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Drawing Cohen into the Conversation: A centennial commemoration of Hermann Cohen

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Lightning Session


Hermann Cohen (1842-1918) is arguably the most formative influence on 20th century Jewish philosophy and the leading figure of the neo-Kantian movement in Continental philosophy. Yet only a small portion of his writings on Jewish themes and almost none of his general philosophy have been translated into English. Although the chair of this panel, Robert Schine, stands at the forefront of efforts to make more of Cohen’s work available in English, much work remains. To advance the project of Cohen translations, this panel marks the centennial of Cohen’s passing with discussion of specific not-yet-translated works from across Cohen’s career that we believe should play a larger role both in the classroom and throughout Jewish philosophy. Ricciardi presents Cohen’s 1869 lecture (published in 1880) “DER SABBAT IN SEINER KULTURGESCHICHTLICHEN BEDEUTUNG” as standing in opposition to contemporary theories of ritual and as posing, through its examination of the experiential dimension of the Sabbath, as a strong model for the Jewish tradition of inquiry into TAAMEI HAMITZVOT. Billet argues that Cohen’s 1888 court testimony, “DIE NÄCHSTENLIEBE IM TALMUD,” both provides biographical context for understanding Cohen and introduces his characteristic technique of identifying themes that run through non-philosophical material yet which on Cohen’s examination yield philosophical meaning. Zank shows that Cohen’s essay “AUTONOMIE UND FREIHEIT” (1900) differentiates the lexicon of ethics from the vocabulary of religion. Translating this essay requires a precise rendering of the terminology Kaplowitz will then discuss in his presentation on the judgment of origin in LOGIK DER REINEN ERKENNTNIS (1902), which establishes the vocabulary and methods of Cohen’s systematic philosophy. Finally, Nahme examines two essays by Cohen from 1917, “BETRACHTUNGEN ÜBER SCHMOLLERS ANGRIFF” and “WAS EINIGT DIE KONFESSIONEN?” both of which deal with Cohen’s philosophical perspective on religious tolerance in Germany and helped shape the culture of Weimar Germany. Each panelist contends that these writings are not merely of historical interest. Rather, Cohen remains vital for the future of Jewish thought, and a substantial portion of session time will be reserved for discussion of where we see Cohen offering critical interventions in contemporary conversations within the interdisciplinary field of Jewish Studies.

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