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Contents:
  1. Hallmarks of modernity
  2. CATEGORICALLY DENIED: KANT'S CRITICISM OF CHINESE PHILOSOPHY
  3. Similar authors to follow
  4. Lectures and Conferences
  5. Moon Palace Books

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Hallmarks of modernity

DPReview Digital Photography. Gadamer, Kant, and the Enlightenment in Research in Phenomenology. Author: Robert Dostal 1. Keywords: Enlightenment ; freedom ; prudence ; Gadamer ; Kant ; hermeneutics ; representationalism. Restricted Access. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.

Have Institutional Access? The same ringing of the bell would not be considered by man a physical signal so much as a symbol whose meaning transcends its real, concrete stimulation.


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For man, a bell does not indicate simply that food is coming, but induces him to wonder why that bell might indicate food, or perhaps whether an exam is over, or the fulfillment of a sacrament, or that someone is on the telephone. None of those symbols would lead necessarily to a response in the way the conditioned dog salivates at the bell.

CATEGORICALLY DENIED: KANT'S CRITICISM OF CHINESE PHILOSOPHY

They instead prompt a range of freely creative responses in human knowers within distinct spheres of meaning:. Symbols—in the proper sense of this term—cannot be reduced to mere signals. Signals and symbols belong to two different universes of discourse: a signal is a part of the physical world of being; a symbol is a part of the human world of meaning.

Signals, even when understood and used as such, have nevertheless a sort of physical or substantial being; symbols have only a functional value. Essay on Man That dimension is distinctively Kantian: the a priori forms of space and time. Animals have little trouble working in three-dimensional space; their optical, tactile, acoustic, and kinesthetic apprehension of spatial distances functions at least as well as it does in humans. In terms of time, too, there can be no doubt that higher animals remember past sensations, or that memory affects the manner in which they respond when similar sensations are presented.

But in the human person the past is not simply repeated in the present, but transformed creatively and constructively in ways that reflect values, regrets, hopes, and so forth,. It is not enough to pick up isolated data of our past experience; we must really re-collect them, we must organize and synthesize them, and assemble them into a focus of thought. It is this kind of recollection which gives us the characteristic human shape of memory, and distinguishes it from all the other phenomena in animal or organic life.

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As animals recall pasts and live within sensory space, human beings construct histories and geometries. Both history and geometry, then, are symbolic engagements that render the world meaningful in an irreducibly human fashion. This symbolic dimension of the person carries him or her above the effector-receptor world of environmental facts and subjective responses.

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He or she lives instead in a world of possibilities, imaginations, fantasy, and dreams. However, just as there is a kind of logic to the language of contrary-to-fact conditionals or to the rules of poetic rhythym, so too is there a natural directedness expressed in how human beings construct a world of meaning out of those raw effections and receptions. That directedness cannot, however, be restricted to rational intentionality, though reason is indeed an essential component. With his definition of man as the symbolic animal, Cassirer is in position to reenvision the task of philosophy.

Philosophy is much more than the analysis and eventual resolution of a set of linguistic problems, as Wittgenstein would have it, nor is it restricted, as it was for many Neo-Kantians, to transcendentally deducing the logical forms that would ground the natural sciences.

The functions of the human person are not merely aggregrate, loosely-connected expressions and factual conditions. Philosophy seeks to understand the connections that unite those expressions and conditions as an organic whole. What is needed for the proper study of myth, beyond this appreciation of its utility, is a step by step un-riddling of the mythical objects in non-mythical concepts so as to rationally articulate what a myth really means.


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  • Sigmund Freud, of course, also considered myth to be a sort of unconscious expression, one that stands as a primitive version of the naturally-occuring expression of subconscious drives. Cassirer considers myth in terms of the Neo-Kantian reflex by first examining the conditions for thinking and then analyzing the objects which are thought. To say that objects of any sort are what they are independent of their representation is to misunderstand the last century of transcendental epistemology. From this point of view all artistic creation becomes a mere imitation, which must always fall short of the original.

    And it seems that all other processes of mental gestation involve the same sort of outrageous distortion, the same departure from objective reality and the immediate data of experience. Language and Myth , trans. Langer [], 6. Langer [], 7. Cassirer rejects such fictionalism in myth and language both as an appeal to psychologistic measures of truth that fail to see a better alternative in the philosophy of symbolic forms.

    For Cassirer, myth and language, discussed below does reflect reality: the reality of the subject. Instead of measuring the content, meaning, and truth of intellectual forms by something extraneous which is supposed to be reproduced in them, we must find in these forms themselves the measure and criterion for their truth and intrinsic meaning.

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    Instead of taking them as mere copies of something else, we must see in each of these spiritual forms a spontaneous law of generation; and original way and tendency of expression which is more than a mere record of something initially given in fixed categories of real existence. Langer [], 8. The question is no longer whether mythic symbols, or any of these other symbolic forms, correspond to reality since it is distinct from that mode of representation, but instead it is a question on how myths relate to those other forms as limitations and supplementations.

    No matter how heterogeneous and variegated are the myths that come down to us, they move along definite avenues of feeling and creative thought. An example Cassirer uses to illustrate his understanding of myth-making is the Avesta myth of Mithra.

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    Attempts to identify Mithra as the sun-god, and thereby analogize it to the sun-god of the Egyptians, Greeks, and other early people, are misguided insofar as they stem from the attempt to explain away the object of mythical thinking in naturalistic rational terms. Mithra is not a thing to be naturalized, but evidence of an alternate spiritual energy that fashions symbolic responses to experiential confusions. What Mithra specifically reflects is a mode of thinking as it struggles to make sense of how the qualities of light and darkness result from a single essential unity: the cosmos.

    As historical epochs provide new and self-enclosed worlds of experience, so too does myth evolve in conjunction with the needs of the age as an expression of overlapping but quite distinct patterns of mental life. Myths are hardly just wild stories with a particular pragmatic lesson. There is a specific mode of perception that imbues mythic thinking with its power to transcend experience. The first volume of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms , on language, is guided by the search for epistemological reasons sufficient to explain the origin and development of human speech.

    Language is neither a nominal nor arbitrary designation of objects, nor, however, does language hold any immediate or essential connection to the object of its designation. The use of a word to designate an object is already caught in a web of intersubjectively-determined meanings which of themselves contain much more than the simple reference. In contrast to Kant and the Neo-Kantians, however, those forms cannot be presumed to be identical among all rational agents over the spans of history. Animal language is essentially a language of emotion, expressions of desires and aversions in response to environmental factors.

    The features of those objects were further abstracted such that from commonalities there emerged a host of types, kinds, and eventually universals, whose meaning allowed for the emergence of mathematics, science, and philosophy. The application of dimensionality, and temporality as well, transforms the subjective sensation into an objective representation.

    Prepositions, participles, subjunctives, conditionals, and the rest, all involve either temporal or spatial prescriptions, and none of them seems to be a feature of animal space. The older animalistic content is not entirely discarded as the same basic desires and emotions are expressed. The means of that expression, however, are formally of an entirely different character that binds the subject to the object in ways supposed to be binding for other rational agents.

    The Neo-Kantian position on language allows Cassirer to address two contemporary anomalies in linguistic science.