The Tragedy of Optimism
Writings on Hermann Cohen
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Complete collection of Schwarzschild’s essays on the neo-Kantian Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen.
Steven S. Schwarzschild (1924–1989) was arguably the leading expositor of German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen (1842–1918), undertaking a lifelong effort to reintroduce Cohen's thought into contemporary philosophical discourse. In The Tragedy of Optimism, George Y. Kohler brings together all of Schwarzschild's work on Cohen for the first time. Schwarzschild's readings of Cohen are unique and profound; he was conversant with both worlds that shaped Cohen's thought, neo-Kantian German idealism and Jewish theology. The collection covers a wide range of subjects, from ethics, socialism, the concept of human selfhood, and the mathematics of the infinite to more explicitly Jewish themes. This volume includes two of Schwarzschild's previously unpublished manuscripts and a scholarly introduction by Kohler. Schwarzschild shows that despite its seeming defeat by events of the twentieth century, Cohen's optimism about human progress is a rational, indeed necessary, path to peace.
George Y. Kohler is Director of the Joseph Carlebach Institute and Senior Lecturer of Jewish Philosophy at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Reading Maimonides' Philosophy in 19th Century Germany: The Guide to Religious Reform.
"The Tragedy of Optimism gives us excellent—perhaps unparalleled—insight into the thought of Hermann Cohen. Although Cohen was one of the most important thinkers in the history of Jewish philosophy, he is often misread or simply ignored. Schwarzschild shows in painstaking fashion why the standard criticisms of Cohen miss the point. What emerges is a picture of Cohen as a more sophisticated thinker than what we usually get in histories of the period. " — Kenneth Seeskin, author of Autonomy in Jewish Philosophy