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Looking at the Sky: On Nature and Contemplation

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The essay focuses on human self-understanding as it arises from out of the experience of nature—the experience of a relatedness to nature that is at once a belonging in nature. At stake, then, is not a conceptual approach to the question of nature but rather the emergence of the human within the embrace of what presents itself as a mystery irreducible to the human, inhuman in the sense of other-than-human.

The experience of nature “hiding itself” (as Heraclitus said) gave rise to the longing for mastery (e.g., the rationalistic-scientific project) as well as to a celebration of the mystery in its wonder and beauty. The juxtaposition of Giordano Bruno's cosmological vision and Renaissance painting (Tiziano Vecellio, Raphaël, and Leonardo da Vinci) illuminates this latter perspective, disclosing mystery not so much as that which would lie beyond appearances, but as that which inhabits appearances and in them becomes manifest as such.

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