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Hermann Cohen’s Kantian Philosophy of Religion


Ketil Bonaunet

This study examines the influence of Kant on Hermann Cohen’s philosophy of religion.
A basic tenet in Kantian philosophy of religion is that morality leads ineluctably to religion. But how does morality lead to religion? While Cohen rejected Kant’s doctrine of the postulates (of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul) as it is formulated in Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, he searched for alternative ways to found a «religion of reason» in ethics.
This book concentrates on two routes from ethics to religion that are central to Cohen’s philosophy of religion in his two last works: Der Begriff der Religion im System der Philosophie (1915), and Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (posthumous 1919). One route takes compassion towards the «concrete Other», which is complementary to an ethics of universal respect, as its point of departure, and argues that an attitude of compassion and recognition of the Other as a genuine individual presupposes a distinctive religious consciousness. The other route is inspired by Kant’s wrestling with the problem of removal of moral guilt in Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, and centres around the questions of guilt and liberation from guilt.
Cohen’s ideas and their continued relevance are explored in this book in light of some major concerns of twentieth century and contemporary philosophy of religion.
Contents: Hermann Cohen’s philosophy of religion as a Kantian philosophy of religion – Compassion and the discovery of the «thou» as complementation of a Kantian ethics of universal respect – Compassion as belonging to a religious consciousness – Moral guilt as a problem in Kantian ethics and philosophy of religion – The problem of the autonomy of religion within a Kantian philosophy of religion.