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Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

Toshimasa Yasukata

Published in print April 2003 | ISBN: 9780195144949
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834891 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195144945.001.0001

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81) is held in high esteem as one who marks the cutting edge of the German Enlightenment. He was the very first German to achieve a spiritually and intellectually mature state of being, the hallmark of which is independent and responsible use of one's own reason. He also stands as a key figure in German intellectual history, a bridge joining Luther, Leibniz, and German idealism. Yet despite his well‐recognized importance in the history of thought, and despite a substantial body of in‐depth studies, Lessing as theologian or philosopher of religion remains an enigmatic figure. Even today, his theology or philosophy of religion is a subject of dispute. With regard to the genuine core of his theological or religious‐philosophical thought, researchers hold diametrically opposed interpretations. It is not without reason that scholars refer to the “riddle” or “mystery” of Lessing, a mystery that has proved intractable because of his reticence on the subject of the final conclusions of his intellectual project. Confronted with this perplexity in Lessing studies, this book seeks to resolve the enigma. On the basis of intensive study of the entire corpus of Lessing's philosophical and theological writings as well as the extensive secondary literature, it leads the reader into the systematic core of Lessing's highly elusive religious thought. From a detailed and thoroughgoing analysis of Lessing's developing position on Christianity and reason, there emerges a fresh image of Lessing as a creative modern mind, both shaped by and giving shape to the Christian heritage.

Keywords: Christianity; enigma; German Enlightenment; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing; intellectual history; Lessing studies; modern mind; philosophy of religion; reason; theology

Book.  224 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Lessing and Christianity in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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The Religious Thought of the Young Lessing in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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The Controversy Between Lessing and Goeze in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Lessing's “Ugly Broad Ditch” in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Nathan the Wise and Lessing's “Ideal of Humanity” in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Lessing's Basic Thought in The Education of the Human Race in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Lessing's “Spinozism” in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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Conclusion in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

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