that undercuts and sustains this logical process.

19 In Heideggers view, the concepts of art and symbolism are not first experienced as separate and then subsequently coupled with the word, is. Just as with Heideggers

board and black, Langers art and symbolism are experienced together before they are conceived and expressed linguistically. Prior to the classifications of art and its properties together with their coupling in a proposition, there is a more primordial experience of it and the world because, for Heidegger, we are always already in the world. Always already means that before and during our conceptual constructs of the world with their linguistic rendering, we are already in it as participants with it.48 Here is where the epistemological model of knowing subject confronting an objective world and logically/linguistically expressing the truth about that world either breaks down or is shown to be a truncated perspective.49 There is another meaning of world which underlies this one and within which the fossilized entities of subject/object and their relation dissolve. Within the analysis of being-in-the-world, the metaphysical ground for the truth of logic is revealed. Being-in-the-world is a manifestation of the transcendence of the human person, Dasein. It is the there (da) of the human being that originally illuminates the world and establishes its ground.50 The there of the human person enlightens the world in the sense that without Dasein

20 the world falls into darkness. There can be no human thought or talk of what the world would be like without Dasein because without Dasein, there can only be, so to speak, the mute. With Dasein there is transcendence, which means to surpass, to go beyond. Dasein surpasses ontic beings in

advance in the sense that the very being of the ontic, that which makes it a being toward which Dasein can comport itself is established by Dasein itself.51 Dasein does not have the fixity of the ontic.52 Dasein is an existence, (ekstasis), a standing out.53 Daseins existence while arriving out of a past is essentially a thrownness not only toward a future but also toward a world.54 The essence of Daseins existence is its freedom, which it does not have but is. It is freedom in its caring that stands-out-toward

the world and thereby constitutes the world and Dasein as being-in-the-world.55 Now we can see that the subject-object dichotomy in propositional logic and between knowing subject and objective world have been undercut in being transcended. Dasein, the I that makes statements, is always already among beings about which it makes statements.56 The primordial transcendence of Dasein is the condition of the possibility of the accessibility of an objective world with which we may deal in a multiplicity of ways. The

logicians mode of conceptualizing this world is just one

21 way. Insofar as Dasein exists, objects have already also

become accessible to Dasein, though the mode of possible objectivity by which the objects are grasped is completely left open and variable.57 Although Langer is not an ontologist, Heideggers metaphysical grounding of logic supports Langer contention that art is not opaque and ineffable simply because it cannot be projected into propositional form. Our ability to grasp things does not require the intervention of the abstractive powers of thought inherent in language. We do not encounter an incoherent world at the sensory level and wait for language to impose order on this chaos. Our being-

in-the-world is characterized by a fundamental immediacy. Before the abstractive reflections which pull us away from (ab-trahere) this immediacy, we are always already in the world with things. Our immediate contact with things is intelligible because, for Langer, they are grasped as sensate forms. Form, structure, and intelligence (non-

discursive illumination) occur at the level of the sensate. Her argument that, at the sensory level, the human being is immediately and intuitively receptive to form is compatible with Heideggers being-in-the-world as a primordial condition of the human being. Langers world surely does

not coincide with Heideggers, but it is considerably closer to Heidegger than the logicians with which she contends.


Both Heidegger and Langer agree that art belongs to the senses and not to propositional abstractions. artistically created is a sentient object. That which is

But what kind of

thing is this artistic product and what is its relation to the creator, the artist? Taking the second question first, the voices of Heidegger and Langer are consonant. The essential

significance of art is found in the art object and not in the artist. Heidegger thinks that the autonomy of the

artistic product is that which is sought by the artist himself. To gain access to the work, it would be necessary

to remove it from all relations to something other than itself, in order to let it stand on its own for itself alone. But the artists peculiar intention already aims in The work is to be released by him to its It is precisely in great art ---

this direction.

pure self-subsistence.

and only such art is under consideration here

that the

artist remains inconsequential as compared with the work, almost like a passageway that destroys itself in the creative process for the work to emerge."58 Langer also decries the efforts of artistic literature that seeks to understand art by attending to the artist, her moods, his psychological disposition and her personal history. If art is a symptom of the artists personal feelings, then this

23 procedure would be appropriate. But if art is the

embodiment of an artistic idea, then the art object is paramount and the psychology of art is irrelevant. So, both

Langer and Heidegger direct their question, not to the artists but to the product: What does art create?59 Art creates a sentient object. But is this object a

thing? Heidegger attempts to respond to this question with a brief history of the ontology of thing. He touches on a

theory espoused by some logicians and inadvertently refers to Langers position. There is the theory that the thing is

that in which its properties inhere: substance and accidents.60 Statement structure, (subject-predicate) is

said to mirror the thing structure (substance-properties). For Heidegger, an important question emerges that casts doubt on this arrangement. Does the propositional statement

merely reflect the disposition of the thing regarded as substance and its properties or does the proposition itself project itself on the disposition of the thing?61 Langer thinks that her fellow logicians support the opinion that language accounts for the intelligibility of the properties that are first incoherently exposed to the senses. These

logicians view the language statement as structuring this formless sensate experience so that the proposition mirrors the thing. We have seen that Langer disagrees with this and His critique is virtually identical with

so does Heidegger.

24 Langers. We never really first perceive a throng of

sensations, e.g., tones and noises, in the appearance of things -as this thing-concept alleges; rather we hear

the storm whistling in the chimney, we hear the threemotored plane, we hear the Mercedes in immediate distinction from the Volkswagen.62 Both Heidegger and Langer agree that the art object, in as much as it is art, is not a thing. Heidegger

distinguishes between thing as equipment and the sentient artistic object. Equipment is essentially utility.63 These The

are things that exhaust their being in being useful. matter, the stuff, out of which these things are made dissolves in the things serviceableness.

