Rav Soloveitchik's Dissertation at the University of Berlin 1930: "Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen"

Several years ago in honor of the yahrzeit of the Rav's passing (on Hol HaMoed Pesach, the 18th of Nisan, in 1993) and of the anniversary of his birthday (Feb. 27, 1903) I offered to my readers a link to a scan of my teacher Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's doctoral dissertation in the field of philosophy written at the University of Berlin, 1930.

The thesis is in German and the scan is a PDF file: "Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen" by Josef Solowiejczyk. ("Pure Thought as the Constitution of Being in Hermann Cohen's Philosophy") 

Josef Solowiejczyk, Das reine Denken und die Seinskonstituierung bei Hermann Cohen [The Epistemology of Pure Thought and the Construction of Being according to Herman Cohen], (Berlin: Reuther and Reichard, 1932).

Subsequently I have uploaded the text to the Internet Archive (12/28/2021).

Manfred Lehmann wrote briefly about this dissertation and the Rav's biography:
...It is reported that the Rav would have liked to write his dissertation on Maimonides and Plato, but since no experts in these subjects were available in Berlin, he chose a field of pure philosophy, tempered with mathematics.
His chosen field was the philosophy of Hermann Cohen, the famous Jewish philosopher of the so-called neo-Kantian school of the University of Marburg. For this study his main teacher was Professor Heinrich Maier, the greatest expert in Cohen's philosophy at the time. Maier's curriculum vitae shows a great variety of philosophical subjects, which he had mastered before specializing in Cohen's philosophy. As a result, the Rav's dissertation of 110 pages deals largely with Professor Heinrich Maier's own interpretations of Cohen, rather than with Cohen himself. Its title is as esoteric as its contents: "Das reine Denken and die Seinskonstituierung bei Hermann Cohen." ("Pure Thought as the Constitution of Being in Hermann Cohen's Philosophy" -- my free translation).

In going through this dissertation it strikes me that not a single Jewish word or source appears in it...
The last page has the Rav's auto-biographical blurb for the thesis, as translated by Lehmann:
I, Josef Solowiejczyk, was born February 27, 1903, in Pruzna, Poland. In 1922 I graduated from liberal arts `Gymnasium' in Dubno. Thereafter I entered in 1924 the Free Polish University in Warsaw where I spent three terms, studying political science.

In 1926 I came to Berlin and entered the Friedrich Wilhelm University. I passed the examination for supplementary subjects at the German Institute for Studies by Foreigners and was then given full matriculation at the University. I took up studies in philosophy, economics and Hebrew subjects.

I wish to express my sincere and hearty thanks to my highly honored teachers, 'Geheimrat,' Professor Dr. Heinrich Maier and Professor Dr. Max Dessoir. Furthermore, my thanks go to Professor Dr. Eugen Mittwoch and Professor Dr. Ludwig Bernhard.



J. Gilmour said...

Great. I have a more readable copy which looks like it was scanned directly from the University of Berlin document.

Anonymous said...

Does "orientalischen" really mean "Hebrew"?

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Thanks JG I posted it.

Anonymous said...

Someone should translate the whole thing and post it

Anonymous said...

Has this dissertation ever been translated to English? If so, could someone post a link?

Anonymous said...

Here is a list of non-Jewish books that he cites in post-dissertation work

s. moises said...

Better translated as 'Near Eastern Studies.'

Anonymous said...

"Near Eastern Studies" is closer than "Hebrew." The term is worthy of a cultural-historical study in itself. "Oriental studies" is what we'd call "Semitic philology", i.e. the study of Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian and all the other languages in the neighborhood, along with their literatures. To this day, there are universities in Germany that still employ the term "Orientalistik" for this field of study, and universities that, until recently, included "Jewish studies" under this rubric, a vestige of the view that the Jews belong more to the Orient than to the Occident.