An der Schwelle einer neuen geistigen Welt (VII-VIII/2014-2015)

December 1st, 2018 by magister

Dear colleagues,


we have been working hard for the publication of this issue of «Cassirer Studies», which came out with a considerable delay last July 2018. Accordingly the volume bears a double numeration: it follows the previous issue (VI/2013), with no reference to the current year (VII-VIII/2014-2015).

The title “An der Schwelle einer neuen geistigen Welt” quotes Cassirer’s words to say the passage from expression to representation and a new constellation of Ausdruck, in which that of Aby Warburg can be inscribed.

Thanks to the contribution of the American Philosophical Association the section SEMINAR edited by Fabien Capeillères gathers the proceedings of the conference “On Cassirer and the Neo-Kantian Legacy”, held in St. Louis, Missouri, in February 2015.

The section NACHLASS edited by Maurizio Ghelardi presents Aby Warburg’s text “Die Wanderungen der antiken Götterwelt vor ihrem Eintritt in die italienische Hochrenaissance”, from of a conference held in Göttingen in November 1913 which is in close relation both to the study “Italienische Kunst und internationale Astrologie im Palazzo Schifanoja zu Ferrara” (1913) and to the conference on the history of astrology held in Hamburg in August 1913 by Warburg, Franz Boll and Carl Bezold.

We are thankful to our publisher Bibliopolis who made this publication possible and are happy to announce that the journal has become its property.

ABSTRACTS, Cassirer Studies V/VI (2012-2013)

July 1st, 2015 by magister

F. CAPEILLÈRES, Artistic Intuition within Cassirer’s System of Symbolic Forms. A Brief Reassessment
The Cassirer Renaissance initiated in the 80’s has focused, in the last decade, on
art as a symbolic form. It may hence be time to reiterate a fundamental assessment
of the principles of Cassirer’s philosophy in order to take good measure
of its actual achievements and its present fruitfulness regarding art and aesthetics.
The present article tries to examine Cassirer’s doctrine of symbolic
forms in order to assess precise and palpable consequences regarding not so
much the field of Cassirer’s studies as a historiographical enterprise, but,
rather, regarding what the actual doctrine of art, produced by the philosophy
of the symbolic forms, allows us to conceive of in the world of culture.
Keywords: Cassirer Renaissance – art – aesthetics – symbolic form – function

A.S. HOEL, Images and Measurements across Arts and Sciences
This paper explores the inner connections between images and their traditional
“others”, such as concepts, words, and numbers. Instead of inquiring into images
as static entities, it focuses on what images do, that is, on their operational
functioning. The aim is to develop a notion of images as «differential tools» that
play an integral role in exploration, knowledge, and discovery, no matter
whether they are used for artistic or scientific purposes. What I argue is that the
development of such a bridging notion requires a rethinking and broadening of
the notion of image, and perhaps more surprisingly, of the notion of measurement.
Further, what I argue is that Cassirer’s notion of symbolic function is a
promising candidate for a bridging notion of mediation that brings to the fore
the inner connections between the sensible and the intelligible, the presentational
and the discursive, the visual and the logical – and, by extension, between
images and measurements. As Cassirer conceives it, mediation amounts to a
kind of «seeing», and simultaneously, to a kind of «measuring». Drawing on this
idea, I argue that media and technologies operate by a «differential logic», and
further, that the differential mode of operation is the inner link between imaging
methods, usually classified as qualitative and observational, and measurement
methods, commonly considered as quantitative and calculative.
Keywords: symbolic function – images – measurement – technological mediation – differential tools

M. LAUSCHKE, Presymbolic Formation. Reflections on Bodily Communication
between Humans and Artefacts
This paper tries to show that it can be fruitful to trace aesthetic experience
back to its bodily origins, or at least to consider bodily felt processes as a part
of aesthetic experience that cannot be ignored. “Presymbolic formation”, that
is the thesis advanced here, is a phase that precedes symbolic formation and
accompanies it continuously. The focus of the reflections about aesthetic experience,
therefore, will lie on a part of the process of symbolic formation hypothetically
called “presymbolic” or “subsymbolic”. This part, it will be argued,
is determined by the bodily communication between an artefact and a
recipient. Therefore, the meaning of the term “bodily communication” will be
explained and, in a second step, clarified by analysing the aesthetic perception
of space in the concrete example of Mark Rothko’s image-bodies. The reason
why it could be helpful to talk about bodily communication and presymbolic
formation with reference to Cassirer will be presented in the last step.
Keywords: presymbolic formation – bodily communication – aesthetic experience – resonance – aesthetic perception of space

