Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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stand forth before their eyes as well.^ Because they them-
selves are unable by any effort to rise out of themselves
to life as such, but always need a prop and a support for
their free upward flight, they do not get xbeyond this
support in their thinking, which is the image of their life.
That which is not Something is to them inevitably
Nothing, for their eyes see nothing else between that
Being in which growth has ceased and the Nothing,
because their life has nothing else. Their feeling,
which is their sole possible authority, seems to them
infallible. If anyone does not acknowledge this support
of theirs, they are far from assuming that to him life
alone is enough ; on the contrary, they believe that he
merely lacks the cleverness to perceive the support,
which they have no doubt supports him too, and the
capacity to raise himself by his exertions to their high
point of view. It is, therefore, futile and impossible to ^
instruct them ; one would have to construct them, and
to construct them differently, if one could. Now, in
this matter German philosophy of the present day is /
not German, but a product of the foreign spirit.

92. True philosophy, on the other hand, which has
been perfected in itself and has penetrated beyond
appearance to the very kernel of appearance, proceeds
from the one, pure, divine life — ^life simply as such, which
it remains for all eternity, and always one — ^but not from
this or that kind of life. It sees how it is only in appear-
ance that this life ceaselessly closes and opens again.

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and how it is only in accordance with this law that life
attains Being and becomes a Something. In the view of

^ , this philosophy, Being arises, whereas the other presup-
poses it. So, then, this philosophy is in a very special
sense German only — that is, original. Vice versa, if
anyone were but a true German, he could not philoso-
phize in any way but this.

93. That system of thought, although it dominates the
majority of those who philosophize in German, is never-
theless not really a German system. Ypt, whether it is
consciously set up as a true system of philosophical doctrine,
or whether, unknown to us, it is merely the basis for the
Xfist of our thinking, it influences the other scientific
views of the age. Jndeed, it is a main effort of our age,
stimulated by foreign countries as we are, not merely
to lay hold of the material of science with the memory, as
our forefathers may be said to have done, but to turn it
over in our own independent thought and to philosophize
upon it.. So far as the effort is concerned, our age is in
the right ; but when, in the execution of this philosophiz-
ing, it proceeds, as is to be expected, from the death-
creed of foreign philosophy, it will be in the wrong.
In this place we propose to glance only at those sciences
which are most closely connected with our whole plan,
and to trace the foreign ideas and views which are so
widespread in them.

p- 94. In holding that the establishment and government of
States should be looked upon as an independent art having
its own fixed rules, non-German countries have undoubt-
edly served us as forerunners, and they themselves found
their pattern in antiquity. But what will be regarded
as the art of the State by such a non-German country,
which in its language, the very element of its thinking
and willing, has a support that is fixed, closed, and dead \

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What, too, will all who follow its example regard as the
art of the State ? Undoubtedly it will be the art of finding ^
a similarly fixed and dead order of things, from which
condition of death the living movement of society is to
proceed, and to proceed as this art intends. This inten-
tion is to make the whole of life in society into a large
and ingeniously constructed clockwork pressure-machine,
in which every single part will be continually compelled
by the whole to serve the whole. The intention is to
do a sum in arithmetic with finite and ^ven quantities,
and produce from them an ascertainable result ; and thus,
on the assumption that everyone seeks his own well-being,^
to compel everyone against his wish and will to promote
the general well-being. Non-German countries have re-
peatedly enunciated this principle and produced ingenious
specimens of this art of social machinery. The mother-
land has adopted the theory, and developed its application
in the construction of social machines ; and here, too, as
always, in a manner that is deeper, truer, more thorough-
going, and much superior to its models. If at any time^'
there is a stoppage in the accustomed process of society,
such artists of the State can give no other explanation
than that perhaps one of the wheels has become worn
out, and they know no other remedy than to remove
the defective wheels and insert new ones. The morej
deeply rooted anyone is in this mechanical view ofi
society, and the better he understands how to simplify -
the mechanism by making all the parts of the machine at ;
alike as possible and by treating them all as if they were *
of the same material, the higher is his reputation as an
artist of the State in this age of ours : and rightly so, for
things are even worse when those in control hesitate and
come to no decision and are incapable of any definite



