eflections on Ernst Cassirers
An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man, by Ernst Cassirer, presents a philosophy of culture through an examination of the various modes of human knowledge, which for Cassirer, defines culture. Cassirer begins hisdefense by stating that we are in a ³crisis´ in our knowledge of ourselves. The question of cultureis the question of who we are. For Cassirer this problem requires a structuralist approach as wecannot merely contemplate the nature of our existence but must contextualize it. The problem,however, is that each individual has their own way of seeing the world as do the variousdisciplines. Truth is multifaceted and the various modes of human knowledge seemcontradictory. Religion yields a different truth than science but so too does the particular sciencefrom other sciences, Cassirer claims there is little unity²human knowledge has becomefragmented. Therefore, it is Cassirer¶s quest to find the common thread, or as he says, ³a clue of Ariadne to lead us out of this labyrinth.´For Cassirer to solve this problem he must find a common reducible phenomenon that isfoundational to all aspects of human knowledge. The primal mechanism of our self-awareness,he proposes, is symbolic thought. Cassirer¶s proposition is that symbolic thinking has led to allknowledge, to language, myth, religion, art, and science. Accordingly, man no longer lives ³in amerely physical universe,´ says Cassirer, ³man lives in a symbolic universe.´ Therefore, theuniverse is a condition to man¶s experience within it as he can only relate and reason accordingto his own experience. Cassirer makes a point of telling us the distinction between a symbol anda mere ³sign,´ as a sign represents something physical. Cassirer¶s symbol is an ideal ³form´rather than an indicative or imitative form. Cassirer¶s symbolic thinking is a subjective universe,a world shaped by experience rather than a world as it is, apart from man. Accordingly, manseeks to know the universe in order to interpret himself. Here is where man becomes reflective
An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture3.98 · Rating details · 318 Ratings · 21 Reviews
One of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers presents the results of his lifetime study of man’s cultural achievements. An Essay on Man is an original synthesis of contemporary knowledge, a unique interpretation of the intellectual crisis of our time, and a brilliant vindication of man’s ability to resolve human problems by the courageous use of his mind.
What theOne of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers presents the results of his lifetime study of man’s cultural achievements. An Essay on Man is an original synthesis of contemporary knowledge, a unique interpretation of the intellectual crisis of our time, and a brilliant vindication of man’s ability to resolve human problems by the courageous use of his mind.
What the thinkers of the past have thought of the human race, what can be said of its art, language, and capacities for good and evil in the light of modern knowledge are discussed by a great philosopher who had a profound experience of the past and of his own time....more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published September 10th 1962 by Yale University Press (first published 1944)