Schelling and Paleolithic Cave Painting

Idealistic Studies 40 (1/2):103-115 (2010)
Abstract
My article utilizes the insights of F. W. J. Schelling’s work on aesthetics to explain the unique appeal of cave painting for people of the Upper Paleolithic,focusing mostly on the caves of Chauvet and Lascaux. Schelling argues that the unique value of artistic practices comes in the way they reconcile agents withtheir deepest ontological contradictions, namely, the tension between biological necessity and human freedom. I argue that the cave paintings of Chauvet andLascaux fit well with Schelling’s approach and his insight that art seeks to reveal the contradictory capacities of self-conscious beings in a state of fundamentalattunement rather than in discordance and disharmony. My contention is that in taking this approach, whereby aesthetic practices engender an intuition of theabsolute identity between nature and mind, we can better explain why the practice of cave painting endured for over twenty-thousand years as one common styleof artistic practice
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