Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Braver, Lee. Review of Iain D. Thomson, HEIDEGGER, ART AND POSTMODERNITY. NDPR (July 2011).

Thomson, Iain D.  Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity.  Cambridge: CUP, 2011.

Heidegger is the focal point of the history of continental philosophy. He gathers together the movements before him -- transcendental idealism, existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics -- and profoundly influences those that follow -- post-structuralism, the Frankfurt school, postmodernism. It is the last of these that Iain Thomson writes about in his excellent new book, Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity, using the topic of art to mutually illuminate Heidegger's later writings and postmodernity. More than just tracing a line of influence, Thomson uses Heidegger's later work to critique certain problematic aspects of postmodernism (i.e., the philosophical movement) which can then provide a "meaningful postmodernity" (p. 1) (i.e., the period following the present one).

Thomson tells his readers at the outset that he has difficulty placing himself in the contemporary division of philosophy between analytic and continental thinkers. As someone who has also tried to defy or "bridge" this divide, I find works like this extremely heartening. Thomson's explanations of Heidegger's difficult later works are unfailingly clear, carefully laying out the arguments and explaining all technical terms. Furthermore, the book's organization guides the reader so smoothly through the steps of his discussion that it should make knee-jerk objections about Heideggerian obscurantism much harder to make. . . .


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