I am reading Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning". On Page 32 the author attributes a quote to Lessing which goes as follows:

There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.

Can anyone shed some light on this quote? Although the quote at a first glance looked obvious to me, I am not getting exactly what it means philosophically and in what context is it being said by Lessing and then used by Frankl. What made Lessing say this? If you can point where this quote appears first that would be great, too.

closed as off-topic by sumelic, Vilmar, Araucaria, NVZ, Chenmunka Sep 1 '16 at 12:43

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    If the world doesn't occasionally cause you to go crazy then you're already crazy. – Hot Licks Jul 11 '15 at 22:44
  • Not a question about the English language. – rogermue Jul 12 '15 at 9:17
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about the Englisch language. – rogermue Jul 12 '15 at 9:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about analyzing a quote from literature. – sumelic Sep 1 '16 at 6:59

Frankl doesn't say and a perfunctory search doesn't find the source of Gotthold Lessing's quote. In the light of Frankl's experience in the Holocaust, it means that if you cannot be overwhelmed by the enormity of mankind's irrationality, overwhelmed to the point that you despair of finding a way to understand that irrationality, then you didn't have much capacity to reason in the first place.


This is from Lessing's play Emilia Galotti, IV.7

Prince Hettore Gonzaga, infatuated with the virtuous bourgeoise Emilia Galotti, has had his chamberlain Marinelli abduct Emilia and murder her fiancé, and has just given his mistress Countess Orsina the brush-off. Emilia's father Odoardo shows up trying to find out what's going on, and Marinelli tells him to pay no attention to Orsina, because her mind is disturbed; when Orsina hears this from Odoardo, she replies

Wahnwitzige? Das war es also, was er Ihnen von mir vertraute? —Nun, nun; es mag leicht keine von seinen gröbsten Lügen sein. —Ich fühle so was! —Und glauben Sie, glauben Sie mir: wer über gewisse Dinge den Verstand nicht verlieret, der hat keinen zu verlieren.

A madwoman? That is what he told you about me? —Well, well; maybe it's not one of his grossest lies. —Something like it is what I feel! —And believe me, believe me: Whoever doesn't lose his mind over certain things has no mind to lose.


There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.

My paraphrase

There are things which will either drive you crazy or, if they don't, then you were crazy to begin with.

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