God is Good

Michah Gottlieb

in Faith and Freedom

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195398946
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894499 | DOI:
God is Good

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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

Chapter.  8160 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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