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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Immanuel Kant’s Defense of Moses Mendelssohn

Moses Mendelssohn; Immanuel Kant 
Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant had high regard for each other’s works.

When Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason was published, Mendelssohn complimented Kant by calling him “the all-destroying Kant.” Mendelssohn believed that Kant’s Critique was destructive to both the empiricist and rationalist traditions which were hindering philosophy.

According to most accounts, Kant was quite satisfied by being referred to as “the all-destroying Kant" by Mendelssohn. By making several references to Kant’s works, Mendelssohn contributed a lot towards making Kant famous, if not infamous.

Mendelssohn died in January 1786. In April 1786, Kant was present at a dinner party where Mendelssohn’s philosophical talents were being impugned. Kant immediately rose to Mendelssohn’s defense. He passionately spoke of Mendelssohn’s original genius which enabled him to see every hypothesis in the best possible light.

As the argument between Kant and Mendelssohn’s detractors progressed, things started getting out of hand at the dinner party. The verbal exchange became so heated that Kant behaved very rudely and almost uncivilly before leaving with a feeling of ill-will.

(Written on the basis of an account given in Manfred Kuhen’s Kant: A Biography)

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