Schlemiel Theory has a great interest in the work of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (especially his work on the aesthetics, ethics, and idolatry). The tension between Levinas’ two takes on art should be of great importance to anyone working in Jewish philosophy, aesthetics, and ethics and should be explored in depth. Take a look at this blog post by Professor Zachary Breiterman which takes a step in that direction. What is the relationship of art to the world. Does it enhance it? What is world for Levinas?
Reading Existence and Existents by Emmanuel Levinas, I stumbled across this neat little bit about art in the chapter on “Existence without a World.” This is a 1947 text, written right after the war, and before, it seems, the turn by the philosopher to more systematic conceptualizations of alterity and ethics, and before what might be construed as a flat and programmatic iconoclasm (i.e. the stereotypical blather about “idolatry”). The chapter starts out with the statement, “In our relationship with the world we are able to withdraw from the world” (p.45). Paintings, statues, books, cinema are all objects of “our world, but through them the things represented are extracted from our world.” Colors detach from things. The particular is allowed to exist apart (pp.46,-8 emphasis in the original).
The particular has a unique status in modern art (at the time of writing, he calls it “contemporary”). “From a space without…
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