Site Map
Scheinen in Cartoon Philosophy
  10 › 6 › 6 Set Section Search Previous Next
Reservations Collection  


Much art is based on scheinen, a German verb that means such as: appear, seem, seem to be, appear to be, appear to do. Scheinen typically involves illuding something and/or presenting something.

And one definition of art to which I subscribe, is that art is something presented with the intention of it being art.

Considering cartoon philosophy
Fig. 1. Aspects of cartoons as art.

LoThe nave is modifications of scheinen

A cartoon series is a prolonged work of art and craft. Art is marked by representation, hence by scheinen, by some form or measure of 'seeming'. This is because a phenomenon or "thing" is different from its representation. Cartoons and other forms and outlets of art are marked by scheinen, by illuding. It can be accomplished in a large variety of ways.

We find room for artist, artwork, viewer, and philosopher around the nave of scheinen. They interact in various ways with one another (fig. 1).

The nave: In figure 1, scheinen is at the centre. Scheinen is a wide term that covers illuding art products of many sorts. The copy or piece of artwork we have in our hands, has scheinen at its marrow. But scheinen is not limited to that: We have to distinguish between originals on the one hand and prints and copies and still other modifications on the other. For example cartoons drawn by the artist Peter Julius Rosendahl. The original cartoons from the studios of cartoon artists are often larger than the printings we come across in newspapers and special cartoon books. Further, such original drawings - that depict-illude something by lines and figures and callout words and so on - may have qualities not found in the newspaper reprints, because poor technical equipment may bring on derangements of quality. So the originals and printings are basically different. Printings may give way to reprints and further reprints in other media. And when we photograph a cartoon and present that again on a screen or on the Internet, we have gone a one more step along the road of scheinen. We have, basically, a long series of scheinen through medias that were originally intended, and possibly new ones. All sorts are due to some scheinen.

When a viewer of a cartoon stip has a look at it, he plays along with the assembled lines and configurations in it, and codes it for his Vergnügung, for his pleasures, first of all, at least if he is in harmony with the main purposes of cartoons. The purposes have drifted and are changing, but in the case of the Rosendahl cartoons, we have a purpose with the series as proposed by the artist himself, and may accompany it with readers' responses from the first publications in the Midwestern Decorah-Posten. The purposes coincide. The attitude that is first, relates to Vergnügung. Vergnügung through scheinen is the gate of most forms of art.

Cartoons viewed as artwork: A cartoon strip can be viewed as a work of art, and thereby as a man-made thing, an artifact, by the measures and standards of art criticism where they apply. We must discern between (1) the cartoon artist, (2) his oeuvre of one or many cartoons, be they single, grouped, or his total production, (3) the receivers (viewers) and what goes on in them, or in some of them.

Human activity and much else on the face of the earth and further into space may be represented in cartoons, be it good or bad, beautiful or ugly, beneficial or destructive. Not a few cartoon artists may be said to have satisfied their aesthetic capabilities in creating cartoons, and left it there. However, slogans like "cartoons are expression through scheinen", can be used to designate the product of that process, that is, the completed strips or series of strips. That use of the terms is found in the remark "Cartoon art is a source of Vergnügung to me."

The cartoon philosopher: The task of the philosopher of cartoons is to provide conceptual foundations (underlying thoughts) by (1) examining the basic concepts underlying a cartoon critic's activities to enable him to write more intelligibly about the cartoons viewed as cartoon arts, and (2) by arriving at salient conclusions about cartoon art, aesthetic value, expression, and the other concepts that a cartoon critic may employ.

The cartoon philosopher may be a cartoon critic too. In expressing herself about cartoons from a more or less elevated position, at least a surmisedly elevated position, the critic presupposes that she is dealing with clear concepts. To attain to them is the task of the philosopher of cartoons. By this the cartoon philosopher is more fundamental than the more ephemeral cartoon critic, for that critic's decrees presuppose answers to formative questions set by the cartoon philosophers. A critic's estimation of cartoons may be mostly evaluative, as when she gives reasons for saying that the cartoon work in question is good or bad, or better or worse than another one.

In the figure, the "philosopher" has to be branched out for a better mental grip. First of all, the philosophy of cartoon art needs to be distinguished from cartoon art criticism. ◊

Let us say the cartoon critic has accessed the main concepts of cartoon criticism, and thus passes as a plausible renderer of cartoon philosophy too, if needs be. This suggests that a cartoon critic contains many facets of the basic philosopher somehow. It can be illustrated thus:

Considering cartoon philosophy
Fig. 2: "Philosopher"

The test of "cartoon philosopher" success appears to be increased understanding or enhanced appreciation of the work in question.

