Hermann Cohen and Kant's Concept of Experience

In Christian Damböck (ed.), Philosophie und Wissenschaft bei Hermann Cohen. Springer. pp. 13–40 (2018)
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In this essay I offer a partial rehabilitation of Cohen’s Kant interpretation. In particular, I will focus on the center of Cohen’s interpretation in KTE, reflected in the title itself: his interpretation of Kant’s concept of experience. “Kant hat einen neuen Begriff der Erfahrung entdeckt,”7 Cohen writes at the opening of the first edition of KTE (henceforth, KTE1), and while the exact nature of that new concept of experience is hard to pin down in the 1871 edition, he states it succinctly in the second edition (henceforth KTE2): experience is Newtonian mathematical natural science.8 While this equation of experience with mathematical natural science has few contemporary defenders, I believe it is substantially correct, with one important qualification. Kant uses the term Erfahrung in a number of different senses in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (henceforth, KrV). I will argue that a central, and neglected, sense of that key technical term aligns with Cohen’s reading; what Kant sometimes refers to as ‘universal experience’ (sometimes, simply ‘experience’) is, in broad outlines, correctly interpreted by Cohen as mathematical natural science.

Author's Profile

Nicholas Stang
University of Toronto, St. George


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