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Critical Philosophy of Hermann Cohen, The

John Denton, Andrea Poma

Publication Year: 1997

This is a translation from the Italian of a study of the work of Hermann Cohen, a figure generally recognized as the most significant Jewish thinker of the past 100 years. This is a translation of Andrea Poma’s La filosofia critica di Hermann Cohen, which first appeared in 1988. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the German philosophical scene had witnessed the extinction of absolute idealism and the predominance of the naive materialism of the adherents of scientism. Hermann Cohen’s philosophy stood out in favor of the value of critical reason, on which scientific idealism, in the form of a revival of authentic rational idealism, is founded. His standpoint rejected the opposite extremes of both absolute idealism and naive materialism. The Marburg school, one of the great German philosophical schools at the turn of the century, grew out of Cohen’s philosophy, which inspired a large number of twentieth-century thinkers. Cohen was, without doubt, one of the principal adherents of the “return to Kant” as a fundamental point of reference of “Critical Idealism.” He based this revival on a long, historical, philosophical tradition, represented by Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, and others, apart from Kant himself. Although Cohen saw himself as Kant’s heir, he went beyond Kant in his development and deepening of the meaning of critical philosophy in his own philosophical system. He followed an original path, which revealed a great deal of the hitherto concealed potential of this type of philosophy. In his later years Cohen turned his attention mainly to the philosophy of religion, but his last works are not simply what would be termed the Summa theologica of contemporary Judaism. They also belong to a continuous line connecting them to his previous thought, deepening the meaning and extending the potentiality of critical philosophy and its connection to religious problems, satisfactorily developing the aspect of thought on the limit of reason, which, for critical philosophy, is a necessary complement to thought within the limits of reason.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ii-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xi

There is no doubt that an essential, indispensable conviction of the adherents of critical philosophy is that philosophy is rational. This conviction is one of the reasons why critical philosophy has been included in contemporary criticism of the presumption of many schools of thought ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

I wish to thank those whose help made the completion of this book much less difficult and much more stimulating: Prof. Giuseppe Riconda, who followed the development of my work at every stage, offering encouragement, advice, and criticism. Our friendly, fruitful philosophical ...

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The Interpretation of Kant

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pp. 1-20

The problem of Cohen's reception of Kant should first be placed, briefly, within the context of the widespread Kantian movement which flourished in German philosophy in the second half of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries. The confines, contents, ...

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The Interpretation of Plato

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pp. 21-36

Cohen's "further investigation"! of Kant's critical idealism byway of his reading of Plato began with the brief but intense 1878 essay Platons Ideenlehre und die Mathematik. Cohen had been showing interest in Plato since the beginning of his philosophical studies. His first unpublished ...

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The New Interpretation of Kant and the Definition of Critical Idealism

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pp. 37-53

The second edition of. Kants Theone der Eifahrung, which was published in 1885, is far more than a mere revision and correction of the 1871 version. It contains the results of additional historical and theoretical investigations, carried out by Cohen in the intervening years. In this way he ...

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Critical Idealism

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pp. 55-78

Apart from critical philosophy, Cohen also used the term critical idealism to define his thought. Bearing this in mind, it is worthwhile pausing to examine the category of idealism, to explain how Cohen used it to determine the fundamental characteristics of his philosophy and evaluate ...

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pp. 79-102

If one approaches the first volume of Cohen's philosophical system1 with the aim of finding the characteristics of critical philosophy in it, the first thing that one cannot fail to notice is that, in this book, Cohen rejects his previous description of transcendental philosophy as a critique ...

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pp. 103-130

The best way of highlighting the critical meaning of Cohen's ethics is to begin with his interpretation of and departures from Kant's ethics, following the same procedure as in the previous chapter on logic. As has already been noted, in 1877, Cohen published Kants Begriindung der ...

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Aesthetics, Psychology, and Critical System

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pp. 131-155

The principle of truth, which I treated in its manifold aspects and meanings in the previous chapter, already endows Cohen's logic and ethics with a systematic character. However, he did not believe that these two branches were sufficient for critical philosophy. His system was ...

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The Philosophy of Religion and the System of Philosophy

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pp. 157-169

One of the most interesting problems in the interpretation of Cohen, on which opinions differ, often considerably, and which is still open, is that of whether there was continuity or a break between his last works on the philosophy of religion and his system. Either standpoint involves the ...

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The Uniqueness of God and Correlation

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pp. 171-198

If Cohen preferred the concept of the 'unique' God to that of 'one' God for the God of monotheism,1 it is not simply for reasons of terminology, but concerns the fundamental meaning of religion. The unity of God indicates the opposition of monotheism to polytheism: only one ...

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Man in Correlation with God

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pp. 199-233

We have already referred to Cohen's idea of the complementarity between Jewish monotheism and scientific idealism. It is neither a question of overcoming it nor even less of antithesis, but rather one of expansion and enrichment. The peculiarity of monotheism, interpreted as ...

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Messianism and History

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pp. 235-261

Cohen saw Jewish messianism as the source of inspiration of the idea of universal history: "Messianism must be considered as a creation of ideas brought about by the prophetic concept of history. The concept of history is a creation of the prophetic idea. If one bears this in mind, then the ...


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pp. 263-265


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pp. 267-316

Index of Names

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pp. 317-320

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438416298
E-ISBN-10: 1438416296
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791431856
Print-ISBN-10: 0791431851

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy