Academic Year 2012-2013
Paul E. Nahme is a Ph.D. candidate in the Centre for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, specializing in philosophy of religion and modern and medieval Jewish Philosophy. He was a recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Graduate Scholarship and is also a fellow at the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at the Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. From 2009-2011 Paul also served as associate editor, as well as being a co-founder of the University of Toronto Journal for Jewish Thought. He is currently an adjunct lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary and is also currently working as a translator for a collection of works by the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen (Brandeis University Press).
His research interests include Jewish thought and philosophy, Kant and 19th century German idealism, medieval Judaeo-Arabic philosophy, legal theory, religious ethics, hermeneutics, and religion and politics.
From Critical to Prophetic Idealism: A reconsideration of the “Jewish” Philosophy of Hermann Cohen
My research reevaluates the work of the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen and argues that the “Jewishness” of Cohen’s philosophy is found not only in his posthumous work, Religion of Reason: Out of the sources of Judaism, but permeates his interpretation of Kant, and his own system of philosophy. In particular I focus on Cohen’s legal and ethical philosophy in his Ethik des reinen Willens by arguing that Cohen turns to the concept of “prophecy” to negotiate the problems of post-Kantian German philosophy, such as the problems of practical philosophy (law, ethics, and religion) and the challenges of pantheism or "Spinozism" (intellectual intuition), which were prominent in 19th century German thought. I argue that Cohen reinterprets the problems of law and ethics in Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy through the lens of his reading of Maimonides and the concept of prophecy, by offering a different temporal dimension to the law: the law requires a future in which it will become aligned with justice and morality. Hence, law is prophetic in deciphering the “kingdom of ends” as the messianic justice announced by the Biblical prophets. For Cohen, law becomes partly positive and partly natural, since the prophetic model of time relates an origin and an end in the ideal realm of the law, which is the same as what he calls “Ethics”.