I’ve never seen this image of Moses Mendelssohn. I like the b/w line and dot patterns a lot, and the soft eyes. As for the photographs: last spring, I wanted to take these exact pictures. They made me think of Mendelssohn, about whom I was writing at the time. I took these particular pictures a couple of weeks ago, and they came out just as how I had wanted them to do a year ago. They call to mind an overlooked mise en scène of modern Jewish thought and philosophy. I’m thinking here of the image I recall of “the preacher of morals” standing in a field of blooming flowers in the first chapter of Kohelet Musar, a 1759 (?) text. The opening chapter in the history of modern Jewish philosophy and thought has its first origin in a field of color, ideas open to the glory of physical sensation.
I wonder if Jewish thought and philosophy went off the rails in the 19th century under a generalized influence of Kant German idealism. If you look at the thought-world of modern Jewish religious thought, the attention is on history, but the focus of that attention is on the God-idea. This is true of Graetz no than of Geiger. In the 20th century, the idealist tradition carries over surreptitiously into the supernaturalism of Franz Rosenzweig, which then gets turned into a full-fledged anti-naturalism of Schwarzschild and the early Arthur Cohen (The Natural and the Supernatural Jew). I’m tempted to add (the structuralism of?) Strauss and Levinas into the mix.
Maybe this is not quite right, but I’d like to think that Mendelssohn and his aesthetic writings need to play a part in the new-not-so-new naturalism and the new immanence in postwar Jewish philosophy and thought. Buber too, maybe, but I’m really I’m thinking here about Mordecai Kaplan, Richard Rubenstein (who among other things penned a cutting critique of Arthur Cohen in the first edition of After Auschwitz ), feminism, the new immanence in contemporary Jewish philosophy (Elliot Wolfson, Martin Kavka, Nancy Levene) and theology (Art Green, Brad Artson, Eitan Fishbane, Jay Michaelson), and the Jewish philosophy and science studies group (Norbert Samuelson, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson).
Philosophically, I’m not prepared to give up yet on the supernatural ghost. But I’m more than willing to give it a rest.