Moses Mendelssohn

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Beginning with Moses Mendelssohn (chapter one) and ending with Hannah Arendt, he lays out "the emergence of a liberal Jewish ethos" (6) as he travels through common stops along the way: Wissenschaft des Judentums, Leopold Zunz, Heinrich Heine, and Heinrich Graetz (chapter two), Abraham Geiger (chapter three), and Hermann Cohen (chapter four).