Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. No. 4

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The Place of Hermann Cohen’s Ideas in the Philosophy of Dialogue



My aim is to prove that Hermann Cohen was not only a philosopher of dialogue but has played an exceedingly important role in the history of that current of thought. His books Ethics of Pure Will (1904) and Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism (1919) offer a detailed analysis of the relationships between I and Thou, I and It, I and We. In the first book these relationships are considered from the ethical-legal point of view and in the second from the viewpoint of religious anthropology. However, Cohen considers the problem of inter-personal relationships not in isolation, but as an important component of his entire philosophical system. Deduction of the concept of personality in Ethics of Pure Will is based on Cohen’s logic of the origin expounded in the first part of his system in The Logic of Pure Cognition. Cohen explains that the origin of the self-consciousness of I as a personality is not the external world, but another person, i.e. Thou. In turn, the partnership relationships between I and Thou create the community We which forms the basis of the law-governed state. The process of artistic creation in the framework of inter-personal relationship is explored in Aesthetics of Pure Feeling. Finally, Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism formulates the conception of religion as the most complete realisation of inter-personal relationship. Thus, dialogism became an important dimension of Cohen’s entire philosophical system, a fact noted by Martin Buber. Franz Rosenzweig, in unfolding dialogical thinking, expressly appeals to all the elements of Cohen’s system. There are signs of his influence on Bakhtin’s doctrine. Thus, examining Cohen’s doctrine as part of the philosophy of dialogue gives insights into this entire trend as a coherent whole.


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