Prof. Dr. Birgit Recki
Foto: Volker Gerhardt
Birgit Recki is a professor of philosophy (and since April 2020 in a senior professorship) at Hamburg University. She is the editor of the Hamburg edition of Ernst Cassirer's Collected Works in 25 volumes (1997-2009). Her areas of work are ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of culture/anthropology. The focus of her research lies historically in the 18th century (Kant; Enlightenment) and in contemporary philosophy (Neo-Kantianism; critical theory of society; philosophical anthropology), systematically on fundamental problems of ethics (freedom, responsibility, moral acting, the role of emotion in morality); ethics and aesthetics; theory of aesthetic experience; film aesthetics; philosophical anthropology/philosophy of culture; philosophy of technology. She has been Chair of the IECG (International Ernst Cassirer Society) since 2006, and Co-Director of the Warburg-Haus, Hamburg since 2014.
- Ästhetik der Sitten. Die Affinität von ästhetischem Gefühl und praktischer Vernunft bei Kant, Frankfurt am Main 2001.
- Kultur als Praxis. Eine Einführung in Ernst Cassirers Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, Berlin 2004.
- Die Vernunft, ihre Natur, ihr Gefühl und der Fortschritt. Aufsätze zu Immanuel Kant, Paderborn 2006.
- Freiheit, Wien 2009.
- Cassirer, Stuttgart 2013.
- Natur und Technik. Eine Komplikation, Berlin 2021 (shortlisted for Tractatus-Preis für philosophische Essayistik 2021).
Research topic: Culture, Freedom, Vitality: Immanuel Kant and Ernst Cassirer on "Einbildungskraft"
In Kant´s conception of human culture and freedom, there is more nature in view than the main stream reception in its concentration on methodological problems of a critical transcendental philosophy would suggest. In my research project, I would first like to take the concept of imagination as a major example for the insight that already in Kant's conception of the powers of cognition or the powers of the mind as spontaneous faculties, the idea of an effect of natural vitality is implied. Not least by critical examination of Kantian terms like “power” (Kraft) and “capacity” (Vermögen) and their Latin and Greek correspondences (vis; dynamis/potentia) better distinction of the basic idea is supposed to be gained. And with all of that, it is important to examine the objection that the relevant Kantian terms such as cognitive power, power of imagination and power of judgment are mere metaphors.
I would then like to trace this Kantian conception in Ernst Cassirer's philosophy of culture. At the center of the philosophy of symbolic forms, which Cassirer expressly understands as a transformation of the critique of reason into a critique of culture and thereby as a transcendental philosophy according to the Kantian model, is imagination as a productive synthesis on which all cultural production is based.
My expectation: In both theories, Kant's and Cassirer's, precise definitions of the relationship between nature and freedom can be gained with regard to the conception, function and status of the power of imagination as an effect of natural vitality.
Research results: Culture, Freedom, Vitality: Immanuel Kant and Ernst Cassirer on "Einbildungskraft"
Kant's conception of Einbildungskraft (imagination), which is canonical for epistemological research, has not yet 'arrived' in the reception of his philosophy of freedom. My research project in Imaginarien der Kraft (Summer 2022) was devoted to the little-noticed genuine mode of freedom that he claims in his theory of imagination (Einbildungskraft). As an implication, this freedom is already thematic in the schematism chapter of the Critique of Pure Reason – in the thesis that Einbildungskraft in producing the mental image (schema) is responsible for the initial achievement in the synthesis of the object. It becomes explicit in the third critique with the analysis of the aesthetic judgment as a reflection relieved of the claim to knowledge (“free play of the cognitive faculties”) and the theory of art as “production through freedom”: Production of art arises from an Einbildungskraft that is "very powerful in creating, as it were, a different nature from the material that is given by the real one". In my assumption that this conception has greater systematic relevance in Kant's critical philosophy than merely for the detailing of modes of freedom, I had to make clear in particular the conceptual status of "Kraft" in the term "Einbildungskraft" (also: "Urteilskraft" ; "Erkenntniskraft"): In his early epistemological work (Thoughts on the true estimation of living forces, 1748), Kant's position in the vis viva debate catches the eye: his insistence on qualifying vis viva as vis activa , and at the same time applied to natural forces the very concept of spontaneity (self-activity) through which he will characterize the world-constitutive powers of the subject in the critique of reason. It can be assumed that Kant's "Einbildungskraft" is not a metaphor. In the mode of freedom of the Einbildungskraft as a sensuous faculty, a systematically significant element in overcoming the dualism of nature and freedom can be seen, which Kant undertakes with his Critique of teleological judgment.