The Life of Things, the Love of Things

The Life of Things, the Love of Things

Translated by Murtha Baca
Timothy C. Campbell series editor
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Life of Things, the Love of Things
    Book Description:

    From prehistoric stone tools, to machines, to computers, things have traveled a long road along with human beings. Changing with the times, places, and methods of their production, emerging from diverse histories, and enveloped in multiple layers of meaning, things embody ideas, emotions, and symbols of which we are often unaware. The meaning of "thing" is richer than that of "object," which is something that is manipulated with indifference or according to impersonal technical procedures. Things also differ from merchandise, objects that can be sold or exchanged or seen as status symbols. Things, in the philosophical sense, are nodes of relationships with the life of others, chains of continuity among generations, bridges that connect individual and collective histories, junctions between human civilizations and nature. Things incite us to listen to reality, to make them part of ourselves, giving fresh life to an otherwise suffocating interiority. Things also reveal the hidden aspect of a "subject" in its most secret and least explored side. Things are the repositories of ideas, emotions, and symbols whose meaning we often do not understand. In an unexpected but coherent journey that includes the visions of classic philosophers from Aristotle to Husserl and from Hegel to Heidegger, along with the analysis of works of art, Bodei addresses issues such as fetishism, the memory of things, the emergence of department stores, consumerism, nostalgia for the past, the self-portraits of Rembrandt and Dutch still-lifes of the seventeenth century. The more we are able to recover objects in their wealth of meanings and integrate them into our mental and emotional horizons, he argues, the broader and deeper our world becomes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6446-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-48)

    With a salutary distancing effect, I shall begin by presenting several texts of a literary nature, deliberately chosen from the remote past. These texts will help us understand the genesis of our habitual relationships with things by reviving our memory of the sensation that we experience every time that, as we are waking up, we perceive the objects around us in an as yet unfocused way. At that moment, the things we see, deprived of their usual attributes, reveal themselves to be susceptible to being clothed in those multiple layers of meaning, layers of which they will subsequently be stripped...

    (pp. 49-90)

    We are surrounded by an innumerable variety of objects that saturate our daily existence and are waiting to be understood, depending upon where our interests lie. These objects have diverse physiognomies, and each one demands that it be considered singly, according to a special sort of Linnaean taxonomy:

    In the form of technological objects, of consumer goods, of personal effects, of house hold furnishings and items, of the street and the city, or in the more ambiguous guise of artistic objects or marginal, obsolete presences, objects proliferate out of all proportion in every aspect of our life. Products are exchanged,...

    (pp. 91-116)

    An excellent example of how art not only maintains the secondary qualities of objects but also transforms them into things is found in still-life painting,¹ particularly in seventeenth-century Netherlandish art.²

    In the art of the seventeenth-century Netherlandish masters, mimetic and illusionistic realism is extreme and refined, but it does not exhaust the meaning of the painting. Beneath their material covering of canvas, wood panel, images, and colors, the things depicted in these paintings conceal precise and encoded symbolic values—and, by their very nature, symbols connect what is visibly represented to what is invisibly absent; thus grapes allude to the...

  6. NOTES
    (pp. 117-134)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 135-136)