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Mend and Extend

Jonathan Rée: Ernst Cassirer’s Curiosity, 18 November 2021

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms 
by Ernst Cassirer, translated by Steve G. Lofts.
Routledge, 1412 pp., £150, September 2020, 978 1 138 90725 6
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... Ernst Cassirer​ got a warm welcome when he moved to the United States in 1941. He was a near perfect embodiment of the idea of the great European thinker: not only a multilingual intellectual historian, doubtless familiar with every significant document of Western civilisation, but also a synoptic philosopher who had explored the deep questions that animate cultures and give meaning to human lives ...

A Positive Future

David Simpson: Ernst Cassirer, 26 March 2009

Ernst CassirerThe Last Philosopher of Culture 
by Edward Skidelsky.
Princeton, 288 pp., £24.95, January 2009, 978 0 691 13134 4
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The Symbolic Construction of Reality: The Legacy of Ernst Cassirer 
edited by Jeffrey Andrew Barash.
Chicago, 223 pp., £26.50, January 2009, 978 0 226 03686 1
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... Ernst Cassirer began his eclectic, productive and distinguished career as a philosopher of science, but turned to the study of culture apparently after discovering the Warburg Library in Hamburg, where he took up a professorship in 1919. He spent the rest of his life working out a synthesis able to contain the two cultures ...

Diary

Anthony Grafton: Warburg, 1 April 1999

... so shattered many traditional assumptions about the independence of intellectual disciplines. Ernst Cassirer, Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind and many others who joined the new university in Hamburg in the Twenties did remarkable research work here before 1933, when the Institute’s members fled, along with its books, to London. Warburg himself had died ...

At the HKW

Chloe Aridjis: Aby Warburg, 5 November 2020

... and cascading down the page. Psychotic episodes alternated with lucid spells. The philosopher Ernst Cassirer visited him and they discussed the library, of which Cassirer had become a willing ‘prisoner’, as well as Kepler and the ellipse. Other interlocutors included the moths that flew into Warburg’s room at ...

Spinoza got it

Margaret Jacob: Radical Enlightenment, 8 November 2012

A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy 
by Jonathan Israel.
Princeton, 276 pp., £13.95, September 2011, 978 0 691 15260 8
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... In Davos in 1929, presenting his defence of Kant and the Enlightenment, the liberal idealist Ernst Cassirer faced down the philosopher and future Nazi Martin Heidegger. Observers claimed Heidegger won that debate. A German Jew who would go into exile four years later, Cassirer had urged his contemporaries to look ...

In a Forest of Two-Dimensional Bears

Arthur C. Danto, 9 April 1992

Perspective as Symbolic Form 
by Erwin Panofsky, translated by Christoper Wood.
Zone, 196 pp., £20.50, January 1992, 0 942299 52 3
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The Language of Art History 
edited by Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £32.50, December 1991, 9780521353847
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... of artistic ideals. The idea of the symbolic form, originated by the neo-Kantian philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, belongs to this pluralistic reading of things. The notion of form is clearly akin to Kant’s notion of form, as something given by us to experience. But rather than being invariant from period to period and place to place, the symbolic forms ...

Rabbits Addressed by a Stoat

Stefan Collini: Émigré Dons, 13 July 2017

Ark of Civilisation: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University, 1930-45 
edited by Sally Crawford, Katharina Ulmschneider and Jaś Elsner.
Oxford, 396 pp., £75, March 2017, 978 0 19 968755 8
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... good English. When the eminent post-Kantian philosopher and former rector of Hamburg University Ernst Cassirer arrived in Oxford in 1933 at the age of 59, he gave his first lectures in German, to correspondingly tiny audiences. He soon moved on, first to Sweden, then to the US. By contrast, Theodore Schüller, who had been in the same class at ...

Unhappy Man

P.N. Furbank, 22 July 1993

The Lives of Michel Foucault 
by David Macey.
Hutchinson, 599 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 09 175344 9
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The Passion of Michel Foucault 
by James Miller.
HarperCollins, 491 pp., £18, June 1993, 0 00 255267 1
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... one had been half-conscious that old-style ‘history of ideas’, as written, shall we say, by Ernst Cassirer, or a hundred others, had something profoundly wrong with it, might even be based on some fundamental fallacy. Who could be content with its false concretions (‘The Enlightenment’, ‘Pre-Romanticism’), its illegitimate appeals to ...

Don’t look

Julian Bell: Perspective’s Arab Origins, 25 October 2012

Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science 
by Hans Belting, translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider.
Harvard, 303 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 674 05004 4
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... define each other in terms of their attitudes to eyesight and, more specifically, in terms of what Ernst Cassirer, writing in the 1920s, called ‘symbolic form’. A symbolic form is a cohesive set of symbols within which you might give shape to the world. In classical Islam – Islam, that is, between the tenth and 13th centuries – a set emerged that ...

The Brothers Koerbagh

Jonathan Rée: The Enlightenment, 14 January 2002

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 
by Jonathan Israel.
Oxford, 810 pp., £30, February 2001, 0 19 820608 9
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... Hegel and Romanticism. In his urbane study of The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1932), however, Ernst Cassirer launched an appeal against ‘the verdict of the Romantic Movement on the Enlightenment’. Accusations of frigid intellectualism and complacent authoritarianism were unfounded, according to the great Kantian. Despite its occasional bouts of ...

Galiani’s Strangeness

P.N. Furbank, 27 February 1992

A Woman, a Man and Two Kingdoms: The Story of Madame d’Epinay and the Abbé Galiani 
by Francis Steegmuller.
Secker, 280 pp., £17.99, January 1992, 0 436 48978 3
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... in the things in which they differed. Hence there is something stultifying in the attempt, à la Ernst Cassirer, to prove that at some deep level, and by reference to the future, they were all batting in the same team. One may consider a striking fact about these French writers: that their profoundest works, the works that still speak to us and can ...

On Saving the Warburg

Charles Hope, 4 December 2014

... time, Fritz Saxl, lost his professorship at the University of Hamburg, as did Erwin Panofsky and Ernst Cassirer, both of whom were closely associated with the institute. Various proposals for moving the library abroad failed because the destinations suggested – Jerusalem, Rome and Leiden – would only accept it as a gift, and this would have left the ...

The German Question

Perry Anderson: Goodbye to Bonn, 7 January 1999

... in Berlin with the UEFA film studios in Babelsberg, the Ullstein and Mosse publishing empires, the Cassirer art galleries. Today, there are signs that younger artists are starting to come back to the city, but the Rhenish grip on the art market remains unshaken. Major technical modernisation of the traditional complex in Babelsberg – technically in Potsdam ...

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