Lessing: Philosophical and Theological Writings

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 17, 2005 - Philosophy - 262 pages
Lessing is the most representative figure of the German Enlightenment. His defence of Spinoza, who had traditionally been condemned as an atheist, provoked a major controversy in philosophy, and his publication of Reimarus' radical assault on Christianity led to fundamental changes in Protestant theology. This volume presents the most comprehensive collection in English of Lessing's philosophical and theological writings, several of which are translated for the first time. They are translated and edited by H. B. Nisbet, who also provides an introduction that sets them in their historical and philosophical contexts.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Philosophical and theological writings
23
The Christianity of reason
25
On the reality of things outside God
30
Spinoza only put Leibniz on the track of his theory of preestablished harmony To Moses Mendelssohn
32
On the origin of revealed religion
35
Leibniz on eternal punishment
37
Editorial commentary on the Fragments of Reimarus 1777
61
A parable
110
Axioms if there are any in matters such as this
120
New hypothesis on the evangelists as merely human historians
148
Necessary answer to a very unnecessary question of Herr Hauptpastor Goeze of Hamburg
172
The religion of Christ
178
That more than five senses are possible for human beings
180
dialogues for Freemasons To His Grace Duke Ferdinand
184
The education of the human race
217

On the proof of the spirit and of power
83
The Testament of St John
89
A rejoinder
95
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Recollections of conversations with Lessing in July and August 1780
241
Index
257
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About the author (2005)

Lessing, one of the outstanding literary critics of all time, was "the first figure of European stature in modern German literature." The son of a Protestant pastor, he was educated in Meissen and at Leipzig University, then went to Berlin as a journalist in 1749. While employed as secretary to General Tauentzien (1760--65), he devoted his leisure to classical studies. This led to his critical essay Laocoon (1776), in which he attempted to clarify certain laws of aesthetic perception by comparing poetry and the visual arts. He fought always for truth and combined a penetrating intellect with shrewd common sense. He furthered the German theater through his weekly dramatic notes and theories, found mainly in the Hamburg Dramaturgy (1769), which he wrote during his connection with the Hamburg National Theater as critic and dramatist (1768--69). His plays include Miss Sara Sampson (1755), important as the first German prose tragedy of middle-class life; Minna von Barnhelm (1767), his finest comedy and the best of the era; and his noble plea for religious tolerance, Nathan the Wise (1779).

H. B. Nisbet has translated works by Kant and Hegel and is co-editor of the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism.

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