Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 44 (2):201 – 222 (2001)
Beginning with his work in the mid-1930s, Heidegger's later thought is generally considered to pose severe interpretative difficulties, even for those well acquainted with Being and Time. It is often claimed that his later thought either defies reconstruction because of its arcane nature or that it should not be reconstructed because doing so compromises its subtleties. It is argued that this 'availability problem' with Heidegger's later thought is not insurmountable, at least not with regard to one of its major strands, his views on the relation of art to truth. An interpretation of 'The Origin of the Work of Art' is proposed that views its major arguments as extensions of Heidegger's view on truth and the nature of worlds in Being and Time. To this end, a new account of the relationship of two pairs of terms crucial to the understanding of the ontological significance of the work of art and its truth is offered: (a) 'earth' and 'world' and (b) 'concealment' and 'un-concealment'. What emerges is a Kant-like claim that a necessary condition for the possibility of worlds is that things stand to be taken up into worlds in virtue of a character they have abstracted from their involvements in any one world. Artworks, if they are 'true' art, show this by allowing the thing that they are to support a wide range of possible understandings, displaying the fact that no one set of understandings can exhaust the 'thingly' nature of the work. In addition to clarifying that aspect of Heidegger's account of truth that requires un-concealment to depend on residual concealment, this understanding of the structure of the artwork accounts for the power Heidegger ascribes to certain art to inaugurate worlds. I conclude by making some suggestions, against the background of the interpretation of the art essay, on how to understand the 'turn' in Heidegger's thought as a deepening inquiry into the nature of truth.
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