Social Imaginaries

Volume 3, Issue 2, Autumn 2017

Approaches to Religion

Chiara Bottici
Pages 213-227

Who Is Afraid of The Myth of the State?
Remarks on Cassirer’s Unpublished Manuscript

Now that we possess the Nachlass version, we can finally state it: Cassirer’s The Myth of the State has been massacred, large parts have been omitted; entire sections moved around, the fundamental thesis deeply altered. Instead of the neo-Enlightenment intellectual who, when faced with the Nazi’s recourse to myth, had started to question the very idea of a Western road from mythos to logos, the 1946 edition transmitted to us the text of a self-confident intellectual carrying the torch of the Enlightenment even in front of an event that could have potentially extinguished it forever. Why has the text been massacred? When? And by whom? The main suspect cannot but be Charles Hendel, who published it posthumously in 1946 by stating: ‘I hope I have not altered anything that would have mattered to him.’ By perhaps it was not a murder, but rather a suicide: perhaps Cassirer’s himself has killed his own self-criticism. In both cases, the motive could have been the desire to preserve Cassirer’s intellectual coherence, and thus reiterate that opposition of mythical versus rational consciousness upon which both Cassirer’s philosophy and philosophical self-narrative of the West ultimately rests. But if that is the case, then it does not matter who actually assassinated the text, because we are all, in a way or another, accomplices.