Volume 4 · Number 3 · Pages 159–169
Consciousness as Symbolic Construction: A Semiotics of Thought after Cassirer

Hans-Herbert Kögler

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Purpose: In both analytic and continental philosophy, the linguistic turn jettisoned philosophical foundationalism and gave way to a new pragmatic-hermeneutic turn regarding understanding, truth, and meaning. Yet now intentional consciousness – i.e., the relation between thought and language – still poses an issue. At stake is the convincing reconstruction of consciousness based on symbolic mediation. Method: In order to contribute to this discussion, the paper takes up Cassirer’s argument for the necessity of “symbolic forms” for thought. It introduces an ideal-typical notion of the sign, and develops, on this basis, the relevance of Cassirer’s arguments from symbolic synthesis and from symbolic articulation in order to finally assess the prospects of a theory of symbolic meaning after Cassirer. Results: The paper shows that consciousness is prone to a semiotic analysis and points the way for future desiderata of a theory of meaning. Implications: The results are relevant for philosophy, psychology, semiotics, as well as cultural studies. The paper projects a position of symbolic epistemic constructivism by reconstructing the mind and world, or subject-object, as emerging from the prior source of symbolic mediation.

Key words: Ernst Cassirer, symbolic mediation, consciousness, meaning, subject/object, Charles Sanders Peirce


Kögler H.-H. (2009) Consciousness as symbolic construction: A semiotics of thought after cassirer. Constructivist Foundations 4(3): 159–169. http://constructivist.info/4/3/159

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