The Foundations of Ernst Cassirer’s Symbolic Idealism

The Foundations of Ernst Cassirer’s Symbolic Idealism

Promotion Nicolaas G. Nuyens, M.A.

Cassirer makes several claims on knowledge concerning the development of science, the nature of symbolic representation an the occurrence of certain primordial phenomena of experience. However, the problem of how Cassirer is able to found his claims on knowledge within his philosophy of symbolic forms is an issue that so far has not been systematically investigated. By reflecting on three major approaches Cassirer himself chooses to justify the basic claims of his philosophy, the challenge of this project is to increase our understanding of the unity within the philosophy of symbolic forms.
The leading question of this research project shall be: On the basis of which fundamental assumptions or principles does Cassirer construct his ‘critical philosophy’? I shall examine three perspectives from which Cassirer himself tries to meet this challenge: a mythical, a transcendental and a metaphysical foundation of culture. Each perspective in its own particular way must be viewed in the context of Cassirer’s effort to establish a foundation for the unity and systematic nature of culture. For Cassirer it is typical to approach what seems to be a single problem from more than one perspective. Following a Hegelian principle of thought he believes that only the totality of perspectives on reality may provide us with the truth pertaining to it. A systematic analysis of Cassirer’s position is needed especially with regard to his transcendental and metaphysical strategies of providing a foundation of culture. But it is also necessary to determine the function and importance of myth within the larger framework of Cassirer’s philosophy; a project that so far has not been undertaken.

Laufzeit: 1.01.2009 - 1.01.2012