As long as the

instrument is effective in its usefulness, the material becomes invisible: it is used up.64 I do not attend to the

material out of which my shoe is made as long as the shoe is effective. The abundance of an essential being of the If the shoe is abrasive and Only

equipment is reliability.65

raises blisters on my foot, it is no longer reliable. then does the material of the shoe become visible.


equipment is consumed by its utility, it does not seem appropriate to refer to any tools material as matter when it is reliable.66

25 Art objects are distinguished from use-things in terms of arts essential lack of utility. Of course, Heidegger is

aware that art, in fact, has many instrumental functions: financial transactions between artist and dealer, art auctions with their trappings, enhancement of reputations of artist and owner and the like.67 However at a fundamental level art objects are not mere use-things. Heidegger distinguishes them from equipment by arts resistance to the dissolution of its material. The sculptor and architect

may use stone, wood, metal and the like. In the pictoral arts, the artist will use pigment. sound; the poet, words. The musician will use

Unlike the utilitarian creations, On the

these art objects do not use up their materials.

contrary, that which is created is there for the eye and the ear and does not recede into useful functions. By contrast

the temple-work, in setting up a world, does not cause the material to disappear, but rather causes it to come forth for the very first time. . . . The rock comes to bear and rest and so first becomes rock; metals come to glitter and shimmer, colors to glow, tones to sing, the word to speak.68 With respect to the absence of utility in all of

art, Langers theory is consonant with that of Heidegger. Langer also thinks that art objects are different from other kinds of objects for very much the same reasons that Heidegger offers. In the literature on art, she finds that

26 art is often referred to as having an air of otherness, strangeness, semblance, illusion, transparency, autonomy, or self-sufficiency.69 Her explanation for

this otherness includes the notion that art objects are distinguishable from objects with practical functions and therefore experienced as other. Some art objects also

have utility, say, a vase or a building, but it is not the practical function that makes them artistic. The appearance

of the vase which was originally designed to carry water may be so striking that it arrests the observer and claims her attention. In this case, the sheer appearance and not the The appearance

practical function may have artistic value.

is the semblance (Schein),70 the showing that is, in this case, accessible only to the eye. The distinction between For

appearance and reality are clarifying concepts here.

art, there is no reality that underlies the appearance of art objects. There is no hidden essence which accounts for

the art objects reality and which can be articulated as a conceptual generalization. This accounts for the uniqueness of art objects. The destruction of a single chair does not

nihilate the reality of this instrument, which is its essential definition. On the other hand, a vandals alteration of, say, a paintings appearance destroys its total reality. reality.

For art, the appearance, the Schein, is the

The two thinkers are in agreement here.


Langer also supports her contention that art objects are experienced differently from everyday and mathematical realities through the sensate homogeneity of the artistic experience. While the artistic experience, of space, for

example, is homogeneous, experienced through only one sense, the everyday experience of space, is heterogeneous.72 It is capable of being experienced through several senses. I

orientate myself in space through sight, hearing, smell and touch. I plot my special world through the location of my

body (egocentricity) and through my feelings (an enemy is too close and a beloved friend too far away even though they are both, say, six feet away). My everyday experience of

space is complex, fragmentary, various and multifaceted. From a pragmatic view, it is real and actual. On the other hand, the special arts are homogeneous because they are given essentially to one sense, vision.73 A painting, for

example, has only visual values. You can touch and smell the paint but not the painting. When I encounter artistic

space, my sense of egocentricity, my current emotions and all my senses other than sight are irrelevant. The plastic arts, indeed, all the arts are disengaged from the reality and truth of the everyday world and in this sense, they are illusory.

28 To stay with the special example, mathematical space is also distinguished from the experience of artistic space

not because it is heterogeneous but because it is entirely non-sensate and incapable of sentient imagery. of geometry are purely conceptual. The elements

When, for example,

Euclid defines a line as having length only and a point as that which has no parts we are immediately transported into a non-sentient world. A one-dimensional line cannot be

drawn on a two-dimensional plane nor can a point, which has no actual physical dimensions. Such a line and such a point cannot be conjured up even by the visual imagination. only exist as abstract concepts. Mathematical space is similar to artistic space only because they are both homogeneous. Their essential difference lies in the fact They

that the plastic arts are homogeneously sensate and mathematical space is homogeneously abstract. The truth Since

and reality of mathematics is uncontested by Langer.

artistic space is fundamentally different, she refers to it as illusory. For Langer, it is the symbolic character of the artwork that divorces it from the status of the thing with its claim to reality. The artwork, according to her, is a It

sensuous symbol; it delivers insight into human feeling. is not a tool, not equipment (in Heideggers terminology) and not an artifact.74 Yet it is an object that is

29 accessible to my senses. were any sensible thing. It stands before me as though it It is autonomous. Yet is unlike

other sensible things because it can be grasped homogeneously, only through a single sense and because it is indeed a symbol. thing? If it is a symbol, can it be said to be a

A discursive term, say, book, can be regarded as a

symbol of a thing, the actual book, but itself is not a thing. Can a non-discursive symbol be similarly regarded?

