Objectivity and Truth in Cassirer's Philosophy of Culture and Philosophy of Science

October 7, 2021 - October 8, 2021

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Selected speakers:

Utrecht University
Marquette University
Harvard University
University of Paderborn
Universität Bonn
Bucknell University
University of Vienna


Technische Universität Braunschweig
KU Leuven

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Call for Abstracts

'Objectivity and Truth in Cassirer's Philosophy of Culture

and Philosophy of Science'

online workshop on October 7-8, 2021

"Is there really something like an objective theoretical truth [...]? In a time in which such questions can be raised, philosophy cannot stand aside, mute and idle." (Symbol, Myth, and Culture 61) There is no doubt that this question, which Cassirer found indicative of the European Zeitgeist of the first decades of the twentieth century, also pervades Western culture today. In times of fake news, conspiracy theories, alternative facts, and science denial, as well as the rise of political myth and the erosion of expertise and democratic institutions, doubt about the possibility of objectivity and truth is a defining characteristic of contemporary culture. Hence, if we follow Cassirer, philosophy has once again a crucial societal duty to fulfill: the duty to safeguard some notion of objectivity and of truth against epistemic and cultural relativism, skepticism, and indifference.

This workshopaims to reconsider the enduring relevance of Cassirer's own philosophy in view of this challenge. The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms was after all an ambitious attempt to radically widen and diversify the meaning of objectivity without forfeiting its claims to universality or its firm footing in human reason. By ascribing to mythical, religious, and linguistic perceptions and expressions an objective status that most of Western philosophy had preserved for scientific thought, Cassirer's philosophy can however be taken as either  enriching or weakening the ideas of objectivity, truth, and rationality. In view of the current crisis of truth, we thus ask what Cassirer's theory of culture and of science can teach us about the plurality, relativity, or universality of human understanding?

We invite paper abstracts that reflect, from a contemporary viewpoint, on Cassirer’s view on the plurality of the symbolic forms, their inherent tendencies towards dogmatism, the relativity of their cultural viewpoints, and their unity in the whole of human culture. Within this broad theme, we specifically welcome paper proposals that reflect on the transcendental status of science, its relation to other symbolic forms (incl. language, politics, technology, and art), and its significance for understanding (the present state or the progress of) human culture as a whole. We also welcome papers that initiate a dialogue between Cassirer and other contemporary thinkers on our conference themes.

Key note speakers: Sebastian Luft (Marquette University), Samantha Matherne (Harvard University)  

Workshop organizers: Simon Truwant (KU Leuven) and Tobias Endres (Technische Universität Braunschweig)



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September 30, 2021, 5:00pm CET

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