For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Poetry, Language, Thought

by Heidegger, Martin (1971)


Poetry, Language, Thought collects Martin Heidegger's pivotal writings on art, its role in human life and culture, and its relationship to thinking and truth. Essential reading for students and anyone interested in the great philosophers, this book opens up appreciation of Heidegger beyond the study of philosophy to the reaches of poetry and our fundamental relationship to the world. Featuring "The Origin of the Work of Art," a milestone in Heidegger's canon, this enduring volume provides potent, accessible entry to one of the most brilliant thinkers of modern times.

Key Passage

[Extract from: The Origin of the work of Art]-We think  of  creation  as  a bringing  forth.  But  the  making  of  equipment, too, is a bringing forth.  Handicraft—a  remarkable play of  language—does  not,  to  be  sure,  create  works, not  even  when  we  contrast,  as we must, the  handmade with the  factory product. But  what  is  it  that  distinguishes  bringing  forth  as  creation from bringing  forth  in  the  mode  of  making?  It  is  as  difficult  to  track  down the  essential  features of the  creation of works and the  making of equipment  as it  is easy to  distinguish  verbally between  the  two  modes  of  bringing  forth.  Going  along with first appearances we  find the  same procedure  in the  activity of potter  and sculptor, of joiner  and painter.  The  creation of a work  requires  craftsman-ship. Great  artists  prize  craftmanship  most  highly.  They  are  the  first to  call for its painstaking cultivation,  based on complete mastery. They above all others constantly strive to educate themselves ever  anew  in  thorough  craftsmanship.  It  has  often  enough  been  pointed out that the Greeks, who knew quite a bit about works of art, use  the  same word  techne for  craft  and  art and call the  crafts-man and the  artist by the same name:  technites. It thus seems advisable to define the nature of creative work in terms of its craft aspect.  But reference to the linguistic usage of the  Greeks, with their experience of the  facts, must give us pause. However usual and convincing the references may be to the Greek practice of naming craft and art by the same name, techne, it nevertheless  remains oblique  and  superficial;  for  techne signifies  neither  craft nor art, and not  at all the technical in our present-day sense; it never means a kind of practical performance. The word techne denotes rather a mode of knowing. To know means to  have seen, in the widest sense of seeing, which means to apprehend what is present,  as such. For Greek thought the nature of knowing consists in aletheia, that is, in the uncovering of beings. Techne,  as knowledge experienced in the  Greek manner, is a bringing  forth  of  beings  in  that  it  brings forth  present  beings  as  such  beings  out of concealedness  and  specifically   into  the  unconcealedness of their  appearance; techne never signifies  the  action of making. The  artist is a technites not  because he is also a craftsman,  but  because  both  the  setting  forth  of  works  and  the  setting  forth  of  equipment  occur  in  a  bringing  forth  and  presenting  that  causes beings in the  first  place to  come  forward  and  be present in  assuming  an  appearance.  Yet  all  this  happens  in  the  midst  of the  being  that  grows  out  of  its  own  accord,  phusis. Calling  art  techne  does  not  at  all imply  that  the  artist's  action  is seen in the  light  of  craft.  What looks like craft in the creation of a work is of a different  sort.  This doing  is determined  and  pervaded  by the nature  of creation, and indeed  remains contained within that creating. What  then,  if  not  craft,  is  to  guide  our  thinking  about  the  nature  of creation? What  else than  a view of what  is to  be  created:  the  work?  Although  it  becomes  actual  only  as the  creative  act  is  performed,  and  thus  depends  for  its  reality  upon  this  act,  the  nature  of creation  is determined  by the  nature  of the work.  Even  though the work's createdness has a relation to creation, nevertheless both  createdness and creation must be defined  in terms of the work-being  of the work. And  now  it  can no  longer  seem  strange  that  we  first  and  at length  dealt with  the  work  alone, to  bring  its  createdness into view only at the end. If createdness belongs to the work  as  essentially  as the  word  "work"  makes  it  sound,  then  we  must  try to  understand  even more  essentially what  so  far could  be  defined  as the work-being  of the work. (p.57)


Poetry, Heidegger, Art, Aesthetics, Culture, Artwork, Artist, Poetry, Twentieth Century


The Origin of the Work of Art [1936], Poetry, Language, Thought, Heidegger Citations

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