Robert S. Cohen (1923―2017) was a world-famous scientist and philosopher and a humanitarian Marxist. In 1985, he visited China for lectures the first time at the invitation of the Journal of Dialectics of Nature, and developed a deep friendship with the circle of science and technology philosophy in China. To commemorate his contribution, Journal of Dialectics of Nature held the Robert S. Cohen Commemoration Symposium at the Yuquan Campus of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) on April 28, 2018. Fan Dainian, Qiu Renzong, Wang Delu, Ren Dingcheng, Liu Xiaoli, Lei Yi, Zhang Zengyi, Cui Weiqi, Sun Yongping, Tian Song, Hu Zhiqiang and Wang Daming attended the meeting. Wu Tong submitted a written speech.
Mr. Fan Dainian introduced Cohen’s academic contribution in many aspects, reviewed his experience of editing and publishing Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Chinese Volume) together with Cohen. He noted that Cohen was a Marxist scholar with global reputation and a humanitarian Marxist, and once acted as the chairman of American Marxism Research Society. He wrote the two items about Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography. He was serious and earnest in the study on Marxism, which was concise and deep-going. For example, when explaining Marx’s assertion that “religion is the opium to people”, Cohen said the historical background under which Marx said the word should be considered; back then, opium was considered to be a painkiller rather than a drug. So, the word doesn’t mean Marx completely negated religion.
Mr. Qiu Renzong said, Cohen was talented and led a colorful life. He was called by other scholars as “a philosopher, a physicist, a talented critic, an extraordinary organizer, an administrative executive, an earnest religion researcher, a traveler, an inexhaustible social activist, an excellent clarinet performer, a philosopher of science, a Marxist, a humanist, a cosmopolite and a global master of science and philosophy”. Mr, Qiu Renzong also mentioned Cohen’s contribution to Marxism, including his concern over the capital market and his analysis of the failure of Soviet Socialism.
In combination with his study on the sociology of science and his experience in offering enterprises consulting services, Wang Delu talked about Cohen’s recognition of the social functions of science and technology from the perspective of Marxism. He particularly mentioned Cohen’s care for the economic functions of science and technology, which will help us understand the phenomena about Silicon Valley and Zhongguancun.
Ren Dingcheng, Wu Tong, Sun Yongping and Cui Weiqi all noted that Marx's view of Science is a major part of Marxist ideology and an important ideological tradition used to understand science and technology as a social phenomenon; they also reviewed Cohen’s unique contribution to the ideological tradition. They considered that, a key part of Cohen’s interpretation of Marx's view of Science is that he regarded science as part of the social history. Sun Yongping talked about the inclusiveness and broadness of Cohen’s ideology, saying Cohen highlighted the connection between Marxism and logical empiricism, noted that both schools combine humanism with naturalism, and emphasized the conceptual analysis and historical analysis of the logic of science. Mr. Cui Weiqi said Cohen was a left-wing scholar with his theories serving as a banner, and Cohen’s theories about the social significance of science shall be valued.
Liu Xiaoli, Lei Yi, Tian Song, Zhang Zengyi and Wang Daming talked about Cohen’s exchanges and friendship with the circle of science and technology philosophy in China. Lei Yi described Cohen’s donation of his books to Tsinghua University Library, and expected to see the use of the books by more scholars and graduates in the philosophy of science and technology. Liu Xiaoli introduced Cohen’s contribution to academic communication, saying Cohen mentioned talent training in China on multiple occasions and was very friendly to Chinese scholars, and his humanitarian feelings and his character as a Marxist were fully reflected in academic exchanges. Tian Song had in-depth exchanges and close ties with Cohen’s family. He told some stories about his exchanges with Cohen, revealing Cohen’s innocence, humor, warmth and lenience as a philosopher. Zhang Zengyi described the scene when he met with Cohen at an academic seminar. Back then, Cohen had to sit in a wheelchair. When he was pushed to the venue, he insisted on getting out of the wheelchair and walking to his seat to show his respect to attendees and academics.
Born in 1923, Robert S. Cohen went to Wesleyan University to study physics in 1939, and entered Yale University in 1943 to study for the master’s degree and doctor’s degree in physics. In 1957, he began to work at Boston University and once acted as the Director of the Department of Physics. Since 1959, he had been teaching at the Department of Philosophy of Boston University. He died at home on the early morning of June 19, 2017 (Boston time).
2018 marked the 40th anniversary of several landmark events, including: China’s reform and opening-up; the holding of the National Science Conference that unveiled the “Springtime of Science”; the founding of the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Journal of Dialectics of Nature. Journal of Dialectics of Nature was personally instructed by Comrade Deng Xiaoping in 1978, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences consequently set up the Periodical Office of the Journal of Dialectics of Nature. The famous philosopher and economist Mr. Yu Guangyuan was its first chief editor, and the famous physicist Qian Sanqiang served as its first president. In October 1978, a trial issue of the journal was published, and four more issues were published in 1979; the journal had been published bimonthly for a long time after its launch, and was changed to a monthly from the first issue of 2018.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Journal of Dialectics of Nature and the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy jointly sponsored an academic symposium themed “Starting from the ‘Springtime of Science’”. The symposium aimed to review and summarize the huge progress and achievements made in science and technology since China introduced reform and opening-up 4 decades ago, to discuss and sum up the successful experience of the innovative development of China’s scientific & technological system reform, and to reflect on and display CAS’s leading and demonstration role in advancing the scientific & technological system reform.
22nd September 10:00-12:00
“Starting from the ‘Springtime of Science’” Academic Symposium
22nd September 16:00-18:00
A symposium in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Journal of Dialectics of Nature
23rd September 10:00-12:00
Editorial Board of the Journal of Dialectics of Nature
II. Time and Venue
22nd September 10:00-12:00
2/F Conference Hall, Auditorium, Yuquan Campus, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
22nd September 16:00-18:00 & 23rd September 10:00-12:00
International Conference Center, Huairou Campus, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
Cost for meals and accommodation will be borne by the organizer, but the travelling expenses will be borne by the participants. Transport from the Yuquan Campus to Huairou Campus for the meeting on the noon of 22nd will be arranged in a unified manner.
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy