Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen PhiSymbForm

Philosophie Der Symbolischen Formen Phisymbform-Free PDF

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considered as a primary symbolic form alongside language mythical thought or science and. we do not even know if it is a symbolic form at all Rather what is stressed in the first two. volumes of PhiSymbForm as well as in other works of the same period2 is the proximity of. mythological thought to language And in PhiSymbForm in general the relationship between. language on the one hand and mythological thought and science on the other is always kept in. balance the most mythical layers of meaning are always active in language which is. nonetheless a means of escaping from these very layers at some later step in the development. of symbolic forms Language possesses therefore the unique versatile power of pervading all. symbolic forms from the most mythical to the most scientific ones Thus at the time of. PhiSymbForm Cassirer s philosophical agenda was clearly focused on the attitude towards. language since it is this attitude which directly modifies the inner balance between other. symbolic forms especially mythical and scientific thought Hence the crucial role played by. language right from the beginning of PhiSymbForm, The importance of Form und Technik published in 19303 from now on FormTech. clearly derives from its focusing on the question of the nature of technical activity in its. relationship with the notion of symbolic form What is striking in this article is that an. opposition is being made between language and technical activity on the one hand and. mythological thought on the other when man was still immerged in a mythical vision of the. world says Cassirer quoting Herder language and tools opened up an entirely new realm by. severing him from the immediate present and attracting him into the workings of mediation. But one has to ask the following question is the linguistic mediation of the same kind as the. technical one In the case of language two dimensions seem to be at stake the dimension of. expressivity i e the fact that one has to acknowledge that he or she is the addressee of what. happens in a particular situation and the dimension of semiosis i e the fact that any given. meaning of a sign is appointed by repetition and it is thanks to other signs that a sign is. recognised as such otherwise the sign looses its character of sign and becomes a mere piece. of matter deprived of meaning In the case of technical activity the mediation is not of the. same kind because it operates between a tool and Nature defined as this entity which neither. addresses anything to humans nor depends on their semiotic conventions Hence the obvious. 2 In 1925 Cassirer published not only the second volume of die Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen focused. on mythical thought but also the article Sprache und Mythos ein Beitrag zum problem der G tternamen which I. consider Cassirer s best analysis of the relationship between language and myth. 3 i e only one year after the last volume of PhiSymbForm Cassirer s personal evolution on the question of. technical activity seems to have been influenced by his 1929 meeting with Heidegger in Davos. discrepancy for any unbiased reader between the two kinds of mediation Nevertheless in. FormTech linguistic and technical activities are both seen as primitive symbolic forms used. as vectors of a progressive disengagement from the mythical attitude to the world Cassirer. seems therefore to answer the question regarding the relationship of technical activity to. language and to mythological thought in a twofold way first he identifies the case of. technical activity with that of language from the point of view of their mediating power. secondly he argues that technical activity is opposed to mythological thought in the same. way as language can ultimately become opposed to mythological thought 4. Thus it seems undeniable that the two points of view in PhiSymbForm and in. FormTech are in opposition to one another even if language keeps its fundamental role in. both of them Is it only a difference of presentation The discrepancy seems much deeper than. this The description developed in PhiSymbForm is in fact transcendantal language is. construed as the basic form within which other symbolic forms can be conceived of on an a. priori basis Even if the description starts with language and ends with science there is no. finality which would lead from mythological thought to science as the ultimate symbolic. form 5 and both of them appear more as examples of symbolic analysis than as steps towards. an ultimate knowledge conceived in a kind of Hegelian way The point of view developed in. FormTech is historical the mythical interpretation of the world is the basic socio semiotic. situation in the history of humanity from which a way out became possible thanks to the. mediation of language and technical activity It is the inner relationship between language and. technical activity which prompted the mutation leading from a mythical attitude to the world. to a scientific one Therefore the two viewpoints exposed by Cassirer do not match not only. because finality is not interpreted in the same way in the two works but because the emphasis. on language in the first one involves a semiotic state which is immediately given thanks to the. presence of signs conveying meanings contrary to what happens in the second one where. technical activity is not immediately semiotic i e is not characterised as using conventional. signs the way language does What seems to characterise technical activity in general is its. 4 From this sketchy outline one could easily be led to conclude that the symbolic evolution of humankind. consists in the progressive separation from mythological thought and its replacement by science But this is not. the case if it were language would stop occupying the transcendental core in the system of symbolic forms and. would eventually be replaced by science the development of which is based on a divorce with natural language. as Cassirer often pointed out But this replacement never happens for linguistic activity is the unique driving. force able to mingle into all human activities in general. 