I. MELAND, The Doctrine of Basis Phenomena. A Phenomenological Foundation for the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms?
Even if the doctrine of basis phenomena adds something new to Cassirer’s philosophy, it is not foreign to Cassirer’s philosophy and does not signify a break with Cassirer’s philosophical project as a whole. At the base of this argument
lies the view that the originary phenomena of “life”, “language” and “the symbolic
function” are crucial for Cassirer’s critique and revision of Cartesian dualism:
man is symbolical through and through. If it is the primacy of relation
that constitutes the true a priori of Cassirer’s semiotic theory of meaning, then
the doctrine of basis phenomena constitutes the phenomenological grounding
for this theory of meaning. Thus the doctrine of basis phenomena can be characterized as a “fundamental phenomenology”, i.e. a doctrine about what allows reality to appear to us at all. The basis phenomena are brought into view
through a “return” to the originary phenomena of “life” and “spirit”, which reveals
that the process of generating and transforming forms corresponds to the
basis phenomenon of the symbolic function. This “adequation” of the processual
and the relational means that we cannot really separate “life” and “spirit”
and that there is no access to “Being”, except through symbolic forms. In turn,
this means that the only possible type of metaphysics is a cultural metaphysics
and that Cassirer’s philosophy of culture implies a hermeneutical transformation
of philosophy itself. The basis phenomena’s place is at the base of this
hermeneutics, which is a cultural hermeneutics of freedom.
Keywords: philosophy of culture – theory of meaning – symbolic function –
basis phenomena – hermeneutics

CARMEN METTA, Ausdruck-Ausdrucksloses: A Critique of the Work-Phenomenon
The “Work-Phenomenon” as Urphänomen is the object of a metaphysics of
experience.Whereas for Kant experience is the knowledge of appearances, in
so far as the intellect spells them out, in this paper appearances are regarded
as the object of expression, which allows of a tertium non datur between intuition
and intellect. The acknowledgment of the expressive function of experience
allows in turn to conceive the semblance inherent in every work as constitutive
of the work’s non-derivable and thus originary character. Given that
it is Cassirer metaphysics’ task to give a “reading” of the phenomenon, in that
it presupposes a hermeneutical intuitability of the phenomena, metaphysics
interprets the work not just as a medium and a symbol, but as an irreducible
phenomenon of the duration of life. Such interpretation of a metaphysics of
the work seems to point out the possibility for the I not to estrange itself irremediably,
but to a reversible extent, whereby to experience a caesura in the
phantasmagory of the pure symbolic and to face the expressionless, like it is
adumbrated in Benjamin’s critique of the symbolic.
Keywords: Ausdrucksloses – experience – loss of experience – form ofthought – form of life

S. MÜLLER, Aby Warburgs “Grundlegende Bruchstücke zu einer pragmatischen Ausdruckskunde”
The paper briefly outlines the complex genesis of “fragments”, a collection of
Warburg’s records, which on the one hand anticipates the author’s working
process, on the other many issues and ideas of his later texts. A particular attention
is paid to the use of the term “expression”, used by the author for linguistic,
physical and artistic manifestations.
Keywords: impression – expression – association – awareness – fine arts



Ausdruck/Ausdrucksloses, Cassirer Studies V/VI (2012/2013)

June 18th, 2015 by magister

We are pleased to present volume V/VI,  Ausdruck/Ausdrucksloses, of «Cassirer Studies». The double issue is the result of a variety of insights concerning the role that expression (Ausdruck) plays in the philosophy of Ernst Cassirer. The use of the term “expressionless” (Ausdrucksloses) is borrowed from Walter Benjamin. As the title of this issue, the juxtaposition of expression and expressionless invites the authors to explore the antinomic perspectives of expression that underlie the nature of symbolism. The table of contents is to be found below:


