Aesthetic Perception

“The artistic process shares with the creative process of nature the characteristic of rendering things visible, causing them to appear. Merleau-Ponty laid great stress on this idea: ‘Art no longer imitates things; it makes things visible. It is the blueprint of the genesis of things. Paintings show how things become things and how the world becomes a world . . . how mountains become, in our view, mountains.’ Painting makes us feel the presence of things: the fact that ‘things are here.’ ‘When Cézanne strives after depth,’ continues Merleau-Ponty, ‘what he’s really seeking is the combustion of being.'”

“The experience of modern art thus allows us to glimpse—in a way that is, in the last analysis, philosophical—the miracle of perception itself, which opens up the world to us. Yet we can only perceive this miracle by reflecting on perception, and converting our attention. In this way, we can change our relationship to the world, and when we do so, we are astonished by it. We break off ‘our familiarity with the world, and this break can teach us nothing other than the unmotivated surging forth of the world.’ At such moments, it is as if we were seeing the world appear before our eyes for the first time.” – Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 256


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