Kantian Journal

2022 Vol. 41. №3

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Constructive Thinking in the Critical Philosophy of Hermann Cohen



Constructive (productive) thinking in the critical philosophy of Hermann Cohen differs significantly from the seemingly similar speculative thinking in J. G. Fichte’s Science of Knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre) (1794/95). The fundamental characteristics of scientific thinking in Cohen’s teaching include: purity, focus on the “fact of science”, the origin (Ursprung), the infinitesimal method, continuity, movement, production, correlation, intensive magnitude, interrelation of thinking and being. According to Cohen, scientific thinking can only be pure and generated by the origin. The origin is continuous action (movement) of thinking to separate the united and bind the divided content. In this process, thinking and being are correlative. Infinitely small reality contains thinking and being simultaneously as a union and in a divided form. The infinitesimal method is thinking that continuously carries out a) the operations of opposing itself as pure thinking to the results of its own production; b) the coincidence of itself with the products of its own generation. Infinitesimal thinking seeks to eliminate the difference between self and being. Nevertheless, being constantly retains autonomy. Being does not merge with thinking and is not absorbed by it. In Fichte’s Science of Knowledge pure thinking moves in a logical circle, having no access into real being. In an effort to break out of this circle and find its causality, thinking turns not to the being of the world of phenomena, but to the Absolute I. Such a speculative approach to consciousness, thinking and being has little in common with Cohen’s critical position.


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