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Faith and FreedomMoses Mendelssohn's Theological-Political Thought$
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Michah Gottlieb

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195398946

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195398946.001.0001

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God is Good

God is Good

The Harmony between Judaism and Enlightenment Philosophy

(p.13) 1 God is Good
Faith and Freedom

Michah Gottlieb (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Mendelssohn's early thought. While Frederick the Great's enlightened absolutism should have presented Jews with greater opportunities for social advancement and equal rights, this was stymied by Frederick's adherence to medieval stereotypes of Jews as superstitious and unethical. Addressing Jewish contemporaries, Mendelssohn uses Maimonides' authority to legitimate cultural pursuits outside of Judaism. But Mendelssohn is disturbed by Maimonides' ambivalent attitude towards central theistic concepts such as divine providence and the immortality of the soul. While Maimonides is the greatest medieval Jewish philosopher, Spinoza is the greatest modern Jewish philosopher. Addressing his Christian contemporaries, Mendelssohn defends Spinoza as a model of Jewish cultural attainment. While Mendelssohn rejects Spinoza's atheism, he claims that Spinoza made crucial contributions to the enlightened theism of the German philosophers Leibniz and Wolff who advanced religious philosophy beyond its medieval forms by philosophically grounding Judaism's fundamental insight into God's providential goodness.

Keywords:   Frederick the Great, Gottfried Leibniz, Christian Wolff, Spinoza, Maimonides, German Enlightenment

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