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The Pantheismusstreit—Milestone Or Stumbling Block In The German Reception Of Spinoza?

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Chapter Summary

The so-called Pantheismusstreit is usually seen as the beginning of significant attention to Spinoza in Germany. This controversy was stirred up by two publications: the Jewish Enlightenment-philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and the counter-Enlightenment thinker Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. Jacobi's publication, called 'Spinozabüchlein', included a collection of letters he had exchanged with Mendelssohn and Hemsterhuis as well as his own presentation of Spinoza's philosophy. The most important part of his book was one letter he had written to Mendelssohn describing the talks he had with Lessing about Spinoza. Surprisingly enough, the revelation of Lessing's Spinozism did not lead to a new wave of attacks against Spinoza but, indeed, to the opposite. Suddenly Spinoza became a popular and admired philosopher. It became a fashion to study Spinoza's Ethics. But what actually happened in the Pantheismusstreit? How could Spinoza so suddenly become the philosophus christianissimus? This chapter tries to find answers to the above questions.

Keywords: Spinozabüchlein; Ethics; Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi; Germany; Karl Lessing; Moses Mendelssohn; pantheismusstreit; philosophus christianissimus; philosophy; Spinoza



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