Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Moses Mendelssohn

This individual is not a direct affiliate of the Berkley Center.

Noted philosopher and rationalist, Moses Mendelssohn is a highly regarded Jewish reformer. At a young age, Mendelssohn was gifted at learning languages and excelled in mathematics, logic, and philosophy. In the mid-1750s, he developed a friendship with Immanuel Kant and Gotthold Lessing; through their encouragement, Mendelssohn started to publish philosophical essays. Mendelssohn believed God was a perfect being full of righteousness, wisdom, and mercy. He also accepted miracles and divine revelation but cautioned that faith should not depend on them. He argued that faith is a rational encounter and one can discover God’s divinity and reality through reason. Although Mendelssohn was an observant Jew, he also respected other religions and believed in their necessity for a free and civil society. He urged Jews to form strong connections with Gentile governments and argued for tolerance between religious groups and nations.
 
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