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C O U R S E 
The Great War and Modern Philosophy
Nicolas de Warren, KU Leuven University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Hermann Cohen on Judentum and Deutschtum during WWI
Notes taken on September 2, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
1916 is the key year in Germany
failed offensive in Verdun
Falkenhayn's failed attempt to bleed out the French to force a decisive victory
counter offensive in the Battle of the Somme
puts pressure on the Germans
an increasing sense in Germany that the war cannot be won
coupled with the consequences of the economic blockade
on the home front a real shortage of food
in German cultural and mental context
internal divisions within German culture become much more pronounced
they become another front in the war
a reopening of the rift between German Jews, Germans, and the question of:
what is it to be Jewish
what is it to be German
Hermann Cohen
German Jewish philosopher
founder of the Marburg School of Neo-Kantianism
1915 essay on Judentum
what it is to be a Jew
1916 another essay, argues that being Jewish is reconcilable with the idea of Germany
the debate is split between many dichotomies
1916 text is centered around the problem of Versöhnung and Verständigung
trying to find reconciliation between a series of polarities
1. Christianity vs. Judaism
have the same spiritual roots and foundation
not necessarily an idea of God
but a moral conception of humanity
a humanistic conception of religion
tries to reconcile the perceived difference and antagonism between Christianity and Judentum
but without collapsing either of them
some argued that to reconcile them, the Jews must fully convert
2. full assimilation vs. Zionism
Cohen is in the middle
rejects Zionism but wants to retain a Jewish identity and contribution to German culture
the war had the affect of polarizing these dichotomies
a rise in Zionism
3. German patriotism vs. Judentum
Germany army wanted to know how many Jews were serving in the army and if they were patriotic
contrary to what they discovered, they tended to report that Jews were not being patriotic
he sees this converging in the figure of Lessing (1729-1781)
"Nathan der Weise" (1779)
A Parable of the Three Rings
Weimar classicism is a cosmopolitan notion of Germany
a reconciliation between being Jewish and being German
it's not German idealism but classical Weimar
4. German philosophy (idealism) vs. Judentum
German philosophy not as the idealism of Fichte and Hegel, but of Kant
a rational conception of religion, a notion of humanity
Cohen argues this was the core philosophical insight of the Old Testament
"prophetic messianism"
the true realization of religion is a true relation of humanity and autonomy
there is already a kind of Kantian idealism in Judaism
Cohen is a Neo-Kantian
this provokes on of the first vicious anti-Semitic attacks by the editor of Kant-Studien
Bruno Bauch
argues against Cohen that one could not be an interpreter of Kant and Jewish
Cohen didn't respond to this, which set up a certain dynamic
Davos debates
Heidegger and Cassirer
a conflict between Deutschtum and Judentum in the First World War
parting of ways
Cassirer was a Neo-Kantian follower of Cohen
one sees that the First World War does not end intellectually in Germany in 1918
events leading up to WWII have there roots in this conflict