Langer does not enter into a discussion of the possible thing-character of the art object though she does raise the issue. The first crucial problem that finds solution is,

how a work of art may be at once a purely imaginative creation, intrinsically different from an artifact indeed, properly a physical thing real, but objective. --not,

yet be not only

The concept of the created thing as

non-actual, i.e. illusory, but imaginatively and even sensuously present, functioning as a symbol but not as a physical datum, not only answers the immediate question.75 For Langer, the created, symbolic, imaginative character of the artwork removes it from the world of things into a virtual world. Langer does not do the metaphysical analysis She does not compare the

of things that Heidegger does.

thingly character of art, as Heidegger does, with three ontological theories of the thing: the thing as a bearer of traits, as the unity of a manifold of sensations, as formed

30 matter.76 Perhaps Langer realizes that the path that Heidegger followed led him to the conclusion that the truth of art cannot be found from an analysis of the work of art as a thing. A more concrete understanding of the similarities and differences between the art theories of both Heidegger and Langer is possible by comparing their analyses of a specfic art form. Since dwelling is so ontologically fundamental

in Heidegger and the notion of world so essential to Langers understanding of the master builder, their views on architecture should clarify their dispositions toward one another.

The Notion of Architecture in Langer and Heidegger

Langer contends that architecture as art is, like painting and sculpture, experienced homogeneously. That is, it is given only to the eye. Of course, architecture can be

experienced through several senses when it is approached from its non-artistic side. When architecture is encountered through touch, smell, hearing, the egocentricity of the viewers body location, the kinesthetic movement of the body through it, architectures practical functions are revealed and so it is experienced as actual. architecture, is virtual. All art, including

It is abstracted from the

31 pragmatic functions of everydayness and eludes the authenticating processes of scientific methods. For Langer, architecture is a semblance, an appearance given only to the eye. appearance? Of what is architecture an

It is a semblance, a domain that is essentially

distinguishable from the realm created by the pictoral arts (virtual scene)77 and sculpture (virtual kinetic volume).78 Architecture is the semblance of a human world79, which Langer also characterizes as virtual ethnic domain80 For Langer, there is a clear distinction between domain, which she understands as an illusion, and space. Space falls within the province of everyday actuality and scientific reality. In the treatment of actual space, Domain is not a

architecture creates a virtual domain.

thing among other things81 It is rather a sphere of influence82 that is created when buildings with their practical functions are erected. That sphere of influence is visibly made available through the architecture. Architecture, as art, makes space visible by creating a domain. visible. The domain is a peoples sphere of influence made It is the overt, sensible manifestation of a A functional style of

cultures interlocking activities.83

interconnected, practical actions constitute a peoples actual movement. There are individual, actual artifacts

that are associated with this movement but the systemic

32 pattern itself is not visible.84 Here Langer distinguishes It is

between the ingredients of a culture and its image. the task of the architect to supply the latter.85


architect does not merely fill a given space with buildings. The given space is inevitably transformed into a new kind of dimension. The architect while manipulating actual space

creates a place that is the image of a cultures world: a virtual ethnic domain. Since Langer clearly affirms that all art is abstract in the sense that it is discontinuous with practical functions, the instrumentality of architecture is not relevant for its artistic value. Of course, she does not It

doubt that most buildings must serve practical purposes. is necessary that the buildings are technologically and functionally sound but that does not sufficiently explain the artistic character of the work.86

For Langer, architecture is the special semblance of a world87 world. Architecture is the virtual appearance of a human This world has been clearly separated from the world

of nature as well as from the actual, everyday world of instrumentality, or, what Heidegger calls, equipment. This world is not bound to a cosmological geography. The

image of very different worlds can be set on exactly the same territorial coordinates.88 When a significant section

of architecture has been razed, the return of that human

33 world to nature can be easily observed. The sky that was

once the canopy of that architecture is released from that protective/alien relationship and becomes natures sky, which is an actual (heterogeneously perceived) sky. The

land, which was shaped, into that architectures domain is no longer part of that human world and returns to nature. That sky and that land together recede to their shared horizon in the actual observable cosmos. Many of Langers concepts of architecture as human domain are shared by Heidegger. With no direct reference to

architecture (or art for that matter) as virtual or illusion, Heidegger does make several distinctions that are In his

reminiscent of Langers theory of architecture.

short treatise, Building Dwelling Thinking, Heidegger argues that architecture is the unity of the fourfold of gathering. Building is the gathering of earth, sky, human The earth is not gathered with

mortals and divinities.89

bulldozers and earthmovers although these may or may not be utilized in the construction of buildings. Like Langer, the earth to which he refers is again, not the cosmological earth. What this word says is not to be associated with

the idea of a mass of matter deposited somewhere, or with the merely astronomical idea of a planet.90 The earth is

not a space easily accessible to the geometries and to physics. It is rather a domain, which shares similarities

34 with Langers notion of domain and architectural domain as a sphere of influence. In what sense can the earth be gathered in building? Gathering is an arrangement that occurs with the building and not prior to it. In the building (which necessarily

requires the mathematical/engineering conceptualizations of the blueprint) a domain is created which is the gathering or organizing into places. In Heideggers example, the

building of a bridge is not a solipsized event.91 Immediately, on either side of the bridge the earth emerges as the bridges banks. Each of those banks organizes the They are not mere strips of

strips of land on either side.

land but bridge approaches and exits around which the land is further developed. The water that is spanned by the bridge is gathered toward it and then set free. the river, become domain. In Langers terms, the The land,

architecture has created a sphere of influence. Architecture is the gathering of mortals for their dwelling, their protection, and their security. Heideggers

bridge, for example, does not only gather those who will utilize a bridge crossing but will gather people who will dwell on either side of it (merchants, river view residents, human services personnel, etc.). The bridge, as building,

is not merely an isolated human location. It also suggests other locations that are set in a relation to the bridge.92