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95. This view of the art of the State enforces respect
by its iron consistency and by an appearance of sublimity
which falls upon it ; and up to a certain point, especially
when the whole tendency is towards a monarchical con-
stitution, and one that is always becoming more purely
monarchical, it renders good service. But, when it
reaches that point, its impotence is apparent to everyone.
I will suppose that you have made your machine as perfect
as you intended, and that each and every lower part of
it is unceasingly and irresistibly compelled by a higher
part, which is itself compelled to compel, and so on up to
the top. But how will your final part, from which
Iproceeds the whole compelling power present in the
^machine, be itself compelled to compel ? Suppose you
have overcome absolutely all the resistance to the main-
spring that might arise from the friction of the various
parts, and suppose you have given that mainspring a
power against which all other power vanishes to nothing,
which is all you could do even by mechanism, and suppose
you have thus created a supremely powerful monarchical
constitution ; how are you going to set this mainspring
^^itself in motion and compel it without exception to see
the right and to will it ? Tell me how you are going
to bring perpetual motion into your clockwork, which,
though properly designed and constructed, does not go.
Is, perhaps, as you sometimes say in your embarrassment,
the whole machine itself to react and to set its own main-
spring in motion ? Either this happens by a power that
itself proceeds from the stimulus of the mainspring ; or
else it happens by a power that does not proceed thence,
but is to be found in the whole thing independent of
the mainspring. No third way is possible. If you
suppose the first, you find yourselves reasoning in a circle,
and your principles of mechanics are in a circle too ; the


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whole machine can compel the mainspring only in so
far as the machine itself is compelled by the mainspring
to compel it — that is to say, in so far as the mainspring
only indirectly compels itself. But if it does .not compd
itself, and this is the defect we set out to remedy, no
motion whatever results. If you suppose the second case,
you confess that the source of all motion in your machine
is a power that has not entered at all into your calcula-
tions and regulations, and is not in any way controlled by
your mechanism. This power undoubtedly works as it
' can without your aid and according to its own laws,
which are unknown to you. In each of the two cases,^^^
you must confess yourselves botchers and impotent

96. Now, people have felt this, and so they have wished,
under this system which, in its reliance upon compulsion,
need not concern itself about the other citizens, to educate
at any rate the prince by every kind of good doctrine and /
/instruction ; for from the prince the whole movement*^
Lof society proceeds. But how can one be sure of finding
. someone who by nature is capable of receiving the educa*
^ ition that is to make a prince ? Even if by a stroke of
'^l luck he were to be found, how can one be sure that he,
^ whom no man can compel, will be ready and willing to
^^ submit to discipline ? Such a view of the art of the
State, whether it is found on foreign or German soil, is
always a product of the foreign spirit. Here we may
remark, to the honour of the German race and the German
spirit, that, however good artists we might be in the mere
theory of these calculations which are based on compul-
sion, none the less, when it came to putting them into
practice, we were very much hampered by the dim
feeling that things should not be done in this way ; and
so in this matter we remained behind foreign countries.

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Therefore, even should we be compelled to accept the
boon of foreign forms and laws intended for us, at least
let us not be unduly ashamed, as if our intelligence had
been incapable of attaining these heights of legislation.
As we are not inferior to any nation even in legislating,
when we only have the pen in our hands, it may well be
that we felt with regard to life that even the making of
such laws was not the right thing ; and so we preferred
I to let the old system stand until the perfect system
I should come to us, instead of merely exchanging the old
\ fashion for a new one just as transitory.
, 97* Altogether different is the genuine German art
vi the State. It, too, seeks fixity, surety, and independence
of blind and halting nature, and in this it is quite in agree-
ment with foreign countries. But, unlike these, it does
not seek a fixed and certain thing, as the first element,
which will make the spirit, as the second element, certain ;
on the contrary, it seeks from the very beginning, and as
the very first and only clement, a firm and certain
spirit. This is for it the mainspring, whose life
proceeds from itself, and which has perpetual motion ;
the mainspring which will regulate, and continually
keep in motion, the life of society. The German art of
the State understands that it cannot create this spirit
by reprimanding adults who are already spoilt by neglect,
. but only by educating the young, who are still unspoilt.
Moreover, with this education it will not turn, as foreign
countries do, to the solitary peak, the prince, but to the
broad plain which is the nation ; for indeed the prince,
too, will without doubt be part of the nation. Just as
the State, in the persons of its adult citizens, is the con-
; tinned education of the human race, so must the future

citizen himself, in the opinion of this art of the State,
I ficst be educated up to the point of being susceptible to

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that higher education* So this German and very modem
art of the State becomes once more the very ancient
art of the State, which among the Greeks founded
citizenship on education and trained such citizens at
succeeding ages have never seen. Henceforth the German
will dp what is in form the same, though in content it
will be characterized by a spirit that is not narrow and
exclusive, but universal and cosmopolitan.

