Cassirer, Ernst (ĕrnst käsērˈər) [key], 1874–1945, German philosopher. He was a professor at the Univ. of Hamburg from 1919 until 1933, when he went to Oxford; he later taught at Yale and Columbia. A leading representative of the Marburg Neo-Kantian school, Cassirer at first devoted himself to a critical-historical study of the problem of knowledge. This work bore fruit in the monumental Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit (3 vol., 1906–20) and Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff (1910, tr. Substance and Function, 1923). In his chief work, Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (3 vol., 1923–29, tr. Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 1953–57), he applied the principles of Kantian philosophy toward the formation of a critique of culture. His view that all cultural achievements (including language, myth, and science) are the results of man's symbolic activity led Cassirer to a new conception of man as the "symbolic animal." Cassirer wrote many other studies on science, myth, and various historical subjects. These include two written in English: An Essay on Man (1944) and Myth of the State (1946).
See P. A. Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer (1949, repr. 1973); studies by S. W. Itzkoff (1971), D. R. Lipton (1978), J. M. Krois (1985), and P. E. Gordon (2010).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.