Form follows Function


This is my English Abstract to aid in the organization of my thoughts and citations for the art theory paper I am writing for professor Martin Klebes. There is very little secondary source information for ANY of these three texts: “Das Ding” [The Thing] Martin Heidegger, “Zür Ästhetik: Der Henkle” [About Aesthetics: The Handle] Georg Simmel, and “Ein Alter Krug” [An old Jug] Ernst Bloch, let alone much interpretation of them in English. I hope that this gives further academic accessibility to the philosophical angle of the art theory of these texts.

Outpouring of purposeful action from the mind of the mortal to the earth, like watering seeds in the interest of growing food, is a continuous process of survival. Mortals have a definite will to live, which is exemplified through creating physical objects, using the materials of the given earth to mold useful tools for the service of themselves. Post-modern philosophy sought ontological explanations through examining the examinable; physical objects, which are purposed by man, give insight to man’s nature and therefore, purpose. Conceptualizing the use of a jug, through bringing forth an awareness of it’s very essential meaning as a tool of man, Martin Heidegger, Georg Simmel, and Ernst Bloch present the aesthetic and functional concepts of the jug, such as it’s origination, use and understanding, to rationally articulate the theoretical force, which objects in general have on the metaphysical analysis of mortals.

Along the same investigative ideology as Martin Heidegger, as a principally structural ontologist, the division of the theoretical force of the jug in to the framework of origination, use and understanding is necessary to rationally articulate the phenomenon between man and his tools, and thereby, man and his worldly development. Worldly development, in which man establishes a physical infrastructure, is presupposed by man’s will to live, and is supplemented by the Nietschien “Will to Power,” encouraging man towards development due to innate interests, as well as psychologically orienting desires to improve their status socially. The desire towards social development is fundamental to the posited ideologies, based in form and function. The will to live and the Will to Power are a priori to the origination of objects in general, and represent a metaphysical analysis of man, which is supplemented by a deeper interrogation of the objects, with which man lives.

Interrogation of objects is an ontological endeavor, seeding from the metaphysical analysis of human life overall. Citing mortals themselves as the greatest link between man and the understanding of himself in relation to the greater, metaphysical world, Heidegger posits that the path to discovering the self is structurally integrated, through the analysis of what the self is, and which elements are entangled with it. His most famous work, “Being and Time” (1927) substantiates his position, through delineating that man lives in the world with both other mortals, and creates and uses objects in the world. Because of being created by man, rather than from a metaphysical phenomenon, objects are interrogated objectively, to achieve a greater understanding of the origin of man’s knowledge.

Heidegger’s essay, “Das Ding” (1950) oriented the awareness of an object, the jug, towards its usefulness by the mortal. Heidegger problematizes the nearness (Nähe) of objects, as being undescriptive of what the object is. In a Heideggarian structuralist way, the ontic perspective of what an object is, is exemplified by the analysis of the jug, having sides, and functioning as a container. Immediately following the jug’s conceptualization as a container, Heidegger states, “Der Krug ist nicht Gefaß, weil er hergestellt wurde, sondern der Krug mußte hergestellt werden, weil er dieses Gefaß ist.” (160) This initiates the structural analysis of an object, the jug, through it’s origination. Heidegger splits origination in to a twofold standing (ein zweifaches Her-Standes); Firstly, the object has been made, and secondly, “das Her-Stehen im Sinne des Hereinstehens des Hervorgebrachten in die Unverborgenheit des schon Anwesenden.” (160) This is to be interpreted as, the standing-forth of an object in light of what already existed. Through ein zweifaches Her-Standes, the jug is conceptualized as a vessel which is originated from an already existing necessity for a vessel, and the physical making of the jug in to a vessel. Heidegger states that the potter, who makes the jug, is actually making a vessel, confirming the presumption that, for Heidegger, an object’s understanding is found initially in it’s origination.

Heidegger then approaches the use of the jug, calling this the thingliness of an object (Dinghafte des Dings). “Die Leere faßt in zweifacher Weise: nehmend und behaltend.” (164) The taking and keeping of the jug is another zweifaches Her-Standes, which relates to the use of the jug as both something to collect water (or wine, or any other liquid) and something to pour water for mortals. This outpouring is known by Heidegger as a gift (das Geschenk), which he explains as a simple connection between the Gods, mortals, earth and sky, “Im Geschenk des Gusses weilt die Einfalt der Vier.” (166) It is through the jugs use, its outpouring, its gift to the mortals, from the earth and from the gods, that the fourfold (das Geviert) is simultaneously involved. Answering the question of how the theoretical force of an object is rationally articulated, Heidegger ends his essay with the statement, “Nur was aus Welt gering, wird einmal Ding.” (175) In this, Heidegger posits that the Dinghafte des Dings exists only because of the simultaneous involvement of das Geviert.

