- Gesammelte Schriften. Jubilaeumsausgabe. Kleinere Schriften. Vol 6, 1, and: Gesammelte Schriften. Jubilaeumsausgabe. Kleinere Schriften. Vol 6, 2 (review)
- Journal of the History of Philosophy
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 22, Number 1, January 1984
- pp. 124-126
- View Citation
- Additional Information
~24 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 22:1 JAN 198 4 Moses Mendelssohn. Gesammelte Schriften. Jubilaeumsausgabe. Kleinere Schriften. Vol. 6,1. Edited by Alexander Altmann, with a contribution by Fritz Bamberger; vol. 6,2. Edited by Eva J. Engel, with a contribution by Alexander Altmann. Stuttgart : Friedrich Frommann Verlag (Guenther Holzboog), 1981. Pp. XXXVI + 261; LXXXV + 369; cloth. Moses Mendelssohn had, on the whole, a memorably successful life, and his reputation continued to be high, by and large, throughout the nineteenth century. The twentieth century, on the other hand, has mostly done great damage to him. First, with the general turn away from Enlightenment rationalism around the turn of the century and with disasters accelerating as the century went on, he came to be increasingly regarded not only as a mere popular thinker rather than as a technical philosopher -which corresponds fairly enough with the historical facts--but also as an ideologue whose simplistic universalism misled people in general and Jews in particular into fatuous abstractions and dangerous optimism. The bicentenary of his birth in 1929 was used as the occasion to begin a scholarly and commemorative edition of all of his writings (including much previously unpublished, uncollected, and private material). This coincided with the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, and as a result the "Jubilee Edition," edited with great expertise by a group of eminent intellectuals and beautifully published, got as far as volumes 1, 2, 3/1, 7, i l, and 16, when the government took possession of published volume 14 in a938 and, but for a few salvaged copies, destroyed it. This is where matters rested until 1971 when interest had grown sufficiently for the project to be resumed. Fortunately, a few of the original editors were still living, interested, and active. There were now led by Alexander Altmann. It had become possible to include material unknown earlier in the volumes left unpublished in the thirties, though other material was certainly destroyed in the meantime as well. Ahmann was also motivated to write, among other things, what immediately became a standard, scholarly work: Moses Mendelssohn--A Biographical Study (University of Alabama Press, 1973). Other cognate studies have been produced in the process. Volumes 3/2, 4, 12/1, 12/2, and 13 of the Jubilaeumsausgabe have meanwhile been published. Volumes 6/1 and 6/2, here under discussion, continue the set. These volumes of Mendelssohn's Schriften are again expertly edited and beautifully published, though unfortunately in a format different from the original volumes . Their pre-history is manifest in the three different sets of editors named on the title pages--the original group, those who began the work, and those who are now continuing it. As a result it is often far from clear whose words one is reading. Also, in working on any given text of Mendelssohn's one has to do much switching back and forth between the numerous sections of each volume--a preface, successive introductions to every text (followed in vol. 6,2 by their own footnotes), then the texts themselves, followed successively by the manuscript and text variants, then the footnotes to the successive texts, and in volume 6, x even an appendix of texts, once more followed by footnotes. This is the price we are paying to repair part of the damage exacted by the history of our time. BOOK REVIE~S 125 These two volumes comprise, as the sub-title indicates, a rather large number and variety of shorter writings by Mendelssohn. Volume 6,1 includes early essays and notes, some metaphysics, ethics, and psychology, short piices d'occasion, and a set of essays in social and political thought 0o3-153 ). In vol. 6,2 the editors have assembled writings under the headings "Linguistic Studies," "Translations," and "Poems and Poetic Translations." Faced by such a collection of lesser writings, can one say anything about Mendelssohn and his work in general? Certainly nothing fundamental that one could not reasonably have known all along. He was obviously a very nice man. He was a full-fledged citizen of the republic of civilized letters in the second half of the eighteenth century--the first confessing Jew of such...