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Die Aufklärung vor Gericht Beitrag

Zum historischen Hintergrund von G. E. Lessings ‚Anmerkungen zu einem Gutachten über die itzigen Religionsbewegungen‘ (1780)

Hannes Kerber

Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, Volume 68 (2018), Issue 1, Page 27 - 71

The last text Gotthold Ephraim Lessing ever wrote – a short fragment entitled ‚Notes on An Assessment of the Current Movements of Religion‘ – has long puzzled readers. While the first generation of Lessing scholars recognized the fragment’s importance, all attempts to decipher its allusions have failed because the historical context of the piece remained obscure. In my essay, I identify the text to which Lessing’s ‚Notes‘ are referring for the first time: a legal petition with the somewhat bulky title ‚Most Subservient Assessment Concerning the Current Movements of Religion, Especially Within the Protestant Church, As Well As Regarding the Imperial Commissional Decree in the Case Against Bahrdt‘ (archived in the Bavarian State Library, Munich). This discovery not only illuminates the historical background of Lessing’s final work and makes visible his previously unknown dialogue with Johann Jacob Moser, the petition’s anonymous author. It also shows that Lessing intended to forcefully intervene in what was arguably the most notorious religio-political legal battle of the 18th century – the Imperial Aulic Council’s case against the radical enlightenment thinker Carl Friedrich Bahrdt. Thus, Lessing’s last fragment sheds light on the rhetorical strategy that allowed Lessing, as opposed to Bahrdt, to avoid the most serious persecution during the famous ‘Fragments Controversy.’

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