Voltaire And Mendelssohn Research Paper

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The role and authority of religion have been extremely controversial subjects during the Enlightenment Era in the 17th and 18th century. One of the most disputed questions is the idea of religious toleration in Europe. The philosophes Voltaire and Moses Mendelssohn serve as exemplary models for this dispute and the diverse ideologies regarding this debate. Their background and historical context did not only shape their thinking and ideologies, but also their writing styles. Voltaire was French born and raised as a Christian amongst the aristocrats and acquired elite education. On the other hand, Mendelssohn was born in the Holy Roman Empire and was raised into Jewish traditions and religion; however, he was not part of the elite an did not…show more content…
To begin with, he was born and raised into the elite echelons of society in France. This aristocratic social status granted Voltaire access to excellent education. Although he aspired to become a playwright, his father rejected this idea because he wished that Voltaire would occupy a position in public authority. Voltaire attempted his best to fulfill his father’s wishes; however, he eventually abandoned all of the positions he occupied and became a published writer. Furthermore, his writing career made him fall victim of censorship and state tyranny. He was “imprisoned in the Bastille in 1717, for writing a lampoon against the government,” which “gave him… a new direction in his life.” His experience in the Bastille significantly affected his religious views. Voltaire was raised into Catholicism, yet his experience with tyranny of authorities made him “rebelled against the authority of church and state… he had grown to hate the organized religion.” His experience did not only affect his opinion of religious and state authorities, but also his social associations and circles. Rather than attending the more constructed and elite invitation-only Salons, he became a “denizen of the Parisian cafés.” Examining the historical contexts of Voltaire’s life prior and as far as his publication of the Treatise on Tolerance one is able to identify the influence of his…show more content…
Unlike Voltaire, he was born and raised into the low social ranks of society in Dessau in the Holy Roman Empire, which is a Protestant-concentrated city. His family’s low social status limited him from receiving an elite education, his education was concentrated on Jewish traditions and religion and thus he educated himself in other fields. Although he published most of his work anonymously, he became one of the “most accomplished literary critics… and he also contributed significantly to the life of the Jewish community.” His major interaction with authorities lies within his social status and religious beliefs, as a poor Jew, he did not have the same access to power nor was his criticism of society in the Christian Holy Roman Empire acceptable and welcomed. However, in contrast to Voltaire, he does not believe that religion is a source of violence and conflicts and he maintained his strong and devoted religious beliefs. Examining the historical contexts of Mendelssohn’s life prior and as far as his publication of the Jerusalem: Or on Religion Power and Judaism one is able to identify the influence of his background on his thinking and ideologies as well as his writing style in his

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