35 A network of buildings expressing these interrelationships will be erected.93 For Langer, this is reminiscent of her position that architecture is a visible manifestation of a peoples interlocking activities. Since we are located as dwellers on earth, Heidegger claims that the sky is already gathered.94 The sky is that canopy that preserves (or threatens) our dwelling. The sky

is organized around our architecture and is noticeably altered when that architecture is significantly changed. Not only the earth, but also the sky becomes, through architecture, a human location, a domain. This view of

natures sky as specifically humanized through architecture is shared with Langer. Commenting on the domain of the

temple she writes, The temple really made their greater world of space -- nature, the abode of gods and ghosts. The

heavenly bodies could be seen to rise and set in the frame it defined.95 For Langer also, the sky has been gathered. Heidegger thinks that architecture also gathers the divinities. The divinities are the beckoning messengers of

the godhead.96 They dwell with mortals in the hope for what is unhoped for97. In so far as it is a hope the

divinities are at a distance but preserved in their concealment. They dwell with mortals in their concealment;

they are awaited.98 The divinities are mortals expectancies. In her discussion of the temple, Langer

36 recognizes it as the abode of the gods99. However, she

offers no analysis of the essence of divinities in Heideggers terms of that which is awaited, that which is expected. Nonetheless, with no explicit reference to

Heidegger, she implicitly refers to Heideggers fourfold and its unity. As it presented this space to popular thought

it unified earth and heaven, men and gods.100 Both Heidegger and Langer make clear distinctions between the abstract notion of geometric space and the domain of human location. However, there is, for them, a This

significant difference in which of the two is prior.

difference is significant because it leads us to see the explicit ontological thrust of Heidegger and the lack of an explicit metaphysical task in Langers work. We have seen that Langer makes clear distinctions among the everyday experience of space, the mathematical/scientific experience of space (both of which are considered to be actual) and the virtual space created by the plastic arts. We have seen her argue that

architecture is the creation of virtual space by treating actual space. Her position appears to assume that before

the building can be erected there must first be an actual space, perhaps referred to as the building site. This seems to be consonant with our own experience of architecture. Before a building is erected, a site must be chosen. If the

37 selected site is already occupied with a building, then that building must first be razed to clear the site for the new building. The suitability of the proposed site must include The architectural

important engineering considerations.

engineer will bring the abstractions of mathematics to bear upon this actual space, which is heterogeneously accessible to the several senses. However, Heidegger thinks that this When seen from the

vision of spatial reality is truncated.

perspective of ontology, the reverse is the case. For Heidegger, spaces receive their being from locations and not from space.101 The meanings of location and space here are in the context of Heideggers ontology. A location does not precede a building. The location occurs

with the building.102 Heideggers bridge could occupy any number of spots along the river but just one of them proves to be a location, and does so because of the bridge.103 Locations are constructed with the architecture. Locations allow for spaces to emerge. Doing an

etiological analysis of the word that designates space, in German, Raum, Rum, Heidegger finds that the word originally means a clearing: something that has been made room for,

something that is cleared and free, namely within a boundary.104 So, at bottom, the meaning of space is that Room and its space are

for which room has been created.105 created with the building.

The space and its boundaries are

38 gathered by the location, which is created by the building. All other meanings of space follow upon this one.

The intervening distances between locations can be regarded as mere positions between which lies a measurable distance.106 Distances between myself and mere positions

and between and among locations considered as mere positions can be understood as intervals of intervening space.107 The anonymity of the building grows when it is considered as bare position in its relation to other positions. A further abstraction occurs when the

mathematics of position, i.e., the geometries, are taken into account. analyzed. Only extensio and its internal relations are

Space as extension becomes, in Descartes phrase, It

letendue intelligible, a purely intelligible dimension. is itself a spaceless space. What these relations make room for is the possibility of the purely mathematical construction of manifolds with an arbitrary number of dimensions. The space provided for in this

mathematical manner may be called space, the one space as such. But in this sense the

space, space, contains no spaces and no places. We never find in it any locations, that are things of the kind the bridge is.108

39 The condition of the possibility of mathematical extension is the intervening space of simple position and the latters possibility is the space created, and gathered by architectural location. The primordial character of

Heideggers fundamental ontology becomes evident. To be human is to be always already in a world as one who dwells. Dwelling is a primordial, ontological condition of Dasein. All other forms of space are related to and derived from architectural space and not the converse.109 To be human is to always already participate in space in a primordial way. From the da of Dasein, it is known

that the human being is fundamentally in relation to space. A condition for an understanding of that which is far away or near at hand is the presence of Dasein in all space. Dasein radically pervades space. That which is spatially

remote is present to me by its remoteness (I know that it is remote) and in this sense I pervade the space of the remote.110 When I go toward the door of the lecture hall, I

am already there, and I am never here only, as this encapsulated body; rather, I am there, that is, I already pervade the room and only thus can I go through it.111

Summary of Comparisons between Langers and Heideggers Notions of Architectural Space

40 Langers notion of architectural space has important similarities to Heideggers view. Langers description of

architectural domain as a sphere of influence and as the creation of a human world is very similar to Heideggers analysis of architecture. Neither philosopher thinks that

architectural space is fragmented. They agree that architecture is not merely a collection of buildings each of which has its own spatial autonomy.112 On the contrary, Heideggers notion of gathering resembles Langers description of architectural domain. Heideggers

architectural gathering of mortals, earth, sky and divinities (for Langer, divinities occur in God dominated cultures) is reflected in Langers creation of architectural space into a human world -a human sphere of influence.

Both thinkers clearly distinguish the space that is created by architecture from other modes of space. Neither

thinker believes that architecture simply fills the space that the physicist and mathematician describe and can be entirely explained in terms of science and geometry. Heidegger, as we have seen, the space of physics and mathematics are abstracted from the architectural space of human dwelling which is ontologically primordial. Since Langer has no systematic ontology of space, the space of science and geometry are prior but not reducible to the artistic space created by architecture.113 If a building is For

41 razed, Langer seems to think that its architectural space is destroyed and the vacated spot reverts back to the quantitative dimensions of the site. For Heidegger, the

vacated spot has a primordial spatial, dwelling relationship with the rest of the human environment. The quantitative

aspects of the site are derivable from this fundamental human location. Langers treatment of architecture as a non-discursive, presentational symbol whose immediacy plunges us into a world allows her to describe architecture in terms of a nonabstract world. In this, she is aligned with Heidegger.

