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Logic of Science vs. Theory of Creation: The “Authority of Annihilation” in Hermann Cohen’s Logic of Origin

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The difference between Hermann Cohen’s systematic philosophy and his philosophy of religion can be determined via the logical “Judgment of Contradiction,” viewed as an “Authority of Annihilation.” In Cohen’s Logic of Pure Knowledge the “Judgment of Contradiction” acts as a “means of protection” against “falsifications” that may have arisen on the pathway through the previous judgments of “origin” and “identity.” Cohen thematizes these operations in his Religion of Reason Out of the Sources of Judaism, too. However, there they do not form the grounding for natural science but rather for the knowledge of nature as creation in a strict correlation to God’s uniqueness. Any admixture between God and nature is the falseness that must be excluded via the “Authority of Annihilation.” The Being of God places the world over against the possibility of its own radical Non-Being. Yet at the same time, a second mode of Negation, a relative Nothing providing continuity for the world’s being-there (Dasein), grounded in the “Logic of Origin,” retains its validity. In Cohen’s view a Creation “in the beginning” stands side by side with a continuous “renewal of the world” (hiddush ha-‘olam).

Affiliations: 1: University of Zurich


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