Idealistic Studies 19 (1):28-42 (1989)

Music, art, and poetry were profound forces in Hermann Cohen’s thought. If we attempt to comprehend this philosopher, whose name is synonymous with the School of Marburg, that small charming town in Hesse from which Kant’s works and influence spread abroad like the magic of an irresistible melody, then we are forced to appreciate those lovers of music and art that brought him the friendship of the violinist Joseph Joachim, the admiration of painters such as Max Liebermann, Lenid Pasternak, the father of Boris, and others whose names are now distant from us. European culture is alive in philosophy, not merely as illustrative references, but as the achievements of the mind devoted to reason and the power of imagination. This culture was not simply created by a mind that ignored the senses. The body was appreciated as the source of subtle and artistic movement, its power to build and form depended upon the grace and delicacy of the hands, sound awakened in us the inexhaustible dimension and possibilities of communication and relationship, sight the sensitivity to colors, to a variety of architectural forms that evoke a sense of beauty and sublimity by their effect and receptivity, taste and touch cultivate form and allow us to receive and be receptive with a heightened sense of delicacy and appreciation allowing form to be given to us in indescribable and unexpected ways. Through the senses we develop that intimacy with others that the mind can only define and analyze but never feel. Cohen has come forth from his detractors and even from his admirers as the distant and unapproachable “professor” of a forgotten philosophical “system.” He did his service in Kant’s army of interpreters adding volumes of interpretation and appreciation to the old master. Here he paid his dues to his profession and university. Cohen was a cultured man, a deeply sensitive individual, a fine product of artistic sensitivity and generosity. When he turned to the arts, when he moved to music, to religion, to social activity, the humaneness of his personality overcame the professor in him; it showed that tenderness for human relationship, that deep respect for love that Cohen found in his beloved Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose operas he believed reflected a sensitivity to moral and aesthetic values.
Keywords Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0046-8541
DOI 10.5840/idstudies19891915
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