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On the True Sense of Art

Transfigurements develops a framework for thinking about art through innovative readings of some of the most important philosophical writing on the subject by Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger. Sallis exposes new layers in their texts and theories while also marking their limits. By doing so, his aim is to show that philosophy needs to attend to art directly. Consequently, Sallis also addresses a wide range of works of art, including paintings by Raphael, Monet, and Klee; Shakespeare’s comedies; and the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, and Tan Dun. Through these interpretations, he puts forth a compelling new elaboration of the philosophy of art.

204 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Art: Art Criticism

Philosophy: Aesthetics, General Philosophy


“Writing about the true sense in art in the way Sallis does pays great respect to the work itself: he does not efface the work of art as philosophers are wont to do, but calls attention to its surface, its color, its ‘carnation,’ its soundings. One comes away from reading this book with a deepened sense of the real enigma of art and of a better understanding of why it is that something significant, something that cannot be translated into conceptual language, is exposed in that enigma. With great rigor and uncommon delicacy, Sallis traces the sense—in all of its particularity—opened by art. The prose here is clear—the writing bears all the best hallmarks of Sallis’s style—and the argumentation is compelling. Sallis bears witness to that which we tend to pass over far too soon; his capacity to linger at the site of the sensible makes reading this book a real pleasure.”

Dennis J. Schmidt, Penn State University

Transfigurements explores the descent of aesthetic experience and the philosophy of art in Kant and post-Kantian Continental philosophy, concentrating on Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and especially Heidegger. John Sallis is uniquely qualified to undertake this project. He has written a number of books on art and has been a leading scholar of Heidegger’s writings for four decades, and thus this book is something of a culminating effort in both respects. With clarity of style and argument, Sallis presents fresh analyses of these thinkers’ writings and provides strikingly original interpretations of his own along the way.”

Stephen Watson, University of Notre Dame

"Deft and patient, Sallis presents essentially a hermeneutical history of the philosophy of art. This is an irreplaceable contribution to the philosophy of art and to philosophy itself because it shows the transition to a philosophy beyond metaphysics."


"The character of Sallis’s scholarship in this volume is matched throughout by clarity of thought. With [Transfigurements], he makes a lasting contribution to the philosophy of art."

Wayne J. Froman | Notre Dame Philosophical Review

Table of Contents


1          The Invisibility of Painting
2          Nature’s Song
3          Mixed Arts
4          Music and Imagination
5          Carnation and the Eccentricity of Painting
6          Soundings
7          Preposterous Ascents: On Comedy and Philosophy
8          The Promise of Art


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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