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Title: The Philosopher as Witness: Hermann Cohen's Philosophers and the Trials of Wissenschaft des Judentums
Authors: Billet, Shira
Advisors: Batnitzky, Leora F
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Ethics
Hermann Cohen
Jewish politics
modern Jewish philosophy
Wissenschaft des Judentums
Subjects: Philosophy of Religion
Judaic studies
European history
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “The Philosopher as Witness: Hermann Cohen’s Philosophers and the Trials of Wissenschaft des Judentums” is a study of Hermann Cohen’s relationship to the history of philosophy and the academic study of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums). Cohen, a Kant scholar and founder of the Marburg school of neo-Kantian philosophy, unwittingly became a philosopher of Judaism as he responded to the marginalization of Jews in both the academy and in civil life in late nineteenth-century Germany. This dissertation uncovers how Cohen came to understand the role of the systematic philosopher and the Jewish philosopher as expert witnesses defending ethical truths in the trials of history. The dissertation begins in 1888 with a historical moment in which Cohen, in his capacity as a philosopher, came to the defense of Judaism in a court of law. In the trial, Cohen first expressed his understanding of the task of the philosopher as witness. The dissertation explores Cohen’s complex relationships to the figures of Socrates, Philo, Maimonides, and Spinoza, from the history of philosophy, as possible models for Cohen’s conception of the philosopher. The conclusion considers the biblical prophet Ezekiel, whom Cohen constructs as perhaps the first Jewish philosopher. Cohen’s reception of these figures from the philosophical past is contextualized within both the milieus of nineteenth-century German philosophy and the nascent Jewish intellectual movement of Wissenschaft des Judentums. “The Philosopher as Witness” offers a new reading of Hermann Cohen’s philosophy through an exploration of his own self-understanding of his position as a philosopher situated within the history of both philosophical ethics and Jewish philosophy. Cohen’s philosophy is often understood with respect to subsequent developments in German philosophy and Jewish thought. This dissertation, by contrast, argues that it is crucial to understand Cohen within his own intellectual contexts. Cohen’s respective receptions of Philo and Socrates are understudied aspects of his thought. A closer look at these figures sheds new light on Cohen’s more well-known receptions of Maimonides and Spinoza, on the one hand, and Ezekiel on the other. This, in turn, allows for reflection on Cohen’s understanding of his own place within the history of philosophy.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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