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Myth and Modernity: Cassirer's Critique of Heidegger

Author(s): Peter Eli Gordon
Source: New German Critique, No. 94, Secularization and Disenchantment (Winter, 2005),
pp. 127-168
Published by: Duke University Press
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New German Critique

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Myth and Modernity.
Cassirer Critique ofHeidegger

Peter Eli Gordon

"The philosopher is a mythologist."
- Plato

What is the relation between fascism and myth?l For the Frank
School, fascism was not a reversion to barbarism but a patholo
extremity of enlightenment itself. Following Weber's lead, Adorn
Horkheimer saw enlightenment as a transhistorical rather than a
cretely historical process, coordinating a host of distinct phenomen
disenchantment of the world, the secularization of human consci
ness, the "extirpation of animism," and the slow displacement of m
sis by symbolic and conceptual thought. While they acknowl
fascism's atavistic appearance - especially its calls for a return to
blood and soil - they denied it could be characterized in essenc
merely retrograde departure from civilization. Still bound, howe
weakly, to Marxian habits of thought, Adorno and Horkheimer sa
cism not as a lapse but as the crisis-stage in history's developmen
the apotheosis of bourgeois subjectivity and a dialectical conseque
"instrumental reason." Because myth is born from the desire to un
stand and thereby to achieve some mastery over one's environme
myth, in this sense at least, is "already" enlightenment. But in th
text of technological proficiency and social rationalization, enligh
ment devolves into a compulsive will to mastery without self-refl

1. For comments and criticism, I am grateful to Martin Jay, Warren Brec
Samuel Moyn, Jonathan Skolnik, Eugene Sheppard, John McCole, and Thomas Me


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128 Myth and Modernity

or normative orientation. Enlightenment, then, is already, in its one-
sided and distorted form, at least, a new species of myth. And fascism,
they claimed, was the indisputable spawn of modernity, the culminating
phase of the laborious and collective effort by which humanity, having
originally sought release from its mythic fear of nature, ended in the
liquidation of the freedom it aimed to achieve. A political correlative of
modern advertising, fascism succeeded by means of the cynical manipu-
lation of desire: It was, in sum, "fake myth."2
This theory, which Adorno and Horkheimer put forth in the 1947
study, Dialectic of Enlightenment, is but one variant of the more com-
mon observation that fascism is not truly "irrational" but only a simu-
lacrum of mythic unreason. Similar, though less remembered today is
Ernst Cassirer's last great contribution to intellectual history, The Myth
of the State, a work composed in American exile and published, posthu-
mously, in 1946. Like Horkheimer and Adorno, Cassirer saw the pecu-
liarity of National Socialism in its effort to forge an entire tissue of
belief by artificial means: "The new political myths," Cassirer wrote,
"do not grow up freely; they are not wild fruits of an exuberant imagi-
nation. They are artificial things fabricated by very skilful and cunning
artisans." In contrast to those liberal-minded theorists who found conso-
lation in the view that Nazism was mere barbarism and primitive senti-
ment, Cassirer discerned its specific modernity: "It has been reserved
for the twentieth century, our own great technical age, to develop a new
technique of myth. Henceforth myths can be manufactured in the same
sense and according to the same methods as any other modern
weapon-as machine guns or airplanes."3
A promising feature of this theory lay in the claim that fascism, while
essentially modern, succeeds by manipulating the pre-modern or
"mythic" dimension of human experience. From this perspective, fasc-
ism is a species of secularism cloaked only for effect in the guise of
faith. This view has enduring merit not least because it promotes the
watchful attitude that we moderns must never consider ourselves fully
beyond the fascist danger. Indeed, there is no getting "beyond" hazards
inhering in modernity itself. But the theory is not without its disadvan-
tages. As Jiirgen Habermas has claimed, the thesis that fascism is the

2. Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Philo-
sophical Fragments, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002) 9.
3. Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale UP, 1946) 355, here-
after, MS.

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Peter Eli Gordon 129

spawn of instrumental reason may place too little trust in the eman
potential of human rationality and can quickly devolve into a to
polemic against reason as such. Indeed, the ceaseless critique of
gone wrong can easily encourage a mood of fatalistic and stylis
mism that sabotages the liberatory work of enlightenment befor
even begun.4 From another perspective, however, one might c
theory places not too little confidence in reason but too much. B
acterizing fascism as an outcome of modernity, the theory seems
resent modernity as having truly surpassed myth. Only a f
disbelieving subject, it seems, is sufficiently demythologized t
myth as an instrument of cynical control. The theory of fasci
"technique of myth," in other words, may presuppose a human
who has actually achieved thoroughgoing disenchantment.
My claim in this essay is that there may be no such thing as a mod
and rational subject who is entirely "disenchanted," in the sense t
would entail the capacity to achieve rational mastery over one's c
tive meaning. Considered broadly, "myth" might indicate a stru
social meaning that seems both independent of the subject's agen
not fully transparent to human reason - the mythical notion, fo
ple, that one's life-course is determined by the Fates rather th
own rational choices. A "demythologized" subject, then, is capa
rational self-transparency, and thus capable of governing itself i
dance with nothing besides its own rules. The typical source for
ular model of the self is Kant's epistemology and moral philosop
in this respect, my argument is directed against the conspicuo
tianism that underwrites the "modernist" theory of fascism.
The guiding insight of this essay is as follows: The modernist
tends to regard any and all departures from liberal-enlightenme
tics as manipulated - hence its frequent recourse to terms
"fake," or "jargon," or "technique," - and it thereby presuppos
only the liberal view is "true." Thus, all other modes of politic
must be explained by imagining that a liberal-enlightenment s
somehow stands behind those politics as their disbelieving creato
one might object, this view rests upon an implausible theory o
meaning. An enlightenment ontology of the self has a peculiar
credentializing status in that it dismisses any alternative politica
as unreal. Yet the challenge - indeed, the true horror - of fasc

4. Jiirgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Twelve L
trans. Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987) esp. 106-130.

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and was punctuated by the famous encounter at Davos. Peter Collier ( . the disagreement between them hinged upon two contrasting sets of ideas concerning myth." but for many critics.130 Myth and Modernity that it represents a mode of political belief that cannot be categorized and consequently dismissed as a mere departure from the normative contents of modernity.186 on Sun.jstor. trans. Cassirer's Philosophy of Form Emrnst Cassirer (1874-1945) was one of the most accomplished philos- ophers to emerge from Central Europe in the early decades of the 5. Rather than offer some bold doctrine of my own. "Cassirer's Unpublished Critique of Heidegger. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger. if perhaps less inspiring. L 'Ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger (Paris: Editions de minuit. For important documentation and analysis. Heidegger's deci- sion to embrace Nazism four years later expresses the already latent truth of their debate: Pierre Bourdieu. subjectivity. 1988). This content downloaded from 35. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger. Pierre Bourdieu. and his conciliatory. and Cassirer's prematurely white hair. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. for example. the philosophical substance of their dispute remains definitive for Continental thought today: Cassirer's allegiance to an enlightenment model of the autonomous subject stands in stark contrast to Heidegger's view of the self as "thrown. his abrupt. The debate between them is thus a significant chapter in the ongoing struggle to define the ontologico-political subject of modernity. 6.226. this essay merely seeks to reconstruct a possible alternative to the Kan- tian view by exploring the historical encounter between two philoso- phers. and self-transparency. Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger. from 1923 to 1946. While Cassirer represented the older values of humanist reason.3 (1983): 147-159. Student memoirs of the event are almost unanimous in the judgment that Heidegger "won." as bound by meanings it cannot harness fully to rational command. 1991).6 Politics aside. perhaps even aggressive demeanor. Switzerland. his professo- rial eloquence.177. style. CA: Stanford UP. The confrontation between Cassirer and Heidegger spanned more than two decades.5 As explained below. see John Michael Krois. around the assumption that the Heidegger-Cassirer debate was an encrypted bat- tle between liberalism and conservative revolution. in the spring of 1929. Witnesses to the Davos debate have recalled an almost mythic contrast between Heideg- ger's dark haired and youthful appearance. the uncanny strains of Heidegger's so-called "existential" ontology bespoke a new sense of urgency and pathos seizing the younger generation at the end of the 1920s. has organized the entire nar- rative of his polemic." Philosophy and Rhetoric 16.

Kant Thought (1918). The Problem of Knowledge in phy and Science (1906-7) and his first contribution to the phil science. "mythical thinking" 1925). Die Geschichte ei phischen Schulgemeinschaft (Wiirzburg: K6nigshausen & Neumann. three-volume work. and beginning in 1896. Peter Eli Gordon 131 twentieth century. From est study. He wrote a biography. Cassirer invested a great deal of en developing a philosophical account of mythological consciousn monumental. "Kant and Socialism: T School in Wilhelmian Germany." rem 7. Simmel's lectures on Kant exerted a tremendous impact upon stude sirer's generation. he studied under Hermann Cohen burg. The Philosophy of Symbol (hereafter. 1991). on "the metaphysics of symbolic forms. see David R. fourth volume. Cassirer absorbed many of the characteristic assumptions of Kantian movement. since the lectures were meant "to serve as an introduction to ical thinking" as such. Substance and Function (1910)." diss. III. maintained lim to the Jewish faith. eral outline of neo-Kantianism.1-2 (1991): 327-344.Judentum aus dem Geist der universalistischen Vernunft. he displayed an as breadth of erudition and an uncompromising fidelity to the ration ciples of the Enlightenment.8 Although of Jewish descent." il cannocchiale 1. This content downloaded from 35. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (193 Beginning in the 1920s. which was meant to accompany a new edition collected works in the 1920s. 8. 1987). 1978) 3-5. "Judaism and Work of Ernst Cassirer. 3rd ed. The Dile Liberal Intellectual in Germany. explores the "formative" activity of conscio the spheres of: "language" (Vol. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Kant: Sechzehn Vorlesungen.. PSF). Ernst Cassirer. 1975 Kahnke. Leibniz' System in seinen wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen his early four-volume investigation. 1994)." Aschkena 459-502. Cassirer attended Georg Simmel's lect Kant. see Timothy Keck.226. Schwarzschild. also Oswald Schwemmer. an attachment to progressive politics. Lipton. 1997) and Steven S. C like many German Jews in the age of assimilation. and the "phenomenology of knowledge" (Vol. see the thoughtful essay by Thomas Meyer. Entstehung und Aufstieg des Neukantianismus: Die deutsche Unive sophie zwischen Idealismus und Positivismus (Frankfurt/Main. 1923). "E sirer . University of Wisconsin. I. Later. an unflagging confidence in the rationality of culture. he authored the classic stud teenth-century thought. Ernst Cassirer Ein Philosoph der europd erne (Berlin: Akademie Verlag. An excellent summary of Cassirer's thought can be found in John Krois. (Munich and Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot. including an admiration for the scientific mod losophy. See Georg Simmel.9 His real devotion was to scholarship.jstor. 1914-1933 (Toronto: U Toronto P. Cassirer: Symbolic Forms and History (New Haven: Yale .177. 1 Simmel's influence on Cassirer.186 on Sun. On Cassirer's Judaism. 9.7 In 1894. and Aufstieg und Niedergang des Marburger Neukantianismus. geha Berliner Universitdt.

