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Fantastic Things: Critical Notes Toward A Social Ontology of the Arts

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image of Philosophia Reformata

Future historians will note many parallels between the 1930s and the 1990s in Europe and North America. Both decades appear to be times of dramatic cultural upheaval and societal transformation. Indeed, many of the battles fought over capitalism, democracy, and cultural modernism in the 1930s have returned in recent struggles over a global economy, the welfare state, and cultural postmodernism. Hence it may be instructive for contemporary Christian scholars to revisit the seminal texts of European philosophy in the 1930s. Cultural theorists have long recognized the significance of Martin Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” both as a turning point in his own thinking and as a fundamental challenge to modern aesthetics. Presented as lectures in 1935-36 and first published in German in 1950, the essay develops a conception of artistic truth that breaks entirely with Kantian divisions among epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. Much less recognized, even among his students and followers, is the significance of Herman Dooyeweerd’s discussion of art from around the same time.3 First published in Dutch in 1936 and then revised and republished in English in 1957, Dooyeweerd’s discussion presents a conception of the artwork that reconfigures the Kantian divisions discarded by Heidegger.


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