“The Neo-Kantian Bridge between German Idealism and Phenomenology”
Thursday, April 18, 6-9 PM
David Suarez (University of Toronto): “Architectonic Drift: Kant, Hegel, and Cassirer on the History of Reason”
Abstract: In what sense do symbolic forms—ways of meaning-making such as myth, language, art, and science—constitute a system, according to Cassirer? I compare Cassirer’s conception of system with Kant’s and with Hegel’s, highlighting Cassirer’s critical appraisal of his predecessors’ views. For Cassirer, symbolic forms constitute a system because our diverse ways of meaning-making are all ultimately oriented towards a single end: the realization of human freedom. Breaking with Kant and Hegel, however, Cassirer does not think that this end-directedness implies that the system of symbolic forms follows a fixed course of development along a fixed set of branches. I explain why, according to Cassirer, human culture remains in a perpetual state of ‘architectonic drift’—a dynamism in which the unity of the system is maintained through the spontaneous mutation and mutual accommodation of basic meaning-making functions, giving rise to a plurality of concrete symbolic forms in historically contingent configurations.
G. Anthony Bruno (Royal Holloway University of London): “Lask’s Fateful Interpretation of Fichte”
Abstract: For Heidegger, ‘facticity’ denotes existentially necessary yet logically contingent conditions of our being-in-the-world. Given the thinkability of their denial, he deems the attempt to deduce or ‘get behind’ such conditions a rationalist folly, one he explicitly attributes to Fichte. Curiously, Fichte coins ‘facticity’ to denote conditions of experience whose necessity is not absolute—radical contingency in the guise of rhapsody—and argues that facticity must be ‘annihilated’ by deduction. We must ask, then, how Heidegger inherits and repurposes Fichte’s neologism. It is Lask who enables the term’s transmission. His dissertation, a major influence on Heidegger, argues that facticity is Fichte’s term for the ‘individuality problem’, the allegedly ineradicable fact that empirical matter resists complete explanation by categorial form. On Lask’s reading, ‘facticity’ denotes the material particularity of individuals that cannot be rendered fully intelligible by a deduction of categories—radical contingency in the guise of haecceity. How can Lask’s reading inspire Heidegger, given Fichte’s rationalist recoil from facticity? I argue that Lask fruitfully misreads Fichte as a proponent of facticity, offering a distorted picture of Fichte that encourages a phenomenological correction of the recoil that consistently defines the Wissenschaftslehre.
Scott Edgar (Saint Mary’s University): “The Function of History in Hermann Cohen’s Critique of Knowledge”
Abstract: There are two strains in Cohen’s critique of knowledge that sit in apparent tension with one another. First, he insists that knowledge is valid in a way that is universal and thus timeless. That conception of validity underpins the anti-psychologism that is central to his critique of knowledge. But second, Cohen’s accounts of knowledge are markedly historical: that is, he is often at pains to trace the details of how a particular concept developed over the course of the history of science. Nowhere is his historical approach more apparent than in Cohen’s 1883 Principle of the Infinitesimal Method and its History. At the very least, the tension is this: if his critique of knowledge aims to account for the timeless validity of knowledge, what is the purpose of Cohen’s detailed accounts of the history of science? This paper argues that Cohen’s critique of knowledge can resolve this tension, and that the key to the resolution can be found in views defended by several of Cohen’s teachers. This paper will examine the theory of Jewish history defended by a history professor of Cohen’s, Heinrich Graetz, in order to find the outlines of a resolution of the tension in Cohen’s thinking.
Samantha Matherne (Harvard University): “Toward an Aesthetic A Priori: Merleau-Ponty’s Reading of Kant”
Abstract: It is often assumed that Merleau-Ponty conceives of his philosophy as an alternative to Kant’s. While Merleau-Ponty is certainly critical of features of Kant’s view, e.g., his theory of apperception and his transcendental method, Merleau-Ponty is nevertheless sympathetic to other features of Kant’s view. Indeed, in this paper I show that Merleau-Ponty specifically gravitates toward to the aesthetic features of Kant’s philosophy. From the first Critique, Merleau-Ponty is drawn to Kant’s theory of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic and his account of the imagination’s ‘hidden art’ of schematism in the Schematism chapter. Meanwhile, from the third Critique Merleau-Ponty is interested in Kant’s theory of judgments of the beautiful. I argue that Merleau-Ponty draws on these Kantian themes within his phenomenological framework in order to develop a theory of the aesthetically inflected a priori.