Since she does not explicitly pursue the ontological dimension of her logical position, her description of the priority of space over domain does not coincide with Heideggers priority of location over place. Heideggers Nonetheless,

notion of architecture as gathering is

consonant with Langers description of it as sphere of influence. An important question for Langer is: How do we know that architecture is an authentic expression of a cultures world? Putting it more broadly: How do we know that any

art is an adequate expression of human sentient, emotional life? What is the truth of art?

The Truth of Art in Langer


In what sense can we say that art reveals the truth? Both Heidegger and Langer agree that the truth of art has nothing to do with an artistic representation of the actual things in the world. A painting is not true because it The

resembles a model, a landscape or a bowl of fruit.

adaequatio, the matching of art object with actual things in the world does not account for the truth of art. Heidegger

asks, With what nature of what thing should a Greek temple agree? . . . What is pregiven to the poet, and how is it

given, so that it can then be regiven in the poem?114 Langer has comparable, rhetorical questions. Yet the idea of copying nature is not even applicable to all the arts. What does a building copy? On what given object does one model a melody?115 The questions remain: Does art have anything to

do with the truth and if so, what is the truth of art? Langers conclusion is that art is the non-discursive symbol of human sentient, emotional life. her fundamental definition of art. This serves as

An object will be

authentically artistic insofar as it falls within the scope of this definition. In this sense, art has its truth An object will be truly

established by the definition.

artistic if it is a non-narrative, non-practical, presentational articulation of human sense and feeling. appears that this notion of truth is grounded in the It

43 conformity of the art object with the conception (the definition). The verification of this conformity cannot, of course, be achieved by the structures of propositional logic. The

immediacy of non-discursive forms cannot be mediated by the language of discourse. Non-discursive symbols are not

consummated and, unlike discursive symbols, have no general meaning, are not subject to the principle of noncontradiction and do not affirm or deny anything. An art

object which is a non-discursive symbol cannot say something about human sense life and thereby fall under the definition. Artistic truth is verified by that which is consonant with sensate immediacy, by intuition. Aesthetic intuition

seizes the greatest form, and therefore the main import, at once; there is no need of working through lesser ideas and

serried implications first without a vision of the whole, as in discursive reasoning, where the total intuition of relatedness comes as the conclusion, like a prize.116 Langer thinks that intuition also occurs in discourse. When the

meaning of individual elements of the proposition is known and when the syntax is discerned, the meaning of the proposition is directly intuited. Unlike the aesthetic intuition, the immediacy of logical intuition is preceded and mediated by an understanding of the propositions

44 elements. Since it is not only difficult to isolate the

elements of a work of art but also impossible to bestow autonomous meaning on them, aesthetic intuition is directed to the work as a whole. Where discourse builds toward

intuitions, a work of art begins with an intuition of the whole presented feeling.117 In relegating the truth of art to intuition has Langer left arts authenticity in the undiscriminating hands of both the individual artist and the particular beholder of the art? On the contrary, Langer entrusts the truth of art The intuitions that

to the discerning insights of both.

have been prepared by an understanding of the artistic medium with a thorough sensitizing experience with it can

claim some measure of legitimacy in determining whether this work of art is true. The standard for this assessment still

remains whether or not the work of art is an appropriate presentational symbol of human sentient, emotional life. Art that does not meet that standard is bad art. It is bad

because it is not true to what a candid envisagement would have been.118 Relative to her definition of art, bad art

lacks the candor required by her definition of art. It is therefore corrupt art. Langer agrees with R. G.

Collingwoods position that corrupt art cannot be properly called error or lie, because error arises only on the higher level of intellect (discursive thinking), and lying

45 presupposes knowing better; but lack of candid vision takes effect on the deep level of imagination.119 Since it

is neither error, which can be corrected, nor lie, which can be retracted, corrupt art can only be repudiated and destroyed.120 Langers definition of art contains an unresolved ambiguity. She claims, on the one hand, that all art is

abstract in the sense that it is disengaged from any practical, actual functions. On the other hand, her

definition states that art elucidates actual sentient, emotional life. How can art, in truth, elucidate my actual sentient, emotional life?121 However, in some places she affirms that someone who has become sensitive to artistic forms is in a position not only to understand our actual inner life but also to shape our grasp of the external world. What Mr. Morgan says of drama may be said of any it

work that confronts us as a major aesthetic experience: makes a revelation of our inner life.

But it does more than

that -- it shapes our imagination of external reality according to the rhythmic forms of life and sentience, and so impregnates the world with aesthetic value.122 The

logical relationships between the illusory world of art which somehow impregnates the actuality of our actual inner experiences as well as the actual external world need clarification here.


Some commentators have sought the clarification in terms of the analogical status of the presentational symbol.123 When Langer remarks that music sounds the way

feelings move, she is claiming that the insight is delivered by the symbol through analogy and someone who is sensitive to music can intuit this meaning. Someone who is not only

sensitive but also creative may project this understanding through the composing of music. So, the presentational symbol is virtual, and non-actual but nonetheless real. The

artistic image is illusion only in the sense that it does not meet the requirements for actuality held by science and common sense.124 The notion of analogy raises important questions for Langer. If the element of likeness in the analogy is

through the formal structure of both feeling and presentational symbol, where does the form inhere? form inherent in the symbol and intuited there by the sensitive artist or beholder of art? Or is the form buried in the raw feeling itself, immediately recognized by the artist and creatively projected into the artistic image? Randall Auxier argues that Langers reliance on scientific verifiability and without a metaphysic, Langer cannot suitably respond to these questions.125 Is the

47 The ambiguity of artistic truth in Langer is the result of articulating an actual content (actual feeling) through a symbolism that is virtual, illusory and has nothing to do with the actuality. Heidegger does not have this problem,

because art, which he agrees is pure appearance, is not virtual but a manifestation of the truth of being.

