Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Ernst Cassirer’s The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms fails to account properly for personalized experiences; it cannot provide a basis for understanding how some experiences become personal while others do not. Our account of personalized experience will remain lacking as long as we follow Cassirer in viewing personalized experience as a non-necessary feature of other symbolic forms such as myth, language, religion, or art; instead it must be understood that personalized experience is grounded in an independent symbolic activity as basic to human cultural life as language, myth, or objectivating knowledge. This basic personalizing symbolic function is best understood as that same activity articulated in Gabriel Marcel’s phenomenological descriptions of the act of “creative fidelity.” Once this relationship has been grasped, it becomes possible to articulate a symbolic form of personalized experience by describing the unique way in which creative fidelity (as the personalizing symbolic function) spatializes, temporalizes, numeralizes (and as a result subjectifies/objectifies) its own distinct horizon of meaning (or: cultural world). The result will be a symbolic form, as Cassirer understands it, that is as far-reaching and fundamental to human cultural life as the three symbolic forms elaborated in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. By articulating this fourth symbolic form, we will have taken a significant step toward Cassirer’s ultimate goal of a robust philosophical anthropology.
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