The Ugliness of Moses Mendelssohn: Aesthetics, Religion & Morality in the Eighteenth Century, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Ugliness of Moses Mendelssohn

Aesthetics, Religion & Morality in the Eighteenth Century, 1st Edition

By Leah Hochman


192 pages

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The Ugliness of Moses Mendelssohn examines the idea of ugliness through four angles: philosophical aesthetics, early anthropology, physiognomy and portraiture in the eighteenth-century.

Highlighting a theory that describes the benefit of encountering ugly objects in art and nature, eighteenth-century German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn recasts ugliness as a positive force for moral education and social progress. According to his theory, ugly objects cause us to think more and thus exercise—and expand—our mental abilities. Known as ugly himself, he was nevertheless portrayed in portraits and in physiognomy as an image of wisdom, gentility, and tolerance. That seeming contradiction—an ugly object (Mendelssohn) made beautiful—illustrates his theory’s possibility: ugliness itself is a positive, even redeeming characteristic of great opportunity.

Presenting a novel approach to eighteenth century aesthetics, this book will be of interest to students and scholars in the fields of Jewish Studies, Philosophy and History.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Eyes of the Beholders 1 Moral Aesthetics: What is the Ugly? 2 Comeliness, Glamour, Ugliness: Physical Distinctions and Moral Implications 3 Reading Faces, Reading Souls: Johann Caspar Lavater’s New Physiognomy 4 The Ugly Made Beautiful: The Meaning and Appearance of Mendelssohn Conclusion

About the Author

Leah Hochman is Associate Professor of Jewish Thought at HUC-JIR, USA, and directs the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies. She holds a Ph.D. from Boston University and teaches classes in Jewish philosophy, Jewish literature, American Judaism, and religion and food.

About the Series

Routledge Jewish Studies Series

Studies, which are interpreted to cover the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology, culture, politics, philosophy, theology, religion, as they relate to Jewish affairs. The remit includes texts which have as their primary focus issues, ideas, personalities and events of relevance to Jews, Jewish life and the concepts which have characterised Jewish culture both in the past and today. The series is interested in receiving appropriate scripts or proposals.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Middle Eastern
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies