Indeed, the philosopher’s concept of enlightenment deserves a second look as it bore considerable influence on the cultural and social aspects of Western nations. This paper will discuss Mendelssohn’s assertions with regards enlightenment and will explore the deeper implications of his claims.
Mendelssohn contends that ‘Bildung or education, enlightenment and culture’ are variations in the development of our social relations as these denote the end results of human beings’ endeavours to improve their social standings (Mendelssohn 313). As humans strive to unify these social experiences through the accumulation of knowledge and through diligence, Mendelssohn believes that more education or bildung a group of people acquire. Education, thereby, is stratified into two areas: Culture and enlightenment. He states that ‘culture is to enlightenment as theory is to practice’ emphasising the necessity of understanding and applying the practical aspect of culture which for him mainly manifests in the aesthetics of the arts, customs, technological advancements and other tangible aspects of our cultural lives – qualities which connote ‘human perfectibility.’ Enlightenment, therefore, is founded mainly on cultural progress and on its practice. He adds that ‘discernment’ intensifies ‘morality’ while ‘cultural criticism’ enhances ‘virtuosity’ (314). Even if these concepts necessitate divergent definitions, ‘they exist in the closest possible synergy’ (314). Although these expressions are identical in concept, they equally represent the struggles of the individuals to develop themselves and improve their social position. He believes that artistic endeavours such as an architectural work portrays development and can bring society advantages as these impinge upon human perfection. He believes that human perfection can be used as a gauge to measure