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Immanuel Kant once gave the following famous definition for the Enlightenment:

Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. This tutelage is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! "Have courage to use your own reason!"—that is the motto of enlightenment.1

The Enlightenment, in this definition, is a movement that aimed at the universal achievement of a spiritually and intellectually mature state of being, the hallmark of which is independent and responsible use of one's own reason. According to Wilhelm Dilthey, however, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729—1781) was the first to achieve this state in German intellectual history. Lessing was der erste ganz mündige Mensch,2 the first modern German to really come of age. Among many contemporary intellectuals, he was the critical edge of the German Enlightenment and the very first thinker who, in complete freedom from bias toward all traditions, created a self-reliant and positive view of life. As confirmed by Hannah Arendt, Selbstdenken—independent thinking—continues to be a highly valuable legacy of the Lessingian Enlightenment.3

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