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Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim (1729–81)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M029-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Article Summary

Philosophically, G. E. Lessing belongs to the tradition of G. W. von Leibniz (1646–1716) and Christian Wolff (1679–1754). He was familiar with the post-Wolffian aesthetics being developed by Alexander Baumgarten (1714–62) and his follower, Georg Friedrich Meier (1718–77). And most importantly, perhaps, Lessing was acquainted with Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86) to whose work his own philosophical writings bear many similarities and who read and commented on Lessing’s aesthetic writings. But Lessing cannot be identified with any of these philosophical sources and influences. Lessing’s work retains many rationalist presuppositions, but Lessing also consciously sought a more inductive approach. He adhered to neo-classical standards with respect to beauty and the application of rules of art, but he severely qualified those standards by appealing to emotional effects rather than ideal forms or rationalist clarity. Lessing’s aesthetics must be inferred from his work,

Citing this article:
Townsend, Dabney. Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim (1729–81), 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M029-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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