Herz, Marcus

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HERZ, MARCUS

HERZ, MARCUS (1747–1803), German physician and philosopher. Herz was born in Berlin, where his father was a Torah scribe. At the age of 15, Herz left for Koenigsberg, where he worked as a clerk. He attended lectures at the University of Koenigsberg from 1766 but had to stop in 1770 because of his financial situation. He became friendly with Immanuel *Kant, who asked him to serve as his "advocate" on the occasion of his submitting his dissertation. In his book Betrachtungen aus der spekulativen Weltweishei (1771) Herz formulated his interpretation of Kant's views. In 1770 Herz returned to Berlin, where he joined Moses *Mendelssohn's circle. Supported by David *Friedlander, he completed his medical studies at Halle. In 1774 he was appointed physician at the Berlin Jewish Hospital and was reputed to be one of the best doctors of his time. He married Henriette De Lemons from a Portuguese Jewish family from Hamburg. She was a social leader who gathered at her salon some of the most prominent intellectual figures in Berlin of her time and was known for her intellect (see Henriette *Herz). In 1777 Herz started lecturing in his home on philosophy and experimental physics. These lectures were attended by important persons, including members of the royal family, among them the future Frederick William iii. In 1787 the king of Prussia bestowed the title of "professor" on Herz with the right to receive an income for life. Kant corresponded with Herz for many years, and these letters are of great importance for understanding both the development of Kant's views before the publication of Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 and the relationship between Kant and Salomon *Maimon. Herz published several essays on philosophy and on the human soul. His Versuch ueber den Geschmack und die Ursachen seiner Verschiedenheit (1776) developed the conception of perfect beauty (in the spirit of Winckelmanns). In 1786 Herz published his Versuch der Kuenste. In 1786 he published his Versuch ueber den Schwindel, and in 1777–84 his Briefe an Aerzte. At Mendelsshon's request he translated from English into German Vindiciae Juaeorum, a defense of Judaism by Manasseh Ben Israel. In his work Freimuetige Kaffeegesprache zweier juedischer Zuschauerinnen ueber Juden Pinkus (1772), Herz criticized the self-hatred found among Jews. He also wrote, at the request of the editor of Ha-Me'assef, a pamphlet in which he argued against quick burial, the traditional custom among Jews. He was for a long time the unknown translator of the so-called "Prayer of the Jewish Physician," attributed to Maimonides, from Hebrew into German.

add. bibliography:

M.L. Davies, Identity or History? Marcus Herz and the End of the Enlightenment (1995), incl. full bibl.; D. Borurel, "Die verweigerte Aufnahme des Markus Herz in die Berliner Akademie des Wissenschaften," in: Buelletin des Leo Baeck Instituts, 67 (1984), 3–13.

[Samuel Hugo Bergman /

Suessmann Muntner and

Yehoyada Amir (2nd ed.)]