in a critical review of The Myth of the State. Ralph Man- heim (New Haven: Yale UP. 10 (1924): 613-617. 1957). he deliv- ered a famous address on "The Idea of a Republican Constitution. vigorous attention to political or social thought remains noticeably underdeveloped in Cassirer's scholarship. trans. where he labored upon the PSF throughout the 1920s. "Kultur ohne Moral? Warum Ernst Cassirer trotz der Ein- sicht in dem Primat der praktischen Vemrnunft keine Ethik schreiben konnte. "Spirit and Life. Susanne K. PE. (1916. which is reprinted in Leo Strauss. On Cassirer's political significance. This content downloaded from 35. The absence of a pronounced ethical theory in Cassirer's work was first noted by Leo Strauss." Der Jude VIII.12 In 1928. Cassirer. Freiheit und Form: Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte. New York: Harper . Volume III: The Phenomenology of Knowledge. 1929). and was located in the previously unpublished manuscript for the projected fourth volume of PSR. Reinold Schmlicker (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Die Idee. LM. trans.226. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about." Ernst Cassir- ers Werk und Wirkung. Pettegrove (Princeton. 13. The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. see Lipton. entitled Language and Myth (1925). For Strauss's earlier assessment. The Myth of the State. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy (1927) that investigates renaissance theories of "ego and world" and discerns the origins of the enlightenment ideal of spiritual creativity. 12. IL: The Free Press.B. de Gruyter & Co. Freedom and Form. Ernst Cassirer.jstor. John Michael Krois has edited Cassirer's essay. see Leo Strauss. Also see Birgit Recki.Dover.186 on Sun. hereafter. August 1928 (Hamburg: Friedrichsen. in English as The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. 2nd ed.1l Cassirer marshaled his intellectual resources only once in defense of the precarious Weimar Republic. trans. philosophical significance ofmyth. which was his first substantive contribution to the cultural history series published by the Warburg Library. which. NJ: Princeton UP. represents Cassirer's most sustained treatment of political matters. Langer (1946. Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance (1927). Ernst Cassirer.132 Myth and Modernity manuscript form and has only recently been published. 14. 11.C. The English edition is Language and Myth. 1997) 58-78. 1959) 292-96. 1953). Volume II: Mythical Thought. hereafter. Cassirer also wrote an historical monograph. Ernst Cassirer. in English." which contains an extensive response to Heidegger. Sprache und Mythos was originally published in Studien der Bibliothek Warburg VI (1925). Die Idee der Republikanischen Verfassung. hereafter PSF. Cassirer also wrote a shorter work. given his adherence to enlightenment ideals. Koelln and James P. What is Political Philosophy? and Other Studies (Glencoe. followed by volume number and page.l0 The vari- ous essays collected in 1916 under the title. Ernst Cassirer. Mohr-Paul Siebeck. In the midst of this work.A.13 His final work. Die Philosophie der Aufkliarung (Tiibingen: J." in which he attempted to prove an affinity between Kant's philosophy and political democracy. 1918). "Religionsphilosophie: Zur Auseinandersetzung mit der europiischen Wissenschaft. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Recently. trans.177. Mario Domandi (New York: Harper and Row.. Volume I: Language. might appear surprising. Rede zur Verfassungsfeier am 11. Nevertheless. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer. hereafter. The Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms that was completed in . repre- sent an exception to Cassirer's largely scientific and cultural but unpolitical labors. Fritz C. 1932). eds. 1951). Dorothea Frede. 1963).14 10. Kultur und Philosophie. but it is also his last statement on the broader.

takes form out of the impressions." gr objectivity and order to the world it represents.177. Cassirer absorbed Simmel's interpretation of transcenden alism as a philosophy that concerned "the forms of experience" jected by the . by intuition and pure thought.' and s broaden it. human consciousness is best conceived according to a model. it is no fixed form that imprints itse sciousness but is the product of a formative operation [Formung] effected by instrumentality of consciousness." PSF II 29 (German 39). this fundamental principle of Kant's 'Copernican revolution. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Kant called this structuring action "the neity of human understanding. This content downloaded from 35. indeed. the essential view mind as a formative agency remained unchanged. An exemplary statement of Cassirer's method can be found in PSF: "It i the first essential insights of critical philosophy that objects are not 'given' to ness in a rigid. While s his 20s. 16. Peter Eli Gordon 133 Before specifically engaging Cassirer's discussion of myth. PSF takes up critical idea. In Simmel's view. Simmel." a mental agency which was characteri only of practical and theoretical reason.226. spont of consciousness. Kant had shown that "determination of Being" is only possible through "the forms an ductive powers of Spirit. Kant 49. without the structurin of our own mental apparatus the world in itself would be pres without order or sense. For Simmel. a characteristic and typical world view. finished state. The object does not exist prior to and outside of synthetic un constituted only by this synthetic unity. W enjoy immediate access to things. F sirer. it i ful to examine his more general philosophical commitments. It seeks the categories of the consciousness of objects in the theoret lectual sphere.jstor.186 on Sun. in their naked 'as suchness' [ihrem nackten An- that the relation of representation to object presupposes an independent. the "unity" exhibited in a pe work of art was itself a reflection of the "form of the soul it 15.15 The immediate importance of "form" in Kantian philosophy i dent in the idea that space and time are pure "forms" of intuition gained a new prominence in Simmel's lectures on Kant. where the mind stands as "lawgiver unto nature. the subject relates to its world as its transcendental grou encounter a world of "order and harmony" only because our rea been structured in advance by the formative action of reason. According model. but also of aesthetic-exp labor as well." and the doctrine exerted a stron ence upon Cassirer in all of his philosophical and historical work it is true that his philosophy of symbolic forms moved away fr "spontaneity" thesis in significant respects. and starts from the assumption that such categories must be at wo ever a cosmos.

critical and transcendental sense.] of the object. Simmel also noted that specifically regarding art."'8 From the critique of religion to modern science. . man. where he claimed that the theory of rela- tivity demanded a "new concept [. William Swabey and Marie Swabey (Chicago: Open Court. . physics abandons the notion of "substance" and replaces it with a notion of "function" anchored in nothing but the symbolizing capaci- ties of human consciousness. rests upon anthropomorphic foundations. 1923) 445. it is still only our measure and weight.e. its own law and its own principle.. indeed all of human experience. Simmel. draws it into his unity. and Cohen's "critical idealist" reading of Kant as a theorist of scientific discovery . 19."l7 The combination . But Sim- mel's critical remarks on the limitations of Kant's original project espe- cially helped move Cassirer toward a broader theory of culture.] loved to point. Kant's concept of form remained "too narrow. hereafter. as man is the measure of all things.. the principle of "anthropomorphism" was "not to be understood in a limited way but in a universal. ETR. But. Here is revealed again that "anthropomorphism" of all our concepts of nature to which Goethe [.] weigh.177." doubt exerted a powerful influence upon Cassirer's own philosophy of form. Cassirer noted.] We can observe. This content downloaded from . measure [. makes it one with himself [. which claims that rather than conceiving of the mind as conforming to objects. i. it expressed the far older notion that all religion. at unity with himself. 18. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.. etc. this unity. Kant 180. This move. nature as much as we will. Cas- sirer hastened to add that this transcendental principle was not only applicable in science.186 on Sun. in English as Substance and Function and Einstein " Theory of Relativity. Einstein ' Theory of Relativity. ." as "grounded in the form of physical thought. was essen- tially a restatement of the Kantian idea of the Copernican revolution. objects are best conceived in conformity to the mind.of Simmel's elucidation of Kantian form."19 Cassirer claimed that the 17.. "All philosophy of nature is still only anthropomorphism. but thereby necessarily expresses itself. imparts to everything that he is not. .134 Myth and Modernity While Simmel's interpretation emphasized the centrality of "form" in Kantian philosophy." Einsteinian physics "strives to determine and to express in pure objectivity merely the natural object. ETR 445. trans.226. Cassirer first introduced the idea of symbolic form in his 1921 study. originally published in 1921..jstor. Zur Einstein schen Relitivitatstheorie.

the 20." It is worth noting that this definition considerably expand Kant's original model of mental spontaneity. all of human culture. and the categories. Cassirer closely f Kant's idea that our world is the result of the transcendental conscious- ness "producing" an "ordered reality. And it is this form that "produces for us" th "concept of an ordered reality. the application of which produces for us the concept of an ordered reality." is consequen what Cassirer named the spontaneous "application" of form by scendental subject. time. and it must refer each individual in this totality to its fixed place. Cassirer set out to show how a Kantian investigation of transcendental consciousness might be applied to broad areas of "symbolizing" activity from language to myth. Kant never suggeste the formative function might extend further than the basic.. The essay contains an important redefinition of symbolic form: By "symbolic form" [is meant] that energy of the spirit [Energie des Geistes] through which a mental meaning-content is attached to a sen- sual sign and inwardly dedicated to this sign [. w generally accepted as Cassirer's first use of the term "symbolic form. ethical. and religious understanding of the world. and by virtue of which subject and object." It is the task of systematic philosophy. "The Concept of Symbolic Form in the Construction of the Human Sciences" [Der Begriffder Symbolischen Form im Aufbau der Geisteswissenschaften]. he broadened the princi- ple by claiming that symbolic forms govern the entire landscape of human expression.] as of the general forms of the theo retical. He laid out the basic presuppositions for the project in a programmatic essay from 1922. If we assum this problem solved.177." However.20 According to Cassirer. In his work throughout the 1920s. of each of the particular [. This content downloaded from 35. which extends far beyond th theory of knowledge.] to grasp the whole system of symboli forms. [.. ETR 447. Cassirer offered it as his inaugural publication for the Warburg Library. . ego and world are separated and opposed to each other in definite form. my emphasis.186 on Sun. . . 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Peter Eli Gordon 135 Kantian principle could now be applied to the investigation of all of h experience.226. where he carried out research for much of the decade.jstor. aesthetic. .org/terms . a application of space. His global ambitions are clear in the passage below. indeed the very se there being a "world" as distinct from an "ego. and the limit fixed.] [L]anguage. then the rights would be assured.

136 Myth and Modernity mythical-religious world.] permeates each impression with afree activity of expression [mit einerfreien Titigkeit des Ausdrucks]. and the arts each present us with a particular symbolic form. Cassirer on Language and Myth The second volume of PSF focuses specifically on mythical thought.jstor. 1921/22 (Leipzig: B."21 Here. .226. 15. appear to be governed. PSF. that our consciousness [BewufJ3tsein] is not satisfied to receive impression [Eindruck] from outside. 23. 22.and this proved just as important . and myth. . PSF. It pre- sents a narrative of the "human spirit" in its "pure actuality and diverse configurations." Bibliothek language. with all their vast empirical diversity. In what we call the objective reality of things we are thus confronted with a world ofself-created signs and images."22 With a nod toward Husserlian phe- nomenology. interior principles of 21. Vortrage. "Der Begriffder Symbolischen Form im Aufbau der Geisteswissen- schaften. He sharply differentiated this effort from any investigation into myth's origins or instrumentality. II 19. [I]n them all we see the mark of the basic phenome- non. Here the spontaneity thesis is put on bold display. most notably in science. "To seek a 'form' of mythical consciousness. Ernst Cassirer." he wrote. Cassirer presupposed that myth can only be understood as the most primitive stratum of sym- bolic consciousness." in order to apprehend its own "immanent norms. historical or social causes: it is solely to seek the unity of the spiritual principle by which all its particular configurations."23 Cassirer's analysis of mythological consciousness follows the Kantian principle that consciousness must obey its own. art. 1923) 11-39. but rather [. Cassirer characterizes symbolic forms as products of "free" men- tal energy and expression. II 12. against empiricism. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. but . English 13. It addresses "neither from the godhead an original metaphysical fact nor from mankind as an original empirical fact" but instead theorizes "the subject of a cultural process" [das Subjekt des Kulturprozesses]. that a spontaneity of the spirit pervades all cultural life.177.186 on Sun. and therefore that myth is grasped as an "expres- sion" of spirit.G Teubner. Such forms are "self-created" and therefore . This content downloaded from 35. "means to inquire neither after its ultimate metaphysical causes nor after its psychological. Cassirer insisted that his method is merely "critical phe- nomenology" since it separated its phenomenological analysis from any discussion about the genesis or use of mythological systems.

