Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. No. 3

Cohen and Natorp’s Philosophy of Religion: the Argument about the Boundary of Reason

Abstract

The philosophy of religion as presented by Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp, the founders and main representatives of the Marburg School of Neo-Kantianism, is an important and at the same time controversial part of their philosophical systems. The discussion around the problems of religion began within the Marburg School and still continues among those who study that School. The reason for this is that “fitting” philosophical thinking about the phenomenon of religion into the classical triad of any system of philosophy, i. e. effectively formulating that phenomenon in logical concepts, ethical postulates and aesthetic principles touched the very foundations of that system. Drawing mainly on the rough notes and correspondence of Cohen and Natorp I argue that, in spite of internal and quite important differences over the problems of religion and its place in philosophical constructions, Cohen and Natorp, first, retained their commitment to critical idealism and remained loyal to their philosophical school to the end and, second, followed the principle of mutual respect, preserving their professional and human sympathy for each other. Besides, I substantiate my assertion that Marburg Neo-Kantians had different concepts of the special place of religion in the system of philosophy. The specific nature of this difference warrants the discussion not only of the boundary of reason and rationality but adds new dimensions to that boundary, filling it with content and thus broadening the very sphere of critical idealism. In the course of the discussion of the problems of religion, Paul Natorp (in a more immediate and extended fashion) and Hermann Cohen (largely potentially) stake a claim to projects for the serious transformation of philosophy which they tried to implement in their later works.

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Georges Gurvitch and Sergey Hessen on the Possibility of Forming Social Unity

Abstract

The early decades of the last century saw European philosophical thought becoming increasingly interested in the sociological extension of the idea of law. From the viewpoint of the sociology of law, law is formed in the process of social interactions and is not sanctioned by the state. Sergey Hessen and Georges Gurvitch base their conceptions of social law on the sociology of law in the 1920s and 1930s. They start a polemic in the pages of the journal Sovremenniye zapiski (Contemporary Notes). Although they differ radically in their definitions of the status of the state they concur in defining society as a set of social institutions and communities existing as instruments for expressing personal freedom. The social regulations they propose are already legal situations. Hessen and Gurvitch believe that the individual can fully exercise his/her freedom only in conditions of such legal pluralism. However, the concept of legal pluralism involves an inherent problem of preserving social unity: why is it that society does not fall into a range of autonomous social entities, each offering the individual its own legal order for actualising freedom? To solve this problem the philosophers use the concept of “the general will”. General will is an instrument of correlation between individual freedom and the development of society and culture as a whole. The object of philosophical dispute is how the general will is formed: 1) in the process of social self-organisation according to Gurvitch; 2) in the operation of the suprafunctional organisation (the state) according to Hessen. The difference in the grounding of the general will leads to a difference in the concepts of social unity: 1) sobornost according to Gurvitch and 2) solidarity according to Hessen. Analysis of the dispute between Gurvitch and Hessen brings out not only the differences in the interpretation of social unity but also the fundamental problems with the conceptions of social law.

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