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Title:Lessing's theory of polemic
Author(s):Moore, Evelyn Knopp
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McGlathery, James M.
Department / Program:Germanic Languages and Literatures
Discipline:Germanic Languages and Literatures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Germanic
Abstract:This investigation seeks to prove that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's works reveal a systematic view of polemic through an examination of Lessing's own statements on polemics, his use of polemical devices, and the complex way in which these factors interact with his theological positions. In order to discuss the philosophical and epistemological basis for Lessing's views, I analyze a number of texts which demonstrate and examine the methodological and philosophical dimensions of argument. This historical framework provides a theoretical model for an analysis of Lessing's position. Because Gorgias's Encomium of Helen and Plato's Gorgias present two opposition positions on rhetoric, these works provide a focus for my discussion of the conflict between rhetoric and philosophy evident in Lessing's formulation of his views on polemic.
In the Rettung des Cardanus, Lessing indicts Cardano for not presenting rhetorically persuasive arguments on behalf of the religions in competition with Christianity. Cardano, he argues, shows his bias toward Christianity through his use of dry, factual prose in support of the other religions. By recasting Cardano's arguments in a more fully developed rhetorical fashion, Lessing thus connects rhetorical devices that heighten emotion to the investigation of serious theological issues.
The Anti-Goeze again represents a conjunction of polemics, rhetoric and theology. Johann Melchior Goeze accuses Lessing of using Theaterlogik in a theological argument. I show that this accusation is a result of conflicting attitudes toward rhetoric, which are already evident in the Goeze-Schlosser debate (1769) on the theatre, in which the ambiguous nature of rhetoric was the basis of Goeze's attack on Schlosser. Lessing responds to Goeze's attack on his rhetorical logic by vigorously defending rhetorical devices and their use in the theological arena. By prescribing a rhetorical method of inquiry into truth, Lessing rejects purely rational methods of inquiry into truth in favor of emotion as a test of truth. By making rhetoric and thus emotion a measure of Christian truth, Lessing deviated from christian orthodoxy and its subordination of rhetoric to theology.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Moore, Evelyn Knopp
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9021730
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9021730

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