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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 Minskmarker, Belarusmarker (then Russian empire), but moved with his family to New York, at the age of 12. He was educated at the City College of New Yorkmarker and Harvard Universitymarker, where he studied under Josiah Royce, William James, and Hugo Münsterberg. He obtained a PhD from Harvardmarker in 1906.

He was Professor of Philosophy at CCNY from 1912-38. He also taught Law at City College and the University of Chicagomarker 1938-41, gave courses at the New School for Social Research, and lectured in Philosophy and Law at Columbia, Cornellmarker, Harvard, Stanfordmarker, Yalemarker, 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.

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)


External links




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