New Course Next Semester: Introduction to Phenomenology

I’m excited that I will be teaching a new course here at the University of Mary next semester (Spring 2022) called the Introduction to Phenomenology. Here is the blurb.

Introduction to Phenomenology (Dr. Venable), Spring 2022

Are you interested in studying philosophy from the ground up? Do you want to test how much you can learn about the human and the world just by reflecting on everyday experiences? Are you curious about the philosophy behind the theology of the body movement? 

This course will explore the roots, the approach and the application of the philosophical movement of phenomenology. To uncover its roots, we will begin by looking at the pre-phenomenological themes in Aristotle’s Metaphysics and by gaining an overview of transcendental phenomenology found in Husserl. Next, we will learn about the approach by testing it out ourselves! Each student will choose a specific personal experience (such as driving a car, brushing one’s teeth, or playing an instrument) and reflect phenomenologically on it. Paired with this project, we will consider key writings on phenomenological approaches (including Engelland, Sokolowski, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger). Lastly, we will turn to applications of phenomenology as seen in the themes of the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II and in other works of modern ethicists.

Heidegger and Poesy

Heidegger considers poetry to be the pinnacle of all art forms because it most accurately illustrates the essence of art. He views art as fundamentally concerned with setting-into-work of truth (i.e. bringing to light truth), and he believes that poetry is best able to perform this function. Poetry sets-into-work truth with superiority, because it is able to use language to show truth. The linguistic nature of poetry makes it stand apart from all other genres of art and, in Heidegger’s opinion, gives it a “privileged position in the domain of the arts”[ref]Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Philosophies of Art & Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, eds. Albert Hofstadter and Richard Kuhns (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1976), 695.[/ref] Other art forms can still set to work truth, when they contain the essence of poetry, which Heidegger calls poesy, but they cannot reach the level of articulation that poetry is able to obtain. Poesy technically means the art of making poetry, so other arts, though they are not poetry, can still be created according to poetic principles. These poetic principles are focused on the projection of truth. Thus, all forms of art can be traced back to poetry through the notion of poesy, as Heidegger relates, “If all art is in essence poetry, then the arts of architecture, painting, sculpture, and music must be traced back to poesy.”[ref]Ibid.[/ref]

It is unfortunate that Heidegger did not explore this notion of poesy further in his analysis of other art forms. Perhaps, through such exploration, the value of other art forms would become more explicit. Abstract music, for example, is one such art form, which jumps out as having a unique type of poesy; its message is often as loud as poetry if not louder, depending on the person and circumstances. In one sense, abstract music does not have the linguistic characteristic of poetry, and yet, in other sense, it can speak through a language all its own. It can express human emotions in a deep sense; emotions, which may not even be expressible in words. Such depth of feeling needs to be accounted for in art and while poetry proper certainly can describe and elicit such deep feelings, there also needs to be space for art forms to describe and elicit feelings incapable of being articulated in human language. Poesy may be the foundation for the art forms, but the manner in which poesy is displayed varies, making each art form play a different role in the setting-into-work of truth.