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Cassirer and Steinthal on Expression and the Science of Language

2015 - Bibliopolis

P. 99-117

  • Ernst Cassirer distinguished between the expressive and representative formsof thought and language, one reason Cassirer is read as a mediator betweenHeidegger and Carnap. This essay finds a source of Cassirer's expressive functionin Heymann Steinthal's 1871 work Abriss der Sprachwissenschaft, one thesisof which is that language, «independently of logic, establishes its forms incomplete autonomy». While the thesis appears to be in conflict with Carnap'slater views on the «language of science», I urge that we should not draw thatconclusion too hastily. Cassirer's and Steinthal's positions are consistent withthe claim that once linguistic forms are established they can be represented inan inferential system. Instead, Cassirer and Steinthal wanted to emphasize,against Humboldt and Mill, that the expressive form of any one natural languageshouldn't be identified with the capacity for rational thought. [Publisher's text]

Is part of

Cassirer studies : VII/VIII, 2014/2015