NACHLAß p. 9
ABY WARBURG, Ghiberti und Lessings Laokoon, edited by Maurizio Ghelardi p. 11

INGMAR MELAND, The Doctrine of Basis Phenomena. A Phenomenological Foundation for the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms? p. 31
SUSANNE MÜLLER, Aby Warburgs “Grundlegende Bruchstücke zu einer pragmatischen Ausdruckskunde” p. 65

INGMAR MELAND, Cassirer and the Aesthetic: Expression, Representation and Significance. An Introduction p. 81
FABIEN CAPEILLÈRES, Artistic Intuition within Cassirer’s System of Symbolic Forms. A Brief Reassessment p. 91
CARMEN METTA, Ausdruck-Ausdrucksloses: A Critique of the Work-Phenomenon p. 125
MARION LAUSCHKE, Presymbolic Formation. Reflections on Bodily Communication between Humans and Artefacts p. 139
AUD SISSEL HOEL, Images and Measurements across Arts and Sciences p. 157


Kunstkritik (IV-2012)

March 6th, 2013 by magister

We are happy to announce the publication of «Cassirer Studies», IV: Kunstkritik. This issue bears the title of the Seminar held in Naples in November 2011, the proceedings of which are collected in the section “Seminar”.  Shown below is the table of contents of the volume:

HEINRICH WÖLFFLIN, Die Persönlichkeit Jacob Burckhardts,
ed. by Maurizio Ghelardi

ANDRÉ STANGUENNEC, Le cinéma et la peinture comme formes
symboliques: autour d’Erwin Panofsky et d’Ernst Cassirer

FABIEN CAPEILLÈRES, Art Critique as a Philosophical Science?
From Assessing Aesthetic Values to the Constitution of a World

STEVE G. LOFTS, Cassirer and Heidegger: Art, Language, and
the Thinking of the Textual-Event

CARMEN METTA, A Critique of the Work: Cassirer and Benjamin

GIULIO RAIO, Transition to the Work

STEPHEN H. WATSON, Focus Imaginarius: Cassirer, Heidegger,
the Narratives of Art and the Art of Narrative


Kunstkritik (IV-2012) – abstracts

March 5th, 2013 by magister

A. Stanguennec, Le cinéma et la peinture comme formes symboliques: autour d’Erwin Panofsky et d’Ernst Cassirer

This paper explores Panofsky’s and Cassirer’s theories of movies and painting as symbolic forms in comparison with Kracauer, Cavell, Della Volpe, Merleau-Ponty, Robbe-Grillet. In the first part, it argues that Panofsky’s theory gives a paradoxical sense to the «motion pictures», particularly discussed by Cavell. In part two, on the basis of Cassirer’s theory of transition from the expressive to the conceptual function of art, the paper examines the history of movies and painting in modern and postmodern times. It emphasizes the revival of a realistic and critical function of art in photography, movies and painting brought about after the skeptical postmodern period of conceptual art.

Key-words: iconography – iconology – cinematography – structure – sense


F. Capeillères, Art Critique as a Philosophical Science? From Assessing Aesthetic Values to the Constitution of a World

In this short paper I investigate the following problem: How can there be a philosophical critique of the works of art in a transcendental perspective? It seems that we are confronted to a structural dilemma: either the “critique” is transcendental and it then addresses the forms of the work (its spatiality, temporality, etc.) but can neither analyse nor legitimate the claim of beauty, or it addresses this claim but then has to give up a transcendental analysis in favor of psychology, sociology, etc. I try to show that even if the transcendental analysis can neither explain nor legitimize the beauty of a given work of art, it offers a discipline that constitutes the only path to a possible legitimate feeling of beauty.

