Ernst Cassirer: Philosophy of Symbolic Forms.
Part Two: Mythical Thought. Berlin, 1925

This second volume of Cassirer's major work is dedicated to the memory of Paul Natorp. The title, "Mythical Thought," could be misleading, however, in suggesting that the dominant theme of the investigation is to be found in a separation of the mythical thought process from the purely logical. Instead, precisely the insufficiency of mythical "thinking" as a "process of understanding" is to be brought to light by demonstrating that it is grounded in a specific "form of life" in unity with an accompanying "form of intuition." "Thought" here means nothing less than an "attending and intending" ["Sinnen und Trachten"] which, however, is still its own "form of thought" (its own way of interpreting and determining). The intent of the investigation is accordingly to pursue the uncovering of "myth" as an original possibility of human Dasein, which has its own proper truth. With this way of posing the question, Cassirer explicitly takes up Schelling's insight, that "namely everything in it (in 'mythology') is to be understood in the way that it is said, and not as if something else is being thought, or something else is being said" (Einleitung in die Philosophic der Mythologie. S. W 2. Abt. I, 195). Myth, the "destiny of a people" (Schelling), is an "Objective process," to which Dasein itself remains subordinated, and in opposition to which it can become free, but never in such a way that it rejects this process. If Cassirer does indeed hold to this basic insight of Schelling, and sees in myth "not a weakness of spirit," not a mere appearance, but rather a proper "formative force," he nevertheless grasps the task of a philosophy of myth in a way that differs from Schelling's speculative metaphysics. An empirical psychological "explanation" of myth is certainly never capable of attaining a philosophical understanding. Accordingly, in holding to the "Objectivity" of myth and in rejecting the psychological interpretation, Cassirer attempts a "phenomenology of mythical consciousness." This presents itself as an extension of the transcendental problematic in the neo-Kantian sense: to conceive of the unity of "culture," and not only "nature," as the lawfulness of spirit. The "Objectivity" of myth lies in its properly understood "subjectivity"; myth is its own spiritual "creative principle of world formation" (p. 19) [The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Part 2: Mythical Thought, tr. R. Mannheim (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), p. 14. Hereafter cited as Symbolic Forms-tr.l.

In accord with this starting point that is outlined in the Introduction (pp.

Appendix II was translated by Peter Warnek.


Martin Heidegger (GA 3) Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics

GA 3