Modern Jewish Philosophy in Search of a (Self) Definition

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In the beginning of this introductory article I would like to agree with an opinion of one of the authors - I. Dvorkin (Jerusalem) - about the fact that modern Jewish philosophy is an important part of the modern philosophy on the whole. Based on the work of researchers of Jewish philosophical thought, such as Gutman, Eigus, Bergman, Rotenstreich, Schweid and others, Dvorkin offers five criteria that, in his opinion, will distinguish modern Jewish philosophy from the general list of schools and areas of modern philosophy. Like any broad classification, the one presented in the article by I. Dvorkin has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages, of course, include the urge to talk about modern Jewish philosophy as an integral element of modern social thought. As for its disadvantages, they can be illustrated by another article on the philosophy of Simone Weil. The author of the article, V. Morgan (Cardiff), briefly introducing the biography of the philosopher, highlights two periods of Weil's work, which indicate a constant search for a scientific concept that best explains the causes of injustices (primarily of an economic nature) in the life of a person and society and determines specific ways to transform it. While the first period of Simone Weil’s activity, according to the materials of V. Morgan (mainly her lectures on philosophy), can be called socio-political, when materialism and political and social activism are in priority, the second one turns to religious problems and problems of the role of religion in life. If we try to characterize the philosophical position of this unconditionally interesting and original French and Jewish thinker, then this characteristic, in my opinion, can be conveyed with the help of three words - constant dissatisfaction and inconsistency. Dissatisfaction in the acquired position and contradictory attempts to satisfy this dissatisfaction by searching and changing the acquired position. The other two articles of the heading are devoted to the analysis of the works of the head of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism Hermann Cohen, and the main thing that unites both articles, despite the difference in the problems raised in them, is that their discussion concerns the essence of the religious-philosophical position of the German and Jewish thinker. The work of Z. Sokuler (Moscow) considers the problem of virtues in the religious and philosophical works of H. Cohen. It should be noted that the Marburg philosopher begins a substantive conversation about virtues much earlier, specifically while constructing his ethics in the main ethical work “Ethik des reinen Willens” (Ethics of Free Will). There he defines virtue as a mean for the constancy of a moral act[13], as an indicator of the direction of the moral movement of the spirit of a man[14]. The Marburg philosopher distinguishes virtues of the first order, which are directed towards the universal and mainly have an intellectual-sensual character, and virtues of the second order, directed toward the relativity and having mainly volitional sensory principles[15]. Separately, Cohen discusses the following types of virtues: truthfulness (Wahrhaftigkeit), modesty (Bescheidenheit), courage (Tapferkeit), loyalty (Treue), justice (Gerechtigkeit) and humanism (Humanität). In my opinion, Vorländer gives a successful summary of Cohen’s detailed thoughts about the virtues: truthfulness is a virtue of science; modesty is the modesty of criticism, rationality, peace and is directed against all darkness, chauvinism and hatred; courage means not just strength or physical power, but also the diligence of cultural work, especially political work, and is directed against superhumanity, oppressive morality, false knighthood; loyalty implicates the constancy of one's own improvement, manifests itself in friendship, chastity, and the ethization of religion; it justifies itself in devotion to the family, people, and state; the specific virtue of law and the state is formed by justice, which cannot be canceled by love; justice deepens as a person learns to deal with another person in accordance with his own assessments to the last virtue that is humaneness or humanism, which forms the meaningful core of every other virtue[16]. The significance of humaneness lies in the fact that, being a “virtue of human feeling as an aesthetic feeling”, it contributes to the transition “from a moral exercise of virtues to free creativity and exercise of art” and thus acts as a bridge between ethics and aesthetics[17]. In conclusion of the