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  • Ernst Cassirer. Ausgewählter wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel
  • Thora Ilin Bayer
John Michael Krois, hrsg. Ernst Cassirer. Ausgewählter wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel. Nachgelassene Manuskripte und Texte, 18. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2009. Pp. 380. Cloth, €238.00.

This volume is part of the multi-volume edition of Cassirer's Nachlass, the first volume of which, Zur Metaphysik der Symbolichen Formen, appeared in 1995 (English tr.: The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 4, The Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms, ed. J. M. Krois and D. P. Verene [Yale University Press, 1996]). This volume of Cassirer's correspondence contains 186 letters to and from Cassirer spanning the length of his career, beginning with a letter of 1893 prior to his arrival in Marburg in 1896 to study with the founders of the Marburg Neo-Kantian School, Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp, and ending with an exchange of letters with Hans Reichenbach regarding an offer of an appointment at UCLA a few days before his [End Page 403] sudden death on April 13, 1945. The volume includes a DVD containing copies of the originals of the entire correspondence.

The letters are selected on the basis of their scholarly importance and their significance for understanding the development of Cassirer's thought. There are no purely personal letters, but many have a personal tone or contain personal details, as Cassirer is often writing to his friends and colleagues. The reader will not find long, essay-like letters in which Cassirer develops his philosophical ideas. Most letters vary from one half to one or two printed pages. They chronicle what Cassirer once called his intellectual odyssey as he moved from teaching positions in Berlin and Hamburg to Oxford and Götteborg, Sweden, and finally, in the 1940s, to Yale and Columbia Universities.

Some letters contain cultural views such as Cassirer's expression of his attachment to the operas of Mozart, especially Don Juan, in a letter to his old friend, the philosopher Albert Görland (April 21, 1906). There is a substantial exchange with Albert Einstein concerning Cassirer's manuscript of Einstein's Theory of Relativity (1921), which Einstein endorsed. There is correspondence with the leading members of the Vienna Circle: Moritz Schlick, Otto Neurath, and Philipp Frank. There is a letter from Edmund Husserl commenting briefly on the second volume of the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms: Mythical Thought (1925) and Cassirer's reply. There is correspondence with the Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger, who founded Daseinsanalyse. There is considerable correspondence, as might be expected, with Aby Warburg, founder of the famous Warburg Institute and Library and its director, Fritz Saxl, which was originally located in Hamburg and later moved to London. There are two supplementary letters of Saxl to Warburg, describing how he showed Cassirer the unique features of the Library, that amplify Cassirer's own published comments on how the arrangement of its contents paralleled the structure of his theory of symbolic forms. There is correspondence with Susanne Langer in 1944 concerning her translation of Language and Myth, and in the same period with Paul Schilpp concerning the preparation of the Library of Living Philosophers volume on Cassirer that appeared in 1949, after his death.

Cassirer's letter to Schilpp of May 13, 1942, clarifies why there is no volume on art in the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. In this letter (first noted by D. P. Verene in the introduction to Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer 1935–1945 [Yale University Press, 1979]), Cassirer says that such a volume was planned but the Ungunst (disfavor) of the times caused him to postpone it again and again. His account of art as a symbolic form finally appeared as a chapter in An Essay on Man (1944) and in "Language and Art I & II" in Verene's aforementioned volume of Cassirer's papers, Symbol, Myth, and Culture.

Since Cassirer died during the preparation of the Library of Living Philosophers volume, it appeared without the customary autobiographical essay. As a substitute, there appeared a biographical sketch by Dimitry Gawronsky, whose friendship with Cassirer began in their student days at Marburg. In 1948, Ms. Cassirer completed her typescript of Aus Meinem Leben mit Ernst Cassirer, which includes a...


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