Cartoon art is not limited to visual expressions; music and plots, structural grasps and other facets of drama and poetry may intermingle in it. This is so in films made on top of cartoon figures. One may also see paintings furnished of formerly two-dimensional, simple cartoon figures and scenes, and sculptures, toys, and many other related objects for sale.

The test in practice is not how they were intended by their creators, but how they function according to experience. What is more, appreciation differs, just as understanding does. That brings us to the viewer problems:

The viewer: The viewer is somebody. He or she may be a single individual or part of a group. What a viewer gets out of a presented cartoon series or a single strip, varies with such as background, appreciation capacity (maturity included), the being informed and experienced with cartoon varieties, and so on.

The various aspects involved

Figure 1 shows four aspects of cartoon philosophy. They are: (1) Philosopher–Artwork–Scheinen; (2) Artwork–Viewer–Scheinen; (3) Viewer–Artist–Scheinen; and (4) Artist–Philosopher–Scheinen. We may write presentation for scheinen, and consider the various aspects fields to explore.

  1. Philosopher–Artwork–Scheinen: What are the relationships involved between art philosophers (critics), artworks of much the same sort, and scheinen? And what are the favorable things to include, for example? What do philosophers of this and that school express concerning the artwork's scheinen (presentation, genre, style, technique, etc.)?

    Art philosophers have come up with (a) methods of ascertaining what works are about - in three steps - as did Erwin Panofsky. Another, Heinrich Wöllflin, managed to come up with (b) sets of criteria to discern hallmarks of two different styles of art. You may follow these two links for clarifying examples.

    In part, the response you get depends in part on the critic himself, and in part on the work of art he subjects to critique. It often shows up. Different art critics judge differently, and then many of them may slowly conform to a "prevalent view" somehow, albeit with variations.

  2. Artwork–Viewer–Scheinen: How do different sorts of viewers respond to the artwork, that is it's scheinen? For example, that a painting is sold on an art auction for millions of dollars, or is kept massively protected in Louvre, may make people regard the painting highly even though the painting is much less regarded by little children. Different viewers respond differently, and opinions may change too.
  3. Viewer–Artist–Scheinen: Viewers and artists may not appreciate the same elements of style, motif, techniques displayed - ways of painting, etc.
  4. Artist–Philosopher–Scheinen: Different art philosophers (critics) and artists may not appreciate the same things either. For example, for a decade, art critics called Picasso devilish and mad after his breakthrough. Opinions change, and that is another point well worth considering too.

Hence, to evaluate a piece of art, including cartoons as works of art, there are many things (aspects) to consider before venturing to express oneself or even buy the piece. Consider this a helping hand.

LoMost sorts of cartoon works may be subjected to tidy criticism

ON WHAT does the cartoon philosopher direct his attention? "One or more cartoons," is the ready answer; but what are cartoons and what distinguishes it from all other things? Answers may differ greatly. A beginning distinction is between fine cartoons and useful cartoons. It corresponds to the dichotomy between fine art and useful art.

The critic says that a given work is expressive, or good, or bad. But the cartoon philosopher (alias philosopher of cartoon art) asks further into what is meant by saying that a work of cartoon art is expressive and how one determines whether it is. And what is meant by "good" and "bad" in any context in a changing world? Such questions or topics are debated, and opinions given.

This shows that cartoon works may be analysed and evaluated.

However, the fact that cartoon works are fixed to representations (variants of scheinen), makes enduring views few. Despite this impermanence, one steady aim of cartoon criticism so far has been to get at a more adequate understanding or enjoyment of a work (or classes of works) of cartoon art.

Sometimes it is not a single cartoon work but an entire class of cartoon works in a certain style or genre that is being elucidated; the cartoon productions of a whole period, as settled on. ◊

There are very many ways to respond to cartoon works: Informatively, aesthetically, morally, good-naturedly, and humorously are just some of them. It depends on the focus, angling and upbringing of the soulful and not soulful critic, in part.

LoApt cartoons tend to enhance the value of most presentations

USEFUL cartoons can also be enjoyed as objects of beauty, and thus reflect both aesthetic and utilitarian dimensions: you may find that cartoons are used to pep up or enhance the value of text books; used as the main focus in some instructional presentations, and further.


  1. Scheinen is the core of very much old and new art.
  2. Cartoon works may be criticised by what they conform to, more or less.
  3. Apt cartoons tend to enhance the value of many sorts of presentations.

Simple adages Hovering scheinen may be criticised for not being the real thing after the presentations are done and argued for and against.


Cartoons and comics  

Cartoons, To top Set Archive section Next

Cartoons and comics USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2003–2015, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]