Morris Raphael Cohen

Morris Raphael
Cohen
1880
1947

Russian-born American Philosopher, Lawyer and Legal Scholar

Author Quotes

Unlike the physicist, the psychologist ... investigates processes that belong to the same order—perception, learning, thinking—as those by which he conducts his investigation.

Let philosophy resolutely aim to be as scientific as possible, but let her not forget her strong kinship with literature.

Conservatism clings to what has been established, fearing that, once we begin to question the beliefs that we have inherited, all the values of life will be destroyed.

Liberalism is an attitude rather than a set of dogmas – an attitude that insists upon questioning all plausible and self-evident propositions, seeking not to reject them but to find out what evidence there is to support them rather than their possible alternatives. This open eye for possible alternatives which need to be scrutinized before we can determine which is the best grounded is profoundly disconcerting to all conservatives.... Conservatism clings to what has been established, fearing that, once we begin to question the beliefs we have inherited, all the values of life will be destroyed. Liberalism, on the other hand, regards life as an adventure in which we must take risks in new situations, in which there is no guarantee that the new will always be the good or the true, in which progress is a precarious achievement rather than inevitability.

The picture which the philosopher draws of the world is surely not one in which every stroke is necessitated by pure logic.

Literature and philosophy both allow past idols to be resurrected with a frequency which would be truly distressing to a sober scientist.

It is interesting to note how many fundamental terms which the social sciences are trying to adopt from physics have as a matter of historical fact originated in the social field. Take, for instance, the notion of cause. The Greek aitia or the Latin causa was originally a purely legal term. It was taken over into physics, developed there, and in the 18th century brought back as a foreign-born kind for the adoration of the social sciences. The same is true of the concept of law of nature. Originally a strict anthropomorphic conception, it was gradually depersonalized or dehumanized in the natural sciences and then taken over by the social sciences in an effort to eliminate final causes or purposes from the study of human affairs. It is therefore not anomalous to find similar transformations in the history of such fundamental concepts of statistics as average and probability. The concept of average was developed in the Rhodian laws as to the distribution of losses in maritime risks. After astronomers began to use it in correcting their observations, it spread to other physical sciences; and the prestige which it thus acquired has given it vogue in the social field. The term probability, as its etymology indicates, originates in practical and legal considerations of probing and proving.

By no amount of reasoning can we altogether eliminate all contingency from our world. Moreover, pure speculation alone will not enable us to get a determinate picture of the existing world. We must eliminate some of the conflicting possibilities, and this can be brought about only by experiment and observation.

To be sure, the vast majority of people who are untrained can accept the results of science only on authority.

The method of exposition which philosophers have adopted leads many to suppose that they are simply inquiries, that they have no interest in the conclusions at which they arrive, and that their primary concern is to follow their premises to their logical conclusions.

Liberalism regards life as an adventure in which we must take risks in new situation, in which there is no guarantee that the new will always be the good or the true, in which progress is a precarious achievement rather than inevitability.

Law is a formless mass of isolated decisions.

It has generally been assumed that of two opposing systems of philosophy, e.g., realism and idealism, one only can be true and one must be false; and so philosophers have been hopelessly divided on the question, which is the true one.

In thus pointing out certain respects in which philosophy resembles literature more than science, I do not mean, of course, to imply that it would be well for philosophy if it ceased to aim at scientific rigor.

If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good.

Cruel persecutions and intolerance are not accidents, but grow out of the very essence of religion, namely, its absolute claims.

Conservatism clings to what has been established, fearing that, once we begin to question the beliefs that we have inherited, all the values of life will be destroyed.

A creative element is surely present in all great systems, and it does not seem possible that all sympathy or fundamental attitudes of will can be entirely eliminated from any human philosophy.

Wisdom is not to be obtained from textbooks, but must be coined out of human experience in the flame of life.

We will live not as pall-bearers of a dead past, but as the creators of a more glorious future.

It is the appreciation of beauty and truth, the striving for knowledge, which makes life worth living.

Men cling to sanctified phrases not only because of the insights they contain but even more because, through ritual and repetition, they have become redolent with the wine of human experience.

The business of the philosopher is well done if he succeeds in raising genuine doubts.

We cannot achieve self-respect if we are afraid of self-knowledge.

Self-control is not worth a farthing unless we build up a great self worth controlling.

Author Picture
First Name
Morris Raphael
Last Name
Cohen
Birth Date
1880
Death Date
1947
Bio

Russian-born American Philosopher, Lawyer and Legal Scholar