Frederick II.
Frederick II (1712-1786)
F. the Great or Old Fritz
King of Prussia 1740-1786
Enabled rise of Prussia with the help of
military victories
Enlightened absolutism
Major reforms in economic, legal,
administrative, agricultural, and military
sectors
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Author of 3 critiques (Pure Reason,
Practical Reason, and Judgment)
Knowledge becomes part of critique
Categorical Imperative: “Act in such a way
that the underlying principle of your will
could also at any time serve as general
law.”
G.E. Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
(1729-1781)
Theatrical director in Hamburg
Most prominent writer of German
enlightenment (plays, pamphlets, essays)
Minna of Barnhelm
Laokoön
Hamburgische Dramaturgie
Enlightenment Concepts
Act according to reason (Sapere aude!)
Logical reasoning inherent to human being
Progress, tolerance, equality, freedom of the
individual
Accumulation of knowledge, rather than
formation of emotion and character
Denigration of religion in favor of intellectualism
Enlightenment Debate
The Berlin Wednesday Society
 J.K.W. Möhsen (1722-1795); “What is to be done
toward the Enlightenment of the Citizenry?” (1783)
 Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786); “On the Question:
What is Enlightenment?” (1784)
 Kant essay (1784)
 K.L. Reinhold (1758-1823); “Thoughts on
Enlightenment” (1784)
 C.M. Wieland (1733-1813); “A Couple of Gold
Nuggets from the… Wastepaper, or Six Answers to
Six Questions” (1789)
Initial Questions (Wieland)
 What is enlightenment?
 Over which objects can and must it extend itself?
 Where are its limits?
 What are the safe means through which it is
advanced?
 Who is authorized to enlighten humanity?
 By what consequences does one recognize its
truth?
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Frederick II (1712