published on January 8, 2016
Cassirer's Functional Conception of the Human Being
Since the publication of The Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms, scholars have insisted that Cassirer’s account of human consciousness can only be found in this posthumous ‘fourth volume of the philosophy of symbolic forms.’ I will argue, however, that Cassirer’s philosophy of culture was already from the beginning essentially also a philosophy of the human being: as I see it, Cassirer consistently holds a ‘functional conception of human consciousness’ that can serve as a foundational element of his thought precisely by remaining in the background of his writings. In his published works, Cassirer adopts Natorp’s reconstructive approach to consciousness within the framework of his philosophy of culture. On this basis, he develops a transcendental, ‘functional’, conception of subjectivity that forms the exact counterpart of his view of objectivity. Cassirer’s metaphysics translates this conception in the language of his contemporaries, but does not substantially alter it.