Heidegger and the Truth of Art

In seeking the origin of art,126 Heidegger moves from the work of art to the possibility that the artwork is a thing. Moving quickly through the metaphysical analyses of the thing,127 he discovers that although the work of art is also a thing, it is not its thingness that constitutes its artistic nature. Together with the art works thingness is The work of art is, to be sure, a

its symbolic character.

thing that is made, but it says something other than the mere thing itself is, allo agoreuei. The work makes public

something other than itself; it manifests something other; it is an allegory. In the work of art something other is

brought together with the thing made. To bring together is, in Greek, sumballein. The work is a symbol.128 While acknowledging the symbolic character of art as a way for

its understanding, Heidegger does not directly pursue it.

48 His work predates that of Langer and so he cannot comment on the power of the non-discursive symbol as the distinguishing feature of art and as a significant way of grasping arts truth. Instead, Heidegger seeks an ontological foundation for art, not through arts thingly character but through an analysis of the work-being of the work of art. Taking Van Goghs painting of a pair of peasant shoes as his example, Heidegger explains that the essence of the difference between an actual pair of shoes and Van Goghs painting is that the actual pair of shoes is equipmental. The being of the shoes is used up in the reliability of their equipmental function. The peasant does not attend to her On the

shoes unless their reliability becomes problematic. contrary, the painted shoes are not used up.

Without being

equipment, the painting shows the equipmental being of the shoes. (In Langers terms, the sheer appearance -the

Schein and not the practical utility -their reality).

of the shoes is

For Heidegger, the ontologist, the truth of

the being of the peasant shoes, is unconcealed by the painting. Art is truth setting itself to work.129

Heidegger thinks that every revelation made by art is also a concealment because, by themselves, the color, stone, marble, etc. out of which the artwork is created are hidden by the art precisely as art. Scientific or everyday ways of

49 knowing these materials are not artistic and therefore not shown and concealed by the art. For Heidegger, any attempt to explicate art in abstract conceptual terms actually conceals art. Art is sensate and

the effort to penetrate it with thought leads away from the sensate into abstract constructs. shines and wants only to shine. For example, Color When we analyze it in It

rational terms by measuring its wavelengths it is gone. shows itself only when it remains undisclosed and

unexplained.130 Here art shows itself; its reality is found in the appearance. The struggle to illuminate art with

theoretical reflection may lead to philosophy, psychology or a science of art but it will hide art itself. Art remains undisclosed to reflection and therefore shows itself when it is unexplained Art issues from the earth. The earths material,

indeed the earth itself, is set forth in the work of art even as it hides itself. The setting forth of the earth is

achieved by the work as it sets itself back into the earth.131 But the truth of art is not only this selfconcealing disclosure of the earth. With the setting forth

of the earth comes the opening of the world. The world is not the world of cosmology.132 It is the

ontological world that is related primordially to Dasein. The being there of Dasein opens up a spaciousness that is

50 specifically related to Daseins work. work, makes space for that spaciousness A work by being a

It is through the work that a world is opened and sustained in that openness. The temple, for example, is a work that

opens and sustains the world that addresses our being for we are never beings without a world. The temple, as well as

any work, sets the paths of birth and death, blessing and curse [that] keep us transported into Being.134 This world is never an object135 that visibly stands before us. In opening a world through the work, all things gain their lingering and hastening, their remoteness and nearness, their scope and limits.136 It is through the work of Dasein

that we live and move and have our being and through the work we are always already in a world. The truth of the artwork is found in the tension (the rift)137 created by the earth and the world. The earth which

shelters and conceals even while it reveals and the world which is the clearing of openness138 establishes the wholesome rift in which truth plays itself out. Here is

where the truth of art: the truth of architecture, the painting, the sculpture, the dance the poem, and the like, reside. Besides art, many forms of work establish themselves and reside in the rift. How can art, which is not merely

made but created, be distinguished from these other

51 artifacts? Heideggers response is simple. Some artifacts

are created but their being created does not inherently define them. A special kind of hammer may be created but

its serviceability not its creativity is essentially disclosed by the hammer. An artistically created object has createdness as part of it.139 But in the work, createdness

is expressly created into the created being, so that it stands out from it, from the being thus brought forth, in an expressly particular way.140 In art, we should experience the createdness as intrinsic to the art object. The special place of the artwork in relation to truth is also unveiled in its distinction from the ordinary. In this sense, the experience is solitary, that is, disengaged from the routines of everydayness. to this displacement means: To submit

to transform our accustomed

ties to world and to earth and henceforth to restrain all usual doing and prizing, knowing and looking, in order to stay within the truth that is happening in the work.141 Although this statement falls within Heideggers ontological explanation of the truth of arts being, Langers experience of art as other and strange is strikingly similar to Heideggers. The decisive difference is that the

otherness that Langer recognizes in art is characterized as non-actual and illusory while Heidegger views this

