Newsletter Issue:
Fall 2023

The Call of Essence: Reflections On Dr. George Smith’s Heidegger Lecture Series

By Nadia Quintin, Cohort ’23

Professor George Smith is founder of IDSVA and author of “The Artist-Philosopher and Poetic Hermeneutics." He held a three-part lecture series on Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. The following is a first year’s perspective on the lecture series.

From the onset of Dr. Smith greeting each student individually, a tone of being in the moment is set. 

Shortly after, He presents two artworks. The first lecture is set in the time of idealism: The Valpinçon Bather by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The composition of this work demonstrates the quintessence of form. The “Master of Line,” Dr. Smith points out. There is a mathematical construct to Ingres’s Bather– widely accepted and revered by many in the art world. One of those “many” includes Edgar Degas.                 

While having profound admiration for Ingres’s beautiful ability to manipulate the moment, Degas was naturally compelled to advance from this concept– arriving at “the capture” of the moment. This focus prioritizes the unfiltered and uninterrupted position of the object/ subject. Dr. Smith explains that these two artists are examples of the transition from phenomenology to hermeneutic phenomenology. 

Degas’s painting Danseuse (1874), presents a divarication of form. The lines are ascertainable yet transitory with no definitive beginning or end to the dancer and no indication of a compulsory pose. A respectful distance is felt between the artist and the subject. 

The second lecture in the series features an elaboration of how Heidegger frames spatiality as an arresting of the being in time, as it dwells in “ecstatic temporality.”

'Dancer', c1874. Degas, Edgar (1834-1917). Found in the collection of the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Ecstatic temporality becomes “moments of vision” as the object is about its subject. Phenomenological hermeneutics calls for the meaning of the description– for the way that being unrelentingly reveals itself. This is a revelation in which the artist creates the unanticipated while beauty happens. Its temporal nature exposes Western metaphysics’ concealment of a fundamental truth– the unmeasurable human being. 

The last lecture in the series explores this truth through The Singularity of The Poet written by Heidegger and inspired by the German poet, Friedrich Hölderlin.

Since Heidegger considers “language” as “the house of being,” the poet understands how to navigate in the space where subject and object are obviated- past the being and nothingness of metaphysics, where no mathematical determination is purposeful. 

The text, as interpreted by Dr. Smith, creates a space and place where Being births itself to “the word.” The poet’s “meanwhile” becomes the dwelling where one hearkens back to the crux of life, and as Dr. Smith said, “Listen for the call of your essence,”– the call of the artist-philosopher.

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