Ernst Cassirer

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Related to Ernst Cassirer: Hermann Cohen

Cassirer, Ernst


Born July, 28, 1874, in Breslau, now Wroclaw; died Apr. 13, 1945, in New York. German idealist philosopher, representative of the Marburg school of neo-Kan-tianism.

Cassirer was a professor (1919–33) and rector (1930–33) at the University of Hamburg. After 1933, Cassirer lived in exile: in Oxford (Great Britain), in Göteborg (Sweden) from 1935 to 1941, and in the USA from 1941 until his death.

At the start of his career Cassirer studied the philosophical problems of natural science and elaborated a theory of concepts, or “functions”; after 1920 he created an original philosophy of culture. Following the lead of H. Cohen and P. Natorp, Cassirer eliminated from the Kantian system the concept of the “thing-in-itself” as one of the two factors (the other being the subject of cognition) that create the world of “experience”; material for the construction of experience (“multiformity”) is created in Cas-sirer’s system by thought itself. Accordingly, space and time cease to be perceptions (as they were in Kant) and are transformed into concepts. Instead of the two Kantian worlds, there exists a single world, the “world of culture”; ideas of reason, like categories, become constitutive instead of regulative, that is, they are the principles that create the world. Cassirer terms these principles “symbolic functions,” inasmuch as they represent the highest values and are connected with the “divine” in man.

The diverse fields of culture, termed “symbolic forms” (language, myth, religion, art, science) are regarded by Cassirer as independent formations, irreducible to each other. Cassirer’s philosophy of culture also determined his idealistic conception of man as a “symbol-creating animal.” He is the author of several books on the history of philosophy, on G. von Leibniz, I. Kant, R. Descartes, and the philosophies of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Cassirer’s ideas, especially his theory of “symbolic forms,” was a decisive influence on the Warburg school’s studies of cultural history.


Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit, vols. 1–4. Berlin, 1906–57.
Freiheit und Form. Berlin, 1916.
Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1923–29.
An Essay on Man. New Haven, Conn.-London [1945.]
The Myth of the State. London, 1946.
Zur modernen Physik. Oxford, 1957.
In Russian translation:
Poznanie i deistxiteVnosf. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Teoriia otnositel’nosti Einshteina. Petrograd, 1922.


Buczyńska, H.Cassirer. Warsaw, 1963.
Ernst Cassirer. Edited by P. A. Schilpp. Berlin, 1966. (Contains a bibliography.)


References in periodicals archive ?
15) Aarsleff, "Introduction" to Humboldt, On Language xxxiv, lvii; on Diderot's shifting the center of linguistic theorizing from logic to aesthetics, see also Ernst Cassirer, Die Sprache, Philosophic der symbol ischen Formen 1: 83-84.
27) Ernst Cassirer, Kant's Life and Thought, trans.
46) Ernst Cassirer, "The Idea of Metamorphosis and Idealistic Morphology: Goethe," in The Problem of Knowledge: Philosophy, Science, and History Since Hegel, trans.
See Donald Phillip Verene, Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer 1935-1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 135-6.
6) Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Human Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944), 1.
4) The numerous and quite diverse neo-Kantian philosophers--such as Hermann yon Helmholtz, Eduard Zeller, Albert Lange, and Alois Riehl--and schools--the neo-Herbartian and their journal, the Zeitschrift fur exacte Philosophie, (5) the neo-Freisean like Nelson, the Southwest (Windelband, Rickert), Marbourg (Hermann Cohen, Paul Natorp, Ernst Cassirer, Albert Gorland, and Rudolf Stammler)--understood the "Back to Kant
1) Ernst Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1976), 2:189.
He also gave me a general very laudatory certificate, as did my other teachers and Ernst Cassirer, of which I sent copies of foreign scholars and institutions, especially in England and America, but alo in France and Italy.
In 1926, Ernst Cassirer invited him to Hamburg to meet Aby Warburg and the scholars of the Warburg-Bibliotek fur Kulturwissenschaft, especially Fritz Saxl and Erwin Panofsky, with whom he would bring to completion forty years later the work on Saturn and Melancholy, which Saxl and Panofsky had initiated in 1923.
It was, I would argue, no accident that Panofsky's colleague from Hamburg, the philosopher Ernst Cassirer, whose philosophy had always been written in praise of human capability and human creativity, produced a two-part article on Pico for the Journal of the History of Ideas in 1942.
In reading Aristotle this way, Bodeus very much reminds one of the way Ernst Cassirer read prephilosophical cultural data in his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms.
Emory University (1) Ernst Cassirer, "Critical Idealism as a Philosophy of Culture," in Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer 1935-1945, ed.