jstor.177. translation modified. implies that myth can not b stood as a perfect or complete expression of human consciousn myth is merely a "stage" in the "objectification" [Objektivieru spirit. 25.186 on Sun. If one could demonstrat myth is part of a "cultural process. it is difficult to avoid the judgment that myth is nothin imperfect and occluded mode of representation. English 13. and becomes a cultural consciousness [Kulturbewufl3tsein]. in his portrait of consciousness as ing a logic of immanent development. scientific reflection .that world in all of us constantly live and are when not engaged in conscious. .contains any number of traits which. can only be designated as mythic Cassirer was not alone in proposing such a "pan-mythic" theo everyday belief. PSF II 20. "With the first scientific insight. PSI II 19. English 14. in sensory impression and affectivity. C departed from Kant. however. Here Cassir ory adopts a Hegelian view of mythical "activities" as a primitiv in the unfolding narrative of spirit: It is only in these activities as a whole that humankind constitut itself in accordance with its ideal concept and concrete historical exis ence. PSF. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about." then the Kantian principle tal spontaneity must be fundamentally . "the mythical world of dr enchantment seems to sink into nothingness" [die Traum.24 The developmental thesis.226. 26."25 Moreover." Cassirer observed. I1 19. however. . through which consciousness issues from its stupor. (published in ten volumes betwee 24. This content downloaded from 35. it is only in these activities as a whole that is effected that pr gressive differentiation of "subject" and "object. English 14. Here Cassirer can affi myth is indeed "objective" in so far as it discloses "an immane and "a characteristic "necessity. fo standpoint of the same reflection." "I" and "world.und Z welt des Mythos [. since he is in solely in their manner of objectification. translation modified. it is misleading gest that myth yields entirely to scientific modes of represen "[E]ven the world of our immediate experience . Volkerpsychologie. Peter Eli Gordon 137 expression: Culture is ideally the work of autonomous spirit. He drew inspiration from Wilhelm Wundt's mo tal study. from its captivit in mere existence [aus der Befangenheit im blofien Dasein].] scheint sie wie ins Nichts hinabgesunken But questions concerning the accuracy or truth of their represen content of myth are not significant for Cassirer.

ed. made unreal. Glencoe: Free Press. Vols.] [it] is fraught with horror.jstor. Volkerpsychologie: eine Untersuchung der Entwicklungs- gesetze von Sprache.W. 1922)." but rather "a vital ingredient in human civilization. Bronislaw Malinowski." and Lucien L~vy-Bruhl's holistic theory of myth in La Mentalitd primitive (1922). Leipzig: W. .27 But it is perhaps most instruc- tive to compare Cassirer's work to contemporary theories in anthropol- ogy. see esp. Leipzig: A. Lucien L6vy-Bruhl. Symbol. in our Durkheim's religion ." Mali- nowski follows Durkheim's claim in The Elementary Forms of Reli- gious Life (1912) that "all religion is true.177. 28. stories.138 Myth and Modernity and 1920).186 on Sun. Malinowski and the Work ofMyth. Myth in Primitive Psychology (New York: W. linear-progressivist model of myth as merely imaginative representation." Myth is for Mali- nowski not only the "backbone of primitive culture. Wilhelm Wundt. CT: Yale UP. not explained. Kriner. or abstract. 1900-1920. 1935-1945. inter alia. Emile Durkheim." but in fact "an indispensable ingredient of all culture" (my emphasis). with the vague hope that it may be. myth lays down the conditions for intelligibility in all human conduct. 5-10. Consider Bronislaw Malinowski's so-called "functionalism. La Mentalitd primitive (Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan. "Judaism and the Modem Political Myths." Myth is not merely "primitive.] As our sacred story lives in our ritual. ed. Engelmann. 1920). which lays out a comprehensive set of "developmental laws" guiding language. with a desire to remove its threat. even so does myth for the savage. 1979) 233-241. "They would screen. without which life succumbs to "the most formidable and haunting idea" of mortality. or difficult to grasp [ ..28 The functionalist and panmythic perspective in early sociological and anthropological theory bears upon some of Cassirer's central 27. and he argues in Myth in Primitive Psychology (1926) that myth is "not merely a story told but a reality lived [. Ivan Strenski (Princeton. with the vivid texture of their myths. On the theme of death. and turning instead toward a view of myth as the "constitutive" framework of culture as such. 237. reprinted in Cas- sirer." Most importantly. All quotes in this paragraph are from Malinowski 77-106.. It is a "narrative resurrection of a primeval reality. 10 volumes (Vols. Myth.provides the basic framework for human action. . This content downloaded from 35.226. and custom. Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer. and beliefs about the spirit world. Mythic structures serve as a bulwark against meaninglessness. the vast emotional void gaping beyond them. NJ: Princeton UP. which were breaking from the older. Mythus und Sitte. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. and Culture. but rather explained away. republished in the collection. 1926). myth. 1-5. 1992) . Donald Phillip Verene (New Haven. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912. 1963)." Contemporary Jewish Record 7 (1944): 115-126. 108: "Death [. Norton. ." Malinowski's great advance is his suggestion that myth . as it governs our faith and controls our conduct.] is not vague." See also Malinowski as quoted in Cassirer. and actually denied.

l matist's framework. Prof. " ated by this belief in the objective character and objective for sign. but he could not surrender the diachronic theor gressive enlightenment that justified his own stance as a ph On the one hand. "Every beginning of myth. 194. Ernst. with the modern understandin "spirit" achieves a "truly free" relation with its surrounding sured by empirical. For an summation of L6vi-Strauss's views. he took great pains to demonstrate that m objectification of spirit and therefore anchored in human rati the neo-Kantian critic Kurt Sternberg observed in a brief re sirer's method expands upon Marburg methods to embrace no logic of theoretical reason but also the "logic of the unlogical. m This content downloaded from 35. was "good for thinking. 1978). Kurt Sternberg." as Levi-Strauss this raised the question of how the explanatory methods of ant cal science differentiate themselves from the mythical objects If myth were truly universal." Kantstudien.177. Peter Eli Gordon 139 philosophical themes. mythical consciousness. as a symbolic orde ated by a mythical belief in the identity between word and th language develops. Claude L6vi-Strauss. the primal bond gives way to a new an "stage of detachment. then the diachronic model of se consciousness ." Language begins on the same plane.must itself fall v anthropological description. 1962). On the one hand. the generalized theory of myth threatened to the objectivist relation between theorist and myth. unlike "truly religious" conscio incapable of distinguishing between its own symbolism and th . universalist structuralist view o especially that articulated in Levi-Strauss's 1962 La Pensde sa the same time. that historical progressivism is itself a m Cassirer went as far as possible to endorse the generalized pr theory of myth." Finally. realistic criteria.186 on Sun. but in severing its bond with immediat with the material existence and efficacy which constitute the magic and myth.226. "Cassirer. a conclusion that prompted Levi-S announce. 29. the aesthetic world world of appearance. their generous view anticipated and inspired the later. La Pensde Sauvage (Paris: Plon." Cassirer observed. [art] embodies a new step toward the truth his generous view of myth as an "objectification" of spirit. an der Universittit Hamburg. Band 20 (1925): 194-195. against Sartre.from "myth" to "science" . 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor. If myth. ever. sform im mythischen Denken. see his Myth and Meaning: Cracking the ture (Toronto: U Toronto P. 30.

that assumes enlightened self- transparency as the natural endpoint of human development. are "originally tied up with mythico-religious conceptions. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about." The mythic world is. a sort of primal unity. Language and Myth. Cassirer's investigations of mythic consciousness must be considered more closely. transitional study from 1925. It is crucial for Cassirer's diagnosis of fascism. remained a fundamental commitment in Cassirer's philosophy throughout his career. . As a sort of transitional study in PSF . the relation between them reveals a definite systematic gradation.140 Myth and Modernity nonetheless retained an unmistakably evolutionist bias: Thus. although myth. language. as Hegel set out to show in his Phenomenology of Spirit: the aim of spiritual development is that cultural reality be apprehended and expressed not merely as substance but "equally as subject. which only broke apart into discrete spheres of expressive con- sciousness over the course of the advancement civilization. as I will explain. While granting that myth is a spontaneous expression of human consciousness. the world of language and of morality. Before examining that diagnosis. he still insisted that myth differs crucially from the disenchanted modes of expression . the basic forms of community and the state.186 on Sun. This content downloaded from 35. Whereas the mythical mind cannot recog- nize the world as its own thoroughly human creation. Cassirer also published a shorter essay on Language and Myth (1925). practical." all of these. Or. he hastened to note.between the first volume on language and the second volume on myth . Cassirer remained wedded to the view that spontaneity is an intrinsic feature of human consciousness whatever its developmental stage. in Cassirer's view. and aesthetic consciousness. an ideal progression toward a point where the spirit not only is and lives in its own creations.177. and art interpenetrate one another in their concrete historical manifestations. the secular mind "knows that the symbols it employs are symbols and comprehends them as such.jstor. its self- created symbols. The same point is repeated forcefully in the closing passage of Cassirer's shorter." For Cassirer this difference remained decisive. he claims. In the same year as the publication of PSF II: Mythical Thought. But. "Theoretical. Cassirer takes pains to show that lin- guistic-theoretical expression is itself born from mythical conscious- ness. but also knows them for what they are. 98-99. esp."31 This teleological premise. Certainly. because mythical consciousness does not recognize focuses on the original bond between these two modes of symbolization.from both science and art.226.

LM66." But if the th its name are regarded as a primal unity. An Essay on Man. Peter Eli Gordon 141 its role in the creation of mythic phenomena. was to be catalogued among "spiritual functions which do not take their departure from a wo given objects. 34." Cassirer writes the activity of mankind seem to be embedded. Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss.226." Mana. it ascribes autono and non-human authority to its own linguistic creations.jstor. It is predicated on an tial identity between the word and what it denotes. The native practice of word- functions by identifying word and object. The single most dramatic piece of evidence for the mythical. best understood as a primitive means for or ing experience. "Esquisse d'une thdorie g6n6r Ann&e sociologique 7 (1902-03): 1-146. or existential."34 And in hi English-language summation. so to speak. "permeates all things and events. For a short list of exemplary scholarship on mana. dimension of the supernatural. divided according to fixed and finished attributes which actually first produce this organization of reality and ma positing of attributes possible. mundane existence. see Cassirer." which a variety of anthropo had subjected to intense theoretical scrutiny during the pre decades. PSE II 76 33. human conception of language in primitive . "[T]he whole existence of things. in Cass description." It is less an objectiv ture of things than it is a medium to identify elements of the world evoke mythic "wonder" and seem to "stand forth from the ord background of familiar.32 Though its definition is much disputed among sc mana seems to denote "supernatural power" which. like language. This content downloaded from 35. EM99-100." As Cassirer notes approvingly. Cassirer claim the Melanesian category of "mana. 35. in fact. Cassirer therefor mana "the first.' an atmosphere of potency which permeates thing. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.186 on Sun. my emphasis. the Fr anthropologists Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss go so far as to d mana "a fundamental category of mythical thinking. in a m cal 'field of force."35 The strongest evidence for this "mythic" understanding of lan can be found in ancient cosmogony which once featured the "Wo the privileged medium of creation.177. yet is never bound exclusively to any and individual subject or object as its host."33 Mana is further that myth does not merely consist of a set of discrete agencies o gods. it suffices for somethin 32. and may be prese in objects. now in persons. but is.

But if myth is disen- chanted and has consequently forfeited its power of social cohesion. LM49-51. . Indeed.177."36 The logical affinity between language and myth. secu- lar consciousness lost the illusion of non-human existence in mythic imagery. Further.186 on Sun. is indis- solubly linked [. his very self and personality." The "unity and uniqueness" of the name serves not only to designate the person. To be sure. More .37 From this comment. 37. . "while it is in progress. it is the Word. is not recognized as such. But for everyday personal and interpersonal relations.226. word-magic conceives of the human subject itself as utterly interwoven with the linguistic fabric of things.] with his name. scientific explanation sought to dispense with all but the most artificial systems of symbolization. even "secular" language. In a brief and uncharacteristic moment. organic language remains indispensable. For it is language that makes his existence in a community possible. LM61. however. of course. and seems bound up in that object from which it seems to emanate as by reflection. In science. but actually "constitutes it.jstor.142 Myth and Modernity named in order for it to be brought forth magically into existence. Cas- sirer writes." But here again the creative act while it is in progress. The original bond between mythic and linguistic modes of symbolization never vanished entirely. Language. one might discern an element of hesitation in Cas- sirer's thinking." the other emphasis is m This content downloaded from 35. and only in society. Cassirer emphasizes "community. in so far as language and myth constitute individual and 36. Language." appears as a force independent of its user. that really reveals to man that world which is closer to him than any world of natural objects and touches [him] more directly than physical nature. constitutive function of language in the formation of everyday experience. it is possible to supplant a great deal of organic language with the more artificial language of mathematical symbolization. might bear persistent traces of mythic elements. it is language. In mythic thinking. language still preserves something of the same quasi-mythic opacity. in relation to a "Thou. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about." can his subjectivity assert itself as a "Me. then. "even a person's ego. Cassirer admits that the modem subject depends upon the spe- cial. the name is what first makes man an individual. not only as a means of com- munication but as the constitutive medium of meaning itself. all the energy of that spiritual achievement is projected into the result of it. is not merely a feature of primitive thought.

