Nathan the Wise and Lessing's “Ideal of Humanity”

Toshimasa Yasukata

in Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

Published in print April 2003 | ISBN: 9780195144949
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834891 | DOI:

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

  Nathan the Wise and Lessing's “Ideal of Humanity”

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Elucidates Lessing's ideal of humanity, the ideal that finds poetic and literary expression in Nathan the Wise. The parable of the three rings, the starting point for the plot that stands at the center of the entire work, offers a clue to Lessing's religious idea of humanity. We construe this famous parable as implying not only Lessing's attitude toward positive religions but also his view as to the meaning of the truth claim of a historical religion in this “interim” between the beginning and the end of history. It is observed that Lessing's idea of humanity as illustrated by this drama and by the parable in particular, is suffused with deep piety and a noble wisdom free of prejudice. The essence of Nathan's reason as illustrated in Act 4, Scene 7 suggests that the essential core of Lessingian reason is formed by a “believing reason” or “hearkening reason” which, fully aware of its own limitations, opens itself to the decrees of the reason‐transcending deity.

Keywords: believing reason; historical religion; ideal of humanity; interim; Nathan the Wise; parable of the three rings; truth claim

Chapter.  9313 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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