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The First Modern JewSpinoza and the History of an Image$
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Daniel B. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142913

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142913.001.0001

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Refining Spinoza

Refining Spinoza

Moses Mendelssohn’s Response to the Amsterdam Heretic

(p.35) Chapter 2 Refining Spinoza
The First Modern Jew

Daniel B. Schwartz

Princeton University Press

This chapter probes the pioneering if only partial vindication of Spinoza by the Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), the first Jewish thinker for whom Spinoza served, both positively and negatively, as a point of reference—in his own eyes, and certainly in the eyes of others. In the history of the image of Spinoza, Mendelssohn looms large for several reasons. The first is his pioneering role in softening Spinoza's heretical reputation in German thought and thus aiding his integration into the canon of modern Western philosophy. However, near the end of his life, Mendelssohn defended Judaism by effectively rebutting Spinoza. Indeed, Mendelssohn furnished ammunition for friends and foes of Spinoza alike. His legacy was thus one of both reclamation and resistance.

Keywords:   Moses Mendelssohn, German thought, Western philosophy, Judaism, Spinoza

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