Herder and Daoism on Touching the Spirit of Sculpture

In Gregory S. Moss (ed.), The Being of Negation in Post-Kantian Philosophy. Springer Verlag. pp. 181-190 (2022)
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Abstract

This chapter examines the sculptural aesthetics of Johann Herder and Chinese Daoism. Herder’s thesis that sculpture presents “forms in which the living soul animates the entire body” might have changed the way Europeans viewed the plastic arts, but Daoism had already discovered this “truth” two millennia earlier. What is common to both Herder and Daoism is the argument that sight inherently falls short when it comes to knowing the possibility of human experience. As sight lacks the tactile sensation of touch, and sculpture is an artform created by the hands, it falls to spirit to convey what our eyes cannot feel and our hands cannot see. What the sculptor shapes is thus not the human imagination but the spirit of Nature, a shaping that in reality never departs from the hidden ground of the soul.

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David Chai
Chinese University of Hong Kong

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