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03 May 17

The Enlightenment philosophers Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant were strong defenders of religious liberty; the state had no right to establish a preferred religious belief or practice. Both argued that the rights of the state were derived from the rights of individuals, who had no right to interfere with the beliefs or non-harming practices of others. But in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1793), Kant argued for the superiority of Christian symbols because they were associated with “the religion of reason.” This was intended as a direct rebuttal of Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem (1783), which held that a variety of historical religions was an appropriate outcome of the varied histories of peoples. In this lecture, philosopher Paul Guyer defends of Mendelssohn against Kant on this issue—which remains as important in the current state of the world as it has ever been.

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