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G. E. Lessing

(1729—1781) German dramatist and critic

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German dramatist and critic. Lessing is not remembered for any first-rate philosophy, but he was a major influence on German thinking of his time. His Laokoön (1766) espouses the view that whilst classical ideals of noble static harmony serve well for painting, poetry is concerned with action and passion. His conversion towards the end of his life to the philosophy of the then shocking Spinoza was reported by F. H. Jacobi in 1785, and precipitated the Pantheismusstreit, or row over pantheism, in which Mendelssohn attempted to defend the dead Lessing from the charge.

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