On the Ground of Images: Sacred Dogs and Monstrous Truth

Research in Phenomenology 49 (1):49-64 (2019)
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Abstract

The article takes up the question of the “truth” of images by means of a somewhat playful reflection upon our human kinship with canine life and by considering the recurrent images of dogs of all shapes and sizes within the philosophical tradition. Here there is occasion to consider both Socrates and Confucius, who had a special fondness for dogs and who were at times compared to dogs themselves. The paper begins with a reading of Kant’s schematism in the First Critique, as an operation that would establish a mediating relation between the concepts of the understanding and sensible intuitions, and ends with a meditation upon the dog-themed painting, “Dark Room,” by the contemporary artist, Alan Loehle. Kant accounts for our ability to grasp that we see a dog by introducing a mysterious distortional skewing or Verzeichnung, which as a power of the imagination is able to freely sketch what appears for it within the sensible. The sense of this Kantian skewing or sketching thereby anticipates what Heidegger names the essential Verunstaltung belonging originally to the event of truth. The last half of the paper turns to Jean-Luc Nancy’s difficult but provocative work on the abysmal ground of images and attempts to show in this way how our human kinship with canine life exposes us to what Nancy would think, following Heidegger, as the elemental strife between earth and sky.

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Peter A. Warnek
University of Oregon

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