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Mendelssohn’s Truths and Jewish Emancipation

Mendelssohn brings to the three truths, which are universal, contingent, and historical. Universal truths “exist in this and no other way”, and they are associated with “pure mathematics” (Greenberg 46). The eternal truths refer to religious doctrines. Importantly, Mendelssohn stresses that all people share some values that make them humans. The contingent truths are associated with a particular nation (Greenberg 52). For instance, laws and “rules of life” refer to contingent truths. They are specific for each nation. They are particular to Jerusalem as well. They are based on eternal truths, but contingent truths are often associated with interpretation. The historical truths are linked to observation. These are historical records that are often trusted due to the authority of the forefathers. These truths are not nation-specific as people of one nation can rely on the experience of other nations.

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It is possible to trace the importance and manifestation of these truths for every nation as regards Jewish emancipation. The universal truths were the background for integration into German society. Jewish and German people shared many universal values. This contributed to the effective integration as people could speak the same language, metaphorically speaking. Both groups understood that they shared a lot in common and could easily co-exist as they were largely the same.

As for the historical truths, these could also be the background for successful integration into German society. Philosophers, as well as scholars, developed various paradigms that explained the peculiarities of German society. Jewish people had to trust those resources that helped them understand the new environment better and develop the most appropriate behavioral patterns.

Unlike the two types of truths mentioned above, contingent truths could hurt the integration. They can be regarded as an obstacle to the successful and rapid integration. As has been mentioned above, these truths are related to a nation’s heritage. Jewish people were afraid to lose their heritage during the integration into German society (Greenberg 20). Laws and traditions could be very different in German and Jewish people. Sometimes they could be even conflicting, and Jewish people had to adjust their ways to fit into the new society. At the same time, contingent truths could also be beneficial for the development of a new society when German and Jewish people started their co-existence. Traditions and laws could also be seen as the reflection of the nation’s cultural peculiarities. Understanding and acceptance of these traditions were important for both nations that learned to live together. Of course, preservation of traditions was of paramount importance for Jews as any nation needs to acknowledge its roots to be able to develop.

On balance, it is possible to note that Mendelssohn describes three truths that affect nations’ development. The truths are universal, contingent, and historical. The emancipation of Jews can shed light on the effect of these truths. Thus, universal and historical truths play the role of the background for co-existence and further development. The contingent truths have mixed effects as, on the one hand, they can make nations hostile to each other due to the inability to understand the peculiarities. On the other hand, the contingent truths are essential for any nation for its further development. They also can help other nations develop as some traditions and laws can be more suitable for a new society where two or more nations coexist.

Works Cited

Greenberg, Gershon. Modern Jewish Thinkers: From Mendelssohn to Rosenzweig. Brighton: Academic Studies Press, 2011. Print.

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"Mendelssohn's Truths and Jewish Emancipation." StudyCorgi, 21 Dec. 2020,

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StudyCorgi. "Mendelssohn's Truths and Jewish Emancipation." December 21, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Mendelssohn's Truths and Jewish Emancipation." December 21, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Mendelssohn's Truths and Jewish Emancipation'. 21 December.

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