Diverging from Heidegger’s ontological inquiry of a thing’s structural understanding, Georg Simmel’s essay, “Der Henkel” (1919), posits that understanding can be found through the aesthetic value of the jug, focusing on the understanding of the jug’s handle (der Henkel), in relation to the jug, through discussion about origination and use, and the theoretical force of the jug is rationally articulated through this transitive understanding. Simmel states, “Diese Doppelstellung der Vase nun ist es, die sich in ihrem Henkel am entschiedensten ausspricht.” (127) The dual nature (die Doppelstellung) of the handle is what gives the vase its realistic purpose, separating it from being merely aesthetically purposed (like a painting) and having both form and function. Positing that, “…wie für die Seele die Hand ein Werkzeug ist, so ist ihr auch das Werkzeug eine Hand,” (128) Simmel integrates the origination of the jug, to the work of the hand, as expressing the will of the mortal’s soul. It is from the hands, that aesthetic objects are created, with a presupposed unity of purpose and aesthetic value. This organic origination from the soul is expressed by Simmel, when he says, “…als benutzte der Mensch hier die Kanäle des natürlichen Säfteflusses zwischen Stiel und Blatt, um seinen eigenen Impuls in das Außending einzuströmen und ed damit seiner eignen Lebensreihe einzugliedern.” (129) It is as natural, as a leaf growing from a tree, as it is for man to incorporate a handle to a bowl, to make it a useful jug.

Taking issue with the purpose of the handle’s use, Simmel articulates that when a handle is only aesthetic, and not useful, it is no longer part of the organic unity from purpose of the soul, to origination by the hand. Using the example of a Greek jug, with three handles, Simmel argues, “Er geht vielmehr, wie mir scheint, darauf zurück, daß die in diesem System angelegten Bewegungen nur nacheinander stattfinden können, während die Henkel sich gleichzeitig darbeiten,” (130) by this, he is stating that it is impossible for all three handles to be useful at the same time, as they are aesthetically unified at the same time. Simmel situates the use of the jug, like Heidegger, to be necessarily practical, despite it’s also aesthetic origination.

Simmel moves even deeper in to the organic understanding of the jug’s use, by discussing the spout of the jug, “Es ist wie das Verhältnis des Menschen als Seele zu dem ihm äußeren Sein… durch die willensmäßigen Innervationen reicht die Seele in die Körperwelt hinaus,” (132) Simmel’s presupposition of the unity of soul and object is comparable to the das Geviert of Heidegger’s “Das Ding,” in that the origination of the jug is from a metaphysical power (like the Gods, but in this case, the soul) and  the organic origination (like the connection to the earth) of the elements, which make the jug useful.

Usefulness, as preconditioned by the soul’s interaction with man’s actions, brings about an understanding by Simmel, that, “Dies fällt nicht etwa unter das wunderliche Dogma, daß die Nützlichkeit über die Schönheit entschiede.” (132) This bold statement about form following function represents the breadth of unity between mortals and organic phenomenon, such as, “…viele Kreise- politische, beruflische, soziale, familiäre- in denen wir stehen, werden von weiteren so umgeben, wie das praktische Milieu das Gefäß umgibt,” (133) Just as the handle must not destroy the unity of form and function, the mortal must exist in his organic body, and function in his organic life spheres. It is on this platform, that Simmel rationally articulates the understanding of the jug, as, “ein Element die Selbstgenugsamkeit eines organischen Zusammenhanges mitlebt… über die ein ganz anderes Leben in jenes erste einfließt.” (134). Through Simmel’s understanding of the unity of objects with the soul, and the totality of their comportment to mortals, Simmel posits that the theoretical force of an object yields to it’s entanglement with the world (die Harmonie). Like Heidegger, Simmel rationally articulates the theoretical force of an object as being accessible through it’s involvement in the physical and metaphysical worlds.

