Metaphysics and Hermeneutics of the Image
784 pages, 7.00 x 10.00 , 41 b&w, 10 color illustrations
Hardcover | 9780268202484 | June 2022
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268202507 | June 2022
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268202477 | June 2022
Thomas Pfau’s study of images and visual experience is a tour de force linking Platonic metaphysics to modern phenomenology and probing literary, philosophical, and theological accounts of visual experience from Plato to Rilke.
Incomprehensible Certainty presents a sustained reflection on the nature of images and the phenomenology of visual experience. Taking the word “image” (eikōn) not only as the essential medium of art and literature but as foundational for the intuitive ways in which we make contact with our “lifeworld,” Thomas Pfau draws in equal measure on Platonic metaphysics and modern phenomenology to advance a series of interlocking claims. First, Pfau shows that, beginning with Plato’s later dialogues, being and appearance came to be understood as ontologically distinct from (but no longer opposed to) one another. Second, in contrast to the idol that is typically gazed at and visually consumed as an object of desire, this study positions the image (eikōn) as a medium whose intrinsic abundance and excess reveal to us its metaphysical function, namely, as the visible analogue of an invisible, numinous reality. Finally, the interpretations unfolded in this book (from Plato, Plotinus, pseudo-Dionysius, John Damascene via Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure, Julian of Norwich, and Nicholas of Cusa to modern writers and artists such as Goethe, Ruskin, Turner, Hopkins, Cézanne, and Rilke) affirm the essential complementarity of image and word, visual intuition and hermeneutic practice, in theology, philosophy, and literature. Like Pfau’s previous book,Minding the Modern,Incomprehensive Certainty is a major work. With over fifty illustrations, the book will interest students and scholars of philosophy, theology, literature, and art history.
Thomas Pfau is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English and professor of German at Duke University, with a secondary appointment on the Duke Divinity School faculty. He is the author, editor, and translator of twelve books, including Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013, 2015).
“Incomprehensible Certainty promises to be one of the most comprehensive accounts of the image and image theory to date. With an extraordinary command of art-historical, philosophical, and theological sources, Pfau proposes a highly ambitious treatment of the image that will push contemporary understanding to a new level of sophistication.” —Mark McInroy, co-editor ofImage as Theology
“Thomas Pfau approaches the philosophical question of images and their significance not abstractly but via forms of textual engagement with images. Incomprehensible Certainty amounts to a full appraisal of our culture’s life with images.” —Judith Wolfe, co-editor of Oxford History of Modern German Theology