Cassirer And Heidegger



Working Castalia
May 1977

I was happy to be a kitchen cleaner. I worked 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.,
and attended a class on Ernst Cassirer after work. My class was good, but we
weren’t really studying mythology—the title of the class. Instead,
three days a week, we studied Cassirer’s investigations into the
meaning and origin of mythology. I guess the short answer here,
concerning Cassirer’s message, was that somehow the creation of
mythology helped us to better understand the “real world.” In fact,
according to Cassirer, even though myth didn’t begin with much of a
connection to the real world, without it, science probably wouldn’t
exist today. Science, like myth, depends on constructs that make
reality visible. Cassirer’s take on mythology was that its creation
(along with art and language) helped develop the metal skills that
eventually would lead to scientific thinking. I’m not “a believer” in
this guy’s philosophy yet. (The class was half over when I started.)
All I can say for sure right now is that I have never read anything
like it before. I guess that’s a good sign.

CMU hired a new person to teach Existentialism. As soon as I finished
sitting in on Dr. Gill’s class I made arrangements to do an
independent study on Martin Heidegger with Dr. Ausbaugh. Heidegger was
the same guy another one of my professors (now long departed from CMU)
called “the most important philosopher of our time.” What follows is
a sample of my directed study with Dr. Ausbaugh. Heidegger was
difficult, so I was happy with my B grade. From a personal standpoint,
I found reading Heidegger more rewarding than reading Sartre.

Martin Heidegger

“For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use
the expression “being.” We, however, who used to think we understood
it, have now become perplexed.” –so begins the book Being And Time.
Heidegger goes on to tell us that we have lost sight of the meaning of
being, and uncovering that meaning is what he tries to do in his book.
His investigation starts with immediate experience, which he calls
Dasein. Dasein gets translated as “being there,” and second, as
“understanding.” Dasein represents “being” with a capital B, but
that’s only after it achieves authenticity, after it realizes its own

Dasein runs deep for Heidegger, but it is discovered in what Heidegger
calls the They part of itself. In whatever particular Dasein is there,
so is the world in its thrownness. The subject, for Heidegger, can no
longer be described as worldless entity ala Descartes’ cogito ergo
sum; rather, it becomes “a knowing Being-in-the-world.” Because
Being-in-the-world knows only through some particular Dasein, whatever
gets known is never enough. Dasein, always desperate for more,
experiences what is in the world in the most desolate sense. Heidegger
describes this desolate sense as falling through the “here and yonder
of the They.” Dasein continues to fall until it encounters turbulence,
but before I describe turbulence, I need to describe Dasein’s other
characteristics, the characteristics that comprise Dasein as


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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cassirer And Heidegger

  1. eof737 says:

    Heidegger’s concept of being there isn’t so far off form what spiritual teachers describe… the challenge with Heidegger is that his approach and language is/was academic… the message remains same. 😉
    PS. Catching up on commenting again after a hectic week that included 3 long days/nights at a yoga event. I will be attending another workshop in the coming week (7/11-7/14)and if I don’t leave comments, I will follow up on my return. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s