98. That foreign spirit to which we have referred
prevails among the great majority of our people in another
matter, viz., their view of the whole life of a human
race and of history as the picture of ^hat life. A nation
whose language has a dead and completed foundation
can only advance, as we showed on a previous occasion,
to a certain stage of development in all the departments of^
' rhetoric. That stage depends on the -foundation of the^ ;
language, and the nation will experience a golden age.^ '
Unless such a nation is extremely modest and self-depreci-
ative, it cannot fittingly think more highly of the whole
race than it does of itself, from its own knowledge;
hence, it must assume that there will be a final, highest,
and for ever unsurpassable goal for all human develop-
ment. Just as those animal species, the beavers and the^
bees, still build in the way they built thousands of years
ago, and have made no progress in the art during that long
period of time, so it will be, according to that nation,
with the animal species called man in all branches of
his development. These branches, impulses^ and capaci-
ties it will be possible to survey exhaustively, and indeed
to see on examining a few members ; and then it will be
possible to indicate the highest development of each one
of them. Perhaps the human species will be far worse I
off than the bee or beaver species ; for, though the latter j
learn nothing new, they nevertheless do not deteriorate^

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in their art, whereas man, when he has once reached the
; summit, is hurled back again, and may struggle for
hundreds or thousands of years to regain the point at
which it would have been better to leave him undis-
turbed. The human species, so these people think, will

. undoubtedly have attained such culminating points in
education in the past, and enjoyed more than one golden
age ; to discover these points in history, to judge all
the efforts of humanity by them, and to lead humanity
back to them, will be their most strenuous endeavour.
According to them, history was finished long ago and has

V'been finished several times already. According to them,
there is nothing new under the sun, for they have destroyed
the source of eternal life under and over the sun, and only
let eternally-recurring death repeat itself and subside
time after time.

99. It is well known that this philosophy of history has
come to us from foreign countries, although it is dying
away even there at the present day and has become
almost exclusively German property. From this closer
kinship it follows also that this philosophy of history, which
we call ours, is able to understand the efforts of foreign
countries through and through ; and, although this
view of history is no longer expressed very often in
those countries, they go beyond expression, for they are
gcting in accordance with it and constructing once more

' ''a golden age. This philosophy is even able to prophesy,
and to point out to them the path they have still to take ;
it can pay them the tribute of genuine admiration,
which one who thinks as a German cannot pretend to do.
Indeed, how could he ? Golden ages are to him in every
respect a limitation proceeding from a state of death.
Gold may indeed be the most precious metal in the lap
of dead earth, he thinks, but the stuff of the living spirit

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is beyond the sun and beyond all suns, and is their source.
For him history, and with it the human race, does not ^^
unfold itself according to some mysterious hidden law,
like a round dance; on the contrary, in his opinion a
tru e and jpropcr man himself makes history, not merely
repeating what'has existed already, but throughout all/p^;^:.^
time creating what is entirely new. Hence, he never
expects mere repetition, and even if it should happen
word for word as the old book says, at any rate he does not
admire it.

100. Now, the deadly foreign spirit, without our being
clearly aware of it, spreads itself in a similar way over the
y rest of our scientific views, of which it may suffice to
have adduced the examples quoted. This happens
because at the present day we are working in our own
fashion upon stimuli previously received from abroad,
and are passing through that intermediate state. Because
it was pertinent to the matter in hand, I adduced those
examples ; and partly, too, so that no one should think
himself able to refute the statements here made by de-
ductions from the principles which we have quoted. It
is not the case that those principles would have remained
unknown to us, or that we could not oursbottom are of the same mind. This German
philosophy does, indeed, raise itself by the act of thinking, .'^
— not merely boasting about it, in accordance with a dim
notion that it ought to be so, without being able to put
it into pr?ictice— :it raises itself to the * more than aUv/
infinity ' that is unchangeable, and in this alone it finds true
being. It perceives time and eternity and infinity in their
rise from the appearing and becoming visible of that One
which is in itself invisible and which is only comprehended,
rightly comprehended, in this invisibility. Even infinity
is, according to this philosophy, nothing in itself, and there
is in it no true being whatever. It is solely the means

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by which the One thing that exists, and exists only in its
invisibility, becomes visible, and the means by which there
is built up for the One an image, a form, and a shadow
of itself in the sphere of imagery. Everything else that
may become visible within this infinity of the world of
images is a nothing proceeding from nothing, a shadow
of the shadow, and solely the means by which that first
nothing of infinity and time itself becomes visible and
opens up to thought the ascent to invisible being without

Within this, the sole possible image of infinity, the
invisible directly manifests itself only as free and original
life of the sight, or as a decision of the will made by a
reasonable being ; in no other way whatever can it appear
and manifest itself. All continuous existence that appears
as non-spiritual. life is only an empty shadow projected
from the world of sight and enlarged by the intermediary
of the nothing — a shadow, in contrast to which, and by
recogniung it as a nothing enlarged by transmission,
the world of sight itself ought to elevate itself to the
recognition of its own nothingness and to the acknow-
ledgment of the invisible as the only thing that is! trjoc*

109. Now, in these shadows of the shadows of shadows
that philosophy of being, which believes in death and
becomes a mere philosophy of nature, the deadest of all
philosophies, remains a captive, and dreads and worships
its own creature.

