The Empathetic Apprehension of Artifacts: A Husserlian Approach to Non-figurative Art

in Research in Phenomenology
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Abstract

In his Ideas II, Husserl interprets the apprehension of cultural objects by comparing it to that of the human “flesh” and “spirit.” Such objects are not just “bodies” (Körper) to which a sense is exteriorly added, but instead they are, similarly to human bodies (Leiber), entirely “animated” by a cultural meaning. In fact, this is not just an analogy for Husserl, since, in several of his later notations, he comes to show that cultural objects are actually understood as such by means of an apperception employing empathy, as sediments of subjective acts and performances. Understood as cultural objects, images also point towards a previous subjective doing, and it is precisely by grasping this “pointing” that we comprehend them in their proper significance as artifacts. In my paper, I would like to explore the nature and forms of this empathic “pointing,” focusing on the possible use of Husserl’s conception for an interpretation of non-figurative art.

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