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Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment$
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Toshimasa Yasukata

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195144949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195144945.001.0001

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(p.3) Introduction
Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

Toshimasa Yasukata

Oxford University Press

Presents an argument for Lessing's significance for German intellectual history as well as his significance for modern Protestant theology. The assertion made here is that Lessing, as a pioneer among the nontheologians who fostered the development of modern theology, belongs to the arena of the history of theology, even though he was not a theologian by profession. The task of articulating Lessing's theology or philosophy of religion is a difficult task that demands meticulous treatment. In order to escape the famous dilemma posed by Friedrich Loofs when he claimed that Lessing's “esoteric view” is concealed behind impenetrable “exoteric” walls, we consider the question of methodology for Lessing studies and reexamine old interpretive methods. The new method introduced here involves a heuristic and contextual interpretation of each of Lessing's cardinal texts, or an “intellectual assay” into the hidden and presumably rich vein of his thought with an eye to systematic reconstruction in future.

Keywords:   contextual interpretation, esoteric versus exoteric, heuristic interpretation, intellectual assay, Loofs's dilemma, methodology, pioneer

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