Hermann Cohen

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Cohen, Hermann


Born July 4, 1842, in Coswig, Anhalt; died Apr. 4, 1918, in Berlin. German idealist philosopher and founder of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. Professor at Marburg from 1876 to 1912 and at Berlin from 1912.

By eliminating the Kantian concept of thing-in-itself and the resulting distinction between sense perception and reason, Cohen transformed the problem of transcendental synthesis, central to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, into a purely logical problem. Accepting the Kantian doctrine of the regulative ideas of reason, Cohen interpreted the thing-in-itself not as an entity existing outside and independent of cognition but as a goal-directed idea of thinking. In Materialism and Empiriocriticism, V. I. Lenin described Cohen’s interpretation of Kant as a critique from the right. Unlike Kant, Cohen held that thinking gave rise not only to the form but also to the content of cognition. According to Cohen, mathematics, especially the theory of the infinitesimal, provides the most graphic example of how thinking engenders knowledge. Just as mathematics was for Cohen the foundation of the natural sciences, so jurisprudence was the basis of human studies (Geisteswissenschaften).

Preserving Kant’s characteristic priority of practical over theoretical reason, Cohen asserted the primacy, from the standpoint of logic, of ethics over science since he constructed concepts according to the teleological principle, revealed in its purest form in ethics. Cohen regarded ethics as the logic of the will. He followed Kant in giving a moral interpretation to religion, but he remained an adherent of Judaism. Theoretical knowledge and law, science and the constitutional (liberal) state are for him the foundation of culture and the condition for freedom of the human personality, the most important goal of historical development. Cohen expressed the social and political views of the liberal bourgeoisie. His theory of ethical socialism contributed to the spread of revisionism in German social democracy.


Kants Begründung der Ästhetik. Berlin, 1889.
Kants Begründung der Ethik, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1910.
System der Philosophie, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1922–23.
Kants Theorie der Erfahrung, 4th ed. Berlin, 1925.


Iakovenko, B. “O teoreticheskoi filosofii G. Kogena.” Logos, 1910, book 1.
Bakradze, K. S. Ocherki po istorii noveishei i sovremennoi burzhuaznoi filosofii. Tbilisi, 1960.
Natorp, P. Hermann Cohen als Mensch, Lehrer und Forscher. Marburg, 1918.
Kinkel, W. H. Cohen: Einführung in sein Werk. Stuttgart, 1924.


References in periodicals archive ?
In the following chapters, Judaism is represented mainly by Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas.
believes that since this question had been inadequately treated by Spinoza and the twentieth-century Kantian Maimonides scholar Hermann Cohen, Strauss was driven to "rediscove[r] a veritable lost" intellectual "continent" entailing "an entirely different history of Western thought," as well as "an entirely different Maimonides" from the conventional ones (1-2).
Moynahan (history, Bard College) highlights the influence of the Marburg School's Hermann Cohen and the 18th century mathematician Gottfried Liebniz and uses those influences as a means of understanding how Cassirer and the Marburg school sought to transform the philosophical project of Immanuel Kant in order to investigate the leading edge of contemporary science (particularly in fields such as group theory and logic), radically recast the problem of appearance and reality, and to construct a basis for the political definition of rights and democracy.
For Hermann Cohen, a Jewish philosopher, God is not one who acts in history, but is a perfect moral agent who stands above it (p.
The philosophers who cut their teeth on the debate include Trendelenburg's student, the founder of the Marburg school, Hermann Cohen, and Fischer's student, one of the founders of the Baden school, Wilhelm Windelband.
Part Two discusses the political history of the Jews in modernity and the facets of Jewish culture as perceived in German-Jewish thought and exemplified in the public figures of Leo Baeck, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig.
And indeed Jewish philosophers like Hermann Cohen have underscored that creating a more ethical society is Judiasm's specific religious mission.
More than almost anything else, we Jews need anew theo-politics in the spirit of Martin Buber or the great socialist thinker Hermann Cohen.
And yet, some Jewish thinkers--such as Hermann Cohen and, more recently, his follower Emmanuel Levinas--have insisted that the most important position that Judaism contributes to politics is that it must transcend the state and find a source of authority in norms beyond and outside it.
While the sickly, quasi-Christian cult of suffering of Hermann Cohen has not gained wide acceptance, the supposedly high-minded anti-nationalism of Martin Buber and his followers has helped to drain Zionism of vigor and attractiveness, often equating Jewish nationalism with racism, thus echoing the infamous 1975 United Nations resolution.
As Mendes-Flohr notes, the celebrated debate of 1916 between the philosophers Martin Buber and Hermann Cohen, the one a pantheistic nationalist, and the other a humanitarian rationalist, was a dialogue between two committed Jews.
Other main authors considered in detail are Maimonides, Hermann Cohen, Emil Fackenheim, Steven Schwarzschild, and Franz Rosenzweig, with interspersed critical notes on Gershom Scholem, Emmanuel Levinas, and Walter Benjamin.