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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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Philosophy and Law

Philosophy and Law

Shaping Judaism for the Modern World

(p.31) 2 Philosophy and Law
Faith and Freedom

Michah Gottlieb (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Mendelssohn's political theory and philosophy of Judaism. Mendelssohn's stance on central tenets of Judaism such as Jewish election, the authority of halakha, and the nature of prophecy as well as his approach to moral and political questions such political authority, political concealment, and the ground of ethical obligation can be profitably read as an adaptation and critique of Spinoza and Maimonides. Central to Gottlieb's analysis is Mendelssohn's rejection of Maimonides and Spinoza's intellectual elitism and their endorsement of state religion. In contrast, Mendelssohn defends a more egalitarian view of humanity and justifies religious pluralism, which he sees as a traditional Jewish position. Mendelssohn conceives Jewish election not as innate superiority but as responsibility to promote the perfection of society as a whole. In this way, Mendelssohn presents Judaism as compatible with life in a diverse, enlightened society.

Keywords:   Jewish election, prophecy, Spinoza, Maimonides, religious pluralism, halakha, religion and politics

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