On the occasion of receiving a prize first awarded to Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), Hans Blumenberg assesses Cassirer’s legacy and influence. Blumenberg underlines Cassirer’s contribution to epistemology in the neo-Kantian tradition as well as his pioneering work in the history of ideas before discussing how his celebrated Philosophy of Symbolic Forms led Cassirer to reappraise the problem of history more generally. Blumenberg reads Cassirer as having tried to establish the independence of history with regard to the imperatives of the present and from this derives a defense of his own idea of historicism, which Blumenberg understands as the claim to equal consideration by historians on the part of those eras, peoples, and subjects that may not serve present interests. Historians must be aware of the contingency of their own position and preserve the memory even of those aspects of humanity that fail to meet their criteria of progress.

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