Indeed. at any mom free itself from the language-like texture of its surroundings to r nize its own agency. The lat- ter is characterized by the fact that even in apparently immediately "given" data it recognizes an element of mental creation [. 1971) 211-229..186 on Sun. This content downloaded from 35.. Ordinary experience might preserve the sense of passiv that originally belonged to the mythic conception of language.] Even in matters of fact it reveals an aspect of mental formulation. mythic and secular alike. Thoug trans.. ".org/terms . Whereas myth regards meani something "bestowed" and does not recognize the primitive eviden its own mental activity in mythic forms.] to resolve all receptivity into spontaneity. instructive to compare Cassirer's model of mythical consciousnes Heidegger's analysis. Language. In any event. LM60. as summarized in his statement that i not man. even in sheer sense data it traces the influence of a "spontaneity of thought" that goes to their making. If. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. 39. Whereas mythic thought remains con to the illusion of receptivity. t Cassirer would admit a non-spontaneous character in all meaning-s tures.But while logical reflection tends [ . the passivity that belo to Cassirer's chief characteristics of the mythic conception of lang closely resembles the "thrownness" that Heidegger considers a basic acteristic of all human meaning.. the difference between "mythical" and modern. Albert Hofstadter (San Francisco: Harper and Row."38 It is important to emphasize that Cassirer's overall theory of sec ization introduced a crucial distinction into the comparison of m and modern consciousness. Martin Heidegger. Peter Eli Gordon 143 social identity... Cassirer concluded that we are faced with a characteristic of mythic thinking which divides it sharply from the way of"discursive" or theoretical. to regard all spontaneous action as something receptive. so. mythic conception shows exactly the opposite tendency. "the cal" thought remained decisive. modem consciousness can.Poetically Man Dwells. Even without this prerequisite.177. namely. .'9 For Cassirer. 216. But whether Cassirer really meant that element of mythic receptivity remains in the secular conception of rea might be disputed. but instead "it is language that speaks. the qualification poses no signif problem for his theory more generally. since Heidegger admits no transformation wh ever in the basic structures of meaning.226.. .jstor. and all human achievement as some- thing merely bestowed." Poetry. theoretical reflection em 38. reflection. my emphasis.

Moreover. The Raw and the Cooked. it follows that only secular consciousness can possibly possess the requisite instruments to subject mythological sys- tems to genuinely philosophical understanding.] behind" both myth and religion. trans.42 It is worth noting that Cassirer's commitment to the Kantian conception of a transcendental self marks the decisive difference between his theory of myth and that of Levi-Strauss. which Paul Ricoeur aptly summarizes. the symbol- izing function "leaves [.186 on Sun. my emphasis. PSF II.'"43 The danger attendant with this view is that the anthropological description is robbed of its non-mythic status. This essentially Kantian insight into the "spontaneity of thought" is only possible for a subject who has achieved the self-transparency and demythologized understand- ing characteristic of secular modemrnity. English 21. . PSE II." Archivo di Filosofia 1-2 (1963): 24.even experiences of mere fact - as governed by its own mental principles.40 In its final stages." In art. This content downloaded from 35. quoted in L6vi-Strauss. and rises to a mode of "aesthetic consciousness" in which the imagistic expressions of mind relinquish any claim to non-subjective "reality.jstor. an implication which Levi- Strauss embraced in the introductory remarks to The Raw and the Cooked 40.41 In sum. originally Le Cru et le Cuit (Paris: Plon. but this illusion has its own truth because it possesses its own law. John and Doreen Weightman (New York: Octagon Books. it provides an unapologetic defense of secularism as the precondition for any truly philosophical account of myth: Because only secular consciousness can recognize the "spiritual necessity" from which myth is derived. "Symbole et temporaliti. See esp. . 43. 1964).144 Myth and Modernity from the self-negating "dialectic of mythical consciousness. "The Dialectic of Mythical Consciousnes" 235-61. the fruits of symbolizing consciousness confess themselves to be illusion as opposed to the empirical reality of things. to reach at last the apogee of development where human con- sciousness sees worldly experience . Introduction to a Science of Mythology." and passes through the higher and more self-consciously symbolizing stage of reli- gion. In the return to this law there arises a new freedom of conscious- ness: the image no longer reacts upon the spirit as an independent material thing but becomes for the spirit a pure expression of its own creative power. PSF II 261. . as "Kantism without a transcendental sub- ject. Part IV.177. 42. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. in a phrase cited approvingly by the author. 1979) 11.226. Cassirer's philosophy rested upon a teleological premise that takes the enlightenment subject as the necessary goal of human devel- opment. Paul Ricoeur.

04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. While this generalized and fully synchronic theory collapsing the distinction between science and mythology. According to Hendrik J. expanded sharpened the criticism of Heidegger's work he made public thr 44. 45." PSF. Switzerland for a drama putation concerning the broader aims of Kantian philosoph again. in Kantstudien. Only in this way can it define and assert is concepts of es truth. Cassirer and Heidegger engaged uneasy and often interrupted philosophical discussion that r chiefly around the question of myth. equips him with a pree justification for his own analysis. "For the concept of philosophy full power and purity only where the world view expressed in linguistic and myth cepts is abandoned. To achieve its own maturity. This doctrine of secularization as a self-justifying description of phil practice is repeated most forcefully in the introductory comments to volume thre is devoted to the logic of scientific explanation. Pos. The Library of the Living Philosophers (La Salle. Their most extensive discussion occurred in the spr 1929. Peter Eli Gordon 145 (1964) and he affirmed that his own reconstructions were them species of myth. III 16. Pa Schlipp. albeit unce that Heidegger might have behaved toward Cassirer with no aggression. where it is in principle overcome. and Heidegger energetically disputed the Kantian premi Cassirer's ideal of freedom. however. that relations between them shortly thereafter." and the following year he publis extended review of Cassirer's myth-philosophy as presented Volume II.45 It is certain. ed. Cassirer's 1932 review of Heidegger's boo and the Problem of Metaphysics. The debate began in 1923 the two philosophers exchanged thoughts during a local "Kant meeting in . when they met publicly at Davos.186 on Sun. The logic of philosophy firs tutes itself by this very act of transcendence. 69. Heidegger did not shake Cassirer's h "Recollections of Ernst Cassirer.jstor. the conversation hinged on contrasting models of human tivity.44 It was precisely Cassirer's ass of a "secular" or transcendental consciousness that Heidegger dispute Cassirer and Heidegger on Myth and Subjectivity For more than twenty years. 6." The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer. There is some evidence. Heidegger acknowledg sirer for having "recently made the Dasein of myth a theme fo sophical interpretation. Vol. Cassir toricized model of Kantian spontaneity wards off the specter of ant logical relativism and in so doing.177. This content downloaded from 35. philos above all come to grips with the linguistic and mythical worlds and place itself in opposition to them.226. IL: Open Cour 61-72. In Being and Time.

More recently.226. There is. that lies somewhere beneath the worldly self as its logical support." Heidegger rejected any philosophy that sought to isolate principles of mental spontaneity 46. In it he accuses Heidegger of aban- doning philosophical objectivity and falling into a religiously-tinged solipsism. In Being and Time Heidegger strove to differentiate those modes through what he called an "existential analytic. whose entire philosophy." First and most trivially. "just is and is nothing other than its existence." This so-called existential analytic was clearly offered as a corrective to what Kant had called the "transcendental" analytic in the Critique of Pure Reason.jstor. where Cassirer condemns Heidegger for having endorsed "mod- ern political myths. There is no special "spirit" or "transcenden- tal self. "Dasein's 'essence. in that one's interpretative activity in the world exhibits certain modes of understanding that admit of formal description.186 on Sun. It is also helpful to recall that the book's broader aim was to lay out a phe- nomenological description of the basic structure of human understand- ing." Heidegger claimed. or Dasein. however. This content downloaded from 35."46 In order to understand the stakes of this dispute." Heidegger. a "logic" to existence itself. no core "essence" of human being besides that which takes shape in the course of living one's life and interpretatively developing one's identity along the way.146 Myth and Modernity earlier. An important difference is Heidegger's belief that human understanding does not enjoy "transcendental" prestige. MS 355. as it does not rest upon a foundation other than its own temporal existence.'" Heidegger claimed. like Kant and Cassirer following him. he insists from the outset that human understanding only shows itself in the unfolding process of existence itself. rests upon the presupposition that human understanding exhibits an unmistakable moment of "spontaneity.177. Even more dramatic are the closing pages of The Myth of the State. a little-known manuscript from 1929 entitled "Spirit and Life" has come to light that Cassirer had meant to include in a projected fourth volume of PSF. More . showed little patience for extramundane speculation. This belief sets Heidegger at odds with Cassirer. this means that understanding the world is something that occurs wholly "in-the-world. There is. one must consider Heidegger's remarks on mythic consciousness in Being and Time. Moreover. in other words. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. this implies that the basic structures of human understanding are grounded in everyday life. as shown above.

esp. Rather than begi with any so-called "transcendental" logic and analyzing reas abstraction from practice. this implied that primitive Dasein exhibits everydayn less and no more than does any sort of "developed" culture. This content downloaded from 35." Instead. Thus he reject attempt to isolate rules of meaning from existence. trans. the task is to explicate the meaning-struct human existence in its "everydayness" [Alltaglichkeit]. . Translations from Martin Heidegger. translation modified.'"49 Heidegger is str opposed to nostalgic attempts to locate the more "genuine" aspect human life in what is merely "some primitive stage of Dasein which we can become acquainted empirically through the medium anthropology. esp. 1962). Heide announces "the task of a preparatory analysis of Dasein. Martin Heidegger.48 Heidegger's interest in myth and "primitive" consciousness directly from his methodological focus on everydayness. which tended in his to rely upon a naively empiricist technique for gathering inform 47. Indeed. 1931). Being and Time. Boyce Gibson (New York: Macmillan. f most part." he explains. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. (Ttibingen: Max Niemeyer.R. 11th ed. Peter Eli Gordon 147 within the structure of human understanding. Heid was therefore wary of anthropological studies. 1 hereafter. In the f section of the expository chapter of Being and Time. SZ." With "everydayness" he wishes only to draw philo cal attention to the fact that human interpretative activities are. or "bracketing" that is the hallmark of Husse "transcendental phenomenology. he concentrates his an on that always-situated sort of interpretative practice which Hu identifies with "the natural conception of the world. Sein und Zeit. method of epoch&. John M rie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row. 67-71. W. Heidegger claims that the basic ru human meaning are best discerned by concentrating upon the wa interpretative activity actually works in medias res. 49." and wa readers not to mistake the philosophical engagement of everyday for a sophisticated rejection of modernity: "Everydayness does not cide with primitiveness. I. specifically.jstor. BT. and it must be considered stant modality of Dasein's being. "even when that Dasein is activ highly developed and differentiated culture. hereafter. Husserl suggested that working out a logic of the natural concepti the world was a crucial task for phenomenology. 70.186 on Sun. 76-77.177. SZ s 11. lived in the manner of absorbed and non-discursive con Everydayness is a modality for all human understanding. and. Qu from SZ s 9."47 In Heideg own terminology. am other things. 101- 48.226. trans. See Ideas. General Introduction Phenomenology. original emphasis.

Primitive religion. "all religion is true. there lurks the idea of an inevitable and ruthless fatality. Heidegger's existential analysis of myth closely resembled that of Malinowski's functionalism."51 What Malinowski called the "pragmatic charter of primitive belief. 54. 52. he suggests that there might be an added benefit in attending more specifically to primitive cultures." he warned.226. SZ 5 1. . "Myth in Primitive Psychology" 82." and not ye "elaborated" to the point of obscuring their deeper . Primitive Dasein often speaks to us more directly in terms ofa primor- dial absorption in 'phenomena' [. Heidegger specifically cites Cassirer's PSF II: Mythical Thought. "Myth in Primitive Psychology" 108. he already registers 50. The Elementary Forms o Religious Life (1912). trans.52 Like Durkheim and Malinowski. behind which. he argues.54 As evidence of how phi- losophers can learn from the study of primitive culture. 1995) 7. See Durkheim. It is worth noting that Heidegger's attraction to primitive systems of meanin that are "less concealed" in their ontological structure resembles Malinowski's argumen and also those put forth by Emile Durkheim in his classic study. rather clumsy and crude from our standpoint [therefore]. Karen Fields (New York: The Free Press. that it discloses the structure of human meaning in "simpler" an more vivid fashion. SZ51."50 Despite this warning.148 Myth and Modernity about native systems of meaning. is "crude and rudimentary. .] A way of conceiving things which seems. Malinowski." and the "backbone" of com- munity. 51. 53." because: 'primitive phenomena' are often less concealed and less complicated by extensive self-interpretation on the part of the Dasein in question.186 on Sun. This content downloaded from 35. Heidegger now identified as the "background" to the lived-prag- matic world.177. according to which myth serves a universal human purpose: to render livable that sense of "over- whelming foreboding. BT 76. For Durkheim. in which the basic out- lines of "everydayness" remain most vivid.jstor. can be positively helpful in bringing out the ontological structures of phenomena in a genuine way.53 Although Heidegger sees human culture as the ongoing work of self- interpretation. just as Heidegger finds "everydayness" in all culture." However. perhaps. "Ethnology itself. The Elem tary Forms of Religious Life. which contains "clues of far-reaching importance. both Heidegger and Durkheim believe that the focus on "primitive" belief is m useful methodologically. "already presupposes as its clue an inadequate analytic of Dasein.BT 76. Heidegger sees that a certain methodological advantage can be derived from fixing one's attention on the "life of primitive peoples. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. even for the native." and all cultures express som variant of religion. Malinowski. More impor tantly.

xi. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. n. This content downloaded from 35. BT 290. xi. Originally. MH: Review ofPSFII."55 If Heidegger did not make sufficiently clear what he found uns tory. Peter Eli Gordon 149 doubts concerning Cassirer's transcendental presupposition remains an open question. Berlin 1925" (Review). rather disingenuously. he notes that. n."56 Heidegger's doubts regarding the validity of transcendental sub ity when applied to myth was most explicit in his lengthy critic Cassirer's PSE II that he published in 1928.whether [. Heide suggests. MH: Review of PSFII 42. SZ Div. that Cassirer himsel cedes the usefulness of a phenomenological approach in Moreover. Teil: Das mythische Denken. . 1991) 255-270. the broader drift of his remarks is evident. James Hart and John Maraldo (Bloomington. Philosophie der symbolischen Formen. trans. 1976) 32-45. Reprinted as Appendix II in Kant und der Prob- lem der Metaphysik." The Piety of Thinking: Essays by Martin Heideg- ger. or whether a n more primordial approach may not here be needed. while "a radical ontology of Da 55. Ch.jstor. Heidegger's focus on the practic situated quality of "everyday" meaning offers a superior m human Dasein precisely because it avoids any reference to a "cons ness" that is split off from its interpretative activity. Martin Heidegger. only phenomenology will do. if mythological study is to have any bearing philosophical analysis of everydayness. For such a task.226. 2. (Frankfurt/Main: Vittorio Klostermann. 1. . that it hinders a firm footing in the center of the problem.57 Now there was no taking his . "whether the foundations Interpretation are sufficiently transparent . N. 57. IN: Indiana UP. 58. 5.186 on Sun. "is so disadvantageous. in English as "Review of Mythic Thought. 56. 5th ed." wrote Heidegger. hereafter.. he observes."58 The dif was that Cassirer already assumed the "ontological constitution" subject prior to his investigation. in his 1923 conversation with Cassirer in burg. "Ernst Cassirer. "we had agreed in demanding an existential analytic. I.177. Deutsche Literaturzei- tung. "The neo-Kantian orientation to the proble consciousness.] systematic content of Kant's Critique of Pure R can provide a possible design for such a task.F. But then a and "more primordial" method is needed. Heft 21 (1928): 1000-1012." he writes. it must be anchored in a different model of the subject. Cassirer's stu myth presupposes a Kantian model of subjectivity and it regards through the distorting lens of transcendental consciousness Heidegger argues.. To strengthen his case b parison.] the ar tonics and [.

The analy- sis of mana. Which is the mode of being of mythic "life" which enables the mana- representation to function as the guiding [.jstor.'" Heidegger concludes. Mana. for example. The sense of being "overwhelmed" by representations is not. merely an illusion inflicted upon a primitive consciousness that lacks rational insight into its own powers of creation. "mythic Dasein. Cassirer assumes as "a basic rule which governs all development" that "spirit achieves true and complete inwardness only in expressing itself. ."61 But even this model of expression points away from the Kantian model of subjectivity as sovereign and toward a model of subjecthood as dependent. for "mythic Dasein. as if it is obvious that mythic thinking expresses the dis- engagement and "presence" characteristic of a Kantian subject. as Cassirer supposed." [.150 Myth and Modernity the light of the problem of Being in general" was required. If this basic constitution is to be found in "care. the analysis of mythic meaning can only succeed if it presupposes a subject characterized by "thrownness" and not "spontaneity" as its methodological point of departure. . in its manner of being-in-the-world. it is an experi- ence of all human existence in its "everyday" mode.] then it becomes clear that mythic Dasein is primarily determined by "thrownness" [Geworfenheit]. This content downloaded from 35. is delivered up to the world in such a way that it is overwhelmed by that to which it is delivered up. 60. MH: Review of PSFII 43. citing German of PSFII 242. Instead. MH: Review of PSFII44. . To 59. For Heidegger."60 The difference is dramatic. 61. seemed to highlight the fact that mythic human existence does not conceive of its meaning-systems as mere "representations" that are simply "present" [vorhanden] to a conscious- ness. MH: Review ofPSFII 43.] understanding of Being? The possible answer to this question of course presupposes a previous working out of the basic ontological constitution of Dasein.. it is presumptuous for Cassirer to describe mana from the point of view of a specifically "modern" and enlightenment ." the meaningfulness of the world could not be por- trayed as born from the sovereign capacities of an expressive subject. was a powerful illustration of the fact that. This implies that one should not presume a subject that is split from the "objects" it represents on the ontological level.177.59 For Heidegger. and English PSFII 196.226. in particular. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Therefore.186 on Sun. mana indicates a mode of meaning not subject to human control. "In 'thrownness.

" The Liberating Power of Symbols: Ph ical Essays. Peter Eli Gordon 151 emphasize this point. "Structure. the only analysis of myth was that performed by the modemrn. ontologicalassumptions regarding the constitution of lang meaning.myth as thrownness . ed. Human beings master the forces of nature which rush in up through symbols which spring from the productive imagination. MA: MIT Press.a view that closely anticipates Jacques Derrida's criticism of Ldvi-Strauss's views in his address.186 on Sun. Alan Bass (Chicago: U Chicago 63.could afford philosophy a c glimpse into the ontological constitution of human existence as such. This content downloaded from 35.177. and without a "center" or point of naturali tact with the real . William McNei bridge. they pay for this emancipation w mental dependence on a semanticized nature. Heidegger poses a purely rhetorical que "What is the ontological constitution of human Dasein which ac for the fact that it. L'dcriture et la dfference (Paris: Editions d 1967)." See Heidegger. as it were. It was rooted in m basic." Pathmarks. and the self. That first act of distantiation must therefore be repeated in the course of development. by contrast. He concluded that the mythical s dependency . 24. Sign. The Heideggerian perspective implies that my structure without transcendental anchor. secular m Heidegger. which returns in the spellbindingforce o ical images. Habermas eloquently summarizes Cassirer's view: "The position of human in the world is defined by a form-giving power which transforms sense impress meaningful structures. Peter Dews (Cambridge. "The Liberating Power of Symbols: Ernst C Humanistic Legacy and the Warburg Library. MH: Review of PSFII 45. Thus they gain a d from the immediate pressure of nature. 2001) 1-29. in English as Writing andDifference. "Letter on Humanism. wished to address myth on its own terms. trans.226. Of course.jstor.6 62. Because only the modern subject could nize culture as the effects of its own creative agency. since h it as a given thatall myth and language are the projections of sov human consciousness. the disagreement be Cassirer and Heidegger concerning the appropriate subject-mode the study of myth was not an isolated affair. As noted . comes to its proper self only by way detour through the world?"62 As this abbreviated summary may suggest. He also supposed that promises a "more direct" or simplified illustration of how "ever ness" functions more generally. UK: Cambridge UP. and Play in the Discourse of th Sciences. meant that he saw the experience of dependency as something i inable from phenomenological description. 1998) 254." first published in Derrida. since language is the " Being." Jiirgen Habermas. Cassirer regarded the prim understanding of myth as essentially a misunderstanding. trans. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. This view of dependency is summarized in Heidegger's almost "mythica nouncement that humanity does not possess language. my em 64.

Cassirer complained that there is hardly a single concept which has been paraphrased with so little clarity as that of neo-Kantianism. about the status of philosophy as such.186 on Sun.66 Heidegger's entire presentation of "existential" philosophy is. The proposed topic was Kant's philosophy. in English.152 Myth and Modernity The Davos Encounter and the Myth-Debate The contrast between thrown and spontaneous subjectivity was brought to a head during Heidegger and Cassirer's famous meeting at Davos in 1929. It quickly became obvious that not only did Cassirer and Heidegger disagree about how best to read Kant. in Heidegger. Mohr. GS. Hereafter cited as Davos. After listening to Heidegger's attempt to transform Kantian epistemology into what he called a "groundlaying for metaphysics" for three weeks.Heidegger 70 Jahre Davoser Debatte (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag. Cassirer .177. the term "neo-Kantianism" was best understood not "substan- tially" but "functionally.B. but more profoundly. Even in the Weimar era.C. Dominic Kaegi and Enno Rudolph. in Heinrich Rickert's phrase. For documentation and interpretative esssays. Heinrich Rickert. whereas. ein geschichtsphil- osophischer Versuch (Tilbingen: J. 67. trans. Indeed. This content downloaded from 35. Cassirer quickly discerned that Heidegger deploys Kant as an opportunity to promote his own "existen- tial" brand of phenomenology. 1924)." cited in the original Davos transcript from Otto Friedrich Bollnow and Joachim Ritter. eds. What does Heidegger have in mind when he employs the phenomenological critique in place of the neo-Kantian one? Neo-Kantianism is the scapegoat [Stindenbock] of the newer philosophy." [eine Richtung der Fragestellung]67 65. Kant and the Problem ofMetaphys- ics. Kant als Philosoph der modernen Kultur." The Kantian view is not reducible to a "kind of philosophy as dogmatic doctrinal system" [als dogmatisches Lehr- system] but is instead "a direction for posing questions. Kant was. Heidegger spoke as if Cohen's entire teaching could be reduced to a mere theory of scientific discovery. Martin Heidegger. in fact. 2002).jstor. Cassirer sug- gested."65 It seemed natural to organize the public encounter between Cassirer and Heidegger as a debate over the proper interpretation of Kantian doctrine. translation ammended. the "philosopher of modem culture. 1990) 171-185. Band 3 (1973) 274-296. Cassirer claimed.226. 171. "Davos Disputation. Davos 171. Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik. Richard Taft ( . IN: Indiana UP. 66. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. based upon a one-sided caricature of the Marburg neo-Kantian legacy. which remained a major touchstone for any broader philosophical discussion. see most recently.

