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Diotima's ChildrenGerman Aesthetic Rationalism from Leibniz to Lessing$
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Frederick C. Beiser

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199573011

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199573011.001.0001

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Mendelssohn's Defense of Reason

Mendelssohn's Defense of Reason

(p.196) 7 Mendelssohn's Defense of Reason
Diotima's Children

Frederick C. Beiser (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is considered as one of the most illustrious representatives of the rationalist tradition in aesthetics. No one in that tradition had a profounder grasp of its metaphysics and epistemology, and no one had greater aesthetic sensitivity. In metaphysics Mendelssohn is on par with Wolff and Baumgarten; but he far surpasses them in aesthetic sensitivity. In aesthetic sensitivity he is the equal of Lessing and Winckelmann; but he far exceeds their powers as metaphysicians. In short, Mendelssohn's combination of philosophical depth and aesthetic sensitivity was unique and peerless. In the history of aesthetic rationalism Mendelssohn plays a crucial role. His task was to defend aesthetic rationalism against the new irrationalist currents of the age. Coming of age in the 1750s and 1760s, Mendelssohn had to respond to some of the growing challenges to the Enlightenment and authority of reason.

Keywords:   Moses Mendelssohn, aesthetic rationalism, Enlightenment

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