Moses Mendelssohn and Categories

The Biblical Review

*These thoughts are not intended to be fully developed. For the most part, they are musings about my current coursework at the University of Chicago.

In my Introduction to the Study of Religion course, one of our primary focuses is Moses Mendelssohn, an 18th century ‘German’-Jewish philosopher. Particularly intriguing to me is how Mendelssohn attempts to define categories. His attempt to define “enlightenment,” “culture,” and “education” demonstrate well how his notions of these concepts cast judgement upon non-‘German’-Jewish people groups and regions.

13 Culture

One of Mendelssohn’s arguments is that linguistic usage is indicative of a people groups “education, of its culture as well as its enlightenment, in terms of both its extent and strength.” His evidence is derived from perceived observations about said people groups: “the Nurembergers have more culture, the Berliners more enlightenment, the French more culture, the English more enlightenment, the Chinese much culture and little enlightenment. The…

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