Ernst Cassirer— Philosopher

Conversation In Thin Air Continues
July, ‘80

“So Noel,” I again interrupted, “what’s with Cassirer’s take on Einstein’s theory?”

“Well, before that question can be answered, you’ve got to know something about Cassirer’s philosophy,” Noel replied.

“But I do know something about his philosophy,’ I said, “I took a class in it. As I recall, it’s about how language, art, religion, and science are regarded as continuous constructs of cultural development, which, when understood from Cassirer’s point of view, were taken to be expressions of the power of man to build an ‘ideal’ or symbolic world.”

“That’s very good,” Noel responded. “You are a student of philosophy. Actually, Cassirer was a philosopher of the neo-Kantian variety, and he held that the objective world resulted from the function of human consciousness to symbolically produce, through a priori principles, culture–myth, religion, language, art, history and science. For Cassirer, man was a symbolizing animal, and the principles used to differentiate and order culture were, according to him, dispersed over a wider range than Kant supposed. Kant’s a priori principles were more restrictive and static than were Cassirer’s. However, that said, Cassirer still believed that the organizing principles of the human mind were responsible for all aspects of culture, including the dynamic critique of culture that formed the substance of his work on symbolic forms. In effect, Cassirer, like Kant, investigated not so much the objects of knowledge and belief as the manner in which those objects were constituted in consciousness.”

“But what’s that got to do with relativity,” I said. “How did Cassirer apply his a priori principles to the physical world, the world that we are able to know and predict?”

“I couldn’t have put it better myself,” exclaimed Tony.

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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One Response to Ernst Cassirer— Philosopher

  1. bwinwnbwi says:

    Myth, or the mythical-religious consciousness, for Ernst Cassirer, is understood to be the proto-reality out of which symbolic forms evolve e.g. language, art, religion, science etc. These symbolic forms, in turn, are thought to result from the human spirit’s progressive movement towards more liberated forms of self-expression. From within the matrix of mythical thought evolves the differentiation of the “I” of our personality and, over time, the more potent symbolic forms that define the present state of our modern knowledge and belief.

    The self-liberation process (and knowledge in general), was first discovered in mythical thought as the capacity to order and differentiate, and then in its capacity to transcend its own reality, metamorphosed into higher levels of symbolic expression. These higher levels of symbolic expression moved the self-liberation process in the direction toward more constancy, endurance and certainty; thus, the religion-centered universe of pre-moderns transformed itself into the matter-centered, self-centered, scientifically explainable universe of today

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