According to Ernst Cassirer, symbolic forms “are not different modes in which an independent reality manifests itself to the human spirit but roads which the spirit proceeds towards its objectivization, i.e., its self-revelation” (1923, p. 78). Can Hilbert's axiomatics be viewed as a symbolic form? The aim of this introductory essay is to frame the question in a ‘map’ and to provide a few signs to orient it. Each of the essays collected in this volume may contribute a different set of instructions to reach an answer.
I am grateful to Wilfried Sieg for his detailed remarks on the first draft of this essay.