With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters
Edited By Jason Hannan
6 Ernst Cassirer: Communication, Rhetoric, and Symbolic Form THOMAS A. DISCENNA 159
6 Ernst Cassirer Communication, Rhetoric, and Symbolic Form THOMAS A. DISCENNA ________________________________________ The philosopher Ernst Cassirer stands as one of the most neglected figures of the latter part of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As S. G. Lofts explains, “A thoroughly central figure in the neo-Kantian movement and the pre–World War II philosophical scene, Ernst Cassirer was quickly displaced to the margins of philosophy after his death in 1945. Today the name of Cassirer is seldom, if ever, mentioned in lectures on, or introductions to the history of philosophy.”1 The reasons for this displacement are manifold. A number of scholars have identified a shift in culture and the vagaries of fashion as the reason for Cassirer’s neglect by contemporary scholars. Hazard Adams, reflecting on Cassirer’s lack of influence on literary studies, argues, It can be said on the whole that in academic literary fashion three things are true that bear on Cassirer’s present reputation: 1.) many academic critics are not very happy about commitment to any philosophical position, especially Americans, who would rather use things than embrace them, turning commitment to method; 2.) Cassirer seemed to lose to Heidegger sometime in the sixties; and 3.) post-structuralism would regard Cassirer as someone who never managed to come to a true apprecia- tion of difference.2 Edward Skidelsky is even more blunt concerning Cassirer’s irrelevance to contemporary philosophy, arguing, “It was not just that many aspects of his system had fallen into disrepair, but that the whole thing was no longer 160...
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