Volume 42, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2012
Ernst Cassirer's Essential Critique of Heidegger and Verfallenheit
In the past decade and a half, there has been a renewed interest in the philosophical disagreements between Martin Heidegger and Ernst Cassirer. Entirely overlooked is the fourth volume of Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, unpublished in the author’s lifetime, in which he asserts that Heidegger’s concept of Verfallenheit is the essential point at which their philosophies diverge. This paper re-examines the disagreements between Heidegger and Cassirer, in light of this crucial text. Two questions are considered: (1) What is Cassirer’s criticism of Verfallenheit? (2) In what sense is this matter the essential point of departure between their respective philosophies? I argue that, for Cassirer, the problem with the concept of Verfallenheit is that it undermines the possibility of transpersonal meaning and relegates cultural projects to inauthenticity.