Immanent Transcendence in the Work of Art: Heidegger and Jaspers on Van Gogh

In Van Gogh Among the Philosophers: Painting, Thinking, Being. Lanham: pp. 137 – 158 (2017)
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This paper applies Karl Jaspers’ and Martin Heidegger’s accounts of transcendence to their descriptions of Van Gogh’s art. I will contrast Jaspers’ more vertical account of immanent transcendence to Heidegger’s horizontal one. This difference between their separate understandings of transcendence manifests itself in their estimations of the significance of Van Gogh’s art. Using phenomenology to understand Van Gogh’s art in light of immanent transcendence, moreover, illuminates a new understanding of transcendence as the ‘beyond’ that is always already here in the immanent and reveals the ability of an object to point beyond itself. Both of these concepts are at work in Van Gogh’s art as well as modern art in general as the expansion of reality through new sight. Immanent transcendence and Van Gogh’s art are different but interconnected ways of rethinking experience beyond the limits of positivism and the myth of the given. Van Gogh’s art thus embodies a sensible world transformed. In particular, Van Gogh’s landscapes and still life series suggest the inexhaustibility of the things we so often overlook in our everyday experience.

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Rebecca Longtin
State University of New York, New Paltz


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