Langer, Creativity, American Thought

Members of the Susanne K. Langer Circle 2022 (left to right, front to back): Margret Browning (USA), Lona Gaikis (DE/CAN), Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin (UK), Renate Bräuninger (D), Danka Radjenović (D), Tereza Hadravová (CZ), Christian Grüny (DE), Donald Dryden (USA), Randall Auxier (USA), Martin Kaplický (CZ), Lennart Posch (D), Iris van der Tuin (NL), Robert Craig (IR), Eldritch Priest (CAN).

Susanne K. Langer:
Creativity and American Thought

The 2nd International Conference of the Susanne K. Langer Circle hosted by the American Institute of Philosophical and Cultural Thought (AIPCT).

24.-28.06.2024. Murphysboro, Illinois.

Tuesday, 25.06.2024, 1:30-2:30 PM
“Analytic Philosophy and Living Form:
The Entwining of Susanne K. Langer and Ernst Cassirer”

Lona Gaikis, University of Vienna

Bridging the Continental Divide, Susanne K. Langer’s role as a mediator and continuator of European thinkers in the US oscillates between the works of Ernst Cassirer (*1874; †1945) and Alfred N. Whitehead (*1861; †1947) in their pursuit of a broader symbolistic paradigm. Proficient in both English and German, Langer played a significant role in introducing Cassirer’s comprehensive philosophy of symbolic forms, originally written in German, to the academic sphere of the United States. Notably, she translated his book Sprache und Mythos (1925), which was posthumously published in English in 1946. This translation expanded the accessibility of Cassirer’s philosophy, previously limited to anglophone readers, to his work Essay on Man (1944). Cassirer’s influence is palpable throughout Langer’s oeuvre, evident in her differentiation between discursive and presentational forms in Philosophy in a New Key (1942), her phenomenological interpretation of the art symbol in Feeling and Form (1953), and her biological insights in Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling (1967; 1972; 1982). This paper explores how Langer assimilated Cassirer’s ideas into her analytical approach to the arts, positioning her as one of the few, alongside Arthur Pap and Nelson Goodman, to integrate elements from Cassirer’s The Philosophy of Symbolic Form (vols. I-III, 1955-57). It delves into Cassirer’s academic career in the US from 1941 to 1945, including his posthumously published The Logic of the Humanities [The Logic of the Cultural Sciences] (1961 [2000]) or notes on “Language and Art I+II” (1979). The paper also examines Cassirer’s final lecture, given to the Linguistic Circle in New York just two months before his death. By discussing his approach to the linguistic turn, he notably addressed structuralism in linguistics and morphology in biology in an effort to bridge the nature-culture divide, and offered Gestalt (and ungestalt) as a potential solution. This discussion possibly reveals aspects of German idealism in Langer’s philosophical framework.

Organized by the Susanne K. Langer Circle 2024 (Randall Auxier, Lona Gaikis, Matthew Ingram, Christian Grüny, and Joshua Daniel). Sponsored by The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, The Foundation for the Philosophy of Creativity, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.