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Mendelssohn’s Concept of Natural Religion Re-Examined

In: The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Author: Haim Mahlev1
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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.

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