This is entry #25 in our 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: Amie Thomasson (University of Miami)
Artwork: Meret Oppenheim, Object (Breakfast in Fur) 1936. Sculpture (assemblage of teacup, spoon, saucer, and the fur of a Chinese gazelle).
Words: I like the way this work calls attention to the artifactuality of artifacts. We often think of artifacts as mere physical objects, not recognizing the constitutive role that norms play. But, as Heidegger noticed, part of what it is to be, say, a teacup is to be a thing to be used by certain people, in certain ways, for certain purposes. The fur-lined teacup neatly befuddles us by invoking the norms of use (as a teacup it is to-be-drunk from) while also invoking contrary norms (we don’t pour tea on fur; we are not to drink from works of art).