Key-words: critique – transcendental – beauty – work of art


S.G. Lofts, Cassirer and Heidegger: Art, Language, and the Thinking of the Textual-Event

This essay proposes a reading of Cassirer and Heidegger that aims to bring out a number of curious parallels in their language and similarities in the images they employ as a way of demonstrating a certain rapprochement between their works without, at the same time, losing sight of the very real differences between them. The paper is divided into three sections. The first two sections set out the basic lines of Cassirer’s and Heidegger’s thought in general, focusing on their respective accounts of language and art in particular. The objective in these sections is to provide prima facie evidence for the need to pursue a line of interpretation that goes beyond the framework of Davos. By way of conclusion, section three ventures some tentative suggestions for rethinking the belonging-together of Cassirer’s philosophy of culture and Heidegger’s thinking of being.

Key-words: Heidegger – Auseinandersetzung – Davos – language – art


C. Metta, A Critique of the Work: Benjamin and Cassirer

Walter Benjamin’s concern with Ausdruck/Expression, as it unfolds in his essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities, finds an echo in the development of Cassirer’s thought as the focus of it shifts from the Ausdrucksfunktion to the Ausdrucksphänomen in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, and, then, from these to a culturological conception of Ausdruckswahrnehmung and the originary phenomenon of Expression in his late works. It is precisely this originary acceptation of the phenomenon of Ausdruck that sheds light on the philosophical relationship between Cassirer and Benjamin. In the Orphic word Elpìs, as the ultimate originary phenomenon that Benjamin takes up from Goethe, is an anticipation of and perhaps a move beyond Cassirer’s account of Werk. Accordingly, the ideal transition from his Basisphänomene to the Logic is clarified, in that the irreducibility of the work as originary phenomenon alludes to das Ausdruckslose/the Expressionless, the critical power of the truth concealed in the work, and in the beauty of the work of art. It is this power that determines the symbolic world as semblance, and the works as torsos of truth, «plant-like» muteness and still life.

Key-words:  Ausdrucksfunktion – AusdrucksphänomenWerkdas Ausdruckslose


G. Raio, Transition to the Work

This article interprets Expression (Expression-Ausdruck) as reverberation, a latent theme, the aura of representation (Darstellung). This originary ground (Urgrund) forms an inert and unconceptual core that has not yet differentiated into the originary phenomena (Urphänomena), being devoid of visibility. In this stratification Expression is represented as expressive phenomenon (Ausdrucksphänomen), as the relationship Ich-Du, irreducible to the relationship with the Es. Expression lacks objectuality, lacks work. The “transition to the Work” (Übergang zum Werk) and the tool (Werkzeug-vorhandenes Zeug) is introduced in the midst of the debate between Cassirer and Heidegger. Transition to the Work opens up the “sphere of things”, objectuality. The work conceptology models itself on the conceptology of Kunstkritik. This is the transition from Sinnkritik to Werkkritik.

Key-words: AusdruckWerkKunstwerkWerkkritik


S.H. Watson, Focus Imaginarius: Cassirer, Heidegger, the Narrative of Art and the Art of Narrative

This paper examines the role of imagination, intuition and narrative in the work of Cassirer and Heidegger. In so doing it contests standard analyses that view Heidegger at the time of their Davos exchange to have denied objectivity and scientific rationality (and Cassirer to be exclusively defending both). To contest this view, I treat these thinkers’ significant relation to (and transformations of) Hermann Weyl’s philosophy of science and its emphasis on transcendental temporality. I further investigate the status of the narratives that support Heidegger and Cassirer’s ensuing accounts and their reinterpretations of phenomenology – both the classical (Husserlian) position and the phenomenologies of German Idealism (Hegel, Schelling). Finally, I focus upon the pivotal and dialectical implications of imagination with respect to the rational and the reciprocal relationships between science and art.

Key-words: imagination – intuition – narrative – Weyl – temporality



Cassirer Studies and IECG

April 12th, 2012 by magister

The journal «Cassirer Studies» is glad to have joined the Internationale Ernst Cassirer-Gesellschaft (IECG).
We would like to thank Christian Möckel and Birgit Recki for their support!

Seminar “Kunstkritik” – Naples, 7-8 November, 2011

October 11th, 2011 by magister

On 7 and 8 November, 2011, the University of Naples “L’Orientale” will host a conference on Ernst Cassirer. Participants will include Fabien Capeillères (Université de Caen), Steve G. Lofts (King’s University College at The University of Western Ontario) and Stephen Watson (University of Notre Dame, Indiana). The seminar will address boundary questions concerning the philosophy of symbolic forms and the artistic theories of the nineteenth century, from a historical-philosophical as well as aesthetical and theoretical perspective. The keyword “Kunstkritik” – in its meaningfulness and problematic translation as “art criticism” or “critique of art”, in its philosophical matrix –  may provide a thread for our reflection.

