Susanne K. Langer (1895-1985) was born in New York City. She received her doctorate in philosophy from Radcliffe in 1926. After teaching and lecturing at such distinguished colleges and universities as Wellesley, Smith, Columbia, Northwestern, and Michigan, Langer became professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Connecticut College. Among her major works are Philosophy in a New Key, Feeling and Form, and Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling.
Philosophical Sketches: A Study of the Human Mind in Relation to Feeling, Explored through Art, Language, and Symbol (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by Susanne K. Langer
The tidal wave of continental philosophy and postmodern theory in the 1970s and ’80s sent the work of a number of mid-century thinkers underwater. Developing ideas in the fields of linguistic analysis, literary criticism, aesthetics, and the theory of consciousness were no longer considered fruitful and were disregarded. However, recent discoveries in the
The tidal wave of continental philosophy and postmodern theory in the 1970s and ’80s sent the work of a number of mid-century thinkers underwater. Developing ideas in the fields of linguistic analysis, literary criticism, aesthetics, and the theory of consciousness were no longer considered fruitful and were disregarded. However, recent discoveries in the fields of neuroscience and biology, and the implications of those findings, may make some of this earlier work ripe for reappraisal, Susanne Langer’s among them.
Originally published in 1962, the essays collected in Philosophical Sketches are what Langer called “anticipatory”pencil sketches for a larger philosophical project. That project turned out to be her magnum opus, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, published in three volumes between 1967 and 1982. The nine explorations gathered in this smaller book were first delivered as papers or lectures between 1956 and 1961. Many of them discuss topics that admirers of Langer’s earlier works, Philosophy in a New Key and Feeling and Form, will recognize as among her central intellectual concerns: the origins of speech, the function of communication, the meaning of “symbol” and processes of symbolic thought, and the role of emotion in art and in abstract thinking. There are also essays with broader speculations on society: the consequences of urban growth for the human animal, and the place of technology in the advancement of knowledge.
As her preface to this book shows, Langer understood the difficulties inherent in publishing any such explorations before they obtained final form. But she also saw them as part of the ongoing dialogue with colleagues, general readers, and, just as importantly, herself.
Praise for the work of Susanne Langer
“Every year there are reviews of books in a variety of fieldspsychology, cognitive science, anthropology, and, indeed, in philosophyin which the reviewer expresses gratitude that someone has at last attended to questions and problems which, as it happens, Langer was addressing thirty-five years ago, and, in some cases, as long as fifty years ago.”
Ann E. Berthoff, The Mysterious Barricades: Language and Its Limits
“Langer has brought to light ideas of astonishing depth, exactness, power and reach The emanations may well leave their trace on all of us.”
from The Washington Post review of Mind
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