Mendelssohn’s Concept of Natural Religion Re-Examined

in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
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The essay explores Moses Mendelssohn’s concept of natural religion by contrasting it with the way it was understood by his contemporaries. An examination of key aspects—the role of pagans, knowledge transfer, the possible redundancy of revealed religion, and Judaism’s attitude toward “unphilosophical” knowledge—suggests that Mendelssohn’s view was not only shaped through direct and indirect reactions to his intellectual surrounding, but also that it employed Christian arguments in order to construct an unapologetic image of Judaism as a universal religion. This view challenged the designation of Christianity as a philosophical religion, and, by extension, the Christian understanding of the Enlightenment Project.

Mendelssohn’s Concept of Natural Religion Re-Examined

in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

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References

2

See Allan ArkushMoses Mendelssohn and the Enlightenment (Albany: State University of New York Press1994) esp. 186–194; idem Moses Mendelssohns Frühschriften zur Metaphysik (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1969) 304–341.

7

See Moses MendelssohnPhädon oder über die Unstreblichkeit der Seele (Hamburg: Felix Meiner1979) esp. the second discussion 78–101.

14

MendelssohnJerusalem94.

21

Ibid.191–192.

22

Cf. ibid.201.

23

Ibid.188.

24

Cf. ibid.191.

25

See for instance ArkushMendelssohn196–199.

26

MendelssohnJerusalem209.

29

See for instance Matt Erlin“Reluctant Modernism: Moses Mendelssohn’s Philosophy of History,” Journal of the History of Ideas 63 no. 2 (2002): 83–104.

33

Cf. Haim Mahlev“Kabbalah as Philosophia Perennis? The Image of Judaism in the German Early Enlightenment: Three Studies,” Jewish Quarterly Review 104 (2014): 234–257.

35

Ibid.234.

36

Ibid.221.

40

Ibid.222.

42

LessingEducation227. Cf. [Reimarus] Von dem Zwecke 3: “Daß hergegen die nachmaligen Juden diesen wichtigen Articul der Religion durch den Umgang mit vernünftigen Heiden und deren Weltweisen gelehrnet und angenommen.”

46

MendelssohnJerusalem96.

47

See MendelssohnPhaedon114.

48

MendelssohnJerusalem96.

50

Ibid.89.

52

Cf. ibid.106.

53

Cf. Erlin“Mendelssohn’s History” 91; Sorkin Mendelssohn and Religious Enlightenment 131.

54

MendelssohnJerusalem97.

56

MendelssohnJerusalem89–90.

58

Ibid.98.

59

Ibid.54115.

60

See SorkinReligious Enlightenment202.

62

See ArkushMendelssohn223; Freudenthal No Religion chap. 2 esp. 65–68.

63

See Gunther Gawlik ed.Jean Bodins “Colloquium heptaplomeres” (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz1996) esp. Günter Gawlick “Der Deismus im ‘Colloquium Heptaplomeres’ ” 13–26.

65

Ibid.186.

66

Cf. ibid.190191.

67

Ibid.198.

68

Ibid.226.

69

Cf. ibid.186–187.

70

Ibid.188.

71

Ibid.462.

72

Ibid.463.

74

Cf. Mahlev“Kabbalah as Philosophia Perennis” 236–241.

76

Cf. ArkushMendelssohn209–212.

78

Cf. FreudenthalNo Religion79–80.

79

ArkushMendelssohn187 197.

80

Cf. the discussion in SorkinReligious Enlightenment44–53; Freudenthal No Religion.

82

MendelsohnJerusalem90.

84

MendelssohnJerusalem88.

85

See ArkushMendelssohn170–173. For a different approach to Mendelssohn’s rendering of revelation superfluous see ibid. 188–189.

86

Cf. Miriam Leonard“Greeks, Jews, and the Enlightenment: Moses Mendelssohn’s Socrates,” Cultural Critique 74 (2010): 183–199esp. 194.

87

See Frohman“Neo-Stoicism” 266–268.

88

See Wouter J. HanegraaffEsotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2012).

93

Cf. Jonathan I. IsraelEnlightenment Contested (Oxford: Oxford University Press2006) 175–187.

96

Cf. MendelssohnJerusalem68; idem Morning Hours lecture 13 75–82.

98

Cf. MendelssohnMorning Hours75.

100

Cf. SchwartzFirst Modern Jew51.

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