Volume 4 · Number 3 · Pages 159–169

< Previous Paper · Next Paper >

Consciousness as Symbolic Construction: A Semiotics of Thought after Cassirer

Hans-Herbert Kögler

Download the full text in
PDF (142 kB)

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


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

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Staude M. (2008) Meaning and Description in Non-dualism: A Formalization and Extension

Hawes R. (2013) Art & Neurophenomenology: Putting the Experience Before the Words

Gasparyan D. (2016) Consciousness as Self-Description in Differences

Palmaru R. (2012) Making Sense and Meaning: On the Role of Communication and Culture in the Reproduction of Social Systems

Palmaru R. (2016) Constructivism as a Key Towards Further Understanding of Communication, Culture and Society


Cassirer E. (1955) Philosophy of symbolic forms. Volume I. Yale University Press, New Haven. << Google Scholar

Cassirer E. (1955) Philosophy of symbolic forms. Volume II. Yale University Press, New Haven. << Google Scholar

Davidson D. (2001) Inquiries into truth and interpretation. Oxford University Press, Oxford. << Google Scholar

Dreyfus H. (1980) Holism and hermeneutics. Review of Metaphysics 34(1): 3–24. << Google Scholar

Dreyfus H. (1993), Being-in-the-World: A commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. << Google Scholar

Foucault M. (1972) Power/knowledge. New York, Pantheon Books. << Google Scholar

Foucault M. (1990) The order of things. Vintage Books, New York. << Google Scholar

Friedman M. (2000) A parting of ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger. Open Court, Chicago. << Google Scholar

Gadamer H. (1989) Truth and method. Crossroads Press, New York. << Google Scholar

Gardner H. (1983) Frames of mind. Basic Books, New York. << Google Scholar

Goodman N. (1978) Ways of worldmaking. Hacket, Indianapolis. << Google Scholar

Habermas J. (1984) The theory of communicative Action. Volume 1. Beacon Press, Boston. << Google Scholar

Hacking I. (2000) The social construction of what? Harvard University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Heidegger M. (1962) Being and time. Harper & Row, New York. Originally published in German as Heidegger M. (1927) Sein und Zeit. Max Niemeyer, Tübingen. << Google Scholar

Humboldt W. von (1988) On language: The diversity of human language-structure and its influence on the mental development of mankind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Originally published in German in 1836. << Google Scholar

Kögler H.-H. & Stueber K. (2000) (eds.) Empathy and agency: The problem of understanding in the human sciences. Westview Press, Boulder CO. << Google Scholar

Kögler H.-H. (1999) The power of dialogue. Critical hermeneutics after Gadamer and Foucault. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. << Google Scholar

Krois J. M. (1987) Cassirer: Symbolic forms and history. Yale University Press, New Haven. << Google Scholar

Peirce C. S. (1955) Logic as semiotic: The theory of signs. In: Buchler J. (ed.) Philosophical writings of Peirce. Dover, New York. << Google Scholar

Pickering A. (ed.) (1995) Science as culture. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. << Google Scholar

Saussure F. de (1986) Course in general linguistics. Open Court, La Salle. Originally published in French as: Saussure F. de (1916) Cours de linguistique générale. Payot, Lausanne. << Google Scholar

Searle J. (1983) Intentionality. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Searle J. (1995) The construction of social reality. The Free Press, New York. << Google Scholar

Searle J. (2002) Consciousness and language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Taylor T. (1992) Mutual misunderstanding. Duke University Press, Durham. << Google Scholar

Wittgenstein L. (1953) Philosophical investigations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.