Forms of Complexity - Session #1: From Confusion to Complexity – or: From Chaos to Cosmos. Ernst Cassirer on Myth’s Production and Reduction of Complexity.

06Oct2017 15:00 - 18:00

Event

ASCA’s Cross-Media Research Seminar & Film-Philosophy Seminar join forces in 2017-2018. Convenors: Sudeep Dasgupta, Josef Früchtl, Abe Geil, Patricia Pisters, Markus Stauff. Coordinator: Tessa de Vet <tessa.devet@student.uva.nl> In our first session on 6 October, Stefan Niklas will talk about Ernst Cassirer’s myth’s production and reduction of complexity.

Complexity is one of the key terms for the self-description of modern culture. Scientific knowledge, global interrelations, the increasing pluralization of lifestyles and the heterogeneous mediatization of experience are some of the processes which challenge and exceed previous frameworks. The concept of complexity, however, implies a certain understanding of these developments, for example the  dynamic balance between chaos and order and focuses more on dynamic interrelations than on clear hierarchies and structures. This understanding of complexity has political implications too, as has become clear in the debates about different forms of populisms which  are often criticized as inappropriate attempts to reduce or circumvent complexity.

Taking up these broader questions, the seminar will discuss how cultural forms and practices deal with complexity: How complexity is staged, approached, worked through or blended out; which aspects of complexity are foregrounded and which ignored; which complexity is feared or gets enjoyed. Most prominently the topic gets discussed in the context of  so-called complex narratives / complex storytelling in film and television but it can be expanded to examples ranging from news and data visualization to scientific images and artistic projects.

We will start with key texts describing culture as a reaction to the complexity of modernity and continue with different forms of approaching complex narrative and aesthetics more broadly. We will also address Forms of Complexity in relation to the natural sciences, globalisation, cybernetics, and politics.

Location: IAS  - Oude Turfmarkt 147 Amsterdam
Semester 1: 6 October, 10 November, 1 December 2017
Semester 2: 2 February, 2 March, 6 April, 4 may, 1 June 2018
From 15.00 – 18.00

  • Meeting 1: Modernity, Complexity, Symbolic Forms
  • Meeting 2: Narrative and Complexity 1
  • Meeting 3: Narrative and Complexity 2
  • Meeting 4: Complexity and Visual Forms

In our first session on 6 October, Stefan Niklas will talk about Ernst Cassirer’s myth’s production and reduction of complexity.

Session #1: From Confusion to Complexity – or: From Chaos to Cosmos. Ernst Cassirer on Myth’s Production and Reduction of Complexity.

Time & Location: 15-18, IAS (Oude Turfmarkt 147)

Before complexity can be reduced, it has to be produced. For complexity is already an answer, already the outcome of the symbolic transformation of chaos into some kind of order. The production and reduction of complexity means the production and transformation of meaning which emerges by virtue of different “symbolic forms”. The latter term has been introduced by Ernst Cassirer whose sweeping significance within 20th century philosophy has lately been rediscovered.

I would like to give a brief introduction into Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms and his idea of the “animal symbolicum”. I will exemplify his philosophy and its value for the understanding of the concept and problem of “complexity” in terms of his theory of mythical thought. The example of myth(ology) will also serve to point out the significance as well as the limits of narration as a means of dealing with complexity.

Readings

I recommend reading the whole of Cassirer’s Essay on Man, but it will also suffice to read the sections on “A Clue to the Nature of Man: The Symbol” and “The Definition of Man in Terms of Human Culture”. Furthermore, I will draw from many of Cassirer’s writings on myth, and will especially refer to his paper on “Judaism and the Modern Political Myths”, which I strongly recommend reading for the seminar.

Ernst Cassirer's Essay on Man:

https://monoskop.org/images/1/11/Cassirer_Ernst_An_essay_on_man_An_introduction_1944.pdf

Bio

Stefan Niklas is Assistant Professor for Continental Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. He specializes in the philosophy of culture as well as aesthetics. He is currently setting up a research project on contemporary mythical thought for which he focuses (among other phenomena) on an analysis of Star Wars.

Published by  ASCA