Overcoming anthropocentrism: Heidegger on the heroic role of the works of art

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In this paper I argue that although Heidegger's Being and Time and 'The Origin of the Work of Art,' seem to deal with different topics, there is continuity between these two texts. In the latter Heidegger was trying to solve a central problem that arose in the former: how to account for authentic existence and at the same time overcome the anthropocentrism of traditional philosophy. In Being and Time Heidegger tries to overcome traditional philosophy, by redefining human existence in non-Cartesian terms. Yet, his treatment of the problem of the Self preserves one of the main tenets of that tradition: its anthropocentrism. This anthropocentrism is implicit in Dasein and further reinforced by the notion of the hero as the paradigm and channel of authentic existence. In 'The Origin of the Work of Art,' Heidegger solves that problem. Placing man at the periphery and the work of art at the centre of his endeavours, gives works of art a special status similar only to that of heroes. Works of art open up new horizons for generations to come by drawing in advance the paths for authentic behaviour. This shift is more than merely methodological. Heidegger overcomes not only the anthropocentrism of his previous analysis but also the instrumentality that derived from that anthropocentrism, thus revealing the essence of things.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-168
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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