5 We know that Cassirer prepared a sequel which was published in 1995 only under the title Zur Metaphysik der. symbolischen Formen John Michael Krois ed vol 1 of Nachgelessene Manuskripte und Texte Hamburg Felix. neutralization of the expressive dimension due to the fact that it operates unconsciously even. if the final goal of a technical activity can be represented and evaluated by the individual the. technical activity itself is embodied in such a way as to be forgotten entirely For example. nobody has to think of the potential difference in wires to switch on the light this is typical of. a technical activity in which the process activated to reach a goal is entirely blind And. science in general is precisely a form in which the main goal of technical activity is directed. towards objectivity conceived as deprived of any expressivity The point at stake is therefore. the following how is it possible for technical activity the inner workings of which are. deprived of any expressive dimension to be recognised eventually as an activity in itself and. therefore as performing a specific form of expression. We are therefore faced with two problems i if a symbolic form is symbolic thanks to. the semiotic presence of signs only in what sense can technical activity be considered as a. symbolic form in its own right ii and if technical activity is nonetheless acknowledged as. a symbolic form what is the relationship between language and technical activity. There is I think a way to answer both questions which remains faithful to the spirit if. not to the letter of Cassirer s philosophy, 12 Activity as the basis of language and tool making. As for the first question language is an activity just as much as technical activity as. Cassirer pointed out repeatedly borrowing the Greek concept of energeia from Humboldt. and B hler in order to characterize its nature It is therefore because both language and. technical activity are activities that they have a common ground not because language makes. use of signs whereas technical activity does not necessarily do so What does activity mean. in this context An activity is a regular sequence of actions focused on a collective goal which. is performed for its own sake It involves a way of performing specific gestures6 in which the. use of linguistic signs can be included The collective aspect of an activity should not. therefore be interpreted in terms of one to one transactions between individuals since it is not. the more or less large number of individuals which makes the activity collective It becomes. collective when it is performed for its own sake defining by its own process what should be. considered as proper for the activity under way Once an inherent norm is recognised in. 6 A well documented example is the social difference between the right and the left hand Cf Roger Hertz La. pr minence de la main droite tude sur la polarit religieuse The Preeminency of the Right Hand A Study of. Religious Polarity Revue philosophique LXVIII Juillet D cembre 1909 553 580 translated into English by. R Needham in R Needham ed Right and Left Essays in Dual Symbolic Classification The University of. Chicago Press Chicago and London 1973, specific marks and gestures these marks and gestures acquire a social status the marks may. then be interpreted as signs and the gestures as involving tools From this moment on they. can be used for their own sake defining the norm which should be followed by the activity It. is therefore not the fact that tools are external objects extending an activity already achievable. by other means like the movement of a limb arm hand finger etc that makes them tools in. order to take place a human activity needs social landmarks that must be recognised as such. by those involved in the activity These landmarks can eventually become tools when the. landmarks are involved exclusively to reach the goal of the activity itself Hence the fact that. tools are used unconsciously except when they become dysfunctional And it seems to me. that the same holds true too for the use of linguistic signs as some psycholinguists have. already pointed out7, If language and technical activity are to be associated as it is the case in FormTech. we must expand the notion of a symbolic form to any kind of shared activity semiotic or. semiotic to be Consequently we can interpret the nature of linguistic activity as the symbolic. form which keeps transforming itself through the interface it has with other activities like the. technical one It is through this interface that new symbolic forms evolve in their own right. like science Language remains therefore the fundamental basis from which other activities. become susceptible of bearing some expressivity thus becoming symbolic forms It is I. believe this internal symbolic drift which is the core of PhiSymbForm as well as FormTech. and more generally of Cassirer s published philosophy. As for the second question which deals with the specific relationship between language. and technical activity it boils down to the question of how the technical activity becomes a. symbolic form We have to focus on the definition of technical activity given by Cassirer to. answer this question, 2 Three points in Cassirer s conception of linguistic and technical activities that should.
be reconsidered, If technical activity along with language plays a mediating role which gradually. involves a withdrawal from the mythical attitude to the world how is this role to be conceived. of It seems to me that at least three points should be re examined in Cassirer s position if we. want to take into account recent advances in the nature of technical activity. 7 Cf infra and M Tomasello 1999 The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition Harvard Harvard University. 21 Language and tool making as criteria for humanity. In FormTech Cassirer along with most of his contemporaries8 defends the idea that. both language and technical activity are criteria that can be used to characterise humanity as. such This question has received close scrutiny in the last twenty years or so and in view of. these recent findings it is not possible to expressly defend Cassirer s point of view today. Let us take the case of technical activity first The debate concerning a possible animal. technical activity oscillates between two extremes either the cases of humans and of. superior primates are identified by promoters of the animal cause or they are separated by. defenders of a human specificity There are very good arguments in contemporary. archaeology and ethology to claim that this second viewpoint is just wrong technical activity. has been tracked back to pre humans9 and to some extent even to animals Consequently the. position held at the time of Cassirer is not sustainable in the same terms any longer But this. new state of affairs is an opportunity to clarify the nature of technical activity Thus the point. under discussion is less the presence or absence of technical activity in animal groups a fact. which is not questionable today than the way animal technical activity is organised and. connected to other activities The indirect consequence of this last point is that the notion of a. symbolic form has to be refined as well, Let us point out first that in the debates concerning animal technical activity and more. generally concerning animal culture the extensive use of ill defined and polysemic concepts. In Cassirer s Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen hereafter PhiSymbForm the relationship between symbolic forms is always interpreted from the point of view of language since it is ultimately the human attitude towards language which makes new symbolic forms possible the vision of the world remains mythical says Cassirer when the human attitude towards natural language is that of

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