Moses Mendelssohn (mĕn´dəlsən, Ger. mō´zĕs mĕn´dəls-zōn´), 1729–86, German-Jewish philosopher; grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn. He was a leader in the movement for cultural assimilation. In 1743 he went to Berlin, where he studied and worked, becoming (1750) a partner in a silk merchant's firm. In 1754 he met Lessing, and a life-long friendship began, out of which grew Lessing's play Nathan the Wise (1779). Mendelssohn's philosophy anticipated the aesthetics of Kant and Friedrich Schiller. His writings include Philosophische Gespräche (1755), Philosophische Schriften (1761), Phädon (1767), and Jerusalem; oder, Über religiöse Macht und Judentum (1783). He also translated the Psalms and the Pentateuch into German.
See biography by A. Altman (1973).