Last modified on 18 May 2014, at 22:46

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

The worst of superstitions is to think
One's own most bearable.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (22 January 172915 February 1781) was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature. He is widely considered by theatre historians to be the first dramaturge.

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The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth.
  • Was ist ein Held ohne Menschenliebe!
    • What is a hero without love for mankind?
  • Denn zu einem großen Manne gehört beides: Kleinigkeiten als Kleinigkeiten, und wichtige Dinge als wichtige Dinge zu behandeln.
    • It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important.
  • Perlen bedeuten Tränen.
  • Besserer Rat kommt über Nacht.
    • Better counsel comes overnight.
      • Emilia Galotti (1772), Act IV, scene III
  • The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indolent, and proud. If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say: Father, I will take this one—the pure Truth is for You alone.
  • I, who ne'er
    Went for myself a begging, go a borrowing,
    And that for others. Borrowing's much the same
    As begging; just as lending upon usury
    Is much the same as thieving.
  • Man — who is he? Too bad, to be the work of God: Too good for the work of chance!
    • As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood, p. 61
  • Trust no friend without faults, and love a maiden, but no angel.
    • As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood, p. 499
  • Es ist unendlich schwer, zu wissen, wenn und wo man bleiben soll, und Tausenden für einen ist das Ziel ihres Nachdenkens die Stelle, wo sie des Nachdenkens müde geworden.
    • It is infinitely difficult to know when and where one should stop, and for all but one in thousands the goal of their thinking is the point at which they have become tired of thinking.
  • Eben die Bahn, aus welcher das Geschlecht zu seiner Vollkommenheit gelangt, muß jeder einzelne Mensch (der früher, der später) erst durchlaufen haben.
    • Precisely the way on which the species reaches its perfection, every individual human being (one earlier, one later) must have traversed, too.
      • The Education of Mankind, § 93

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