Zitate von Susanne K. Langer
(20. Dezember 1895 in New York - 17. Juli 1985 ebendort)
Art is, indeed, the spearhead of human development, social and individual.
The vulgarization of art is the surest sympton of ethnic decline.
Susanne K. Langer: The cultural importance of art (1958). In: Susanne
K. Langer: Philosophical sketches. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press 1972:75
"Another strange, universal phenomenon is ritual. It is obviously
symbolic, except where it is aimed at concrete results, and then it
may be regarded as a communal form of magic."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978 (3rd ed.):36
"But in fact, speech is the natural outcome of only one k i n d of
symbolic process. There are transformations of experience in the
human mind that have quite different overt endings. They end in acts
that are neither practical nor communicative, though they may be
both effective and communal; I mean the actions we call r i t u a l.
Human life is shot through and through with ritual, as it is also
with animalian practices. ... Eating, traveling, asking or answering
questions, construction, destruction, prostitution - any or all such
activities may enter into r i t e s; yet rites in themselves are not
practical, but expressive. Ritual, like art, is essentially the
active termination of a symbolic transformation of experience. It is
born in the cortex, not in the 'old brain'; but it is born of an
e l e m e n t a r y n e e d of that organ, once the organ has
grown to human estate.
If the 'impractical' use of language has mystified philosophers and
psychologists who measured it by standards it is not really
designed to meet, the apparaent perversity of ritual from the same
point of view has simply overcome them. They have had to invent
excuses for its existence, to save the psychogenetic theory of mind."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978 (3rd ed.):45f
"With the formalization of overt behavior in the presence of the
sacred objects, we come into the field of r i t u a l. This is, so
to speak, a complement to the life-symbols; for as the latter
present the basic facts of human existence, the forces of generation
and achievement and death, so the rites enacted at their
contemplation formulate and record man's response to those supreme
realities. Ritual 'expresses feelings' in the logial rather than the
"A rite regularly performed is the constant reiteration of sentiments
toward 'first and last things'; it is not a free expression of
emotions, but a disciplined rehearsal of 'right attitudes'."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978(3rd ed.):153
"But the driving force in human minds is fear, which begets an
imperious demand for security in the world's confusion: a demand for
a world-picture that fills all experience and gives each individual a
definite orientation amid the terrifying forces of nature and
society. Objects that embody such insights, and acts which express,
preserve, and reiterate them, are indeed more spontaneously
interesting, more serious than work."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978 (3rd ed.):158
"Because our moral life is negotiated so largely by symbols, it is
more oppressive than the morality of animals."
"The story of man's martyrdom is a sequel to the story of his
intelligence, his power of symbolical envisagement.
For good or evil, man has this power of envisagement, which puts on
him a burden that purely alert, realistic creatures not bear - the
burden of understanding. He lives not only in a place, but in Space;
not only at a time, but in History. So he must conceive a world and a
law of the world, a pattern of life, and a way of meeting death. All
these things he knows, and he has to make some adaptation to their
Now, he can adapt himself somehow to anything his imagination can
cope with; but he cannot deal with Chaos. Because his characteristic
function and highest asset is conception, his greatest fright is to
meet what he cannot construe - the 'uncanny,' as it is popularly
called. It need not be a new object; we do meet new things, and
'understand' them promptly, if tentatively, by the nearest analogy,
when our minds are functioning freely; but under mental stress even
perfectly familiar things may become suddenly disorganized, and give
us the horrors. Therefore our most important assets are always the
symbols of our general orientation in nature, on the earth, in
society, and in what we are doing: the symbols of our Weltanschauung
and Lebensanschauung. Consequently, in primitve society, a daily
ritual is incorporated in common activities, in eating, washing,
fire-making, etc., as well as in pure ceremonial; because the need of
reasserting the tribal morale and recognizing its cosmic conditions
is constantly felt. ...
In modern society such exercises are all but lost."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978(3rd ed.):286f
"If, now, the field of our unconscious symbolic orientation is
suddenly plowed up by tremendous changes in the external world and
in the social order, we lose our hold, our convictions, and therewith
our effectual purposes."
Susanne K. Langer: Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Harvard UP 1978(3rd ed.):291