The Religious Thought of the Young Lessing

1. A reprint edition was published by the Lessing Academy a few years ago. Cf. Theophil Lessing, Die Religionum Tolerantia: Über die Duldung der Religionen, edited and introduced by Günter Gawlick and Wolfgang Milde (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 1991).

5. Hans Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1931), 27.

6. Johannes Schneider, Lessings Stellung zur Theologie: Vor der Herausgabe der Wolfenbüttler Fragmente (The Hague: Uitgeverij Excelsior, 1953), 57.

8. Bernd Bothe, Glauben und Erkennen: Studie zur Religionsphilosophie Lessings (Meisenheim am Glan: Verlag Anton Hain, 1972), 15.

9. Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung, 55. For a criticism on this judgment of Leisegang's, see Schneider, Lessings Stellung zur Theologie, 237-38 n. 13.

10. Schneider, Lessings Stellung zur Theologie, 57.

12. As to the reason the poem was left fragmentary, H. G. Göpfert conjectures that "the fragmentary character" of the poem "is ascribed to the young author's inability to cope intellectually with the major theme that he had taken on himself at a time of serious doubts." Herbert G. Göpfert, "Erläuterungen zu Band 1," in G 2, 614.

13. LM 14, 155; G 3, 683 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

14. LM 14, 156; G 3, 684 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

15. LM 14, 157; G 3, 685 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

16. LM 14, 157; G 3, 685 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

17. LM 14, 157; G 3, 685-86 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

18. LM 14, 157-58; G 3, 686 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

19. LM 14, 157; G 3, 686 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

20. LM 14, 158; G 3, 687 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

21. LM 14, 159; G 3, 687 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

22. LM 14, 159; G 3, 687-88 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

23. LM 14, 160; G 3, 688 (Gedanken über die Herrnhuter).

24. LM 4, 303-4; G 3, 54-55 (Berlinische Privilegierte Zeitung, 38. Stück, 30 March 1751).

25. The dramatic pieces he wrote earlier are The Young Scholar (Der junge Gelehrte, 1747), Damon, or True Friendship (Damon, oder die wahre Freundschaft, 1747), The Misogynist (Der Misogyn, 1748), and The Old Maid (Die alte Jungfer, 1749).

26. LM 5, 270; G 2, 645 (Vorrede zum 3. Teil seiner Schriften, Berlin 1754).

27. Julius W. Braun, ed., Lessing im Urtheile seiner Zeitgenossen, 2 vols. (Berlin: Verlag von Friedrich Stahn, 1884-93; reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1969), vol. 1, 5.

28. LM 1, 378-79; G 1, 380-81 (Die Juden). The English translation, by Ingrid Walsoe-Engel, appears in Peter Demetz's edition of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan the Wise, Minna von Barnhelm, and Other Plays and Writings, The German Library, vol. 12 (New York: Continuum, 1995), 141-42.

29. LM 1, 385-86; G 1, 388-89 (Die Juden). English translation borrowed from ibid., 147.

30. LM 1, 411; G 1, 414 (Die Juden). English translation borrowed from ibid., 166.

31. Hans Mayer, Outsiders: A Study in Life and Letters, translated by Denis M. Sweet (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press, 1982), 288.

32. The full text of Mayer's statement, in ibid., 290, is as follows:

The dramatist could not [but] fail here with his properties taken from the world of the Lustspiel. The speculative proponent of the Enlightenment, Lessing, on the other hand, has at the same time accomplished an astonishing task. By revealing against his will how little "the Jews" can be integrated into a communality with the other exceptions, he makes it evident that any endeavor on the part of the Enlightenment toward Jewish emancipation has got to distinguish between general prejudice against Jews, nourished by the sight of those who lived in the real ghetto, and the rigorous postulate of universal equality and the equality of rights of all men, including Jews.

33. Johann David Michaelis, "Rezension über Die Juden" in Horst Steinmetz, ed., Lessing——Ein unpoetischer Dichter (Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Verlag, 1969), 49-50. The English translation is Denis M. Sweet's, borrowed from Mayer's Outsiders., 291-92.

34. According to Alexander Altmann, an authority in the field of Mendelssohn studies, it was the Jewish physician Aaron Salomon Gumpertz (1723-1770) who first introduced Mendelssohn to Lessing. It is said that these two young men of the same age first met in the early spring of 1754. See Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), 36.

35. LM 18, 356 (Letter to Elise Reimarus of 28 November 1780); B 12, 361 (no. 1602).

36. This phrase is currently taken to mean "From Moses [Maimonides] until Moses [Mendelssohn] no one arose with wisdom and understanding comparable to Moses." For more detailed information on this phrase, see Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn, 197, 758.

37. In a pithy statement Spicker suggests how important The Christianity of Reason is for understanding Lessing's philosophy of religion. "In truth, Lessing's central thoughts are contained in these few paragraphs. And essentially he never went beyond the line laid out in these paragraphs." Gideon Spicker, Lessing's Weltanschauung (Leipzig: Verlag von Georg Wigand, 1883), 7.

