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Forms of Knowledge and Sensibility: Ernst Cassirer and the Human Sciences, and: Dilthey und Cassirer: Die Deutung der Neuzeit als Muster von Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte (review)
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Journal of the History of Philosophy 42.4 (2004) 504-506

Gunnar Foss and Eivind Kasa, editors. Forms of Knowledge and Sensibility: Ernst Cassirer and the Human Sciences. Kristiansand: HøyskoleForlaget, 2002. Pp. 223. Paper, $ 25.00.
Thomas Leinkauf, editor. Dilthey und Cassirer: Die Deutung der Neuzeit als Muster von Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte. Hamburg: Meiner, 2003. Pp. 170. Paper, €34,80.

These two new anthologies on Cassirer attest to the new attention that is being paid to what has often been referred to as "the last neo-Kantian." While interest in Cassirer's oeuvre as a whole, specifically his draft of a philosophy of symbolic forms as a philosophy of culture, has awoken again in the last decade on the European continent—mainly in Germany, but also in France and Italy—it is a pleasant surprise to see him also being well received in the Nordic European countries, as the volume edited by Foss and Kasa demonstrates. Both volumes—successfully, it should be noted—make the case that Cassirer can and in fact ought to play an important role for what goes on in contemporary philosophy and its projects, be they historical, hermeneutical, sociological, linguistic or other. These two books do a good job of demonstrating that Cassirer was unrightfully forgotten and deserves to be reconsidered, especially now that his complete works have and continue to become accessible in critical edition. This novel scholarship is not only about a reassessment of Cassirer's original achievements, as attempted in Foss/Kasa, but also about placing him in the context of twentieth-century philosophy. Leinkauf's volume, in particular, attempts to take stock of the history of philosophy and its meaning for us today—projects that were of paramount interest to Cassirer. It is only logical, hence, to compare his method to Dilthey's, whose manner of doing historiography is framed as a critique of historical reason.

Leinkauf's anthology appears in the already well-established Cassirer-Forschungen with Meiner Publishers; as is known, Meiner also edits the critical Cassirer edition and the Collected Works. Foss's and Kasa's volume, however, is an entirely novel venture into a philosopher who has been only little acknowledged in the Scandinavian countries—perhaps with the exception of Sweden to which the Cassirers emigrated and (after a brief stay in England) became naturalized after the Nazis' seizure of power. This seeming unfamiliarity with Cassirer also explains why the articles in the Norwegian volume are more general and intended to orient Cassirer in the intellectual landscape of these Northern countries that have traditionally been more inclined towards Anglo-American and Eastern-European philosophy. This, however, by no means diminishes the importance of this volume. Indeed, in terms of systematic philosophical approaches presented here, the essays in this volume are, with few exceptions, somewhat more lively and fresher than some of the rather staid historical studies of the German anthology. To be fair, the Leinkauf volume has a decidedly more specific agenda, namely, to locate Cassirer's attempts to interpret modernity, especially his studies of the Renaissance period, in a larger project of a historiography of modernity as a whole; a project that has been so much at the forefront in many philosophical endeavors in the late-twentieth and beginning twenty-first century. Cassirer is contrasted, as the title indicates, with another influential attempt at the same task, namely by Wilhelm Dilthey. This is especially interesting since Dilthey, being a generation older, took no notice of Cassirer's work, and Cassirer, in turn, gave only little attention to Dilthey's work, since his writings on the subject were published later. Thus, the anthology closes a gap both in Cassirer and Dilthey scholarship.

What both books have outwardly in common, however, is the fact that they both are collections of papers given at conferences, in Potsdam and Trondheim, respectively. The contributors of the German volume are St. Otto, R. A. Makkreel, M. Mulsow, G. Cacciatore, E. Rudolph, H. Holzhey, U. Renz, G. Scholtz, and G. Hartung. It is no surprise to find some of these well-established authors in Cassirer research, such as Renz and Rudolph, in this volume. Some others, such as Otto and Holzhey, demonstrate...

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