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Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, The Education of the Human Race (1777)

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§ 94: Surely not! – But why should every individual man not have existed more than once in this world?

§ 95: Is this hypothesis so laughable merely because it is the oldest? Because human reason, before the sophistries of the schools had dissipated and debilitated it, came to it right away?

§ 96: Why should I, too, not have already taken all the steps toward my perfection that mere temporal reward and punishments can lead man to make?

§ 97: And why, at another time, should I not have taken all the steps that the prospect of eternal rewards so powerfully induces us to take?

§ 98: Why should I not come back as often as I can to acquire new knowledge, new skills? Do I take away so much at once that there is no point in making the effort to come back?

§ 99: Shall I not come back for this reason? – Or is it because I forget that I have already been here? It is just as well that I do forget. The memory of my former condition would permit me to make only a bad use of the present one. And does that which I must forget have to be forgotten forever?

§ 100: Or shall I not come back because so much time would be lost? – Lost? – And what do I have to lose? Is not all of eternity mine?

English translation redacted from various translations by GHDI staff. Translations consulted include: Literary and Philosophical Essays: French, German and Italian. With Introductions and Notes, translated by F. W. Robertson. New York: Collier, the Harvard Classics, 1910, and Lessing's Education of the Human Race, translated by John Dearling Haney. New York: Teachers College Columbia University, 1908.

Source of original German text: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts [The Education of the Human Race] (1777). Hamburg: Hamburger Kulturverlag, 1948, pp. 35-60.

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