Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) was a leading neo-Kantian who developed a systematic view of how we construct and experience culture, widely construed to include mathematics, science, religion, myth, art, politics, ethics and other social endeavors. In Cassirer (Routledge 2021), Samantha Matherne explains how Cassirer updates Kant to develop his critical idealism in the form of a distinction between substance and function – the mind-dependent objects we cognize, and the structure of our minds that these objects depend on. He uses this view in his broad philosophy of symbolic forms, unpacking the way we build up the cultural world around us and our lived experience in that cultural world. Matherne, who is an assistant professor of philosophy at Harvard University, brings Cassirer’s work to life for those beyond his contemporary influences in the metaphysics of science, the philosophy of art, and the insertion of myth into the politics of fascism.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.