52 solitary aspect of art as a special form revealing the truth of being. Without an ontology and relying on the verifiability of the truth of the symbol, Langer must struggle with questions about the truth of her presentational symbol. Heidegger

remaining within the historicity of the development of ontology regards truth in the context of the Greeks notion of the unveiling of the truth within being. Art, then is the revelation of the truth of being. Again, art is truth setting itself to work. Langers analysis of art breaks away from logicians such as Carnap and places her within reach of a Heideggerian ontology. Indeed many of the statements that she makes

about art are, by themselves, endorsed by Heidegger. Of course, unlike Heidegger, her statements are informed by logical principles. Her allegiance to logical parameters leads her into an essential paradox its greatest truth --arts illusion is

and prevents her from resolving it

in Heideggers truth of arts being.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Heidegger, Martin. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana University Press. 1982. _________________. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco, Ca. Harper and Row. 1962, _________________. The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. Translated by Michael Heim. Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana University Press. 1984. _________________. Discourse on Thinking. Translated by John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund. New York. Harper and Row. 1966. _________________. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York. Harper and Row. 1971. Langer, Susanne K. Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling. 3 vols. The John Hopkins Press. Baltimore. 1967. _________________. Feeling and Form. Charles Scribners Sons. New York. 1953. _________________. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachussetts. 1979. Articles Auxier, Randall. Susanne Langer on Symbols and Analogy: A Case of Misplaced Concreteness. Process Studies. Vol 26, No 1-2, Spring-Summer, 1997. 86-107, Baffard, Samuel. Susanne Langers Two Philosophies of Art, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol 31, Fall, 1972. 5-14.


Berndtson, Arthur. Aesthetics of Susanne Langer. Journal Of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol 14, No. 4. 485-492. Lachmann, Rolf. From Metaphysics to Art and Back: Relevance of Susanne K. Langer for Progress Metaphysics. Process Studies. Vol 26, No 1-2, Sring-Summer, 1997. 107-125. The



A Heideggerian Reading of the Philosophy of Art of Susanne K. Langer with Special Reference to Architecture

Although Martin Heidegger is an ontologist and Susanne Langer a logician, many statements that they make about art are strikingly similar. They agree that arts significance is in the art object and not the artists own experience of actual feeling or personal biography; that, though art is an object, it is not a thing and functions differently from things; that art is not only the creation of beauty but an expression of truth; that the truth of art is grasped through an intuitive, sentient immediacy rather than the structure of propositions; that propositions spoken in everydayness and through mathematical equations do not articulate what art is; that artistic space is essentially different from everyday space and mathematical space; that intrinsically, art has no utility; that architecture is the creation of a human world. While clearly acknowledging the distinctive differences between a logical and ontological perspective, this paper argues that a logical principle Langer proposes places her in a compatible relation with Heideggers ontology, that a Heideggerian ontology would resolve ambiguities that are inherent in her own theory of art and that their views on architecture display both significant similarities as well as dissimilarities in their conceptions of space.



1 Langer never openly criticized metaphysics. It has been suggested that Whiteheads metaphysics is implicit in her theory on signs and symbols. See Rolf Lachman, From Metaphysics to Art and Back: The Relevance of Susanne K. Langers Philosophy for Process Metaphysics, Process Studies 26:1-2 (Spring-Summer 1997): 119. That metaphysics is never exploited by Langer. She explicitly works in the philosophy of mind.


2 Langers discussion of decoration as the illusion of growth within the stability of the design is clearly based on the process within permanence of the biological organism. Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1953), 65-66. Hereafter referred to as FF. This organic structure of the several arts is constantly grounded in biological life throughout her Feeling and Form.

3 4 5 6 7 8

FF. 3. FF. 9. FF. 15. FF. 12-15. FF. 22.

The recognition of presentational symbolism as a normal and prevalent vehicle of meaning widens our conception of rationality far beyond the traditional boundaries, yet never breaks faith with logic in the strictest sense. FF. 97 9 In neither of her two major works on art, Philosophy in a New Key and Feeling and Form, does Langer make any mention of Martin Heidegger.
10 Langer explicitly includes Carnap, B. Russell and Wittgenstein here. Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1979): 83-84. Hereafter referred to as PNK

11 12

NK. 97. FF. 40. NK. 94-97. NK. 30-31. FF. 30. FF. 18 and NK 72, 60-61. FF. 18. FF. 23 and note on same page. NK. 73 and 81-82.










NK. 92.


Langer does not deny that actual feeling may accompany the experience of art because art is given directly to the senses and so may easily evoke emotion. Her point is that stimulation of emotion is not necessary for a genuine experience of art. FF. 28.

FF. 146-147. FF. 69. NK. 240-241. NK. 101.




26 This expression, moreover, is not symbolization in the usual sense of conventional or assigned meaning, but a presentation of a highly articulated form wherein the beholder recognizes, without conscious comparison and judgment but rather by direct recognition, the forms of human feeling: emotions, moods even sensations in their characteristic passage. FF. 82.


FF. 113. FF. 54. FF. 49. FF. 54. NK. 83. NK. 83. NK. 89. We shall see below that Heidegger fully supports this view. NK. 89. NK. 89.












NK. 89. NK. 90. NK. 89 NK. 90




41NK. 91.
42 Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Translated by Michael Heim (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 68. Hereafter referred to a MFOL.


MFOL. 68. MFOL. 69. MFOL. 69. MFOL. 216. MFOL. 101. MFOL. 127. MFOL. 143. MFOL. 135. MFOL. 166. MFOL. 127. MFOL. 127.











54 That towards which the subject transcends is what we call world. MFOL. 166.


55 Because this primordial being of Dasein, as surpassing, crosses over to a world, we characterize the basic phenomenon of Daseins transcendence with the expression being-in-the-world. MFOL. 166. Italics in text.


MFOL. 126. MFOL. 166.


58 Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art in Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 40. Hereafter referred to as OWA.


FF. 10. OWA. 23.


61 Or could it be that even the structure of the thing as thus envisaged is a projection of the framework of the sentence? OWA. 24.


OWA. 26.

