Cassirer, Ernst, 1874-1945

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1874-07-28
Death 1945-04-13
Germans
German, English

Biographical notes:

Ernst Alfred Cassirer: philosopher, educator, writer, and prominent member of the neo-Kantian movement. For a more complete description, see the Ernst Cassirer Papers (GEN MSS 98) .

From the guide to the Ernst Cassirer papers : addition, 1879-1992, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), philosopher, educator, and writer.

From the description of Ernst Cassirer papers : addition, 1879-1992. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83302116

From the description of Ernst Cassirer papers : addition, 1879-1992. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702152945

From the description of Ernst Cassirer papers 1892-1958. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702134073

Ernst Alfred Cassirer, philosopher, educator, writer, and prominent member of the neo-Kantian movement, was born on July 28, 1874, in Breslau, Silesia, the fourth child of the wealthy Jewish tradesman Eduard Cassirer and his wife Eugenie, née Cassirer. In October 1880 Cassirer entered the Johannes-Gymnasium in Breslau and was graduated in the spring of 1892 with highest honors. In the fall he entered university. For the next seven years, in the time-honored German tradition, Cassirer attended several universities which had eminent professors within his various fields of study. At Berlin and Leipzig he studied jurisprudence and at Heidelberg, Berlin, and Munich, German philosophy and literature. In the summer of 1894, while taking Georg Simmel's course on Kant at Berlin, Cassirer was introduced to the work of Hermann Cohen, leader of the Marburg School of neo-Kantianism. In 1896 Cassirer went to Marburg to study philosophy under Cohen and also mathematics. On July 14, 1899 Cassirer successfully defended his inaugural dissertation, "Descartes' Critique of Mathematical and Natural Scientific Knowledge," at the University of Marburg.

Upon receiving his doctorate, Cassirer returned to live with his parents, who, in the meantime, had moved to Berlin. In 1901 while attending the wedding of a close relative in the same city, Cassirer met his cousin Toni, daughter of Otto Bondy and his wife Julie, née Cassirer, from Vienna. They were married a year later in Vienna. After a short residence in Munich, Cassirer, his wife, and the first of their three children moved to Berlin.

Between October 1903 and October 1919 Cassirer lived in Berlin and wrote several of his major works. His mentor, Hermann Cohen, urged him to embark upon an academic career, but Cassirer exhibited little desire to live in a small university town in an atmosphere of gossip and latent anti-Semitism. He preferred the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of Berlin, where most of his and his wife's relatives lived and where he had use of the excellent state and university libraries.

In Imperial Germany, university appointments were rarely given to Jews. In 1906, however, Cassirer was able to obtain the position of Privatdozent at the University of Berlin, a post he held for the next thirteen years. Only in the more liberal Weimar Republic did Cassirer receive a professorship. In October 1919 he assumed the chair of philosophy at the newly founded University of Hamburg. In 1930 he was elected rector of the university.

After his resignation from the University of Hamburg in May 1933, Cassirer accepted a position at Oxford University, where he lectured for two years. In 1935 he was offered and accepted a professorship at the University of Göteborg. Cassirer's six years in Sweden represented a very productive period in his life. He mastered the Swedish language and obtained Swedish citizenship. In the summer of 1941 Cassirer accepted an invitation (by Charles Hendel, then chairman of the department of philosophy) to come to Yale University as a visiting professor. Cassirer's original intention was to remain in the U.S. for two years and then return to Sweden, but the United States's entry into World War II altered his plans. At the end of two years he was unable to return to Sweden and willingly agreed to prolong his contract with Yale University for another year. During this period Cassirer received an invitation to teach at Columbia University, and in the summer of 1944 he left New Haven for New York, where he died on April 13, 1945.

For further biographical information, see: 1) Ernst Cassirer, "Lebenslauf," following Descartes' Kritik der mathematischen und naturwissenschaftlichen Erkenntnis, Universität Marburg, 1899, p. 103 [Yale University Library, German Philosophical Tracts, vol. 4]; 2) Toni Cassirer, Mein Leben mit Ernst Cassirer, Hildesheim: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981; 3) Walter Eggers and Sigrid Meyer, Ernst Cassirer: An Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland Press, 1988; 4) Dimitry Gawronsky, "Ernst Cassirer: His Life and Work" in The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer, ed. by Paul Arthur Schilpp, Evanston, Illinois: The Library of Living Philosophers, Inc., 1949, pp. 1-37; 4) David R. Lipton, Ernst Cassirer: The Dilemma of a Liberal Intellectual in Germany, 1914-33, University of Toronto Press, 1978; and 5) Donald Phillip Verene, ed., Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirer, 1935-1945, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

From the guide to the Ernst Cassirer papers, 1892-1958, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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Subjects:

  • Philosophy, Modern
  • Philosophy, German

Occupations:

  • Authors, German
  • Philosophers

Places:

  • Germany (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)
  • Germany (as recorded)