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Argues that Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms relies on an account of human subjectivity that he deliberately keeps in the background of his writings. Remarkably, even though Cassirer considers a systematic account of human subjectivity to be an essential component of a philosophy of culture, he never seems to develop one (5.1). This omission is the result of Cassirer’s belief that consciousness can only be approached through the mediation of diverse cultural products (5.2). Cassirer solves this difficulty by developing a ‘functional conception of human subjectivity’ that forms the exact counterpart of his account of objectivity and therefore needs no separate treatment (5.3). This conception allows him to characterize the human being as an ‘animal symbolicum’ in An Essay on Man (5.4). Cassirer’s posthumous text The Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms then merely translates this view of the human being into the language of his contemporaries ‒ rather than deviating from his published writings, as is usually maintained (5.5). In sum, this chapter retrieves the hidden, anthropological foundation of Cassirer's philosophy of culture.
Tackles the two main issues of contention between Cassirer's and Heidegger’s interpretations of Kant. I first examine why Heidegger opposes his own ‘ontological reading’ of the first Critique to the ‘epistemological reading’ that he attributes to the Neo-Kantians. I clarify what this opposition entails and consider in what way it indeed applies to Cassirer (4.1). Next, I turn to Cassirer and Heidegger's more specific disagreement regarding the relevance of Kant's account of transcendental imagination. Remarkably, both thinkers not only value how this account attempts to undercut the artificial opposition between receptivity and spontaneity (4.2), but their agreement extends to the shared thesis that Kant ultimately did not succeed because he lacked a truly phenomenological method (4.3). Yet, Cassirer and Heidegger still radically part ways as soon as they evaluate why this (failed) attempt is so important: while Heidegger takes transcendental imagination as the ground of human reason’s finite nature, Cassirer concludes from the primacy of this faculty to the fundamentally spontaneous character of reason (4.4).
Reconstructs Heidegger’s well-known analysis of Dasein as analogous to his interpretation of Kant: I argue that Heidegger also views Dasein as a (pre-)ontological, phenomenological, and hermeneutic way of being. Demonstrating this requires a circular reading of the first book of Being and Time. Following Heidegger's own argumentation leads us from Dasein's usual and predominant understanding of being (6.1), through the structural moments of 'being-in-the-world' that constitute its possibility (6.2), to 'care' as the foundational unity of these conditions (6.3). Once this is established, reading Heidegger's magnum opus backwards shows that Dasein is at its core an ontological way of being due to its concern for the being of beings, enacts this concern in a phenomenological manner through its 'being-in', and is thereby both enabled and hindered by the hermeneutic situation of its everyday understanding (6.4). By distinguishing the argumentative procedure of Being in Time from the resulting picture of our human condition, this chapter provides a more systematic picture of Dasein's existential constitution than Heidegger managed to display.
Retraces how Cassirer transforms Kant’s transcendental philosophy into a philosophy of culture in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. First, Cassirer abandons Kant’s notion of the category and instead models his conception of the symbol on the schema from The Critique of Judgment (2.1). Second, he understands such symbols as constituting not only the theoretical, practical, and aesthetic sphere, but all cultural domains, including myth, language, and the human sciences (2.2). This forces Cassirer to adopt two conceptions of objectivity: a constitutive conception that pertains to each cultural domain (or ‘symbolic forms’) and a regulative conception that befits human culture as a whole (2.3).
Argues that Heidegger considers all three elements of his own view of the ‘concept and method’ of philosophy – ontology, phenomenology, and hermeneutics – to be at work in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. First, Heidegger's well-known ‘ontological reading’ of this work more specifically interprets it as a treatise on the possibility of general ontology (3.1). Further, he understands Kant’s critical approach as an attempt at developing the phenomenological method that such an ontology requires (3.2). Ultimately and most audaciously, Heidegger interprets the changes between the two editions of the first Critique as the result of Kant’s hermeneutical reflection upon this attempt (3.3). This chapter puts forward a new reading of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (GA 3) and Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (GA 25), but also draws from What is a Thing? (GA 41), Logic: The Question of Truth (GA 21), and Einleitung in die Philosophie (GA 27).
Reconsiders the stakes of the Davos debate on the basis of my previous findings. I first summarize the established similarities and differences between Cassirer and Heidegger's philosophical projects. Next, I reinterpret their issues of contention in light of the starting point and aim (the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem, as they put it in Davos) of their philosophies, which, I argue, Cassirer and Heidegger failed to accurately compare. In this way, I show that Cassirer's and Heidegger’s thought, despite being grounded in irreconcilable ontological and methodological assumptions, can nevertheless positively incite each other. After all, they share a philosophical concern: to comprehend and aid the human being’s capacity to orient itself in and towards the world. This means that the Davos debate was an elaborate disagreement about a shared interest of profound significance for human life after all, or in other words a true philosophical debate.
