Cohen’s Analysis of Spinoza’s Bible Science

"Cohens Analyse der Bibel-Wissenchaft Spinozas," Der Jude, Vol. 8, No. 5-6 (May-June 1924).  Reprinted in Gesammelte Schriften: Band 1.  Reprinted in Leo Strauss: The Early Writings.


It is typical of Hermann Cohen’s style that he couches the critique of an idea in the critique of the possibly accidental expression of that idea.  This is the way of our intensive and penetrating traditional art of interpretation, which takes each word seriously and weighs it carefully.  thus, Cohen already objects to the title “Theologico-Political Treatise,” where he misses “a reference to philosophy, which may be assumed to contribute to theology as well as to politics.”  Using the historical-critical approach, we shall establish the fact that in the seventeenth century one could dispense with such a reference.  On the other hand, Cohen himself needed to give his theological magnum opus the title “The Religion of Reason Out of the Sources of Judaism” because, in our century, “religion out of the sources of Judaism” might otherwise suggest something completely different.

The criticism of the title contains in a nutshell the criticism of the book.  Philosophy is missing, and without the link of philosophy the joining together of theology and politics must appear arbitrary.  Thus the examination of the title alone arouses the suspicion that the book may have nonobjective presuppositions.

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