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Johann Augustus Eberhard

Johann Augustus Eberhard (1739 - January 6, 1809) was a German theologian and philosopher.

He was born at Halberstadt in Lower Saxony, where his father was singing-master at the church of St Martin's, and teacher at the school. He studied theology at the University of Halle, and became tutor to the eldest son of Baron von der Horst, to whose family he was attached for several years. In 1763 he was appointed co-rector of the school of St Martin's, and second preacher in the hospital church of the Holy Ghost; but he soon resigned these offices and followed his patron to Berlin. There he met Nicolai and Moses Mendelssohn, with whom he formed a close friendship. In 1768 he became chaplain to the workhouse at Berlin and the neighbouring fishing village of Stralow. Here he wrote his Neue Apologie des Socrates (1772), a work occasioned by an attack on the fifteenth chapter of Marmontel's Belisarius by Peter Hofstede, a Rotterdam clergyman, who maintained the that the virtues of the noblest pagans were only splendida peccata. Eberhard stated the arguments for the broader view with dignity, acuteness and learning, but the liberality of his reasoning offended the strictly orthodox divines, and probably obstructed his preferment in the church.

In 1774 he was appointed to the living of Charlottenburg. A second volume of his Apologie appeared in 1778. In this he endeavoured to obviate some objections which were taken to the former part, and continued his inquiries into the doctrines of the Christian religion, religious toleration and the proper rules for interpreting the Scriptures. In 1778 he accepted the professorship of philosophy at Halle. As an academic teacher, however, he was unsuccessful. His powers as an original thinker were not equal to his learning and his literary gifts, as was shown in his opposition to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. In 1786 he was admitted a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences; in 1805 the king of Prussia conferred upon him the honorary title of a privy-councillor. In 1808 he obtained the degree of doctor in divinity, which was given him as a reward for his theological writings. He was a master of the learned languages, spoke and wrote French fluently, and understood English, Italian and Dutch. He possessed a discriminating taste for the fine arts, and was a great lover of music.


He also edited the Philosophisches Magazin (1788-1792) and the Philosophisches Archiv (1792-1795).

See F Nicolai, Gedächtnisschrift auf J.A. Eberhard (Berlin and Stettin, 1810); also KH Jordens, Lexicon deutscher Dichter und Prosaisten.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.