Reducing the Human to a Categorked Empirical Essence
In a comprehensive analysis of the nature of explanation, Cassirer (1910) had something to say about the relationship between the explanation and the object being explained. He noted that certain classes of explanations—“Aristotelian” explanations—employed the character of the objects being explained in order to account for those objects’ behavior or reactions. The starting point for Cassirer was the building of a concept, or category, in which the objects to be studied are grouped together, on the basis of their shared characteristics. As an example, he notes that cherries and meat could easily be placed within the same category; the two objects share the qualities of being red, juicy, and edible. To build such a category it is necessary to neglect all of those aspects that are not common to the objects, and for Cassirer, this is an important Aristotelian step toward shrinking the field for which one wants to account. The individuality, the quirks, and the contradictions inherent within each of the category members are thereby lost, since an object is a member of the category only insofar as it has qualities in common with other members.
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