Skip to main content

Guest lecturer challenges our view on shallowness

On November 4, Robert Pfaller, professor in philosophy and cultural sciences, holds this year’s Cassirer lecture at the University of Gothenburg. Pfaller is a border-crossing scholar who doesn’t hesitate to step out in the public and be controversial.

– You could say that Robert Pfaller is a philosopher that has gone astray, says Andrej Slávik, historian and chairman of the Ernst Cassirer Society, which organises the yearly lecture.

The Austrian Robert Pfaller is a professor in philosophy and cultural sciences at the Kunstuniversität Linz, and has previously been affiliated with the Technische Universität in Vienna. Andrej Slávik says that there are several reasons to why he is such a border-crossing scholar. In his research he moves freely between different fields and lets himself be inspired by different theories, even if he mostly belongs to the field of psychoanalysis.

– He has also participated in the public debate about political issues such as civil rights and governmental control, but also on the role of the universities in society, where he has insisted on the societal importance and intellectual critical role of the universities, says Andrej Slávik.

In many of his books Robert Pfaller takes a distinct cultural critical position, a thing that seems to be the opposite of the optimistic view on culture that Cassirer is known for. But there are also surprising connections between them:

– It is about how we look at surface and depth in cultural expressions. Cassirer would have argued that they make each other’s preconditions: no depth without surface and the opposite. Today we tend to belittle the shallow, so that all common codes and conventions also get a touch of falseness or untruthfulness. Pfaller wants to question that view, and by doing so, he gets surprisingly close to Cassirers point of view. This will be an interesting lecture, that’s for sure, says Andrej Slávik.

2016 year’s Cassirer Lecture
Robert Pfaller – Symbolic Forms, Symbolic Orders
November 4, 16.00–18.00
Room T302, Gamla Hovrätten, Olof Wijksgatan 6
Free entrance, no registration needed
The lecture willl be held in English

The photo of Robert Pfaller is taken by Jeff Mangione.

The Ernst Cassirer Society
The Ernst Cassirer Society has its basis in Gothenburg and organises seminars, lectures and conferences linked to the prominent German philosopher. Several of the previous lectures to the memory of Ernst Cassirer have afterward been printed as a publication.

Translation to English by Annika Koldenius.