Naturalistic and Humanistic Fundation of Philosophy of Culture

Ernst Cassirer (przeł. Karol Chrobak)

In this essay Ernst Cassirer addresses two currents of the philosophical reflection about man and culture that emerged at the end of the 18th century. Th e naturalistic one, conceives of man and culture as an outcome of the processes that takes place beyond the reach of human will and consciousness. Among such naturalistically oriented philosophies Cassirer includes Hegel’s idealism, Taine’s positivism and Spengler’s psychologism. All of them imply a characteristic kind of historical fatalism. In opposition to such a deterministic vision of human development stands a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of individual decision and responsibility for the course of history. Cassirer names it “humanistic” as it places man in the very middle of its research. The initiators of this tradition were Johann Gottfried Herder and Wilhelm von Humboldt, foremost representatives of the German romantic movement. The philosopher who took up their humanistic thought and elevated it to the importance of a distinct knowledge was Wilhelm Dilthey. While bearing in mind who is the real creator of culture all these thinkers pay special attention to the question of man’s responsibility for culture as well as for himself. The problem of human responsibility that totally escaped the attention of naturalistically oriented philosophers is somehow a distinguishing characteristic of all humanistic philosophies of culture.

Keywords: Cassirer · man · culture · naturalism · humanism

Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945) – German philosopher (aft er 1939 citizen of Sweden). Representative of Neokantian Marburg School. Historian of philosophy, theorist of knowledge and science, culture and mythical thought. Founder of the original theory of symbolic forms. Author of (inter alia): Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff; Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (4 volumes.); Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit (4 volumes.); Kants Leben und Lehre; Determinismus und Indeterminismus in der modernen Physik; An Essay on man; Myth of the State.   »  

Karol Chrobak – Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Institute of Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW). Th e interests of the author focus on philosophical anthropology, philosophy of culture and social philosophy. The habilitation that is being prepared concerns the anthropological foundation of philosophy of culture. Besides he works on polish philosophy of the interwar period. He is the author of the monograph dedicated to the philosophy of Leon Chwistek (Niejedna rzeczywistość, Kraków 2004).   »  

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