Hermann Cohen

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
His topics include the defense of humanism through a return to the sources of Judaism in Germany, the philosophical campaign for realizing humanism as a universal Jewish mission: the philosophy of Hermann Cohen, and the debate in Eastern Europe on Judaism as a secular culture.
This is a book where an ancient Jewish thinker such as Philo of Alexandria, who exerted more posthumous influence on Christianity than Judaism, appears or is cited on dozens of pages, whereas modern thinkers such as Hermann Cohen and Rav Abraham Isaac Kook appear more fleetingly.
Beginning with Moses Mendelssohn (chapter one) and ending with Hannah Arendt, he lays out "the emergence of a liberal Jewish ethos" (6) as he travels through common stops along the way: Wissenschaft des Judentums, Leopold Zunz, Heinrich Heine, and Heinrich Graetz (chapter two), Abraham Geiger (chapter three), and Hermann Cohen (chapter four).
The philosophers of Athens "reject a way of life that takes its departure from the primacy of Creation and a personal deity." In other words, as Strauss and Hermann Cohen well understood, the God of Aristotle is not equivalent to the personal God of Jerusalem.
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.
Cohen counts among these "new Jewish thinkers" Salomon Ludwig Steinheim, Nachman Krochmal, Solomon Formstecher, Hermann Cohen, Leo Baeck, Martin Buber, and Franz Rosenzweig (976).