It is the principle of form."68 Moreover. whatever one's doubt cerning the origins of human culture. into the hardness of his fate fr shallow aspect of a man who merely uses the work of the spirit. Davos 291. Cassirer said. with all his freedom. since even the categorical imperative requires a 68." in which he discovers nothing but his own energy "objectified" as world-meaning. that allows the ject to "transpose everything in him which is lived experience int objective shape. 69. so to speak. since the theory shows how human ex ence in diverse spheres is governed by the formative action of spirit itself.] that philosophy has the throwing man back. the nothingness of his Da Heidegger understood that from the neo-Kantian position.. the human being is capab "breakthrough" [Durchbruch] to a plane "which is no longer relat the finitude" of mere existence. This content downloaded from 35. not surprisingly. Cassirer affirm true spiritual realm. one must return to "philosophy's central pr atic.177." but it is nothing more or less than "the sp world created from himself. it is clear that ethics prov illustration of the human capacity to live by forms one has ones ated. Cassirer insis the theory of symbolic forms illustrates the validity of the Kantian- scendental subject-model.69 . then the difference between his own Kantian "direction" of philosophical inquiry and Heidegger's "ex tial" orientation is even more dramatic than it appeared at first." he asked. K ism is merely the "scapegoat" for a general disagreement concer the status of the "modern" subject in philosophy."70 Cassirer's allusion to ethics does not prove the self's "infinite" mative agency." which implies throwing man "into the totality of beings" in or "reveal to him there. Peter Eli Gordon 153 But if Cassirer is right. found such arguments unacceptabl he noted that any inquiry into the "essence" of human being m founded on an ontological basis quite different from the neo-K premise of mental spontaneity. "is it finite or infinite?" To answer this qu Heidegger claimed.jstor. Davos 291." But it fact an "occasion for understanding [. "How is the inner structure of itself. a ph pher's fixation on themes of world-dependency or finitude appear tle more than an "occasion for pessimism and melancholy. 70.186 on Sun. There is. Davos 179. Cassirer concludes that this is the essence of Kantian auton and through the categorical imperative. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.226..

Karlfried Griinder. Jean-Francois Courtine. 71.226. Aubenque. In the Categorical Imperative we have something which goes beyond the finite creature.71 For Heidegger. "Aufklrung und Metaphysik: Zur Philosophie Cassirers und d Debatte mit Heidegger. ed. "Le Ddbat de 1929 entre Cassirer et Heidegger" Ernst Marbourg /i New York. 1929" Ober Ernst Cassirers Philosophie der Symbolishen Formen Jirg Braun. Also. and Fabien Capeillires. necessarily limited to mortal existence. "Heidegger and Cassirer: Being and Politics. see the excellent study by Michael Friedma ing of the Ways (Chicago: Open Court. 1990) 81-96. not least because it has afforded many commentators with a dramatic illustration of the cultural rift which threatened Ger- man culture in 1929." Internationale Zeitschriftfiir Philosophie 2 (1992): 2 nis A. H 290-312. any true "breakthrough" to a sphere of absolute objectivity. this going-beyond to something higher is always just a going-beyond to the finite creature. But precisely the concept of the Imperative as such shows the inner reference to a finite creature. as Cassirer contends. Lynch. Frank Schalow.154 Myth and Modernity being whose capacities for self-transparency are. further evidence of the fact that mental agency cannot achieve. "Cassirer un in Davos. Luc F Rudolph. the transcendental capacities of the self are severely lim- ited by the constitutive features of "creatureliness. 2000). This transcendence too still remains within the [sphere of] creatureliness [Geschapflichkeit] and finitude. and Emrnst W." Internationale Zeitschriftfiir Philosophie. One of Cassirer's students has written that when Cassirer offered his hand to his interlocutor at the end of the discussion. On the Davos disputation. Wayne Cristaudo." Kantstudien 87 (1996): 1 Calvin O." Kan (1990): 360-370. "Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger: The Davos Debate. Orth (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp Michael Krois. "Roundtable Di 'Philosophie und Politik: Die Davoser Disputation zwischen Ernst Cassirer Heidegger in der Retrospektive'. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Davos 279.186 on Sun. L'intindraire philosophique. "Thinking at Cross Purposes with Kant: R tude." What Cassirer cele- brates as the human ability to "live" in obedience to one's own rules is. 72." Kantstudien 82 (1991): 469-483. and also Pierre Aubenque. and Truth in the Cassirer-Heidegger Debate. Heidegger refused to take it.177. "Heidegger and Cassirer on Kant.Shrag. from another perspective." Kantstudien 58 (1967): 87 This content downloaded from 35. Heidegger claims.72 There is some evidence that the public confron- tation between the two philosophers was not entirely amicable. The Davos disputation has remained a reference point in the history of philosophy. Helmut Holzhey. to one which is created (angel).org/terms .jstor. Heidegger's startling reference to an "angel" demonstrates that his philosophical rejection of an enlighten- ment model of mental spontaneity draws upon religious resources. Jean Seidengart (Pa tions du Cerf.

" which included the tensio "this dark. Peter Eli Gordon 155 Moreover.75 The Davos encounter was onl moment in an ongoing philosophical discussion as to whether th emrnist's faith in the autonomy of the subject is warranted.177. and England and Sweden. w Cassirer and his wife fled Hamburg in 1933. to read the Heidegger-Cassirer dis any directly "political" fashion. Heidegger assumed the position of R Freiburg University under the aegis of the National Socialists. 1929 . see my essay. See Pie dieu. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger. he risks making a merely ad hominem allegory when he suggests tha ger's hostility to the grand masters of Kantianism." Modern In History 1. 1991) 74. For Pierre Bo it appeared obvious that Heidegger's language is little more barely encrypted "irrationalism. Bourdieu's violent reduction of philosophy to little more than a field of power seems remarkably inconsistent with any defense of rationalism. 75. is widespread today as in the 1930s. Cas essentially Kantian view of spontaneous consciousness contrasts d cally with Heidegger's theory of human being-in-the-world as tially " Allegory of Intellectual History. Habermas.jstor. since he reflexively admits the embeddedness of his own tive. was ro profound incompatibility with their alien habitus. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. For exampl 73. "Continental Divide: Ernst Cassirer and Heidegger at ."74 It would be rash. the question remains what Heidegger's "dark" appearance is to indicate in contrast to Cassirer's prematurely white hair. calls upon a panoply of mythical oppositions. especially Cassirer. primitive or modern. before settling in the United States in 1941. "The Liberating Power of Symbols" 26. Olympian not only in ance but in spirit. Of cour not Bourdieu's point. however." and the "white-haired man." Significantly. the Olympian reference aside. Needless to say. atheletic little man. (Stanford: Stanford UP. This content downloaded from 35. Habermas hastens to add that "C makes us wary of the intellectual celebration of archaic origins.73 Eve gen Habermas transforms Cassirer's arguments into presentist p material when he notes that the "humanist legacy which C bequeaths to us through his philosophy consists not least in sens us to the fake primordiality of political myths.2 (2004): 219-248.186 on Sun. For a longer treatment of the problems involved in the political interpre the Davos encounter. four years later. first to Vienna. Cassirer's portrait of mythic consc bears striking resemblance to Heidegger's portrait of Dasein. Many critics have been tempted to read Cassirer's confrontatio Heidegger in a straightforwardly political fashion. Still." In what seems a tional reference to Heidegger." One should note that Bourdieu is quoting the memoir of an member at Davos. n standing its historical status." a "conservative revolution" d against liberal-democracy and the cultural legacy of Kant.

. He claims that myth. for we wish to follow the road leading from spatiality as a factor in the at-hand to space as a form of existence. but politically indeterminate remark. The Myth of the State. A genealogy of National Socialism. n. For Cassirer's explicit remarks on surpassing Heideggerian pragmatic space. Cassirer hinted at a resemblance between the mythic conception of language and certain characteristics of "psychopathology. 13. . 4. PSF II 96 (German 122). Heidegger. Cassirer's Political Testament Cassirer's The Myth of the State is one of the faded classics of mid- twentieth-century intellectual history. 77." 149 n. by force of its own dialectical logic. and furthermore to show how this road leads right through the domain of symbolic forma- tion. and eventually to the enlightened frameworks of science. it signifies a "regional" and ready-to-hand involvement inso- far as it is "something [. See esp.186 on Sun. Vol.jstor. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. "The Dialectic of Mythical Consciousness" 235-261. myth necessarily outgrew those very modes of understanding that Heidegger considered permanent and structural "existentials" of human being. Part IV.] as having form and direction [wird das Zuhandene nach Form und Richtung vorfindlich]. but without challenging Heidegger's position goes beyond it. because Cassirer emphasizes the merely provisional sta- tus of the mythic conception."76 The apparent similarity between these two theories of space is even more striking.] we can come across [.77 On Cassirer's view. must eventually "go beyond" itself to the more abstracted symbolism of religion. Cassirer. Still.78 Moreover.156 Myth and Modernity Cassirer considered peculiar to the mythic conception of space .. Almost twenty years later. This content downloaded from 35.where "zones and directions [Orte und Richtungen] of space stand out from one another because a different accent of meaning is connected with them" - anticipates the "existential" of space-as-environment that Heidegger con- sidered a structural feature of being-in-the-world. III: "What distinguishes our own undertaking from that of Heidegger is above all that it does not stop at this stage of the at-hand and its mode of spa- tiality. "If . See PSF II 41-42.226. SZ 110-111."79 This is a profound. see the remarks in PSF. 76. he expanded on this argument in his own. brings something close by. expressly political assessment of Heidegger's think- ing in what was to be his final work. PSF. once Cassirer had begun teaching in America. it contains a force- ful anticipation of Cassirer's later claim that Heidegger's philosophy is itself symptomatic of the modern reversion to myth. this does not signify that it fixes something at a spatial position with a minimal distance from some points of the body". 79.177. 78. BT 144-45.. my emphasis. II. in its con- cern. in a footnote to PSF.

2005): 121-137. Within this broad scheme. of our des passions. can hardly be considered a perfect expression of autark government is solely for the prince and not the people..186 on Sun. a rational theory of politics cannot be defined i tion from broader philosophical commitments. Cassirer believes that "mythic" consciousness is essentia pable of recognizing its own formative agency. As d above. Noneth is an important step in the "secularization of the symbol of For Although originally a mythic force beyond human appeal. it demands a model of the subject that is capable of actively the rules that order its experience. of our political and social life [. . Similarly. emphasizes those moments of struggle between logos and myt anticipate the modern clash between the republican ideal of aut the fascist myth of collective submission. emphasis in original. 81. there is more than an analogy betw epistemological and political manifestations of reason. rational politics "autarky" or self-rule: To be rational is to enjoy an active share governance.81 Cassirer illustrates this point by assessing some of the paramou ures of Western political theory. 82." to impo upon the world and bring "the chaos of our minds. Plato's "struggle against myth" and the consequ ishment of the arts from the polis is only an expression of that "rationalist" tendency in Platonic thought. and as a rational epistemology implies sp ity. MS 93.226. . MS 199. Cassirer teaches "how to classify and systematize our concepts. Peter Eli Gordon 157 it presents the history of political thought as an ongoing s between "logos" and "mythos. Only a fully secular consciousness achieves th measure of self-recognition and therefore self-governance." between a "rational" theory of t promoting freedom and autonomy. Problems of Interpretation in the History of German I History and Theory 44 (Feb. A politics o gains its definitive character only insofar as it draws upon a tr dental theory of mind. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. This content downloaded from 35. For a summary of this theme in German Idealism. But for Cassirer.] into order and harmo For Cassirer.jstor. and a "mythic" theory presen world as governed by forces beyond human control. condemni unfreedom and ontological passivity. which. It follows that a cal vision of the world lacks the experience of self-transparen autarky requires.177. see my review essay Authorizing Modernity. He takes particular prove how the contemporary encounter with mythic politics is r ancient sources. Machiavelli's theory of statecr example.

158 Myth and Modernity becomes in Machiavelli's thinking a principle at least potentially responsive to human agency. What he calls the "rational character" of the seventeenth-century's political philosophers is founded on their revival of an originally Stoic principle concerning the "autarky" of human reason.84 Vanquishing "mystery" requires stripping the political sphere of all meaning in which one could not recognize one's own agency.186 on Sun.177. "if he fails to perform this duty Fortune scorns and deserts him. Here. it presupposes the free consent of all the parties concerned.226. he celebrates the freedom and rationality of the subject. Cassirer notes that for Machiavelli the true measure of princely skill is the ability to achieve some measure of ratio- nal mastery. 202-203. It is not in need of any external help. It has to find its own way and to believe in its own strength. he is not at the mercy of winds and waves. all mystery is gone." but as a theorist of political logos he is most significant for his belief that statecraft must be achieved by "a clear. social contract theory supplants the notion of sub- mission to mythic forces with the doctrine of rational control." [F]or if we reduce the legal and social order to free individual acts. A contract must be made in full awareness of its meaning and consequences. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to . There is nothing less mysterious than a contract. much of Cassirer's political analysis may appear naive. Cassirer saw only a small step. cool. "Reason is autonomous and self-dependent. too. the argument makes the choice of correct politics so obvious that 83. Cassirer hastened to add. 84. it is now entirely purged of "mystery. it could not even accept this help if it were offered." But. He must choose his course and steer his course. "Man is not subdued to Fortune. Today. This content downloaded from 35." Machiavelli is admittedly "the first philosophical advocate of a resolute militarism. and logical mind. MS 216. Indeed. to a voluntary contractual submission of the governed.jstor. Contrac- tual politics presuppose demythologization: the mythical experience of dispossession can be fully dissolved into the experience of self-reflec- tive reason. The contrast between reason and myth seems too stark to be serviceable in identfying more specific doctrines in the history of political thought."83 From Machiavelli to the seventeenth-century foundations of social contract theory." As in Machiavelli. MS 200.

His public address. The entire na seems bent toward unifying diverse political philosophies into th eral drama of an ongoing battle. my emphasis. Cassirer believed brought all of the diverse currents of eighteent tury thought to perfection. ironically. .] in all fields of knowledg Indeed. drew upon Kant's enlightenment fa the "intelligible" character of the human being in relation to its surroundings."85 Cassirer's other widely read of intellectual history. The prefatory remarks for the 1932 edition urged reade "[m]ore than ever before" it was important to hold up to "the p age" that "bright clear mirror fashioned by the Enlightenment.186 on Sun. my emphasis. The principle of rep government.177." a schema. This admiration. This content downloaded from 35. presents an eloquent and moving defense of de racy as rooted deep in Kantian thought." The rhet urgency of this claim is unmistakable: At a moment when a nati prejudice was gathering force in the belief that Weimar democra "un-German. and its capacity to lift itself above the "causal ne "empirical-historical events" as a "subject of freedom. admits little q fication." but had in fact "grow its native ground" and had been "nourished upon its most unique gies [. seems to call upon the very style of mythic thought it wants to com One explanation for this weakness is Cassirer's uncritical fidel the Enlightenment." and the "age which venerated reason and science as man's highest fa cannot and must not be lost even for us. between the hypostasized and tr torical forces of "mythos" and "logos. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1 also an encomium to the period which "discovered and passio defended the autonomy of reason [." Cassirer wished to prove that "the idea of a repu constitution was hardly a 'foreigner' [Fremdling] to German int tual history [deutschen Geistesgeschichte]. PE. Die Idee 31. it is the essentially Kantian principle of mental . 1928."87 While Cassirer was perhaps right to think that the Weimar expe was under assault due in part to the reemergence of "anti-Enlig ment" sentiments. English xi. he lacked insight into the limits of the Enlightenm itself.226. Peter Eli Gordon 159 the real divergence of opinion appears inexplicable.] of idealist philosophy." which was delivered on the constitutional anniver August 11. PE. . 87. . 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. . Cassirer claims. English xi. however. "The Idea of the Repu Constitution. He was unmoved by the spirit of rueful paradox that allow 85. 86.

226. It can be used. Its core idea. We can try to understand and interpret them. as a pliable instrument in the hands of the political leaders. the entirety of Cassirer's scholarship seems immune from any and all doubt concerning the ambivalent consequences of secular modernity." Cassirer makes it clear that he is not interested in Heidegger's philosophy itself. Such a philosophy renounces its own fundamental theoretical and ethical ideals. to discern in the dialectical relation between myth and enlightenment the specifically modern sources of fascism. To change these conditions is impossible. is that "existence has a historical character" and "is bound up with the special conditions under which the individual lives. but instead as an "instrument" of Nazi propaganda: [. This content downloaded from 35. Cassirer turns back to reflect one last time upon the cultural and political ramifications of Heideg- ger's philosophy. . We have to accept the historical conditions of our existence. My emphasis. helped at the very least to "enfeeble and slowly undermine the forces that could have resisted the modern political myths.] a theory that sees in the Geworfenheit of man one of his principal characteristics has given up all hopes of an active share in the construc- tion and reconstruction of man's cultural life. he is concerned solely with its cultural consequences: "I do not mean to say that these philosophical doctrines had a direct bearing on the development of political ideas in Germany. To be thrown into the stream of time is a fundamental and inalterable feature of our human situation." But Heideg- ger's thinking. . Indeed. MS 369. . Cassirer observes. Cassirer observes. We cannot emerge from this stream and we cannot change its course. He spoke of the Geworfenheit of man (the being-thrown)." In order to express his thought Heidegger had to coin a new term.160 Myth and Modernity Frankfurt School. among others. In the closing pages of The Myth of the State.177. then.89 This is Cassirer's final judgment of Heidegger: "Thrownness" had become 88. MS 368-9.88 Although one might quarrel with this summary of Heideggerian "thrownness.186 on Sun." It was judged not on its merits as philosophy. but we cannot change them. Most of these ideas arose from quite different sources. But this raises the troublesome question as to whether his commitment to the Enlightenment was itself a species of rationalist mythology. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.

from conceptual truth to pragmatic cacy ." as cultural belief encouraged submission to the state." But this breaks down the distinction b philosophy and politics to such a degree that the only concepts praised are the ones which promote liberal-enlightenment effects set loose in the broader circuit of political culture. This content downloaded from 35. by c lating to Nazism. as soon as i 90. . Cassirer observes. seems to have believed his condemnation of Heidegger complicity in mythic politics suffices as proof that the idea of th ness is itself a myth. This argumentative shift .org/terms .177.was most apparent in a 1944 lecture that Cassirer delivere Connecticut College and closely followed the arguments of The M the State.226. Existentialism itself represented but one var what Cassirer calls "the return of fatalism in our modern world.186 on Sun. Heidegger betrayed the i non-partisan philosophical inquiry. But Cassirer's charge noneth ignores the possibility that thrownness and mythic dependency fact constitutive features of the human subject . But the analogy is specious.] of fate.a possibility w requires philosophical discussion quite apart from the disastrous c quences of drafting such an insight for its political effects. To be sure. since the popula cacy of an idea has no self-evident bearing on whether that idea Indeed. MS 369.jstor. Cassirer's argument implies evaluating philosophica solely in terms of their political application." which is to "teach man how to develop his active fa in order to form his individual and social life. Cassirer inser additional claim that philosophy must fulfill "its most important tional task. Cassirer claims f ism was already latent in Heidegger's philosophy. ." According to Ca however."90 The peculiarity of this criticism is that it does not address He ger's philosophy as such. Peter Eli Gordon 161 a "pliable instrument" to be manipulated as a myth for the ben National Socialism." But here. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Cas however. It claims only that its philosophical th were made serviceable as "political myth. Heideggerian thinking could not fulfill this mission: As soon as philosophy no longer trusts its own power. which is to say. The lecture repeated almost verbatim the book's attem indict Heideggerian "thrownness" along with Oswald Spengler's ries of cultural decline as signals of Germany's atavistic return "general mythical concept [. Moreover. eva them as political "myths.

Ironically. following his teacher Hermann Cohen.the mythical "enemy" in Nazi propaganda . how- ever." which. In an essay published in 1944." to promote the enlightenment of subjects for republican rule.. As an unapologetic partisan of the Enlightenment. [. once "brought into being by Judaism.226. extols the Jewish people . A philosophy that indulges in somber predications about the decline and inevitable destruction of human culture. Myth. "Judaism and the Modem Political Myths" 241. At times his commitment to the Enlightenment seems to verge on dogmatic and perhaps religious foundations.162 Myth and Modernity gives way to a merely passive attitude. "Philosophy and Politics. having once more fulfilled its historical and religious mission. Cassirer. a philosophy whose whole attention is focused on the Geworfenheit. He assumes that it is the presiding duty of philosophy. and Culture 230.186 on Sun. by conflating what is true and what is merely an effective belief-frame- work for action." As the first religion to break from myth. since Cassirer identified the "duty" to break from myth not only with Judaism but also. since only the widespread belief in free- dom would "teach man" how to "develop his active faculties in order to form his individual and social life.." have "found their way into general human culture. and that politi- cal liberty is therefore contingent upon achieving a fully demytholo- gized subjectivity.91 Here Cassirer conflates truth and pragmatic effect. Cassirer found himself in dangerous proximity to the universal-pragmatist theory of myth he claimed to oppose." But this argument remains open to the charge of political partisanship. 92. Cassirer claims that a philosophy must endorse an ontology of freedom rather than . can no longer do its duty. This content downloaded from 35. My emphasis. To fulfill this task.jstor. the Being- thrown of man.177. Cassirer. How did Cassirer fall into this paradox? One explanation is that he failed to appreciate the phenomenon of modernist technique. he embraced the view that secularization means liberation from mythic dependency. as noted 91."92 This paean to Judaism is suggestive. Judaism has contributed to the ethical ideals that are required "to break the power of the modern political myths. since it is based chiefly upon an empirical observation concerning the popular advantage of certain beliefs rather than a philosophical vindication of their truth. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. into the life of all civilized nations.] it cannot teach man how to develop his active faculties in order to form his individual and social life.for representing certain "ethical ideals." Symbol. its "educational task." and it has "done its duty.

He shou directly condemned the philosophical cast of mind that enables an in mentalist relation to myth." which is not to be confused wit itself.177. Cassirer refuse any continuity between autonomy and fascism because he co admit that the enlightenment subject itself bore at least some r bility for modern domination. if fasc "technique of myth. by contrast. since on his view the human being is thrown into historical and social meanings that cannot be made available for subjective command. In Heidegger's own jargo claims are ontological. It is crucial to note that C misses the point that Heidegger's philosophical claims are pr about how we are constituted as human beings. since he finds this instrumentalism t peculiar feature of National Socialist rule. myth or technique? It is easy to see why Cassirer avoided this question. where Cassirer se deploy the term "myth" itself as a near-synonym for illusion. wor means of a "technique of myth. Peter Eli Gordon 163 above.almost as an article of faith ." Fascism. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. This moment of dogm Cassirer's thinking becomes obvious if one contrasts the earlier ings on myth.226." As noted at the start essay. Cassirer recognized that the peculiarity of the "modern t age" is that "myths can be manufactured [. But if so.186 on Sun. with the liberatory impulse of secularizing philosophy its the comparison only serves to show how Cassirer's philoso project is committed . which display a generously functionalist view of and the judgments in The Myth of the State. not normative." which is more to blame. it made little sense for Cassirer to attack Heid philosophy as supporting "mythic" consciousness. had argu the ideal is an illusion. In other words.jstor. But Cassirer did not take This content downloaded from 35. Heidegger. and not how w believe ourselves to be constituted. . His an thy for mythic unreason ran so deep that it blinded Cassirer to t tion of modernity's independent share in spawning fascist think criticized the status of "myth" (as if the problem were solely m consciousness) but neglected the propagandistic "manipulation" of Cassirer never adequately addressed the modernist-subjective as tions underlying this so-called " . he claims.] according to the methods as any other modern weapon. Any scruti the ontological sources of modern domination would have push sirer toward the recognition that fascism would not have been p were it not for the modern ideal of the po ity of a wholly disenchanted subjectivity. .

