Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stein on the Practical Knowledge of the Artist

If we now examine more closely what happens on the part of the artist, we find--as was emphasized earlier--that the "emergence" of the "idea" is more in the nature of receiving than of creation.... The human intellect does not call ideas into Dasein; it calls works into Dasein which it fashions upon the model of ideas. We are then dealing with a special kind of knowledge, a comprehension of "meaningful forms" [Sinngebilde] which "manifest" themselves to the intellect and stimulate its activity. But these forms do not manifest themselves immediately in full clarity and intelligibility but rather in a veiled and indistinct manner. Therefore, the first operation which the mind is required to perform is a purely intellectual one, namely, that of making the idea stand out clearly. And for a "genuine" or "true" work of art it is of the utmost importance that nothing be done aimlessly or capriciously lest the inner organic laws of the formal structure be disturbed by any arbitrary additions, omissions, or distortions.

When we say that this purely intellectual operation must come "first," we do not mean to imply that this operation must be completed before the work of execution can begin. Rather, the clarification takes place step by step during and concomitantly with the execution of the work, so that the expression "practical knowledge" applies here in a true and literal sense.

Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, ICS Publications (Washington, DC: 2002), pp. 301-302.


  1. Catherine Hodge8:02 AM

    Can you define "Dasein"? Is it a German word?

  2. branemrys8:20 AM

    It is indeed a German word. It means 'existence', but it's a bit more charming than that, since it literally means 'being-there' ('Da', there, and 'Sein', being). It's a quasi-technical term in philosophy, not so much in the sense that it has a technical meaning as in the sense that it has a lot of associations with more technical philosophy, especially the phenomenological tradition in which Stein was education; this is why, I suspect, the translators didn't translate it but just left it standing.


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