Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Heidegger and Sponge Bob Square Pants

In a final comment in an article on labor in Australia, we find an unrelated, but utterly profound comment on the true significance of Sponge Bob Square Pants through the lens of Heidegger:
Science is a wonderful thing, is it not? According to the latest research, the origin of the human species is to be found at the bottom of the sea, not in an octopus's garden, but in a sponge bed. So Sponge Bob Square Pants is more than just a cartoon. Heidegger was right: In art, the truth.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something all may enjoy if you have never seen this. Monty Python's International Philosophy skit


7:25 PM  
Anonymous Nathan said...

It's disappointing that one had to wade through so much political nonsense to get to something that was actually worth reading.

On that note, however, to what relevance does Heidegger suppose In art, the truth? Art as being?

I tend to see art as metaphor, and I am quite persuaded to suggest that, art, as metaphor confuses being (as art) of Da-sein with Da-sein. (I hope this makes sense)

Nathan (MQ Phil; Heidegger and Language)

12:44 AM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...


I'm ahead of you by about a year, but thanks. After I put that up, I think it was one of the top hits of my blog, though not so much nowadays.


That is the typical Platonic view, but Heidegger takes a different approach. In "Origin of the Work of Art" (in Poetry, Language, Thought and Basic Writings), Heidegger argues that the primary function of art is to disclose worlds (i.e. the world of the peasant woman's shoes) or truth (simply to bring beings to light in their being).

As you might have gathered from Being and Time, Heidegger is using truth in a different way than traditionally understood. If "'[b]eing-true' ('truth') means being-uncovering" (B&T, 262-269/H219-226), then the work of art uncovers many things--worlds (Greek temples), colors and textures (for more 'abstract' art), etc. If you ever get to studying Merleau-Ponty, he uses the works of the great artists (like Cezanne) to illuminate the structures of perception; how the artists saw things about perspective and perception that took the non-artists hundreds of years, like the reflection in the eyes as indications of life and the non-geometrical view we have of pictures at an angle.

We could also extend this to literature, which is perhaps among the ultimate exemplifications of the concept of 'world.' As Ricoeur argues, the writer must have a good grasp of the world of which they are writing and in which they dwell, both for the construction of a plot and the construction of a believable plot. He even argues that the more realistic works (i.e. non-science fiction or fantasy) are better illustrations of the principle of identity than the large majority of 'thought experiments' in modern philosophy (see "Narrative Identity," Philosophy Today, 35/1 (1991), 73-81).

We have a lot to learn from art and it is too bad that it is not more central to philosophy as a whole. On a related note, I've noticed that practically every writer I've ever found interesting had more than a nominal interest in art and literature.

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comments above remind me of the following from Vincent Scullys' preface to the 1969 Revised Edition of:

The Earth, The Temple, and The Gods..Greek Sacred Architecture

" I am grateful to the readers of this book, whose interest has occasioned a paperback edition, and to its reviewers for the generosity with which it has almost universally been received.

'It is not easy to set aside firmly seated preconceptions in order to look at old material with fresh eyes-hardest of all to face facts which, if true, are so obvious and simple that they should patently have been recognized long before.' (My emphasis)

Many scholars have apparently been willing to extend such recognition now. This is not the place to take issue with those who may have been unprepared to do so. The reader interested in polemic is referred to my letter in the 'The Art Bulletin, 46 (March, 1964). Still, a serious problem of method apparently exists here for those classical archaeologists who were trained to catalogue data according to positivistic criteria based upon a contemporary or, more likely, a nineteenth-century model of reality. Landscape shapes, for example, simply do not exist for them artistically in other than picturesque terms. Hence they are blind to their sculptural forms and insensitive to their iconography, and so can neither trace their series nor assess their meaning for the Greeks. There is nothing strange in this. Human beings perceive pragmatically only within a framework of symbolic prefiguration. For this reason the human eye always needs to be trained and released to see the meaning of things. It can usually focus intelligently only upon what the brain has already imagined for it, and it faithfully reflects the timidity of that culture-bound, sometimes occluded, organ.

Modern cultured has little connection with the earth--or, rather, normally fails to perceive a connection with it. But for the Greeks the earth embodied divinity. We, on our part, must make the effort of historical imagination that is required if our eyes are to see according to some dim approximation of the Greeks' inner no less than their outer light."

9:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...


Nice quote. Might I suggest, as an addition to that work, Tim Ingold's The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill? Ingold stands prominently as one of the most important anthropologists of the last century. His works are extensive, his interests are inter-disciplinary, and, best of all, he's familiar with and integrates Heideggerian phenomenology into his anthropology. :o)

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Formerly Anon,...

Related, I hope, to the current observations concerning the nature (real origin) of things:

I began the study of ancient Greek about 7 years ago on what is still a casual basis. It has and still intrigues me how certain words are feminine & others masculine in their ending while at the same time not having an obvious or on the surface connection to male-female. Somewhere deep down I have the conviction that those endings indicating a 'grammatical' gender have their roots in some kind of reality; grounded in some real down to earth perception about things. Those who instruct in this language seem to always say,
"Forget about it...that's just the way it is; some are feminine, some are masculine" ...meaning, of course, that their recommendation is to not attach any kind of significance to the fact, for instance, that the word for field (hO the AGROS field) is masculine, yet, the word for the marketplace is feminine (hH the AGORA market). ?? Any insight or thoughts on this conundrum ?

Virgil Newkirk

9:52 PM  

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