This constancy is the expression of its true life and of
its love ; and herein this philosophy is to be believed.
But, when it goes on to say that this being, which it
presupposes as actually existing, is one with, and precisely
the same as, the Absolute, it is not to be believed, no matter
how often it asserts this, nor even though it takes many an
oath in confirmation. It does not know this, but only

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Utters it trusting to luck, and blindly echoing another
philosophy whose tenet in this matter it does not venture
to dispute. If it should want to make good its claim to
knowledge, it would have to proceed, not from duality at
an undisputed fact (which its dictum, against which there
is no appeal, does away with only to leave in full sway)
but, on the contrary, from unity. From this unity it
would have to be capable of deducing duality, and with it
all manifoldness, in a clear and intelligible fashion.
For this, however, thought is needed, and reflection
consummated and perfected in itself. The philosophy
we are referring to has, for one thing, never learnt the
art of thinking in this way and is indeed incapable of it,
having only the power to indulge in reverie. Besides, it
is hostile to this way of thinking and has no inclination
whatever to attempt it ; for, if it did, it would be dis-
turbed in the illusion that it holds so dear.

This, then, is the essential thing in which our philo-
sophy deliberately opposes that philosophy; and on this
occasion it has been our purpose, once for all, to enunciate
and establish this as definitely as possible.


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iio. The last four addresses have answered the question :
What is the German as contrasted with other peoples
of Teutonic descent ? The proof to be adduced by all
this for our investigation as a whole is completed when we
examine the further question : What is a people ? This
latter question is similar to another, and when it is answered
the other is answered too. The other question, which is
often raised and the answers to which are very different,
is this : What is love of fatherland, or, to express it more
correctly, what is the love of the individual for his nation ?

If we have hitherto proceeded correctly in the course
of our investigation, it must here be obvious at once that
only the German — ^the original man, who has not become
dead in an arbitrary organization — really has a people and
is entitled to count on one, and that he alone is capable of
real and rational love for his nation.

The problem having been thus stated, we prepare the
way for its solution by the following observation, which
seems at first to have no connection with what has pre-
ceded it. ^

III. Religion, as we have already remarked in our
third address, is able to transcend all time and the whole
of this present sensuous life, without thereby causing the


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slightest detriment to the righteousness, morality, and
holiness of the life that is permeated by this belief.
Even if one is firmly persuaded that all our effort on this
earth will not leave the slightest trace behind it nor
yield the slightest fruit, nay more, that the divine effort
will even be perverted and become an instrument of
evil and of still deeper moral corruption, one can none
the less continue the effort, solely in order to maintain
the divine life that has manifested itself in us, and with
a view to a higher order of things in a future world, in
which no deed that is of divine origin is lost. Thus the
apostles, for example, and the primitive Christians
in general, because of their belief in heaven had thdr
hearts entirely set on things above the earth even in
their lifetime ; and earthly affairs — ^the State, their
earthly fatherland, and nation — ^were abandoned by them
so entirely that they no longer deemed them worthy of
attention. Possible though this is, and to faith not
difficult, and joyfully though one must resign one's self,
once it is the unalterable vrill of God, to having an earthly
fatherland no longer and to being serfs and exiles h/ere
below, nevertheless it is not the natural condition nor the
XjLile of the universe ; on the contrary, it is a rare exception.
It is a gross misuse of religion, a misuse of which Chris-
tianity among other religions has frequently been guilty,
to make a point of recommending, on principle and
without regard to existing circumstances, such a with-
drawal from the affairs of the State and the nation at
the mark of a true religious disposition. In such a con-
Ndition of things, if it is true and real and not merely the
product of fitful religious zeal, temporal life loses all
independent existence and becomes merely a forecourt
of true life and a period of severe trial which is endured
only out of obedience and resignation to the will of God.

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Then it is true that immortal souls, as many have imagined,
are housed in earthly bodies, as in prisons, for their punish-
ment. But, on the other hand, in the regular order of
things this earthly life itself is intended to be truly life,
of which we may be glad and which we may enjoy in
gratitude, while, of course, looking forward to a higher
life. Although it is true that religion is, for one thing,
the consolation of the unjustly oppressed slave, yet this

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Online LibraryJohann Gottlieb FichteAddresses to the German nation → online text (page 11 of 22)