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Ernst Cassirer

Updated on March 20, 2012
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1874-1945

Ernst Cassirer was a German philosopher, who was an important exponent of neo-Kantian philosophy and was particularly concerned with the function of symbols in human knowledge. He was born at Breslau, Lower Silesia, on July 28, 1874, and studied at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig, and Heidelberg, and at Marbury, where he was a follower of Hermann Cohen s neo-Kantianism. Cassirer became a professor at the University of Hamburg in 1919 and rector in 1930. A Jew, he resigned his post in 1933 and fled Nazi persecution. He taught at Oxford in England, at Goteborg in Sweden, and at Yale and Columbia in the United States.

Ernst Cassirer died in New York City, on April 13, 1945.

Thought and Works

Cassirer accepted Kant's categories of thought as man's way of understanding the universe and also accepted Kant's critical method. He held, however, in Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neuemn Zeit (1906-1920; English translation, Problem of Knowledge: Philosophy, Science, and History Since Hegel, 1950) and in Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff (1910; English translation, Substance and Function, 1923) that Kant's list of categories was incomplete and did not adequately explain the process of perception and that his critical method should be extended to domains of reality not encompassed by Newtonian physics.

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