Morris Raphael Cohen

Morris Raphael Cohen
Morris Raphael Cohen
Full name Morris Raphael Cohen
Born July 25, 1880(1880-07-25)
Died January 28, 1947(1947-01-28) (aged 66)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Main interests Legal philosophy

Morris Raphael Cohen (July 25, 1880 – January 28, 1947) was an American philosopher, lawyer and legal scholar who united pragmatism with logical positivism and linguistic analysis. He was father to Felix S. Cohen.

Cohen was born in Minsk, Russia, but moved with his family to New York, at the age of 12. He was educated at the City College of New York and Harvard University, where he studied under Josiah Royce, William James, and Hugo Münsterberg. He obtained a PhD from Harvard in 1906.

He was Professor of Philosophy at CCNY from 1912-38. He also taught Law at City College and the University of Chicago 1938-41, gave courses at the New School for Social Research, and lectured in Philosophy and Law at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and other universities.

Cohen was legendary as a professor for his wit, encyclopedic knowledge and ability to demolish philosophical systems. "He could and did tear things apart in the most devastating and entertaining way; but ... he had a positive message of his own," Robert Hutchins. Cohen helped give CCNY in the 1930s its reputation as the "proletarian Harvard," perhaps more than any other faculty member. The Cohen Library at CCNY is named for him. Cohen was an advocate of liberalism in politics, and was opposed to Laissez-faire economics. [1] Cohen also defended liberal democracy and wrote indictments of both fascism and communism.[2] Cohen's obituary in the New York Times stated that long before his death, Cohen had become "an almost legendary figure in American philosophy, education and the liberal tradition".[2]

From his work, Reason and Nature:

To be sure, the vast majority of people who are untrained can accept the results of science only on authority. But there is obviously an important difference between an establishment that is open and invites every one to come, study its methods, and suggest improvement, and one that regards the questioning of credentials as due to wickedness of heart, such as Cardinal Newman attributed to those who questioned the infallibility of the Bible... Rational science treats its credit notes as always redeemable on demand, while non-rational authoritarianism regards the demand for the redemption of its paper as a disloyal lack of faith.

Main works

  • Reason and Nature (1931, rev. 1953), his major philosophical work.
  • Law and the Social Order (1933)
  • An Introduction to Logic and the Scientific Method, with Ernest Nagel (1934)
  • The Faith of a Liberal (1945)
  • A Preface to Logic (1945)
  • The Meaning of Human History (1947)
Published posthumously
  • A Dreamer's Journey (1949), his autobiography.
  • Reason and Law (1950)
  • American Thought, a Critical Sketch (1954)


  1. ^ Cohen,The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen .H. Holt and Company, 1946 (p. 110).
  2. ^ a b The Jew in the American World: a source book. Edited by Jacob Rader Marcus. Wayne State University Press, 1996, (pp. 317-22). ISBN 0814325483

External links

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  • COHEN, MORRIS RAPHAEL — (1880–1947), U.S. naturalist philosopher. Born in Minsk, Belorussia, Cohen went to New York at the age of 12. He studied at City College, and later with the Scottish philosopher Thomas Davidson. At Harvard University, where Cohen earned his… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Cohen, Morris Raphael — (1880 1947)    American philosopher, of Russian origin. Born in Minsk in Belorussia, he moved to the US in 1892 and studied at the City College of New York, and then at Columbia and Harvard. After teaching in the New York public school system, he …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Cohen — ist ein jüdischer Familienname. Der Familienname hat die höchste Verbreitung vergleichbar mit Müller und Schmidt in der deutschsprachigen Welt oder mit Smith in der englischsprachigen Welt. Herkunft und Bedeutung Cohen ist der biblische Name von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Morris Cohen — may refer to: Morris Cohen (adventurer) (1887–1970), Morris Two Gun Cohen . Adventurer who became a bodyguard for Sun Yat sen Morris Cohen (scientist) (1911–2005), American Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Morris… …   Wikipedia

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  • LAWYERS — Introduction Although Jews were noted advocates at Brighegua near Toledo, Spain, as early as 1436, and though converted Jews were prominent lawyers in South America in the 17th century, Jews were generally prevented from practicing law in most of …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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