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Moses Mendelssohn, Reply to Johann Caspar Lavater (1769)

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I have now indicated the reasons why I so sincerely wish never to argue about matters of religion; but I have also made known that I believe myself well able to counter Bonnet’s work. If pressured, I must set aside my concerns and decide to make public my thoughts and counter-observations about Mr. Bonnet’s work and the matter he defends. However, I hope you will free me from this unpleasant step and rather let me return to my natural peaceful situation. Were you to put yourself in my place and see the circumstances from my point of view rather than your own, you would grant the justice of my inclination. I would not willingly be tempted to overstep the limits that I have imposed upon myself with all due deliberation.

I am, with the utmost respect,

Your sincere admirer
Moses Mendelssohn

December 12, 1769

Source of original German text: Moses Mendelsohn, Gesammelte Schriften, Jubiläumsausgabe [Collected Writings. Anniversary Edition], edited by I. Elbogen, J. Guttmann und E. Mittwoch. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1930, pp. 7-17.

Translation: Richard Levy

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