Ernst Cassirer

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Ernst Cassirer (July 28, 1874 - April 13, 1945) was a German philosopher. He became a doctor of philosophy at University of Marburg in 1899 where he studied with Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp, thus being widely - and correctly - considered a neo-Kantian although he later developed his own philosophy of culture.

As a Jew, he had no easy academic career. After long years as Privatdozent in Berlin (then probably the best university in the world; Cassirer turned down the offer of a visiting professorship at Harvard which he and his wife considered obscure and remote), he was elected to a chair of philosophy at the newly-founded University of Hamburg in 1919, where he lectured until 1933, when he was forced to leave Germany because the Nazis came to power.

He found refuge as a lecturer in Oxford, 1933-1935, was professor at Gothenburg University 1935 to 1941, visiting professor at Yale University, New Haven 1941-1943, and finally lived in New York lecturing at Columbia University from 1943 until his death in 1945. As he had been naturalized in Sweden, he died on Columbia campus a Swedish citizen of German-Jewish decent.

Cassirer was both a genuine philosopher and historian of philosophy. His major work, Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (3 vols., 1923-1929) is considered a benchmark for a philosophy of culture. Man, says Cassirer later in his more popular Essay on Man (1944), is a "symbolic animal". Whereas animals perceive their world by instincts, man has created his own universe of symbolic meaning that structures and shapes his perception of reality. In this, Cassirer owes much to Kant's transcendental idealism, which claimed that the actual world cannot be known, but that the human view on reality is shaped by our means of perceiving it.

Partial bibliography

  • Substance and Function (1910), English translation 1923
  • Kant's Life and Thought (1918), English translation 1981
  • Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923-29), English translation 1953-1957
  • Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1932), English translation 1951
  • The Logic of the Humanities (1942), English translation 1961
  • An Essay on Man (written and published in English) (1944)
  • The Myth of the State (written and published in English) (posthumous) (1946)

Links

fr:Ernst Cassirer ja:エルンスト・カッシーラー no:Ernst Cassirer pl:Ernst Cassirer sk:Ernst Cassirer fi:Ernst Cassirer

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