Susanne Langer, the American-born philosopher with a German accent, is a unique figure in the sphere of consciousness studies and aesthetic theory. Poet; author (ranging from children’s fairy tales to a textbook on symbolic logic to a systematic philosophy of aesthetics); trained cellist; nature lover; lecturer – Langer was a true renaissance woman in the age of men.
Langer’s doctoral advisor was Alfred North Whitehead and she dedicated Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art to her "great teacher and friend."In this groundbreaking book, Langer begins to develop her deep systematic philosophy, a lifelong journey through theories of art, symbolism and human consciousness.
Langer believed that symbolism is the central concern of philosophy because it underlies all human knowing and understanding. As with Ernst Cassirer, Langer believed that what distinguishes humans from animals is the capacity for using symbols. While all animal life is dominated by feeling, human feeling is mediated by conceptions, symbols, and language. Animals respond to signs, but stimulus from a sign is significantly more complex for humans.
She describes Philosophy in a New Key as the beginning of an unfinished story in the study of symbolism. She fleshed out her thesis in much more depth in the subsequent works Feeling and Form and her Mind trilogy. Join us here at the virtual Cafe as we perform with Susanne Langer, waxing philosophical about consciousness and aesthetics, placing her wisdom into our current cultural framing. The only registration required is to bring thoughtful notes to the table and speak with your own unique register and key
- Nov 04: Chs, I, II, III
- Nov 18: Chs IV, V, VI
- Dec 02: Chs VII, VIII
- Dec 16: Chs IX, X
- What is implied in the reading of Philosophy in a New Key? What are Langer’s philosophical implications?
Langer has Whitehead as mentor and Cassirer and Peirce as models. Other “recent readings” that inspired various facets of her project are mentioned in her first chapter “The New Key”. Does Langer’s own voice come through in these first three chapters? What is unique? Or a reflection of her intellectual sources? What is poetic? Revelatory? What has passed its age? Its aim and scope? What arises as timeless wisdom?
Is there a rising wave of interest in Langer? What is appealing to you about her implications and philosophical connections? How might a deep study of Langer apply to our current cultural ebb-flow?
Questions inspired by Iris van der Tuin: How do you experience relations of influence on your thinking and your work? Are these relations necessarily traceable? Are they always human? How would you visualize relations of influence on your thinking and work?
- An introductory, bare-bones overview of the reading for this session (as presented in the online session itself): 20211104_CCafe-PNK1_Intro.pdf (94.9 KB)