38. This moral proposition of Lessing's anticipates Kant's famous "fundamental law of pure practical reason": "Act in such a way that the maxim of your will can always be taken as a principle of universal law" (handle so, daß die Maxime deines Willens jederzeit zugleich als Princip einer allgemeinen Gesetzgebung gelten könne). Immanuel Kant, Kants Werke, Akademie Textausgabe, edited by the Königlich Preußischen Akademie, 9 vols. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1968), vol. 5, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft. Kritik der Urteilskraft, 30.

39. Heinz Heimsoeth, Die sechs großen Themen der abendländischen Metaphysik und der Ausgang des Mittelalters, 8th ed. (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1987), 40.

40. Wolfgang Gericke, "Lessings theologische Gesamtauffassung," in Sechs theologische Schriften Gotthold Ephraim Lessings, introduced and annotated by Wolfgang Gericke (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1985), 9-62, esp. 14-15.

41. Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung, 63-64.

42. For persuasive discussions on this point, see Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung, 59-65 and Johannes Schneider, Lessings Stellung zur Theologie, 112-13.

43. Ernst Troeltsch, Glaubenslehre, edited by Gertrud von le Fort (Munich and Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot, 1925), 220 (emphasis omitted).

44. Wataru Mizugaki first posed the subject of "God's self-replication" as a topic worthy of serious consideration. He presents a very instructive discussion of "God's self-replication," giving special attention to Hosea, Eckhart, Boethius, and Troeltsch—though he makes no mention of Lessing. His conclusion with regard to Troeltsch is as follows: "Troeltsch reached the profound conception of God's love as 'God's taking suffering into himself' (die Selbstunterziehung Gottes unter die Leiden). But he was unable to develop it into a clear-cut dogmatic conception, remaining content to speak of devotion and piety." Wataru Mizugaki, "Kami no Jiko Nijüka ni tsuite" (On God's self-replication), in Naze Kirisutokyo ka (Why Christianity?), edited by Yasuo Furuya (Tokyo: Söbunsha, 1993), 144-45.

45. Troeltsch, Glaubenslehre, 176.

46. To understand how Lessing thought of the relationship between God and the world, we should take into consideration a fragment written during his Breslau years, namely, "On the Reality of Things outside God" (Über die Wirklichkeit der Dinge außer Gott., 1763). Scholars unanimously affirm that the position Lessing takes in this fragment is that of "panentheism." See, inter alia, Spicker, Lessing's Weltanschauung, 167; Th. C. van Stockum, Spinoza-Jacobi-Lessing (Groningen: P. Noordhoff, 1916), 64; Wilhelm Dilthey, Das Erlebnis und die Dichtung: LessingGoethe-Novalis-Hölderlin, 16th ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985), 116; Hans Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung, 63-65; Johannes Schneider, Lessings Stellung zur Theologie, 146-47; and Henry E. Allison, Lessing and the Enlightenment: His Philosophy of Religion and Its Relation to Eighteenth-Century Thought (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966), 69.

47. In a letter to his friend Moses Mendelssohn of 1 May 1774, Lessing, referring to his earlier metaphysical speculation in The Christianity of Reason, says, "I still remember well my former idea on this very subject. And I also remember very well what you said in response to my assertions at that time, and that I, for that reason, discontinued thinking seriously about this subject for myself." LM 18, 110 (Letter to Moses Mendelssohn of 1 May 1774); B 11/2, 643 (no. 970).

48. In §73 of The Education of the Human Race (in German) Lessing speaks not of "God's self-replication" (Selbstverdoppelung Gottes) but of "a similar replication in God" (eine ähnliche Verdoppelung in Gott) analogous to "a true double of myself" (eine wahre Verdoppelung meiner Selbst). But it is self-evident that Lessing's phrase denotes "God's self-replication." See Heinrich Scholz, "Einleitung," in Die Hauptschriften zum Pantheismusstreit zwischen Jacobi und Mendelssohn (Berlin: Verlag von Reuther & Reichard, 1916), lxx n. 1; Helmut Thielicke, Offenbarung, Vernunft und Existenz: Studien zur Religionsphilosophie Lessings, 4th ed. (Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1957), 49, 50 n. 72; Hermann Timm, Gott und die Freiheit: Studien zur Religionsphilosophie der Goethezeit, vol. 1, Die Spinozarenaissance (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1974), 122; Alexander Altmann, "Lessing und Jacobi: Das Gespräch über den Spinozismus," in LYB 3 (1971): 56-57.

49. In any event, Jacobi's assertion that "Lessing was a Spinozist" must be shaken to its foundations if one takes seriously Lessing's idea of "God's self-replication." For §73 of The Education of the Human Race undoubtedly presents the idea of God's self-replication, which cannot hold good on Spinozist premises. Jacobi mistakenly refers to §73 for clear evidence of Lessing's Spinozism, interpreting the paragraph in terms of natura naturans (or to use Jacobi's term, natura naturanti) and natura naturata. Cf. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, WW 4/1, 86-88; Hauptschriften, 99-101.

50. Leisegang, Lessings Weltanschauung, 104-107.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment