At his death in 1945, the influential German philosopher Ernst Cassirer left manuscripts for the fourth and final volume of his magnum opus, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. John Michael Krois and Donald Phillip Verene have edited these writings and translated them into English for the first time, bringing to completion Cassirer's major treatment of the concept of symbolic form.
Ernst Cassirer believed that all the forms of representation that human beings uselanguage, myth, art, religion, history, scienceare symbolic, and the concept of symbolic forms was the basis of his thinking on these subjects. In this volume, which contains one text written in 1928 and another in about 1940, Cassirer presents the metaphysics that is implicit in his epistemology and phenomenology of culture. The earlier text grounds the philosopher's conception of symbolic forms on a notion of human nature that makes a general distinction between Geist (mind) and life. In the later text, he discusses Basis Phenomena, an original concept not mentioned in any of his previous works, and he compares his own viewpoint with those of other modern philosophers, notably Bergson and Heidegger.