This fourth volume of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, available now for the first time in English, fittingly concludes Ernst Cassirer's magnum opus. At his death in 1945, the great twentieth-century philosopher left manuscripts for this final volume. In these writings Cassirer grounds his conception of symbolic forms on a particular notion of human nature and discusses Basis Phenomena.
Cassirer died in 1945, leaving only drafts and fragments for the final volume of his magnum opus. Much of the text was written in 1928, though some dates from the 1940s. It appeared in German last year and is now translated by the editor of the Cassirer project in Berlin. Here we learn what "symbolic forms" really are and what they mean for our picture of human life. The work is still germane, for it confronts the much-advertised tendency of the human mind to produce a variety of interpretations of everything and confront reality only through linguistic peregrinations. Cassirer thinks none of this cuts us off from reality, which can only be understood through symbolic forms. In an effort at exactitude, the translation sometimes imposes a heavy hand on a Cassirer's subtleties, and readers may be disheartened at the absense of the German alongside the translationessential for a work composed of parts. But the book will not disappoint those who have waited so long for it.Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa