- Purchase/rental options available:
Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.4 (2002) 554-555
[Access article in PDF]
A Parting of the Ways:
Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger
Michael Friedman. A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger. Chicago: Open Court, 2000. Pp. xv + 175. Paper, $24.95.
For present-day philosophers, the division between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy is a fact of life. In this elegant little book, Michael Friedman studies its origins. In earlier essays, collected in his Reconsidering Logical Positivism (1999), Friedman argued that Carnap and other logical empiricists are best understood as adapting their Neokantian heritage to, among other things, the rapid developments in logic and physics. In A Parting of the Ways, Friedman broadens the scope of this interpretation by applying it to the works of Cassirer and Heidegger.
The book starts by portraying the 1929 conference in Davos, where Carnap attended the famous debate between Cassirer and Heidegger on the interpretation of Kant's philosophy. Although the differences between the three were clear by that time, Friedman makes clear that there were informal debates and considerable mutual respect between them. The second chapter shows how the intellectual relationship between Heidegger and Carnap cooled, as their respective right-wing and left-wing allegiances manifested in the changing political climate.
In the next chapters, the works of the three philosophers are interpreted against the background of Neokantianism. Friedman first identifies the main problem facing the Neokantians: they sought to explain the applicability of the categories of the understanding to objects of experience without appealing to pure intuition. The Southwest and Marburg branches of Neokantianism accorded different roles to logic and mathematics in their solutions to this problem, yielding "a fundamental disagreement over the philosophical centrality of logic" (25). Friedman then shows how Heidegger developed the views of the Southwest school by adding elements of Husserl's phenomenology and how problems in both approaches led him to relinquish the ideal of objective knowledge in Being and Time. Carnap and Cassirer worked in the tradition of the Marburg school and continued the search for objectivity, albeit in different directions. Carnap sought to secure objectivity by showing the constitutive role of logic in human knowledge, exemplified in the constitution system of Der logische Aufbau der Welt. Cassirer sought objectivity in a gradual mathematization of knowledge, with mathematical physics as the most advanced stage. In his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, he postulated stages of objectification, covering the entire scope of human life.
In the final three chapters, Friedman completes the comparison started in the first part. Surprisingly, a large part of the chapter on Carnap and Cassirer is devoted to the interaction between Schlick and the latter; the remainder mainly concerns Cassirer's 1942 response to Carnap's physicalism of the early 1930s. Friedman offers some insightful comments, but his earlier focus on the later 1920s wavers. The chapter on Cassirer and Heidegger restores it by reconstructing the Davos debate and its aftermath. In the final chapter, Friedman sums up his results. He identifies the opposition between analytic and continental [End Page 554] traditions as resulting from the Neokantian dilemma concerning logic in philosophy: either treat it as the ideal of objective validity, as Carnap did, or renounce it and the idea of objectivity, following Heidegger (156). In the final pages of the book, Cassirer is presented as an attractive, though problematic middle ground, both intellectually and politically.
The interpretations offered in this book are lucid, compact, and thought-provoking. Friedman's analysis of the analytic-continental rift is not surprising, since the evaluations of logic and science on both sides of the divide are obviously different. His hypothesis about the origins in Neokantianism—a school of thought about which most present-day philosophers know next to nothing—is bold and well-supported. Yet it can be only part of the story, especially in Heidegger's case. Friedman suggests that Being and Time was still sensitive to developments in logic and science, but that Heidegger became more radical later, "under pressure of, among other things, his encounters with both Carnap and...