Lindsey’s Paper #1

Theology is thought to be the way to understand human nature, according to Cassirer.(11-12) Religion brings up the idea of a double-man, almost like a before and after image of the fall from grace. It seems as if religion takes the stance, that mankind is entitled to be the right hand of God. However people often refrain from accepting their destiny. According to this piece, the fall of humanity from grace has somehow distorted and “perverted” its reason. (12)  The so called “classical maxim” is to know yourself, but what does that mean? In this piece, regarding religion, it is stated that, “ Man cannot confide in himself and listen to himself,” man has to hear the “higher, truer voice.”(12) If man does listen to that higher voice it completely contradicts the classical maxim “know thyself.” (12) Obviously religion isnt the answer to the problems that plague men, but it also never claims to do so. Religion is based almost entirely on faith and oral tradition. It isn’t logical, and that does nothing but deepen the mystery of the human condition. Though religion seems to state man is entitled, it also states that salvation is something that is freely given and withheld.  So religion is really just a giant contradiction of itself.

In another article, written by Willard Arnett, Cassirer is said to believe that religion as well as myth are “internal, spontaneous” creations of man and are purely “forms of experience.” (161) If religion is, indeed, only a form of experience, then it can be altered by the circumstances and/or environment that people are in.  Cassier suggests that religion and art are so closely realted that they are almost intertwined. Sometimes the two are so closely linked by history, that they “permeate one another” so that they are “ indistiguishable in content and inner formative principle.” (162)

Cassirer seems to think that religion and myth are the same, calling them “ interpretations of reality-not by concepts but by intuituions.” (163) He even goes so far as to say that, “By its very nature religion can never excape fromt he sphere of the ‘image,’ the sphere of intuition and fantasy.” (163)   It seems as though religion struggles to escape this paradox and bring itself into reality.  Cassirer may see both religion and art as creations of the mind that aren’t based on fact, but opnion seems unpopular with some. The other opinion that floats about this issue, is that religion and art can be distinguished.  Regarding relgion, it has been said that, “ image can never be treated as merely a picture, as an arbitrary play of the powers if imagination. The image has a meaning, in that it not only represents the truth but is the truth itself.” Cassirer seems to be a proponent of primitive religion, such as ancestor worship, because it “empasizes the continuity and indestructibleness of life.” He then suggests that religion and myth are very smiliar, (even if the origins varry) it is due to the fact that “ feeling that all like is one.” (164)

In his earlier writings, Cassirer separated the two by noting the lack of distiction between meaning and existence, a distinction that is crucial in religion. Once Cassirer loses the distinction between religion and myth, his philosophy on religion stops quite abruptly.  It is quite clear that for Cassirer, religion and myth, along with art, language and science, are all symbolic rather than realistic. Symbolic in this instance, does not refer to the common definition, here it refers to “ forces each of which produce and posit a world of its own.” (165)

Discarding the theological paradigm in favor of the mathematical, and later the biological was well advised. That manner of thinking was never based on facts and didn’t aid in the resolution or explanation of humanity and human nature.  There have always been certain things that humanity has been concerned with, unfortunately for the thoelogical paradigm, those things are facts rather than faith.  While that way of thinking may have been reasuring and calming to the worries of humanity, the fact still remains that humans want to know why things happen. The biological and mathematical paradigms provided that. That is not to say that theology is no longer valid, but it is not a ‘definite’ way to figure out how the world turns, nor does it provide the answer for why it turns or how fast it turns. There are many things that cannot be answered without extensive study. Some people will take the time to study while others accapt it for what it is. Regardless, it is known that biological and mathematical paradigms exist, to be used in discovering new things, and contmplating the constants in nature.

One thought on “Lindsey’s Paper #1

  1. Lindsey,

    This is an okay attempt, although it is hard to tell how much is your thought and how much is that of Arnett. And if you are going to use his work, you definitely need to give a citation. You give page numbers but I have no idea what text they refer to. You need to give the source.

    Regardless of whether or not any religion is in the end true, I think characterizing that symbolic form (to use Cassirer’s language) as a “giant contradiction” which is not based on reason at all is more than a little uncharitable. In all three of the world’s major Western religions, great thinkers have not of necessity seen reason and faith as antithetical. Some (e.g., Aquinas) have actually seen revelation as the completion of reason or as a complementary way of knowing (e.g., Averroes). Now, it may be that these thinkers are simply wrong, but they certainly aren’t dilettantes who are naively overlooking some massive inconsistency.

    Most importantly for this assignment, all of this certainly isn’t how Cassirer understood religion, either in the piece we read or in his other works, which makes this interpretation strange in an essay which is ostensibly on Cassirer. Whether or not Cassirer will agree with others (like Eric Voegelin) who deem religion and philosophy to have an equivalence of experiential depth, Cassirer does not find it a ludicrous position which is taken up only by children.

    It is true that Cassirer notes that religion is mysterious, like the nature of man; but it is only not rational in that we cannot give a full rational account of that weird entity that we call “human being.” It is not that religion on Cassirer’s account is irrational or foolish.

    You note that it was “well advised” (by whom?) to move onto the mathematical and biological paradigms, but Cassirer’s point is that we have jettisoned them, too. Are they giant contradictions, too? Or have we jettisoned them for other reasons? It would have been nice to see a more evenhanded critique, especially since Cassirer seems to be saying that the crisis of our time is that *none* of these things is deemed to be adequate. And here the proof seems to be in the pudding: do people really look to evolutionary biology or to string theory for self-knowledge? Somehow I am dubious.

    Again, though, it is difficult to tell whether this is you or Arnett; in the future, this needs to be absolutely clear, for the record.

    There are several spelling and grammatical mistakes; be sure to proofread.


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