Introductory Essay to Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism

"Introductory Essay," Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism, by Hermann Cohen, 1972.  Reprinted in Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy.


I doubt whether I am the best mediator between Hermann Cohen (1842-1918) and the present-day American reader.   I grew up in an environment in which Cohen was the center of attraction for philosophically minded Jews who were devoted to Judaism; he was the master whom they revered.  But it is more than forty years since I last studied or even read the Religion of Reason, and within the last twenty years I have only from time to time read or looked into some of his other writings.  I write this Introduction at the request of the publisher and of the translator.  I can do no more than to give an account of the thoughts that occurred to me at a renewed reading of Religion of Reason.  Perhaps they will be helpful to some readers.

Present-day readers can hardly avoid feeling that Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism (first published in German in 1919) is a philosophic book and at the same time a Jewish book.  It is philosophic since it is devoted to the religion of reason, and it is Jewish since it elucidates, nay, articulates that religion out of the sources of Judaism.  This impression, while correct, is not as clear as it appears at first sight.

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