Philosophy in a New Key

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Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art is the main work of American philosopher Susanne K. Langer (1895–1985), first published in 1941. In it she declared that "Symbolism was the ‘new key’ to understanding how the human mind transformed the primal need to express oneself.[1]"


"Langer elaborates her thesis in freshly conceived and interesting studies contained in chapters treating of the logic of signs and symbols, a comparison of discursive and presentational forms of symbolism (perhaps the heart of the book), verbal language, life symbols as the roots of sacrament and myth, the significance of music, the genesis of artistic import, and the fabric of meaning.[2]"


  • Chapter 1: The New Key
  • Chapter 2: Symbolic Transformations
  • Chapter 3: The Logic of Signs and Symbols
  • Chapter 4: Discursive Forms and Presentational Forms
  • Chapter 5: Language
  • Chapter 6: Life-Symbols: The Roots of Sacrament
  • Chapter 7: Life-Symbols: The Roots of Myth
  • Chapter 8: On Significance in Music
  • Chapter 9: The Genesis of Artistic Import
  • Chapter 10: The Fabric of Meaning


  1. ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, London, 1998.
  2. ^ DeWitt H. Parker The Philosophical Review, Vol. 52, No. 3. (May, 1943), pg. 306.



Adams, Hazard, "Langer's New Key." Philosophy of the Literary Symbolic. Tallahassee: UP of Florida, 1983. 221-232.
Schultz, William, Cassirer and Langer on Myth, 2000 ISBN 0-8153-2465-0

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