Some PPR reviews

Kaufmann, Fritz 1957. Review of An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture by Ernst Cassirer. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8(2): 283-287.

The present writer had looked forward to this review as part of a dialogue which has gone on between Neo-Kantianism and Phenomenology since the earliest writings of Edmund Husserl. Cassirer himself once praised the discussion between Natorp and Husserl as a true paragon of philosophical criticism in point of form, content, and general fairness (Kantstudien, XXX, p. 286). The spirit of this tradition as well as respect and admiration for one of the most venerable figures in recent philosophy, one of the most encyclopaedic of modern minds, cannot but animate these brief and unfortunately posthumous remarks on Cassirer's book - one of the latest and, peprhaps, last documents of the Marburg Neo-Kantian school. (Kaufmann 1957: 283)
My opinion of Cassirer is similar - he seems like a polymath of bygone days. I was quite happy to find out that S. K. Langer translated Cassirer's Language and Myth to English in 1946.
Reiterating the Neo-Kantian emphasis on function as against substance, and considering the objects and patterns of our world as products of objectification, Cassirer defines man as a functional unity, i.e., as the animal symbolicum, distinguished by the gift of symbolical expression. "Symbolization," not "objectification" is the term used, above all because Cassirer is not exclusively interested in the highest results of transcendental synthesis - the canons and objects of pure knowledge, pure will, and pure feeling. Following suggestions in Paul Natorp's Psychology, he extends the range of the transcendental method and the analysis of their "inner forms" from science, morals and art to spheres with a "lower" objective status - like myth, religion and language. All these realms bear witness to the "symbolic" power of man - "the power to build up a world of his own, an 'ideal' world" (p. 228). It is in the formation of these symbols and this world of culture that man's true nature is revealed. (Kaufmann 1957: 284)
This sounds unsurprisingly Lotmanian. Cassirer also gave the impetus to symbolism - e.g. Langer's philosophy of symbolic forms and transformations.
Knowledge and the world of knowledge are one: no thing but only man himself is caught in the net of relations which constitute his "symbolic universe," the "ideal world" of his own making and his own life. While Cassirer cannot bud admit that the very meaning of an ideal world presupposes a real one, he insists that man cannot "confront reality immediately" and as it were "face to face": "he cannot see anything except by the interposition of [an] artificial medium" (p. 25). But it is problematic at least, how autonomous thought is to fulfil this mediatory task by way of mere logical constructions. (Kaufmann 1957: 285)
Cassirer was a Kantian. And his standpoint seems valid. Even such an alectic phenomenon as "nonverbal communication" cannot be "seen" without the "artificial medium" of language and text(s about nonverbal communication).
Though the illustrative schema (pp. 23 f.) is taken from a German book, Johannes von Uexküll's Theoretical Biology, and the anthropological accents betray the influence of, and the reaction to, German Existentialism, the emphasis on culture as a medium between subject and object strikes a new, American note in Cassirer's work. It is apparently with regard to this change of method that Cassirer says in the Preface that the old problems are now seen "in a new sight" and "from a different angle." Still, this change does not come as a complete surprise. The compatibility of Kantianism with different brands of pragmatism had been shown in praxis by thinkers like Dewey and C. I. Lewis. (Kaufmann 1957: 285-286)
And from here stems a "philosophy in a new key", e.g. semiotics (and, especially, cultural semiotics).
The sovereignty of the mind in building up worlds of its own according to its own immaterial laws leads to autonomous realms of culture which were conceived originally as ends in themselves and by no means as mere intermediaries between stimulus and response. (Kaufmann 1957: 286)
I think culture as an intermediary between stimulus and response is best exemplified by Ekman and Friesen's "display rules."
Each of these realms represents a specific unit of synthesis. The synthetic unity of these realms themselves - the unity of culture - had been a grave problem to Cohen and Natorp; it was apparently of less concern to Cassirer. He was satisfied with pointing out quite rightly the unifying function of the "objective mind." Science, art, language, religion, etc. are organs of communication between man and man, carriers of tradition from generation to generation. Through them we are enabled to share in, and contribute to, a community of thought and feeling (p. 244 ff.). But a final unity of mankind cannot be the accidental result of human striving in the different ways of symbolic expression: it must be a final cause which ties together our mental functions and activities for one supreme effort. (Kaufmann 1957: 286)
Compare this to Lotman's view of culture as a supra-individual organism.
In concluding I wish to rehabilitate the idea of the animal symbolicum in a way reminiscent of the conception of man as homo Dei. Man is a symbolical being not so much becaise he is a maker; rather, he is a maker because he is made "in the image, after the likeness" of God. This statement must not be given an orthodox theological interpretation. (Kaufmann 1957: 287)
An unorthodox interpretation would be that of the Ancient Aliens theory. The movie Prometheus is a good example of this: the Engineers created humans and humans in turn created artificial intelligence.

Farber, Marvin 1947. Review of Soviet Philosophy: A Survey of Principles by John Somerville. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8(2): 280-283.

Mention will be made, finally, of the distinction between aesthetics and the philosophy of art (pp. 116 f.). As a result of the tendency to identify the philosophy of art with aesthetics, "the problem of beauty has been made the central, asd sometimes the only, problem of the study." The narrowness and dangers of aesthetics thus conceived are rightly pointed out by the author. The philosophy of art is depicted as being breader and as including aesthetics. The problem of the origin and noture of art, and the part played by art among social institutions, fall to the philosophy of art. But why do not such problems fall to positive social science? The philosopher of art, per se, should be aware of the pertinent findings of the special cultural sciences. Moreover, he may himself be a special scholar in the relevant fields in addition to being a philosopher of art. Thus the philosopher of art in the Soviet Union may deal with questions concerning the relations of art to the rest of society, "in terms of roots and consequences." The philosopher of art must indeed use materials from the positive special sciences. The doctrine that "art is largely a reflection of social reality" requires that social relations and problems enter into the material of the philosophy of art. In the interest of clarity, the reader will wish to have a differentia, or a set of differentiae, of the philosophy of art. When "vulgar sociology" is criticized (pp. 120, 121, e.g.), is it not supposed to be replaced by a sound sociological analysis? In other words, does historical materialism serve here qua philosophy or qua social science? (Farber 1947: 282-283)
The only philosopher of art that I'm currently aware of is S. K. Langer, and she influenced (even if indirectly through other members of the TMS) Lotman who did consider the "cultural sciences" and the relation of art to society. I like the term "vulgar sociology" because I can probably tease my sociologist friend with it.

Demos, Raphael 1947. Review of The Meeting of East and West: An Inquiry Concerning World Understanding by F. S. C. Northrop. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8(2): 276-280.

Consider the author's account of Locke, the arch-exponent of the Protestant and Anglo-Saxon viewpoint. In criticizing this account, my object is not to show that Locke is right, but to indicate that our author's strictures are invalid on many points. (a) We are told by him that Locke views the self as a self-sufficient substance, an atom in a void. We are also told that Locke reduces the functioning of the self to that of receiving impressions from the external world. I submit that the two propositions are inconsistent. Surely if the very nature of the self is to be acted on by something else, then its essence is relational - an essence disclosed in its relations and not in any substantial properties. (b) We are told by the author that Locke thinks of society as artificial, not natural, and also that Locke has patterned his view of society upon that of Newtonian science concerning the physical world. Again, I submit that the two parts of this sentence are mutually inconsistent. (Demos 1947: 276-277)
The first seems like a radical statement of individualism, the second reminds me of Cassirer's statement on Hume that the self is a "bundle of perceptions".
The reader will sympathize with the author's contention that society is conceived falsely when described as a collection of atomic individuals. At the same time, the sympathetic reader cannot help feeling that there are serious difficulties in Mr. Northrop's own view of society as an organic whole; it is such a doctrine which, in fact, has led to the German versions of totalitarianism. Surely the problem is how to establish mutual obligation among individuals without denying their freedom. (Demos 1947: 277)
Alas these are the socio-philosophical problems that I know not what to do with.
Every natural entity contains an aesthetic and a theoretic component; thus, the self has a body no less than a mind. (Demos 1947: 278)
This is a bit more familiar. But if I were to employ a very general and not at all useful approach, I'd say that the self emerges between the body and the mind. This is, in effect, saying nothing.
Moral values are relative and transitory; why then take them seriously? - so reasons the Oriental, according to Mr. Northrop. (Demos 1947: 279)
I'd take the same position. But as my conversations with Joonas have proven, I know nothing about morals and ethics.


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