Tuesday, May 28, 2024

By Daled Amos

A few weeks ago, I came across an article, The Logic Puzzle You Can Only Solve with Your Brightest Friend.

I was not interested in the puzzle, but the image illustrating the article caught my eye.
It was this painting:

There was no explanation of the painting, but I recognized the person to the left, Moses Mendelssohn, the German-Jewish philosopher and theologian who lived during the 17th-century Enlightenment. He won a prize offered by the Berlin Academy for an essay on the application of mathematical proofs to metaphysics, beating out Immanuel Kant, who came in second. 

According to Google Gemini, there are some points of comparison between the Enlightenment then and Wokeism today.
o  Critical examination of power structures: Both movements challenge existing power structures and dominant ideologies. The Enlightenment questioned the absolute authority of the church and monarchy, while wokeism critiques social inequalities and systemic biases.

o  Emphasis on equality: Both movements promote ideas of equality and justice. The Enlightenment stressed universal human rights, while wokeism focuses on social justice issues like racial equality and LGBTQ+ rights.
And, of course, there are differences:
o  Universality vs. Identity: Enlightenment thinkers often believed in universal values that applied to all people. Wokeism often emphasizes identity politics and the experiences of marginalized groups.

o  Tone: The Enlightenment emphasized optimism and progress. Wokeism can sometimes be seen as more critical and focused on dismantling existing systems.
You can get a sense of the Enlightenment by looking at the two other people in the picture.
Here is the complete painting:

It is by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and is a rendition of an imaginary conversation between
Mendelssohn, Gotthold Lessing, and Johann Lavate, who were all contemporaries.

Lessing (standing in the background) was a German philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic. He was a friend of Mendelssohn and was the author of the play, Nathan The Wise, which expressed his views in favor of religious tolerance.

Johann Lavater was a Swiss poet, writer, philosopher, physiognomist, and theologian. As a physiognomist, Lavater wrote that Jewish features were a sign of “neither generosity, nor tenderness, nor elevation of mind.”  

So much for enlightenment.

Lavater was, however, an admirer of Mendelssohn, and described Mendelssohn as “a companionable, brilliant soul, with piercing eyes, the body of an Aesop—a man of keen insight, exquisite taste, and wide erudition...frank and open-hearted.” I

In 1769 Lavater read a book by the Swiss scientist and philosopher Charles Bonnet, Palingenesis. Bonnet intended his book for Christians, to strengthen their belief in the immortality of the soul. But Lavater saw the book as a proof of Christianity addressed to non-Christians. Lavater translated parts of the book from French into German and published it as Investigation of the Proofs for Christianity

He went further and wrote a dedication to Mendelssohn, challenging him to either refute Bonnet’s argument or do “what Socrates would have done if he had read [Bonnet’s work] and found it irrefutable.”

That put Mendelssohn in a bind, comparable to what the Ramban faced in 1263 when he was required to defend Judaism in a public debate with church officials. In that debate, Ramban had to win without at the same time denigrating Christianity. But for Mendelssohn, winning would require refuting the proofs in Bonnet's book and by definition could be seen as an insult to Christianity. And just refusing to respond to the challenge would be just as bad as a loss, calling the sincerity of Mendelssohn's commitment to Judaism into question.

In the letter, he turns the tables on Lavater by contrasting Lavater’s intolerant Christianity with tolerant Judaism. For Mendelssohn, while Christianity is a missionizing religion, according to which the only way to go to heaven is by believing in the divinity of Jesus, Judaism does not seek converts. Instead, it holds that anyone can go to heaven who observes the universal laws of rational morality, called the “Noahide laws.”

At the end of the letter, Mendelssohn notes that although he has avoided responding to Bonnet’s arguments out of concern for the deleterious effects of such a critique—both to himself and to society as a whole—he had written a response to Bonnet’s arguments in the form of a document called “Counter-Reflections to Bonnet’s Palingenesis,” which, if pressed, he would publish.

That was the end of the matter. A few years later, in 1775, when the Swiss-German Jews faced expulsion, Mendelssohn was able to intervene by turning to Lavater, who secured their stay.

Lavater's plan was mild compared with what Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev had in mind a century later. A Russian statesman and jurist, Pobedonostsev was famous for his formula for how to deal with the Jews of Russia -- and conversion was not one of the options:
One-third will die, one third will leave the country, and the last third will be completely assimilated within the Russian people.
Just as anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism and mirrors it, today enemies of Israel have taken up the advice of Pobedonostsev and applied it to Israel --

Some enemies of Israel seek to attack and kill Israelis, seeking a two-state solution to facilitate that.
Others claim that the Jews of Israel should leave and return to Poland.
And then some suggest a one-state solution under which Israel would cease to exist.

In his day, Mendelssohn faced challenges presented in the name of enlightenment.
Those pale in comparison to what Jews face today in the name of wokeism.

Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

Or order from your favorite bookseller, using ISBN 9798985708424. 

Read all about it here!




EoZ Book:"Protocols: Exposing Modern Antisemitism"


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