It says much about the Enlightenment spirit that the playwright Gotthold Lessing preferred to look upon himself as a critic. It says much about Lessing the critic that his greatest work of poetic criticism was entitled Laokoon. To Lessing, the critic’s heroic role was to destroy the serpent of supersition, conformity, and pedantry that strangles people’s reason, feelings, sentiments and imagination. It was Lessing who championed Shakespeare against the rule bound classical drama of Racine and Voltaire. It was Lessing who championed free thinking against bigoted German theologians and then championed the “inner truths” of religion against the freethinking deists themselves.
In his life and in his work he was distinguished by a manly openness of spirit. It was characteristic of Lessing that his most famous play, Nathan the Wise, was meant to demonstrate that nobility of spirit can be associated with any religious creed. It typified that same open spirit that Lessing saw the history of all religions as a record of man’s continuing “education” in knowledge of the Divine. When Lessing died, famous but nearly destitute, it was Goethe who paid pregnant tribute to his brave and generous spirit:” we have lost more than we think.”
( see link at end) …In her sympathetic characterization of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Arendt shows that critical thinking can go along with passions.
Lessing “never made his peace with the world in which he lived. He enjoyed ‘challenging prejudices’ and ‘telling the truth to the court missions.’ Dearly though he paid for these pleasures, they were literally pleasures. Once when he was attempting to explain to himself the source of ‘tragic pleasure’, he said that ‘all passions, even the most unpleasant, are as passions pleasant’ because, they make us … more conscious of our existence, they make us feel more real.” Read More:http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?tag=gotthold-ephraim-lessing