Moses Mendelssohn

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Mendelssohn, Moses


Born Sept. 6, 1729, in Dessau; died Jan. 4, 1786, in Berlin. German idealist philosopher and representative of the moderate wing of the German Enlightenment.

Mendelssohn came to Berlin in 1742, subsequently becoming a tutor to the children of a manufacturer and later his book-keeper. Together with G. E. Lessing, Mendelssohn wrote Pope the Metaphysician, published anonymously in 1755, defending Leibniz’ theodicy against the criticism of the English poet A. Pope. Mendelssohn was one of the most important popularizers of the teachings of Leibniz and C. Wolff and attacked Voltaire’s critique of Leibniz’ theodicy. In his treatises on the existence of god (Morgenstunden, 1785) and the immortality of the soul he added moral and theological proof to the arguments of Plato and Leibniz (Phaedo, or on the Immortality of the Soul, 1767; Russian translation, 1811). He called for toleration and religious freedom and advocated the separation of church and state. The controversy between Mendelssohn and F. Jacobi over Lessing’s Spinozism led to a dispute about Spinoza’s pantheism, in which many German philosophers of the time became involved.


Gesammelte Schriften: Jubilaumsausgabe, vols. 1-16. Berlin, 1929.
Schriften zur Philosophic, Asthetik und Apologetik, vols. 1-2. Hildesheim, 1968.
In Russian translation:
Rassuzhdenie o dukhovnom svoistve dushi chelovecheskoL Moscow, 1806.


Gulyga, A. V. Iz istorii nemetskogo materializma. Moscow, 1962.
Kayserling, M. M. Mendelssohn: Sein Leben und Wirken, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1888.
Bamberger, F. Die geistige Gestalt M. Mendelssohns. Frankfurt-am-Main, 1929.
Baumgardt, D. Spinosa und Mendelssohn. Berlin, 1932.
Nador, G. M. Mendelssohn. Hannover, 1969.


References in periodicals archive ?
Visited by poets, philosophers, musicians, artists, scientists, and scholars, these salons hosted by Jewish women, who championed religious tolerance, allowed what Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelsohn called "the pursuit of Enlightenment." Yet Nancy Sinkoff's introduction points to Ruth HaCohen's argument that the libel against the Jews implicit in Western Christian music never allowed this Utopian ideal of equality, sympathy, mutuality, and a culture of redemption (Ruth HaCohen, The Music Libel Against the Jews [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011]).
She also defends Moses Mendelsohn's understanding of God's "I am" as eternal being against Buber and Rosenzweig's dynamic "I am with you" on the grounds that Mendelsohn's interpretation better fits with the traditional Jewish understanding of God as sovereign creator.
(1.) For one instance of this position see Moses Mendelsohn's Jerusalem: Or on Religious Power and Judaism, trans.