Ernst Cassirer

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Related to Ernst Cassirer: Hermann Cohen
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Luft (eds.), The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer. Berlin and Boston, MA: de Gruyter, 401-419.
According to him, the fact that Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt have in common their elevation and revival of history and, in the end, especially the Enlightenment, endorses a politics that is in keeping with the German Jewish philosophical tradition.
(48) Ernst Cassirer, The Problem of Knowledge; Philosophy, Science, and History Since Hegel, trans W.
In conclusion, we can say that Ernst Cassirer's concept of idealization can be considered a Hegelian one and even though there is a partial affinity between Cassirer and Max Weber (because idealization, according to them, is a method of constructing scientific concepts) we must not forget that the Weberian ideal-type differs from idealization as conceived by Cassirer.
Ernst Cassirer drew upon German sources of the European Enlightenment when defending the rational legal foundations of Weimar democracy against its detractors on Aug.
555) Yet, reflecting on the legacy of psychophysical research some 60 years later, Ernst Cassirer points out in Substance and Function that "it is a long way from the immediate sensation of heat to the exact concept to temperature" (1910/2003, p.
Among the philosophers who wrote and tried to understand the concept of space as well as the concept of image, referring to and being influenced by the models and elements in the Renaissance period, are also Paul Deussen, Immanuel Kant, and Ernst Cassirer.