Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, new translation of all three volumes – Routledge, September 2020

Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, new translation of all three volumes – Routledge, September 2020

I missed this when it was published last year, but this looks a major undertaking. There is a review in the New York Review by Adam Kirsch here (opening part readable, rest requires subscription).

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.

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