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

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

(p.72) 5 Nathan the Wise and Lessing's “Ideal of Humanity”
Lessing's Philosophy of Religion and the German Enlightenment

Toshimasa Yasukata

Oxford University Press

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

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