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Nuyens, Nico

Author: Nico Nuyens

Graduation year: 2008

Department: Geschiedenis van de Filosofie 


The Architectonic of Ernst Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms



In recent years there has been a significant upheaval of the interest in Ernst Cassirer as a systematic philosopher. However, so far no comprehensive account of the systematic nature of Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms was given in the secondary literature. The aim of this thesis is, therefore, to deliver such an account in which the architectonic of Cassirer's philosophy is scrutinized. One of my claims is that this architectonic can only be properly understood if comprehended from the perspective of Cassirer's work Einstein's Theory of Relativity, in which he for the first time expresses the basic idea of the philosophy of symbolic forms. His philosophical interpretation of the theory of relativity actually proves to be the key for understanding the philosophy of symbolic forms.
Another important claim of my thesis is that Cassirer's philosophy should be understood as a model of culture’s plurality of symbolic systems, in which no hierarchic structure nor linear line of development can be discovered that leads to a single and monolithic 'truth'. According to Cassirer, there are certainly patters of development that characterize culture's symbol-systems, but these are principally considered to be open and dynamic. The 'unity' in culture (for Cassirer 'culture' coincides with the human 'spirit') can partly be found in the common 'top soil' or Mutterboden of myth, because the mythical worldview precedes any rational and even lingual understanding of the world we live in. Another perspective on the unity in culture considers the symbolic forms to converge to a single focus imaginarius, an ideal focal point that is principally out of reach but nonetheless guides philosophy’s effort to establish a coherent worldview. In my thesis special attention is paid to the so far overlooked notion of an agonal complexity in Cassirer's model of culture that explains the violent clashes between different worldviews.


Last modified:01 November 2013 2.50 p.m.