Volume 15, 2015
Cassirer and Husserl on the Phenomenology of Perception
This paper creates a dialogue between Ernst Cassirer, one of the last prominent representatives of Neo-Kantian thought, and Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. In Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer criticizes Husserl’s distinction between hylē and morphē. His criticism is based in part on the work of several figures belonging to the early phase of the phenomenological movement, including Wilhelm Schapp. By developing Cassirer’s criticism and considering the responses that Husserl could have offered, the dialogue helps to clarify the complex relationship between Cassirer’s philosophy and Husserl’s phenomenology. It also reveals some of the ways in which early phenomenology influenced other philosophical movements. But dialogue between Cassirer and Husserl is of more than historical interest. I argue that Husserl would not have had an adequate response to Cassirer’s objections. Cassirer’s criticism of Husserl thus remains relevant for present day research in phenomenology.