The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms : Three Volume Set book cover
1st Edition

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms
Three Volume Set

Edited By

Ernst Cassirer

ISBN 9781138907256
Published September 25, 2020 by Routledge
1412 Pages

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Book Description

Ernst Cassirer occupies a unique space in twentieth-century philosophy. A great liberal humanist, his multi-faceted work spans the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, intellectual history, aesthetics, epistemology, the study of language and myth, and more. Cassirer’s thought also anticipates the renewed interest in the origins of analytic and continental philosophy in the Twentieth Century and the divergent paths taken by the 'logicist' and existential traditions, epitomised by his now legendary debate in 1929 with the philosopher Martin Heidegger, over the question "What is the Human Being?"

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms is Cassirer's most important work. It was first published in German in 1923, the third and final volume appearing in 1929. In it Cassirer presents a radical new philosophical worldview - at once rich, creative and controversial - of human beings as fundamentally "symbolic animals", placing signs and systems of expression between themselves and the world.

This major new translation of all three volumes, the first for over fifty years, brings Cassirer's magnum opus to a new generation of students and scholars. Taken together, the three volumes of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms are a vital treatise on human beings as symbolic animals and a monumental expression of neo-Kantian thought.

Correcting important errors in previous English editions, this translation reflects the contributions of significant advances in Cassirer scholarship over the last twenty to thirty years. Each volume includes a new introduction and translator's notes by Steve G. Lofts, a foreword by Peter E. Gordon, a glossary of key terms, and a thorough index.

Table of Contents

Volume 1: Language

Foreword Peter E. Gordon Translator’s Preface S. G. Lofts Translator’s Introduction: The Question Concerning the Human – Life, Form, and Freedom: On the Way to an Open Cosmopolitanism S. G. Lofts Translator’s Acknowledgements S. G. Lofts Preface Introduction and the Framing of the Problem 1. The Problem of Language in the History of Philosophy 2. Language in the Phase of Sensible Expression 3. Language in the Phase of Intuitive Expression 4. Language as the Expression of Conceptual Thinking – The Form of the Linguistic Formation of Concept and Class 5. Language and the Expression of the Pure Forms of Relation – The Sphere of Judgment and the Concepts of Relation [Relation]. Glossary of Terms Index of Proper Names General Index.


Volume 2: Mythical Thinking

Foreword Peter E. Gordon Translator’s Preface S. G. Lofts Translator’s Introduction: A Transcendental Critique of Mythical-Religious Consciousness – Identity Thinking, the Natural Attitude, and an Immanence in the Sacred Sense of Life S. G. Lofts Translator’s Acknowledgements S. G. Lofts. Preface Introduction: The Problem of A "Philosophy of Mythology" Part 1: Myth as Thought-Form 1. The Character and Basic Tendency of Mythical Object Consciousness 2. The Individual Categories of Mythical Thinking Part 2: Myth as Form of Intuition – The Construction and Organization of the Spatial-Temporal World in Mythical Consciousness 1. The Basic Opposition 2. The Basic Features of a Morphology of Myth – Space, Time, and Number Part 3: Myth as Life-Form – The Discovery and Determination of Subjective Reality in Mythical Consciousness 1. The I and the Soul 2. The Forming Emergence of the Feeling of Self from the Mythical Feeling of Unity and Life 3. Cult and Sacrifice Part 4: The Dialectic of Mythical Consciousness. Glossary General Index Index of Proper Names.


Volume 3: Phenomenology of Cognition

Foreword Peter E. Gordon Translator’s Preface S. G. Lofts Translator’s Introduction: A Phenomenology of Symbolic Creative Cognition – the Unfolding of the Symbolic Function and the Construction of a Pure Theory of the Symbolic S. G. Lofts Translator’s Acknowledgements S. G. Lofts. Preface Introduction Part 1: The Expressive Function and the World of Expression 1. Subjective and Objective Analysis 2. The Expressive Phenomenon as the Basic Element of Perceptual Consciousness 3. The Expressive Function and the Mind-Body-Problem Part 2: The Problem of Representation [Repräsentation] and the Construction of the Intuitive World 1. The Concept and the Problem of Representation [Repräsentation] 2. Thing and Property 3. Space 4. The Intuition of Time 5. Symbolic Pregnance 6. Toward the Pathology of Symbolic Consciousness Part 3: The Function of Signification and the Construction of Scientific Cognition 1. Toward a Theory of the Concept 2. Concept and Object 3. Language and Science – Thing Signs and Ordinal Signs 4. The Object of Mathematics 5. The Foundations of Natural Scientific Cognition Appendix: "Spirit" and "Life" in Contemporary Philosophy (1930). Glossary General Index Index of Proper Names.

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Ernst Cassirer was born in Germany 1874 in the city of Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). He taught at Hamburg University from 1919 to 1933, and then at All Souls College, Oxford, before emigrating to Sweden and then to the United States. Through its creative interpretation of Kant’s philosophy combined with a deep knowledge of the role of language and culture, Cassirer’s work is regarded as indispensable to understanding the relationship between the two major traditions in twentieth-century philosophy, the ‘analytic’ and the ‘continental’. Cassirer’s philosophy is unique, as it sought a common ground between the scientific and humanistic worldviews which frequently divided these two traditions, exemplified in his famous debate with Martin Heidegger at Davos in 1929. His work resulted in the monumental Philosophy of Symbolic Forms as well as several books on the philosophy of humanism and the Enlightenment. He taught at the universities of Yale and Columbia in the early 1940s and died in New York in 1945.

Steve G. Lofts is Professor of Philosophy at King’s University College, Canada. He is the translator of Cassirer’s The Logic of the Cultural Sciences and The Warburg Years (1919-1933): Essays on Language, Art, Myth, and Technology.


'The three volumes of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms focus on language, myth, and science respectively, offering fascinating, if necessarily fragmentary and speculative, accounts of how each develops in the direction of increasing freedom and universality… the basic insight of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms is one that continues to inform the humanities today. The categories we use to understand the world aren’t a passive reflection of the way things really are; rather, we actively create systems of meaning that evolve over time.' - Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books