Epilogue: Ernst Cassirer and Renaissance Cultural Studies

The Figure of Nicholas of Cusa

In: Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World

During the 1920s in Germany, medieval and Renaissance studies, while innovative, were carried out in an atmosphere of anxiety, as may be seen in the work of Warburg, Klibansky, Panofsky or Curtius. For his part, Ernst Cassirer combined the cultural philosophy of the German idealist tradition with the Kulturwissenschaft of the Warburg Library to develop a unique approach to the history of philosophy. In the context of Weimar-era political apprehension, the Renaissance became for Cassirer a site of exploration regarding the ability of philosophy to lead the creative tasks of culture. Cassirer saw the philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa as a key figure in Renaissance philosophy and the emergence of modernity. Cassirer’s interpretation is best understood against the backdrop of the Weimar era. Nicholas of Cusa’s vindication of human creativity and individual existence served as a focus for Cassirer’s defense of humanistic culture.

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