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Moralist Literature

(615 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] Moralist literature analyses mores (Lat. mores, Fr. mœurs) and human behavior, giving artistic form to observation of individuals, often in the form of essays or aphorisms. The writers known as “Moralists,” who in West European countries such as Spain, France, and Britain belong to the corpus of classical literature, are not moral preachers; they attempted to read human beings and the world, and on the basis of an illusion-free assessment of human possibilities to develop a technique for prudent social behavior and “rules for happiness” (Baltasar Gracián). The roots…

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques

(1,227 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Jun 28, 1712, Geneva – Jul 2, 1778, Chateau d’Ermenonville, near Paris), the second son of Isaac Rousseau, a watchmaker, and his wife Suzanne, who died shortly after the birth of her child. In 1722 Isaac left Geneva after a violent altercation. Rousseau lived for two years with Pastor Lambercier in Bossey, a village outside Geneva; between 1725 and 1728, he apprenticed in Geneva as an engraver. In Annecy he became acquainted with the baroness Madame de Warens; she prepared him fo…


(1,584 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich | Konold, Wulf | Brusniak, Friedhelm
[German Version] 1. Mendelssohn, Moses (Sep 6, 1729, Dessau – Jan 4, 1786, Berlin), youngest of the three children of Mendel Heymann and his wife Bela Rachel Sara. The father was a synagogue attendant and scribe of the Jewish community. The boy, who was deformed and had a weak constitution, was supported by the Dessau rabbi David Fränkel, and, as he said himself, reading M. Maimonides's More Nevukhim (ET: Guide for the Perplexed) made a lasting impression on him. In 1743 Mendelssohn followed Fränkel to Berlin, where he lived in very impoverished circumstances. He ac…

Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim

(1,635 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Jan 22, 1729, Kamenz, Upper Lusatia – Feb 15, 1781, Braunschweig [Brunswick]). Lessing was the third of twelve children born to Johann Gottfried Lessing and Justina Salome Lessing. His father had been archdeacon in Kamenz since 1724; he became chief pastor in 1733, succeeding his father-in-law Gottfried Feller. Of Lessing's siblings, five died in infancy or childhood. He attended the public school in Kamenz and in 1741 entered the Princes' School of St. Afra in Meissen, where he …

Bayle, Pierre

(275 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Nov 18, 1647, Le Carla, Languedoc – Dec 28, 1706, Rotterdam) came from a family of Reformed clergymen, as a young man converted to Catholicism for a short time, and had to leave France after his re-conversion. He studied theology in Geneva and deepened his knowledge of the philosopher R. Descartes. He risked a return to France and taught phil…


(1,098 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (real name François-Marie Arouet; Nov 21, 1694, Paris – May 30, 1778, Paris) was the youngest of three children of François Arouet, a prosperous notary at the Paris Palais de Justice, and his wife Marie Catherine, who died in 1701. He received a good education at ¶ the famous Jesuit Louis-le-Grand college. In 1711, at his father’s wish, he became a law student, but soon felt called to be a writer, and to his father’s displeasure fell in with a circle of freethinking aristocrats and writers. Following a love affair, he was put …


(360 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] At the end of the 15th century (1490), humanistic scholars coined the Latin word encyclopaedia after a Greek equivalent (ἐνκύκλιος παιδεία/ enkýklios paideía, “comprehensive education”). While the Greek expression originally, in the 5th century bce (Sophistic School), referred to the artistic education of the free, now, in reference to Quintilian and other Roman authors, it indicates the totality of knowledge, symbolized by a circle (κύκλος/ kýklos; orbis). The program of the encyclopedia as a general presentation of knowledge …

La Mettrie, Julien Offray de

(345 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Nov 23, 1709, Saint-Malo – Nov 11, 1751, Berlin), French physician, philosopher, and an adherent of materialism. La Mettrie studied in Paris and Leiden, worked as a physician in Saint-Malo from 1734 to 1742, where he initially published medical works, and then went to Paris. He took part in the Austrian War of Succession as a military surgeon. In 1745, he anonymously published the Histoire naturelle de l'âme which elicited reactions from the censors, as did most of La Mettrie's ensuing publications. The already famous/infamous author avoided imp…

Tolerance and Intolerance

(6,428 words)

Author(s): Dehn, Ulrich | Gertz, Jan Christian | Wischmeyer, Oda | Ohst, Martin | Kronauer, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Tolerance and intolerance must be defined in terms of their relationship to respect, coexistence, indifference, acceptance, and prejudice. In the public context, they ¶ correspond to the presence or absence of freedom of religion. They originate in the claim to exclusive religious truth or else collide with it. Tolerance requires insight into the human ability to err and into the limits of human cognition with regard to faith, whereas intolerance rejects this insight. Following Gerlitz,…


(403 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] The “Encyclopedists” were the contributors to the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Edited by D. Diderot and J.L.R. d'Alembert (until 1758), the monumental ¶ work appeared in Paris as a folio edition in 17 volumes of text (1751–1765) and 11 volumes of illustrations (1762–1772). (The Supplément that appeared in Paris and Amsterdam from 1776 to 1780 in four folio volumes of text, one of illustrations, and two of indexes had no formal association with the original Encyclopédie; the editors and most of the contributors wer…

Malebranche, Nicolas

(546 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Aug 5, 1638, Paris – Oct 13, 1715, Paris), French philosopher and major proponent of occasionalism. Malebranche was born into a very wealthy and influential family. In 1660 he joined the Congregation of the Oratory (Oratorians) in Paris; he studied theology at the Sorbonne and in 1664, the year he was ordained, he took up philosophy after reading the posthumous Traité de l'homme of R. Descartes, which left a deep impression on him. His very first publication, De la recherche de la vérité (1674–1675; subsequently revised and expanded several times), embroiled t…

Freedom of Religion

(3,650 words)

Author(s): Schlenke, Dorothee | Kronauer, Ulrich | Link, Christoph | Ohst, Martin | Witte, John | Et al.
[German Version] I. Dogmatics – II. Ethics – III. Philisophy – V. History – VI. Mission I. Dogmatics Freedom of religion, as generally understood, combines freedom of belief, of conscience, and creed, as well as freedom to practice one's religion (cf. German Basic Law, art. 4, §§1, 2), in one fundamental right. Dogmatics needs to clarify the relationship between religious certainty and freedom. A statement consonant with Reformation belief would run as follows: If Christian certainty, as certainty about the …

Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de

(295 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Feb 28, 1533, Château de Montaigne, near Bordeaux – Sep 13, 1592, Château de Montaigne), French writer and philosopher, and an important figure in moralists' literature. Montaigne studied law at Toulouse and Bordeaux and was parliamentary representative in Bordeaux from 1557 to 1570. In 1571 he retired from public life and returned to his estate, where he spent his days primarily in his library, housed in a tower. In 1580 he left his tower and undertook a journey to Italy. From 1581 to 1585 he served as mayor of Bordeaux. Montaigne's Essais brought him fame; the first …

Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph

(195 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Jul 1, 1742, Ober-Ramstadt, Odenwald – Feb 24, 1799, Göttingen), professor of mathematics and physics in Göttingen, was regarded as one of the most significant German physicists of the 18th century. In addition to his lectures on physics, which were enhanced by spectacular experiments, he attained fame through his literary activity as a critic and as a maker of calendars. He took issue with J.C. Lavater's “physiognomy” and demonstrated his own knowledge of human nature in his com…

Maimon, Salomon

(307 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (actually S. ben Josua; c. 1753, Sukowiborg, Lithuania [then Kingdom of Poland] – Nov 22, 1800, Nieder-Siegersdorf, Silesia), Jewish philosopher and supporter of the Enlightenment. His Lebensgeschichte (Autobiography; 1792/1793) is characterized by an openness reminiscent of J.-J. Rousseau's Confessions (ET: The Confessions). The son of a rabbi and himself a rabbi for many years, he adopted the name Maimon out of reverence for M. Maimonides and wrote about his own childhood and youth in Eastern Europe, but also about the…

Mandeville, Bernard de

(331 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (1670, Dordrecht or Rotterdam – Jan 21, 1733, Hackney, near London). Mandeville took degrees first in philosophy and then in medicine in Leiden; for a short time he practiced medi-¶ cine in Rotterdam, specializing in ailments of the nerves and stomach. Later he lived in London as a physician and writer. In 1704 he renounced his title of nobility. In 1705 he published (anonymously) an allegorical poem, The Grumbling Hive, or Knaves Turn'd Honest: a prosperous beehive (the English nation) is enjoying an economic and cultural heyday because all occupation…

d'Alembert, Jean le Rond

(514 words)

Author(s): Kronauer, Ulrich
[German Version] (Nov 16 [17?],1717, Paris – Oct 29, 1783, Paris), illegitimate child of Madame de Tencin and the officer Destouches, was abandoned by his mother on the steps of the church of St. Jean Le Rond – hence the first part of his name. His father provided for his education in the Jansenist Collège des Quatres Nations (Jansenism), where he acquired the second part of his name. Quite early on, d'Alembert gained fame as a mathematician and physicist. One still speaks today of the “d'Alembertian principle” developed in 1743 in the Traité de dynamique, by which he contributed to a fo…