discussion of the nature of Hermann Cohen’s teachings on virtues, I would like to give the reasoning of the authoritative ethics researcher of the Marburg neo-Kantian P. Schmid, who in one of his articles[18] points that there is interest in the topic of virtues in modern American moral philosophy. The author of the article believes that the Cohenian theory of virtue is quite modern and relevant to this philosophy. In particular, he points to the fundamental work of A. MacIntyre, “After Virtue: An Investigation of the Theory of Morality” (Indiana, 1981), and cites an entire cohort of authors who criticize Kantian ethics based on rigid principles. In contrast to the Kantian ethics of the categorical imperative, they develop the so-called weak theory of ethics, which depends on the historical and social context. Cohen’s ethics, according to the author of the article, is trying to combine both of these principles, adding Kant to Aristotle, adding principles to virtues, and thus defend “weak absolutism of principles”. “Principles and virtues are interconnected”, says Schmid, “since without principles virtues have no purpose, and without virtues principles do not matter in the social world”[19]. But in general, the researcher concludes, Cohen remains on a universalistic basis, on the Kantian principles of human ethics. As for the article by E. Gamba (Turin), the problem that id considered in it directly related to the religious-philosophical position of H. Cohen, mainly the problem of the interaction of aesthetics and philosophy of religion in the philosophical system of the Marburg Neo-Kantian. The two central concepts that can best demonstrate the specificity of this interaction are the concepts of individual and love. The Italian researcher in his article focused on clarifying the nature of the concept of the individual in Cohen’s aesthetics and philosophy of religion. I would like to highlight the change in the understanding of love by the Marburg philosopher in the transition from aesthetic to religious-philosophical constructions. In aesthetics, Cohen speaks of love as love for human nature and for nature’s human. Explaining the meaning of love as a pure aesthetic feeling for art, he emphasizes that, arising as a subjective affect of an artist or connoisseur, it acquires universal significance in a work of art. Therefore, as one of the most respected researchers of Cohenian philosophy - Italian scientist A. Poma - observes, according to Cohen, “aesthetic love cannot be reduced to either the naturalistic meaning of biological love or the ethical meaning of moral love: it certainly implies these two meanings as its own conditions, but it goes beyond them, presenting itself as a new and special form of feeling capable of producing its own content”[20]. This love of man appears where art is really truthful, according to Cohen. In his opinion, its meaning is that it exalts the concept of man. Man in art is “a man who is capable in all his deeds, both of a higher order and ordinary, of discovering love, which is a sense of art”[21]. Thus, man acts as the “initial model” of art, and love for man as the “initial feeling of creating art and enjoying art”[22]. Religious love, according to the Marburg philosopher, is not identical to tribal love or to Eros and, therefore, to aesthetic love. In his opinion, religious love should be clarified in its triple manifestation: as the love of God, the love for God and, finally, as the love between people. And here Cohen emphasizes the social character of this love, which becomes the unifying foundation of such a tripleness in its manifestation. The philosopher writes: “Love for God, which corresponds to the love of God, must have its basis in social love for co-human”[23]. Thus, if aesthetic love for a person refers to the individual as a type, a person for this kind of love is only “material”, religious love for a person arises in a person as an individual, being a prototype of his morality.

V N Belov

RUDN University

Miklukho-Maklaya Str., 6 Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198

  • Cohen H. Ethik des reinen Willens. 2. Aufl. Berlin, 1907. S. 473
  • Vorländer K. Geschichte der Philosophie. Bd. 3. Leipzig, 1927. S. 161-162
  • Schmid P. Hermann Cohen’s Theory of virtue // Hermann Cohen’s Critical Idealism. P. 231-259
  • Poma A. The Portrait in Hermann Cohen’s Aesthetics // Hermann Cohen’s Critical Idealism. P. 286
  • Cohen H. Cohen H. Ästhetik des reinen Gefühls // Cohen H. Werke. Bd. 8, 9. 3. Aufl. Hildesheim, 1982. S. 177
  • Cohen H. Religion der Vernunft aus der Quellen des Judentums. 2. Aufl. Köln, 1959. S. 186


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