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Socrates and the JewsHellenism and Hebraism from Moses Mendelssohn to Sigmund Freud$
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Miriam Leonard

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226472478

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226472492.001.0001

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Socrates and the Reason of Judaism:

Socrates and the Reason of Judaism:

Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant

(p.17) 1 Socrates and the Reason of Judaism:
Socrates and the Jews
University of Chicago Press

In September 1784 the Berlinische Monatschrift published two essays, one by Moses Mendelssohn and another by Immanuel Kant, which answer the question “What is Enlightenment?” Mendelssohn highlights the intriguing role assumed by Judaism in the Enlightenment's wider interrogation of religion. His attempts to improve the social status of Jews was mirrored by a reformist attitude within the Jewish community that he also helped to cultivate. To his contemporaries, Mendelssohn was not only just a Jewish Luther or a wise Nathan, he was a “German Socrates.” This chapter considers the term “German Socrates” to investigate the fusion of Enlightenment thought and Judaism in a period of explosive German philhellenism. Mendelssohn argued that ancient Jerusalem could act as a rival to the idealized societies of Athens and Rome, insisting that its inclusions must have certain effects both for Judaism and for Enlightenment. This chapter examines the ethical and political consequences of Mendelssohn's and Kant's debate over the place of reason in Judaism.

Keywords:   Socrates, reason, Judaism, Moses Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment, philhellenism, Jews, Jerusalem, Athens

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