63 The utility of equipments readiness-to-hand is discussed in: Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, seventh edition (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1962), 96-99. Hereafter referred to as BT.


OWA. 46. OWA. 34.


66 It even remains doubtful whether, in the essential definition of equipment, what the equipment consists of is properly described in its equipmental nature as matter. OWA. 48.

67 Heidegger explicitly recognizes how art can be regarded as beingon-hand as well as being present-to-hand: The picture hangs on the wall like a rifle or a hat. A painting, e.g., the one by Van Gogh that represents a pair of peasant shoes, travels from one exhibition to another. Works of art are shipped like coal from the Ruhr and coal from the Black Forest. During the First World War, Holderlins hymns were packed in the soldiers knapsack together with cleaning gear. Beethovens quartets lie in the storerooms of the publishing house like potatoes in a cellar. OWA. 19. When treated as mere things with no regard for their significant form, the paintings are not are not treated as art and their reality can be conceptualized and universalized. But


when they are regarded for their artistic value, both philosophers agree that their sensible appearance is their unique essence.
68 OWA. 46. To be sure, the sculptor uses stone just as the mason uses it, in his own way. But he does not use it up. That happens in a certain way only where the work miscarries. To be sure, the painter uses pigment but in such a way that color is not used up but only now comes to shine forth. To be sure the poet uses the word -- not however like ordinary speaker 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. OWA. 47-48.


FF. 46 FF. 49.


71 For Langer, this also explains the unreality of art or its distinction from non-artistic objects. Herein lies the unreality of art that tinges even perfectly real objects like pots, textiles and temples. FF. 50.

72 The harmoniously organized space in a picture is not experiential space, known by sight and touch, by free motion and restraint, far and near sounds, voices lost or re-echoed. It is an entirely visual affair; for touch and hearing and muscular action it does not exist. FF. 72.


FF. 73. FF. 386. FF. 386. OWA. 30. FF. 86. FF. 89. FF. 97. FF. 95. FF. 95.











FF. 95. FF. 96. FF. 96.



85 The architect creates its image: a physically present human environment that expresses the characteristic rhythmic functional patterns which constitute a culture. Such patterns are the alternations of sleep and waking, venture and safety, emotion and calm, austerity and abandon the tempo, the smoothness or abruptness of life; the simple forms of childhood and complexities of full moral stature, the sacramental and capricious moods that mark a social order, and that are repeated, though with characteristic selection, by every personal life springing from that order. FF. 96.

86 Here Langer entirely disagrees with Frank Lloyed Wrights oftenquoted phrase that form follows function. Functional efficiency does not sufficiently explain architectures artistic authenticity. FF. 93.


FF. 97. FF. 95.


89 Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking in Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 149-150. Hereafter referred to as BDT.


OWA. 42. BDT. 152-153. BDT. 152-153



93 What Langer says of architecture that has been inspired by strong religious communities, can easily be applied to a bridge in a bridge community. . . . the building dominates the community, and its outward appearance organizes the site of the town. FF. 98.


But on the earth already means under the sky. BDT. 149. FF. 97-98. BDT. 150.





BDT. 150. BDT. 151. FF. 90. FF. 98. Italics mine. BDT. 154. Italics in text. The location is not already there before the bridge is. BDT. 154. BDT. 154. Italics in text. BDT. 154.









BDT. 154. BDT. 155. BDT. 155. BDT. 155.




109 It is not that there are men, and over and above them space; for when I say a man, and in saying this word think of a being who exists in a human manner -- that is who dwells -- then by the name man I already name the stay within the manifold of things. BDT. 156. Italics in text.

110 In Being and Time, the bringing to proximity of that which is remote is a phenomenon of spatial deseverence. This phenomenon is primordially related to the fundamental ontology of being-in-the-world. BT. 142.


BDT. 157.

112 The world is not the mere collection of the countable or uncountable, familiar and unfamiliar things that are just there. OWA. 44.


113 Langers distinctions among the abstract homogeneity of mathematical space, the heterogeneous experience of everyday space, and the sensate homogeneity of artistic space is a reflected abstraction from the primordial condition of Dasein as always already dwelling in space. To say that I orientate myself in space through sight, smell, touch and the like assumes that there is an empty space with which I become familiar in a heterogeneously sensate way. But this empty space is a conceptual construct abstracted from the primordial dwelling in space of the human being.


OWA. 37. FF. 46. FF. 397.



FF. 379. FF. 381. Italics in text. FF. 381. FF. 381.




121 Langer generally emphasizes the non-actual, illusory character of all art. Each of the several arts has a primary illusion. Her language is often very emphatic about this point. For example, the space in which we live and act is not what is treated in art at all. FF. 72. And again, musical time is something radically different from the time in which our public and practical life proceeds. FF. 109.


FF. 399.

123 Randall Auxier, Susanne Langer on Symbols and Analogy: A Case of Misplaced Concreteness? Process Studies 26: 1-2 (Spring-Summer 1997): 86-105.

124 All forces that cannot be scientifically established and measured must be regarded, from the philosophical standpoint, as illusory; if, therefore such forces appear to be part of our direct experience, they are virtual, i.e. non-actual semblances FF. 188. See also: Illusion in art cancels the usual process of factual judgment and carries us beyond what is presented to our senses. Samuel Buffard, Susanne Langers Two Philosophies of Art, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 31 (Fall 1972): 11.



Auxier. Ibid.

99, 102


that from and by which something is what it is OWA. 17. OWA. 20-35. OWA. 19-20 OWA. 39. OWA. 47. OWA. 47. OWA. 44. OWA. 45. OWA. 44. OWA. 44. OWA. 45. OWA. 63. OWA. 61. OWA. 64. OWA. 65. OWA. 66.