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Ometita, M.

Auteur: Mihai Ometita
Afstudeerjaar: 2011 (Research Master)
Vakgroep: Geschiedenis van de filosofie
Titel: Human Finitude and Transcendence: The Heidegger-Cassirer Debate on Kant’s Ethics




The confrontation between Martin Heidegger and Ernst Cassirer in Davos (Switzerland) from 1929 is pivotal in the history of the twentieth-century philosophy. The stake of this encounter was the legitimate appropriation of Immanuel Kant’s philosophical legacy during the first half of the last century and the fate of Neo-Kantianism between the two world wars. The repercussions of this event have spanned beyond the philosophical arena into the wide landscape of culture. The issue of the so-called “Davos disputation” has become highly controversial among researchers of the development of philosophical orientations in the 20th century. Not only these researchers, but also the public of this dispute, have expressed opposite views on its outcome. A central theme in Davos was human finitude and transcendence within the Kantian framework. Interestingly, despite the fact that Kant formulates his views in this respect most explicitly in his practical philosophy, the research of the Davos disputation has focused on theoretical matters. Above all, no thorough arbitration of this historic encounter has been endeavoured thus far. This thesis is the first attempt to assess Heidegger’s and Cassirer’s debate on human finitude and transcendence in light of their written interpretations of Kant’s practical philosophy. Nowadays these interpretations are virtually forgotten; their reconsideration is urgent at least for two reasons. Firstly, they provide the background and rationale of crucial arguments formulated in Davos, some of which have been later developed by other philosophers. Secondly, these interpretations are partial, but complementary, interpretations of Kant’s ethics. Whereas Heidegger’s reading of Kant’s conception of human finitude does not refer to the latter’s views on our potential for transcendence, Cassirer overestimates this potential precisely by not taking into account Kant’s arguments for ineluctable finitude. To my mind, only an interpretation informed by both Heidegger’s and Cassirer’s readings of Kant’s moral doctrine does justice to it. This is because, according to Kant, the ethical transcendence of a finite being is a transcendence within – not beyond – finitude.

Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 14:11