Hermann Cohen: An Intellectual Biography

ISBN : 9780198828167

Frederick C. Beiser
416 ページ
156 x 234 mm

This book is the first complete intellectual biography of Hermann Cohen (1842-1918) and the only work to cover all his major philosophical and Jewish writings. Frederick C. Beiser pays special attention to all phases of Cohen's intellectual development, its breaks and its continuities, throughout seven decades. The guiding goal behind Cohen's intellectual career, he argues, was the development of a radical rationalism, one committed to defending the rights of unending enquiry and unlimited criticism. Cohen's philosophy was therefore an attempt to defend and revive the Enlightenment belief in the authority of reason; his critical idealism an attempt to justify this belief and to establish a purely rational worldview. According to this interpretation, Cohen's thought is resolutely opposed to any form of irrationalism or mysticism because these would impose arbitrary and artificial limits on criticism and enquiry. It is therefore critical of those interpretations which see Cohen's philosophy as a species of proto-existentialism (Rosenzweig) or Jewish mysticism (Adelmann and Köhnke). Hermann Cohen: An Intellectual Biography attempts to unify the two sides of Cohen's thought, his philosophy and his Judaism. Maintaining that Cohen's Judaism was not a limit to his radical rationalism but a consistent development of it, Beiser contends that his religion was one of reason. He concludes that most critical interpretations have failed to appreciate the philosophical depth and sophistication of his Judaism, a religion which committed the believer to the unending search for truth and the striving to achieve the cosmopolitan ideals of reason.


1 Early Years, 1842-1865
2 The Young Volkpsychologist
3 Early Jewish Writings
4 The Debut of a Neo-Kantian
5 Encounter with Friedrich Albert Lange
6 The Neo-Kantian Philosopher in the 1870s
7 Jewish Writings 1880-1889
8 Neo-Kantian Writings in Marburg 1880-1889
9 Jewish Writings, 1890-1899
10 A Very Important Postscript
11 Cohen s Logic
12 Jewish Writings, 1900-1909
13 System of Ethics
14 Aesthetics of Pure Feeling
15 Jewish Writings, 1910-1915
16 Causes and Controversies, 1914-1917
17 Last Jewish Writings, 1915-1918
18 A Religion of Reason


Frederick C. Beiser was born and raised in the USA. He studied in the UK at Oriel College and Wolfson College, Oxford and then in Germany for many years, receiving stipends from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Humboldt Stiftung during that time. He has taught in many universities in the USA including Yale, Harvard, Penn, Wisconson, Colorado, and Indiana. Beiser is currently professor of philosophy at Syracuse University, New York. In 2015 the Bundesprasident Joachim Gauck awarded him the Bundesverdienstkreuz for his work on German philosophy.