Cassirer's critique of culture: Between the Scylla of Lebensphilosophie and the Charybdis of the Vienna Circle

Synthese 179 (1):187 - 202 (2011)

Abstract
My purpose in this paper is to look at Cassirer's relation to critical philosophy from a new perspective. Most discussions concerning Cassirer's Kantianism have so far centered on his relation to neo-Kantianism and the Marburg school. My focus will not be on neo-Kantianism but on Cassirer's notion of a "critique of culture." In an often cited paragraph from the introduction to The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer says that his aim is to broaden Kant's critical approach to all various forms of culture, to language as well as myth and art, and thus to transform the "critique of reason" into the "critique of culture." I will explore Cassirer's concept of the "critique of culture" and suggest that it can best be understood by placing it in the context of early twentieth century German philosophy. More precisely, I will aim to show that Cassirer's critique can be seen as an effort to find a middle path between Lebensphilosophie and the positivism of the Vienna Circle
Keywords Cassirer  Logical positivism  Lebensphilosophie  Critical philosophy  Culture  Expressive function
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