Following Simmel’s metaphorical use of the life-spheres, which represent organic unity of all things in the world (Heideggerian in-der-Welt-sein), Ernst Bloch focuses his analysis of the jug, to the particular Bartmannkrug of sixteenth century origination. “Ein Alter Krug” is an essay from Bloch’s book, “Geist der Utopie” (1918), which uses historically based ontologial analysis of a jug, to rationally articulate the origination, use and understanding of the jug. Articulating the ability for the jug to have originated anywhere, but remain aesthetically unique to each area, Bloch says, “Auch klingt eine italienische Form in ihnen an, wenn auch noch so kräftig, zuerst soldatenhaft und dann nordisch, vergröbert.” (18) Positioning the origination of the jug as a universal phenomenon, Bloch relates the love for the jug to all types of people, both wealthy and poor, but positions usefulness to hold priority over the aesthetic value of the jug, “Doch wer ihn liebt, der erkennt, wie oberflächlich die kostbaren Krüge sehen worden sein sollen und haben das Alte bäuerisch, burchstäblich bewahrt.” (17/18) Bloch epitomizes this useful, yet culturally integrated jug, in the Bartmannkrug of the lower German areas, because of it’s aesthetic representation of the mortals it serves, “Was an ihnen am meisten auffällt, ist der Mann, der wilde Bartmann auf dem Bauch des soliden nordischen Gebildes. Damit spinnt sich ein seltsames Garn zu uns herüber.” (18)

Diverging from both Simmel and Heidegger, Bloch temporalizes the jug, by noting that it’s origination has changed over time. The thread (das Garn), is the historical knowledge of the jug, which aids in modern origination. Through stating, “Aber drüben verwahren wilde Männer neue Krüge… noch heute heißen, verrufenerweise… Norbiskrug,” (18) Bloch implies that the same type of people still make jugs, which are of a new type, NobiskrugNobiskrug is an important element in this essay from Bloch, as it signifies a temporal element, based in German mythology, implying the passing from one world to the next. For Bloch, use of the jug in the given time remains both unchanged and universal, which is represented by the aesthetic quality of the Bartmannkrug’s depiction of the originator. The farmers who both use and originate the jug are preserved, “buchstäblich bewahrt.” (19)

Temporal deduction of the jug’s use is depicted, by the “…feinen Duft von längst vergessenen Getränken,” (19) which exemplifies the use of the jug as a container, which can hold multiple things over time. The jug’s purpose is transcendent, throughout the physical and ideological history of the jug. The ability for the jug’s use to change, is exemplified by, “Ich werde nicht mit jeder Pfütze grau und nicht von jeder Scheine mitgebogen, um die Ecke gebogen.” (19)

Bloch’s relation of himself, as unchanged by the jug’s many ways to be filled, then resinates in his relation of mortals to the jug, “gegenwärtiger werde weiter zu mir erzogen an diesem mir teilhaftigen Gebilde.” (19) Through this, Bloch emphasizes the integration of the temporal jug with the development of mortals, such as Simmel’s ideology of das Harmonie between objects and life spheres. Differently than Simmel, Bloch disconnects the jug, as a useful object, with the changing humanity, but focuses on the origination of the jug as important to the theoretical understanding of the jug. By stating, “Auch hier, fühlt man, sich in einen langen sonnenbeschienenen Gang mit einer Tür am Ende hineinzusehen, wie bei einem Kunstwerk,” (19) Bloch rationally articulates the temporal, transitive origination of the jug, as leading to a door, which leads to another understanding of the jug. Bloch’s understanding of the jug is not aesthetic, but reflective and always temporally progressing, with the use always the same, just as the Bartmannkrug maintains the same depiction of its originator.

Bloch’s reflection about the Bartmannkrug is especially significant, in light of Heidegger’s and Simmel’s essays about a jug, because of it’s focus in a historical ontological inquiry. Bloch’s analysis of the jug diverges structurally, through a development-oriented dialectic framework. Instead of reaching in to deeper elements of the jug, like it’s connection with das Geviert or the meaning of it’s handle, temporal development presupposes understanding through analysis of origin, rather than analysis through interaction with it in the world. The Bartmannkrug emphasizes, ontically, the involvement of a mortal with the object, but exemplifies the development of society since the origination of the jug. The theoretical force of an object, to both Simmel and Heidegger, yields to the purpose of the jug in the present, but for Bloch, the theoretical force of the jug yields to the continuously developing jug itself.