Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945) occupies a unique place in 20th-century philosophy. His view that human beings are not rational but symbolic animals and his famous dispute with Martin Heidegger at Davos in 1929 are compelling alternatives to the deadlock between 'analytic' and 'continental' approaches to philosophy. An astonishing polymath, Cassirer's work pays equal attention to mathematics and natural science but also art, language, myth, religion, technology, and history. However, until now the importance of his work has largely been overlooked.
In this outstanding introduction Samantha Matherne examines and assesses the full span of Cassirer’s work. Beginning with an overview of his life and works she covers the following important topics:
- Cassirer’s neo-Kantian background
- Philosophy of mathematics and natural science, including Cassirer’s first systematic work, Substance and Function, and subsequent works, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
- The problem of culture and the ground-breaking The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms
- Cassirer’s ethical and political thought and his diagnosis of fascism in The Myth of the State
- Cassirer’s influence and legacy.
Including chapter summaries, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary of terms, this is an ideal introduction to Cassirer’s thought for anyone coming to his work for the first time. It is essential reading for students in philosophy as well as related disciplines such as intellectual history, art history, politics, and literature.
Table of Contents
1. Cassirer’s Life and Works
2. The Neo-Kantian Framework
3. Philosophy of Mathematics
4. Philosophy of Natural Science
5. Philosophy of Culture as the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms
6. The Individual Symbolic Forms, Part I: From Myth to Natural Science
7. The Individual Symbolic Forms, Part II: The Ethics and Politics of Culture
8. Cassirer’s Legacy.
Glossary of Terms
Samantha Matherne is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, USA. She has published articles on Kant, neo-Kantianism, phenomenology, and aesthetics. She is a co-author (with Dominic McIver Lopes, Mohan Matthen, and Bence Nanay) of the forthcoming book The Geography of Taste.
"This is an excellent, well-organized, clearly written, and comprehensive book. It does a great job both with expounding the details of Cassirer’s work, at a level that will be appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, and showing the deep and lasting relevance of Cassirer’s thought today." - Paul Livingston, University of New Mexico, USA
"Matherne has written a guide to Cassirer's philosophy that is both accurate and stimulating to read. She takes into account the whole scope of his work - from his early writings and his professorship during the Weimar Republic, to his years of exile in Sweden and the United States - and provides an important addition to our understanding of his lasting influence." - Jeffrey Andrew Barash, Université de Picardie, Amiens, France