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Light in GermanyScenes from an Unknown Enlightenment$
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T. J. Reed

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226205106

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226205243.001.0001

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The Empty Heavens

The Empty Heavens

From Dogma to Ethics

(p.91) Chapter 6 The Empty Heavens
Light in Germany

T.J. Reed

University of Chicago Press

Religion was a major restriction of freedom of thought, hence a prime object of Enlightenment criticism. Speaking out still carried risks—to career, status, even one—s life. Gradually the pressure eased as writers and thinkers gained a sense of solidarity. Goethe, Kant, Lichtenberg, Lessing (only he concerned to rescue what Christian substance he could) moved independently of one another in a common direction: away from dogmatic belief and the intolerance it entailed and towards a secular ethics which reversed an ancient order. It became clear that true morality was not something merely prescribed by a god, and that the idea of god itself grew out of human moral aspiration.

Keywords:   Christianity, intolerance, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Baruch Spinoza, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, revelation, Kant’s pure ethics, Greeks, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Islam

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