Heidegger succeeded far more than Cas- sirer in opening an empirical route from ontology to politics. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. as the constitutive background of all human action and the name for a fundamental receptivity that cannot be expunged. While divergent in many respects. IN: U Notre Dame P. for example. Maclntyre. This content downloaded from 35.jstor. these works share an appeal to the necessity of inherited "frameworks. "Rationalism in Politics. My aim is chiefly confined to exposition. and even Charles Taylor's politically more progressive reflections in Sources of the Self (1989). and the normative proposal that one should submit to this condition. but I also hope to advance a certain measure of skepticism regarding Cassirer's basically "Kantian" view that there can be such a thing as fully self-transparent subjectivity." 93.226. Michael Oakeshott. Concluding Remarks Whatever its limitations. 1981). It can be found. "Rationalism in Politics. Charles Taylor.177. if normative claims on behalf of National Socialism appear to follow from "ontological" inquiries into human constitution. as a mystified expression of human imagination that must yield to the more "sophisticated" works of the self-transparent mind.e." Rationalism in Politics and other essays (Indianapolis. as well as Alisdair MacIntyre's After Virtue (1981). .. MA: Harvard UP. Heidegger himself is chiefly to blame. I have tried to reconstruct the debate between Cas- sirer and Heidegger in order to illuminate some of their deeper assump- tions. with his own philosophical terminology). After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame.164 Myth and Modernity distinguish between the conceptual understanding that we are thrown. Alasdair C. with Cassirer. Of course. By lending an imprimatur of philosophical dignity to the execrable vernacular of National Socialist propaganda through his many speeches (which were replete. a human being which enjoys the capacity to direct its action without reliance upon external meaning. Indeed." which is widely regarded as the paradigm of conservative theory. with Heidegger. IN: Liberty Fund. moreover. The Myth of the State has made an impor- tant contribution to a broader discussion concerning the relation between secularization and reason in modern political life.186 on Sun. Sources of the Self The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge. 1991). or whether it is salutary to admit myth. a chief point of dissension in both the Anglo-American and continental secularization debates is whether myth can be defined. in such diverse works as Michael Oakeshott's 1947 essay. 1989). It is worth noting that this sort of skepticism is typically associated with the conservative critique of liberal autonomy.

putatively ont 94. 'myth' me ply a 'relating'.] and through sequent criticism of myth by monotheistic iconoclasm. 1983). as "technique. It took on connotations through the very ancient Greek criticism of myth [. pitted Hans Blumenberg's modernist defense of self-assertion i Legitimacy of the Modern Age (1966) against Karl L6with's indi of "secular presumption" in Meaning in History (1949) as the tr ured face of an originally eschatological Heilsgeschichte.95 Ther obvious or axiomatic relation between politics and ontology.177. One of the uncomfortable things about political action is cannot claim authority based on some deeper. The Disenchantment of the World (1985) offers liberal-democratic theory a deepened awareness of that " dispossession" which characterizes the most primal forms of religion. Wallace (Cambridge. Most re Marcel Gauchet investigates the birth of political agency from r otherness in his book.jstor. This content downloaded from 35. tran Burge. . and a correlative emphasis upon the limits of post-enli enment reason. English. NJ: Princeton UP. The Disenchantment of the World: a political history of religion." On the Continent. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Le chantement du monde: une histoire politique de la religion (Paris: Gallimard. Marcel Gauchet.186 on Sun. The Legitimacy of the Mode trans. Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the phy ofHistory (Chicago: U Chicago P. But what if autonomy is itself a "myth sirer's error was to have presumed that there is necessarily between "demythologized" subjectivity and political emancipatio this linkage ." But the two are i distinct. such conce at the heart of the so-called "secularization debate" of the 1960s." See Halpern.226. 95. the beliefs that guide our ac the political sphere are not bound to how we are constituted as beings." or "managerial." Oakeschott's words. Robert M. Karl L6with.that perm self-justifying thesis that only liberalism is "true. hence it was originally quite objective in meaning. 131 n. But it would be a mistake to assume that the critique of m autonomy as illusory must result in conservative politics. As Richard Rorty suggests." History and Theory 1. foreword by Charles Taylor (Princeton. 1966) in . which they assail as "Cartesian. Peter Eli Gordon 165 which are often understood in religious terms and are supposed t human action. Die Legitimitit d zeit (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp. "'Myth' a ogy' in Modem Usage. Cas believed that "modern political myths" were both politically un able as well as false.between enlightenment and freedom . 1997). 1949). The recognition that modem autonomy is founded upon a false ontolo not necessarily imply that it is dispensable. Etymologically. MA: MIT P.2 (1961): 129-149. 5. . Ben Halpern has noted "the historic whereby both 'myth' and 'ideology' acquired their derogatory connations and mean a 'subjective' or 'interested' approach to reality. Hans Blumenberg.

however unwillingly. it was Cassirer. among other things. yet stoic "strength" in the face of nothingness. to suggest that a truly "liberal" theory of politics might best emerge from the post-Heideggerian recognition of human finitude rather than the quasi-Kantian presumption of self-transparency and ontological independence." The Barbarism of Reason: Max Weber and the Twilight of Enlightenment. Cassirer presup- posed human spontaneity. believed that the study of myth could provide insight into the existen- tial structure of all human meaning. The significance of Marcel Gauchet's recent contribution to the secularization debate is. to regard myth merely as occluded spirit.186 on Sun.177. 97. It is a feature of Weber's theory that Terry Maley has called the "politics of disenchantment.226. For Heidegger. Here one can discern a difference between enlightenment and disen- chantment: Whereas Cassirer described history as enlightenment through reason. the modern subject for Heidegger was 96. distinct paths by which the subject of philosophy has moved from religion to modernity. 1994) 139-166. UK: Cambridge UP." See Maley. which forced him. But it is not obvious that human beings possess such knowledge. Heidegger described history as disenchantment with metaphys- ics . This anti-foundationalist view may also underwrite a charistmatic.especially. Contingency. Asher Horowitz and Terry Maley (Toronto: U Toronto P. This content downloaded from 35. Solidarity (Cambridge. Political judgments do not get their credence from metaphysical insight. eds. Moreover. and it is even less obvious that such knowledge would inform a palatable political . and to believe so is to subscribe to a faulty model of social meaning. since political appeals to certitude quite often turn pernicious. "The Politics of Time: Subjectivity and Modernity in Max Weber. on the other hand.97 Their philoso- phies seem to embody the two. what distinguished the post-metaphysical subject of modernity is not that it has achieved a position of god-like sovereignty over its own constitu- tive meaning. not Heidegger. On the contrary.96 Ironically. the metaphysics of rational control. Richard Rorty. although political actors fre- quently wish and behave as if this were the case. Irony. he was not merely making a plea for "more" tradition.166 Myth and Modernity knowledge about who we "really" are. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Heidegger. it is charac- teristic of many liberal political theories that they mistrust precisely those sorts of political movements that claim to embody the "truth" of human existence. who wished to found his political philosophy upon the final and incorrigible knowledge of the wholly "demythologized" subject. Liberalism is no more "true" to the self than any of its political alternatives. 1989).jstor. But it follows that there are always such myths independent of one's choice of political program.

It models epistem political action after the Hegelian image of a self-expressive spi it regards the work of culture as a canvass upon which spirit le traces of enlightenment . indulgin enlightenment view of freedom as an intelligible idea metaphys odds with historicity. The modernist "self-assertion" criticized was later defended by Blumenberg. This content downloaded from 35.226. since they claim the critique o points toward an ideal of autonomy. the Frankfurt School upheld the doctrine of self-regulating critique. whose own fid the Kantian ideal of autonomy prevented him from recognizing nity's own inner demons. since his theory of the subject presumes the ir bility of the fall. myth manifestation of human "infinite" capacities. On this point. and it co those conditions are without metaphysical ground. Ne Dialectics. and therefore unmasterable. which.jstor. Even in Adorno's late work. Certainly. see Ma "Blumenberg and Modernism: A Reflection on The Legitimacy of the Modern de Siccle Socialism and Other Essays (New York: Routledge. Peter Eli Gordon 167 one which had arrived at the "disenchanted" recognition of existential constitution: it knows itself to be thrown and no longer itself capable of wresting itself free of this condition. This "qualified" faith in the promises of ism. freedom retains its regulative function. For Heidegger. but only at 98. without. Adorno and Horkheimer a famously critical of Heidegger. Ironica sirer's model of spiritual development that is supposedly the sta modernity illicitly relies on Christian-eschatological hope.177. however. however.186 on Sun. This is a point made by Karl L6with. the Frankfurt School took a position equidistant Heidegger and Cassirer. It is awa there are always background conditions to its action. One can rightly accuse Heid anti-modernism. For a discussion of the latter.98 If autonomy is the political trace of a theologically-inspired plenit dream of meaning without dispossession. meanings are what lend subjectivity its grounding in the Thrownness is constitutive. though forever unr must be sustained in thought if the unfinished project of enlighten to provide normative guidance. history cannot be dissolved. while recast ism as the metaphysical theory of"nothingness. Whereas Heidegger turned "nothingnes the last metaphysical dogma. 1988)." According to Cassirer's philosophy. on the other hand. Heidegger's d of myth thus implies the constitutive permanence of human fin sustains the Christian doctrine of human fallenness. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. placed them at odds with Cassirer.

in alliance with metaphysics but only "at the moment of its fall." Minima Moralia. and the Dia- lectic of Enlightenment. and one might therefore charac- terize their position as a qualified modemrnism. 193. They take up a position at some distance from Cassirer and are critical of his attempt to resur- rect the Enlightenment on its own terms.168 Myth and Modernity Albrecht Wellmer has called the "vanishing point of demythologization. perhaps controversially. assuming with Heidegger an attitude of mere "piety" external to subjectivist meta- physics." Die Moderne ein unvollendetes Projekt. however. I: Reason and the Rationalization of Society (Boston: Beacon Press.186 on Sun. see Albrecht Wellmer. Richard J. Utopia." ed.jstor. From their perspective. "Metaphysics at the Moment of its Fall. "Finale. Jephcott (London: Verso." Whether this meant the ideal was itself a "myth" remains unclear. and Wellmer. 1994) 32-54." On the diffi- culties of this self-collapsing ideal. but instead in the compulsive effort to proclaim as truth a species of unconditional freedom that was. On the Habermasian attempt to rescue conceptual form itself as a non- repressive ideal. Habermas and Modernity (Cambridge. without. But the Frankfurt "left" and the Heideggerian "right" critique of technological domination nonetheless converge in the claim that ide- alism's celebrated notion of spontaneity has spawned a specifically modern will to mastery and decontextualized technique. autonomy might well figure as the most consequen- tial myth of modernity. finds in Adorno the residues of a "theological motif. MA: MIT Press. Against Cas- sirer. 1998). Philosophisch-politische Auf sitze (Leipzig: Reclam. then. Bernstein. Adorno. the question of the reality or unreality of redemption itself hardly mat- ters. 'theological motif' from the . they locate the pathology of instrumental reason not in its truth. however. MA: MIT Press. "beside the demand thus placed on thought. 99. as if full enlightenment were an actual condition. E. that. 1984). and "Die Moderne-ein unvol- lendetes Projekt.99 What is certain is that the Frankfurt school locates fascist domination in an uncritical moment of freedom itself. 1978) 247. F. 1985) 35-66. constitutively impossible. 04 Mar 2018 17:05:21 UTC All use subject to http://about. Wellmer. David Midgley (Cambridge. trans. trans. on their view. The Theory of Communicative Action. N. see Habermas." From Theodor W. Adorno's comment is particularly revealing." End- games.177." But Wellmer is right that the stance is aporetic. Reflections from a Damaged Life.226. "Reason. This content downloaded from 35.