“Confronting Spinoza’s ‘Theologico-Political Treatise’: Hermann Cohen vs. Franz Rosenzweig,” Myriam Bienenstock (University Francois Rabelais at Tours, France)

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December 6th, 2011

Thursday, December 7, 5:00 pm Boston University, Boston University School of Law, Barristers Hall, 765 Commonwealth Ave, First Floor

Supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities and cosponsored by the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.

Moderator: Michael Zank (Acting Director, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Boston University)

Abstract: Hermann Cohen’s virulent criticism of Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise always remained for Leo Strauss a puzzling issue. Interestingly enough, however, Strauss never mentioned, in his many studies on the subject, an early article of Cohen, in which Spinoza fulfills a central role: “Heinrich Heine and Judaism” (1867). In that early article, Cohen had displayed a strong enthusiasm for Spinoza, who according to him had remained a Jew throughout his life, even after the “herem.” Most often, the article is disregarded by commentators, in particular, Franz Rosenzweig, who deemed it a “sin”: the “Spinozian sin” of Cohen’s younger years. Professor Bienenstock’s contention is that trying to interpret the late criticism without taking into account the early enthusiasm condemns us not to understand Cohen’s rage and its causes, as well as Cohen’s aims. In this lecture, she will explain what Rosenzweig saw as a “sin,” and why Rosenzweig did not agree with Spinoza, nor with Cohen.

Myriam Bienenstock is professor and chair of philosophy at the University Francois Rabelais at Tours, France. She has published widely on German and Jewish philosophy and on authors ranging from Kant, Herder, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel to Rosenzweig and Levinas. At present, she is working on a book to be titled Hermann Cohen and Franz Rosenzweig: A Debate on German Thought.

This event is free and open to the public.

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