The Originary Phenomena (III-2010)

October 11th, 2011 by magister

Born of an idea of John Michael Krois, the third volume of Cassirer Studies offers a thorough discussion of Cassirer’s “originary phenomena”, starting from the most famous of Cassirer’s posthumous works: On Basis Phenomena. Each contribution paves the way for a multifaceted Auseinandersetzung between the philosophy of symbolic forms and the contemporary philosophies of the origin and the fundament.


FABIEN CAPEILLÈRES, On John Michael Krois as a portraitist p. 11
DONALD PHILLIP VERENE, In Memoriam John Michael Krois p. 21


THORA ILIN BAYER, The problem of (Self)Knowledge: Kultur
Werk p. 25
STEVE G. LOFTS, The Symbolic Auseinandersetzung of the
Urphänomene of the Expression of life p. 41
CHRISTIAN MÖCKEL, Cassirers “Basisphänomene” – eine Synthese
von Goethes “Urphänomenen”
und Carnaps “Basis” der
p. 67
DETLEV PÄTZOLD, Ernst Cassirers Grundlegung der Kultur:
Vom Apriorismus zu den Basisphänomenen
p. 89
GIULIO RAIO, Transitional Phenomena. From Ausdrucksphänomen
Urphänomen p. 109
DONALD PHILLIP VERENE, Cassirer’s Dasein p. 129


The Originary Phenomena: abstracts

October 11th, 2011 by magister

T.I. BAYER, The Problem of (Self)Knowledge: Kultur and Werk

In his theory of the basis phenomena in the fourth volume of the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer connects the third basis phenomenon – that of the work – to the ancient Socratic problem of self-knowledge. The self acquires knowledge of its own nature by apprehending the various symbolic forms of culture, which are made by the self. The self does not have a substantial nature apart from what it produces as human culture. The self knows itself through its distinctive cultural activity. It is, in fact, this activity itself. The meaning of this activity is to be found in the phenomenon of the work, which is the basis of culture. All forms of knowledge are the products of man as animal symbolicum. Thus all forms of knowledge are in fact forms of self-knowledge. Cassirer’s philosophy of self-knowledge is not achieved in a metaphysical system in which all symbolic forms are absorbed into a single logical order. Cassirer replaces the idea of philosophical system with that of “systematic overview”. This approach allows the self access to its own activity in terms of how symbols function in any given context without reducing the uniqueness of the various contexts to something more universal.

Key-words: basis phenomena – self-knowledge – systematic overview – Werk

S.G. LOFTS, The Symbolic Auseinandersetzung of the Urphänomene of the Expression of Life

This paper explores Cassirer’s theory of the Urphänomene as a theory of the symbolic expression of life and as an extension and development of his philosophy of symbolic forms in response to the contemporary movement of Lebensphilosophie in general and Heidegger in particular. The paper argues that the theory of the Urphänomene is connected to “the great process of Auseinandersetzung” that is undertaken by the symbolic forms. In part one, the philosophical issues at stake in this debate between Cassirer and Heidegger are set out in reference to the historical context of Cassirer’s engagement with Lebensphilosophie. In part two, we consider the meaning and function of Auseinandersetzung within Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms. Finally, we turn to an examination of how this Auseinandersetzung is grounded by Cassirer’s later theory of the Urphänomene.

Key-words: Heidegger – originary phenomena – Auseinandersetzung – Urphänomen – Lebensphilosophie

CH. MÖCKEL, Cassirers “Basisphänomene” – eine Synthese von Goethes “Urphänomenen” und Carnaps “Basis” der Konstitutionssysteme?