Returns to Cassirer’s notion of function to argue that it continuously informs his conception of philosophy. Cassirer first develops this notion in his 1910 work Substance and Function: the mathematical idea of a function connects disparate elements under a variable rule, establishing a unity through diversity (8.1). Subsequently, his early historical writings (1906‒1919) invoke the idea of a functional unity in order to explain the continuity and progress in the history of thought while simultaneously acknowledging the legitimacy of each historical epoch (8.2). Cassirer’s mature, systematic, writings (1923‒1942) reconcile the unity of human culture and the synchronic diversity of our cultural domains by means of the same idea (8.3). Finally, the ethical reflections that we find in Cassirer’s latest writings (1935‒1946) are also rooted in this ‘functional conception of philosophy’ (8.4).
Discusses the different (philosphical and non-philosophical) ways in which the content, dynamic, and influence of the Davos debate has hitherto been interpreted. The common thread throughout these various interpretations is that no profound philosophical discussion took place between Cassirer and Heidegger. In contrast to this, I suggest that the Davos debate, as well as the larger 'Cassirer‒Heidegger dispute' centres on three key philosophical topics that stand in a coherent, hierarchic relation to each other.
Compares Cassirer and Heidegger's take on the human being's capacity to orient itself in the world in a meaningful way. Cassirer's theory of the functions of consciousness, the only meat to his functional conception of human subjectivity, is used to describe the diverse, cultural compasses by means of which the 'symbolic animal' navigates the human world (7.1). Heidegger's accounts of 'the they' and of owned ('authentic') existence in turn provide a theory of Dasein's capacity to orient itself within and towards its world (7.2). In view of their shared interest in orientation, I discern an important distinction for both Cassirer and Heidegger between an orienting and an oriented self. With regard to both, they ultimately disagree about the infinite (cultural) or finite (temporal) nature of the human being (7.3).
Offers a thorough reading of all texts in which Cassirer and Heidegger explicitly engaged with each other’s thought. I first sketch the philosophical context of the Davos debate, which constitutes only one moment of a dispute that started in 1923 and continued until the publication of Cassirer’s The Myth of the State in 1946 (1.1). Second, I argue that the public debate in Davos hinges on three interrelated topics: the proper interpretation of Kant’s philosophy, the human condition, and the task of philosophy. Concretely, I show that Cassirer and Heidegger’s diverging readings of Kant are motivated by their different views on the human condition, and that these views are in turn motivated by different conceptions of the task of philosophy, which I consider to be the fundamental breaking point between these two thinkers (1.2). Third, I explain that the same issues of contention also structure, in the same order and with the same increasing intensity, the entire, 23-year-long Cassirer‒Heidegger dispute (1.3).
Considers the implications of Cassirer and Heidegger’s respective conceptions of philosophy for their views on its existential task. Cassirer asserts a hierarchy among the cultural domains based on the self-understanding of symbolic consciousness (10.1). Heidegger navigates the dialectics between disowned, average, and owned selfhood (10.2). On this basis, I address the ultimate breaking point between Cassirer and Heidegger: their respective Enlightened and ‘therapeutic’ conception of the task of philosophy. While for Cassirer philosophy is the caretaker of our self-liberation through culture, for Heidegger it ought to help us reconcile with our ineradicable shortcomings ‒ the latter view is therapeutic in the psychoanalytic sense, it has no affinity with Wittgenstein's notion of philosophy as therapy.
Explains how Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant and his analysis of Dasein relate to the primary interest of his philosophical enterprise: the retrieval of the question of being. The introduction to Being and Time indicates that these three projects formally presuppose one another because Heidegger weds the ontological task of philosophy to its phenomenological and hermeneutical method (9.1). At the same time, this threefold conception of philosophy – ontology, phenomenology, hermeneutics – establishes a hermeneutic situation that informed Heidegger’s interpretations of Kant and Dasein (9.2). Heidegger admits to the circularity of this philosophical procedure, but defends it by distinguishing between a formal, a philosophical, and a factual ‘starting point’ of the ‘hermeneutical circle’ (9.3). At stake here is the relation between Dasein and philosophy, as well as Heidegger's contested choice to approach the meaning of being via our own existence.