Moses Mendelssohn


German Jewish Philosopher

Author Quotes

I fear that, in the end, the famous debate among materialists, idealists, and dualists amounts to a merely verbal dispute that is more a matter for the linguist than for the speculative philosopher.

Socrates didn't care to visit the theater, as a rule, except when the plays of Euripides (which some think, he himself had helped to compose), were performed.

There is basically a lot of truth in all Hobbes's assertions. They do lead to absurd consequences, but those are due solely to the extravagance of his formulations (Why the extravagance?

I will not deny that I have perceived in my religion human additions and abuses which, unfortunately, do too much to dim its luster. What friend of truth can boast that his religion is free from all damaging human embellishments? All of us who seek Truth recognize the lethal breath of hypocrisy and superstition and wish we could expunge it without doing harm to the true and the good.

Socrates' fame spread all over Greece, and the most respected and educated men from all around came to him, in order to enjoy his friendly company and instruction.

Therefore, as you see, had I lacked a sincere belief in my own religion, the result of my inquiries would have made itself visible in a public act. But because [those inquiries] strengthened me in my fathers' [religion], I was able to continue quietly on my way without having to account for my convictions to the world.

If in the state of nature I have decided to whom, when, and how much I want to give up of what belongs to me; if I have sufficiently declared this free decision of mine, and my neighbour for whose benefit this declaration was made has received the property; the property stops being ?mine and becomes ?his.

Some part of my goods that I was formerly conscience-bound to give up for the benefit of my fellow-men in general I am now conscience-bound to grant to this individual in particular because of the expectations I have aroused in him. But what has transformed this duty of conscience into an enforceable duty? To explain this, it seems to me, you have to bring in the principles relating to gifts in general and to the rights of deciding conflicts in particular.

We send no missions to the Indies, East or West, or to Greenland to preach our religion to those distant peoples. The latter, in particular, according to descriptions of them, observe the law of nature better ? alas! ? than we do and are therefore, according to our religious teachings, an enviable people.

In a good many textbooks of so-called ecclesiastical law there are solemn inquiries relating to Jews, outrightly defiant heretics and ?úmerely muddledú wrong-believers, the question being. . .

That is, abandon the religion of my fathers and profess the one defended by Mr. Bonnet. For surely, even if I were so base as to counterbalance wisdom with the love of truth and honesty, in this case I would certainly place all three on the same side of the scale.

When Socrates was about 30, and his father was long dead, he was still pursuing the art of sculpture, but from necessity, and without much inclination.

In his current [unconverted] state he need only observe the Noahide laws to achieve eternal bliss, but as soon as he accepts the religion of the Israelites, he would voluntarily submit to all the strict laws of the faith and have to obey them or expect the punishments that the lawgiver proscribed for their violation.

The analysis of concepts is for the understanding nothing more than what the magnifying glass is for sight.

Where can the origin of this [motion and form] be found? Not in the whole, since the whole has no movement. The sum [S„mmtliche] of all bodies, untied into a single substance, cannot change place and has neither organization nor figure?. Whence the form in the parts, if the whole provides no source for this?

In the state of nature, before any contract had been enacted among men, there was common ownership of goods produced by nature; but only of ones produced solely by nature without any input from man's efforts and care; so the common ownership did not extend to the three classes of natural property that I have listed.

The duty towards my neighbor is externally satisfied if I give him his due, irrespective of whether my action be enforced or voluntary. If the state can't achieve its ends by means of interior motives . . . it at least operates by external ones and helps my neighbor to get what is his.

Who is to tell us that we ourselves and the world surrounding us have something more to them than the thoughts of God and modifications of his original power?

A union of faiths, if it were ever to come about, could have only the most disastrous consequences for reason and freedom of conscience? If the goal of this universal delusion were to be realized, I am afraid man?s barely liberated mind would once again be confined behind bars?Brothers, if you care for true godliness, let us not pretend that conformity exists where diversity is obviously the plan and goal of Providence. Not one among us thinks and feels exactly like his fellowman. Why, then, should we deceive each other with lies? It is sad enough that we are doing this in our daily relations, in conversations that are of no particular importance. But why also in matters which concern our temporal and eternal welfare, our very destiny? Why should we use masks to make ourselves unrecognizable to each other in the most important concerns of life, when God has given each of us his own distinctive face for some good reason?

It's true that even in the state of nature parents are externally obliged to do certain things for their children; and you might see this as a positive duty that can be enforced under the eternal laws of wisdom and goodness, without any contract coming into it.

The duty towards myself may come into conflict with the duty towards my neighbor; likewise, the duty towards myself may clash with the duty towards God.

You have deemed it fitting to dedicate your translation of Mr. Bonnet's Inquiry into the Evidence for Christianity to me, and in your dedication you have appealed to me most solemnly and before the eyes of the public: ?to refute this work, insofar as I find its essential arguments in support of Christianity to be incorrect, but insofar as I find them correct, to do what wisdom, love of truth, and honesty call upon me to do ? what Socrates would have done, had he read this work and found it irrefutable.

According to the principles of my religion, I should not attempt to convert anyone not born under our law. Some would like to attribute the origin of this spirit of conversion to the Jewish religion, but it is [actually] diametrically opposed to it. All our rabbis are in agreement in teaching that the written and oral laws that make up our revealed religion are binding only on our nation. Upon us, Moses bestowed the law, the inheritance of the tribes of Jacob.

Locke, who lived during the same period of deep confusion, tried to protect the freedom of conscience in a different way. In his Letter on Toleration he works from the basic definition: A state is a society of men who unite for the purpose of collectively promoting their temporal [see Glossary] welfare. From this it naturally follows that the state shouldn't concern itself at all with the citizens' beliefs regarding their eternal happiness, and should tolerate everyone who conducts himself well as a citizen?i.e. doesn't interfere with the temporal happiness of his fellow-citizens.

The following considerations are presented as my attempt to clarify the concepts of state and religion?especially of their limits and their influence on one another as well as on happiness in civil life.

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German Jewish Philosopher