This paper examines to what extent Ernst Cassirer, in choosing the fundamental term “basis phenomena” – which is of crucial importance to a metaphysical theory able to serve as a foundation for his philosophy of symbolic forms –, is influenced by Goethe’s “primary phenomena” of artistic life-activity and Carnap’s “bases of constitutional systems” for the concepts of empirical sciences, that is, to what extent Cassirer unites both inspirations in his newly coined term. Proofs for both influences considered are presented, sourced from Goethe’s and Carnap’s writings as well as from Cassirer’s. Any doubt about the close relationship of the terms “basis phenomena” and Goethe’s “primary phenomena” is removed, and the connection with Carnap’s concept of different “bases of constitutional systems” is shown to be at least highly probable.

Key-words: expression – Basisphänomen – life – intellect – perception

D. PÄTZOLD, Ernst Cassirers Grundlegung der Kultur: Vom Apriorismus zu den Basiphänomenen

Cassirer’s revised version of Kantian apriori forms that we find in his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, does not seem to be the last stage in his search for principles underlying all the various kinds of cultural forms. In the decade following, the Kantian epistemological terminology, as well as Cassirer’s own symbolic philosophy of culture, is replaced in the new theory of basic phenomena, by a Goethean approach. In this article we deal with the question of what kind of alternative the foundation of culture in basic phenomena is supposed to be, whether it is an “alternative” to his earlier symbolic philosophy at all. In this context we also take a closer look to Cassirer’s criticism of Husserl’s phenomenology as a monadic epistemology.

Key-words: apriori forms – phenomenology – basic phenomena

G. RAIO, Transitional phenomena. From the Ausdrucksphänomen to Urphänomen

The theory of the expressive phenomenon, formulated in the Phenomenology of Knowledge (1929), is marked by a fundamental unconceptuality; at the basis of the perception of the other it posits the fluidity of the mythical world, or of its correlate. This unconceptuality is destined to a metaphysical or metaphorical outcome. The theory of the perception of expression, formulated in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences (1942), resolves the pregnancy of expression in the fundamental structure of the symbolic world. That the theory of the originary phenomena, I, Thou and Es, formulated in the posthumous work On Basis Phenomena (1940), represents the missing link in the transition from expression to perception of expression, in the translation of the expressive character from the I-Thou relation to the relation with the Es, is possible on the basis of the theory of the work and first of all of the work of art.

Key-words: expression – perception – visibility – work of art

D.PH. VERENE, Cassirer’s Dasein

In his review of Cassirer’s second volume of Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, Heidegger questions whether the account of mythical thought it contains is adequate for an understanding of Dasein. Heidegger’s doubts are based on his claim in Sein und Zeit that a proper phenomenology of Dasein cannot be derived from an examination of the results of the ethnological and cultural sciences. Cassirer later grounds his account of myth as a symbolic form in his analysis of the Ausdrucksphänomen but it is doubtful that Heidegger would have found this adequate. Cassirer is intent on upholding his doctrine of Dasein as objective. In the fourth volume of Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, done from Cassirer’s Nachlass, Cassirer criticizes Heidegger’s Dasein as established by a subjective phenomenology derived from a philosophy that is religious in form. Cassirer holds that Heidegger’s philosophy is not only wrongheaded, it is politically dangerous, for it offers no basis for human freedom that is necessary for moral judgment.

Key-words: AusdrucksphänomenBasisphänomeneDasein – Heidegger – Lebensphilosophie

Theory of Figuration (II-2009)

January 3rd, 2011 by magister

We are happy to inform you that the second issue of Cassirer Studies has just come out with the title “Theory of Figuration”.
Each contribution brings a new perspective to bear on the studies concerning Cassirer’s three functions Ausdruck, Darstellung, Bedeutung, which still stands as a boundary topic between the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms and the theories of representation in general, as they all tend towards a “theory of figuration” as such.



FABIEN CAPEILLÈRES, “K” for “Kunst”. Cassirer’s pages on Art for PdsF IV. With a note on Francis Bacon


WERNER HOFMANN, Meine Wege zu Cassirer. Eine Skizze
ANGÈLE KREMER MARIETTI, La philosophie comme science du symbolique
STEVE G. LOFTS, “Who are we?”. Toward an Ontology of Sense
CARMEN METTA, A cassirerian-kleean casuistry of occurrences of “Form” and “Figure”