Quotations by Lessing, Gotthold


Man — who is he? Too bad, to be the work of God: Too good for the work of chance!

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
(Attributed)

In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899).
Added on 25-Mar-15 | Last updated 25-Mar-15
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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. 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.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Anti-Goeze (1778)
Added on 11-Mar-15 | Last updated 11-Mar-15
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The superstition in which we grew up,
Though we may recognize it, does not lose
Its power over us — Not all are free
Who make mock of their chains.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise (1779) [tr. Morgan (1955)]

Alt. trans.: "The superstition in which we were brought up never loses its power over us, even after we understand it." [In J. K. Hoyt & Anna L. Ward (eds.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1881)]
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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The worst of superstitions is to think
One’s own most bearable.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise, Act 4, sc. 2 (1779)

Alt. trans.: "The worst superstition is to consider our own tolerable."
Added on 18-Mar-15 | Last updated 18-Mar-15
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It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important.

[Denn zu einem großen Manne gehört beides: Kleinigkeiten als Kleinigkeiten, und wichtige Dinge als wichtige Dinge zu behandeln.]

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Vierunddreißigstes Stück Den 25. Aug 1767, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767-1769)
Added on 4-Mar-15 | Last updated 4-Mar-15
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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.

[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.]

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Letter to Moses Mendelssohn (9 Jan 1771)
Added on 8-Apr-15 | Last updated 8-Apr-15
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Trust no friend without faults,
And love a maiden, but no angel.

[Trau keinem Freunde sonder Mängel,
Und leib’ ein Mädchen, kienem Engel.]

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Note in a Family Register (1778)

Alt. trans.: "Trust in no friend, rather forebear; / Love a sweet maid, no angel rare."
Added on 2-Apr-15 | Last updated 2-Apr-15
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