Archive for October, 2011

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

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

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)

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

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

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

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