Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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132. We have nothing more to do. here vnth the
stupid surprise of some, when we assert such a world of
pure thought, and assert it, indeed, as the only possible
world, and reject the world of sense ; nor have we anything
more to do wdth those who deny the former world
altogether, or deny only the possibility that the majori^
of the people at large can be brought into it. We have
already completely rejected these things. He who does
not yet know that there is a world of thought can
instruct himself meanwhile about it elsewhere by the
available means ; we have no time for that instruction
here. But we do intend just this ; to show how even
the majority of the people at large can be raised into
that world.

133. Now, in our deliberate opinion the idea of such
a new education is not to be considered as simply a
picture set up for the exercise of ingenuity of mind or of
skill in argument, but is rather to be put into practice
at once and introduced into life. Our task, therefore.


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is first of all to point out what already exists in the actual
world with which the realization of this should be con-

We give this answer to the question : it ought to be
connected with the system of instruction invented and
proposed by Johann Heinrich Pcstalozzi, and already
successfully practised under his eyes. We intend to
^ give good reasons for this decision of ours and to define it


First of all, we have read and reflected over the man's
own writings, from which we have formed our conception
of his art of instruction and education. We have taken
no notice of the reports and opinions of the current
literary periodicals, nor of their further opinions upon
those opinions. -We observe this in order to recommend
this method and the complete avoidance of its opposite
J to everyone who wishes likewise to have a conceptrpn of

^! this subject/. Similarly, up to the present we have ^^ not

j desired to see anything of it in actual practice ; not fi^pm

disrespect, but because we wanted first to provide oiir-
, selves with a definite and clear conception of the inventons

true intention. The application may often fall short oV
the intention, but from that conception the conception!
of the application and of the inevitable result followsl
without any experiment, and, equipped with this alone,
one can truly understand the application and judge it
correctly. If, as some believe, even this system of
instruction has already degenerated here and there into
blind, empirical groping and into empty play and show,
for that the author's fundamental conception, at least,
is in my opinion quite blameless.

134. Now this fundamental conception is warranted

for me, first of all by the individuality of the man himself,

^ as he shows it in his writings with the truest and most

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hearty frankness. ^I could have used him, just as well as
I used Luther or as I might use anyone else if there
have been others like them, to demonstrate the char-
acteristics of the German spirit and to give the gratifying
proof that this spirit, in all its miraculous power, reigned
down to the present day within the range of the German
tongue) He, also, has spent a laborious life struggling
with every possible obstacle ; within, with his own
stubborn obscurity and awkwardness and his very scanty
supply of the most ordinary aids to scholarly education ;
without, with continual misunderstanding. Towards an
end, which he simply surmised and which was quite
unknown to him, he has struggled, upheld and stimulated
by an unconquerable and all-powerful and/ German
impulse, a love of the poor neglected people. As in the
case of Luther, only in another connection and one more
in keeping with his age, this all-powerful love had made
him its instrument and had become the life of his life.
It was the unknown but definite and unchanging guide
which led his life through the all-enveloping night, and^
because it was impossible for such a love to leave the earth
unrewarded, crowned its evening with his truly spiritual
invention, which achieved far more than he had ever
longed for in his boldest wishes. He wished simply to
help the people ; but his invention, when developed to
the full, raises the people, removes every difference
between them and an educated class, provides national
education instead of the desired popular education, and
might, indeed, have the power of helping peoples and the
whole human race to rise from the depths of their present

135. This fundamental conception of his appears in
his writings with complete clearness and unmistakable
precision. First of all, in regard to the form, he desires.

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not the caprice and blind groping that has hitherto
existed, but a definite and deliberate art of education ;
that is what we, too, wish and what German thoroughness
must necessarily wish. He relates' very frankly how a
French phrase, that he wanted to make education mecha-
nical, made his mind clear concerning this aim of his.
In regard to the content, the first step in the new educa-
tion described by me is that it shall stimulate and train
,the free activity of the pupil's mind) his thought, in which
\ later the world of his love shall dawn for him. With
this first step Pestalozzi's writings deal excellently;
our examination of his fundamental conception treats
this subject first of all. In this regard his censure 6f
the previous system of instruction, that it has only
plunged the pupil in mist and shadow and has never let
him reach actual truth and reality, agrees with ours,
that this system has never been able to influence life, nor
to form the root of life. Pestalozzi's proposed remedy
i for this, to lead the pupil to direct perception, is synony-^N
' mous with ours, to stimulate his mental activity to the
creation of images and to let him learn everything just \
by this free formation ; for perception of what has been |
freely created is the only possible perception. The-^
application, to be mentioned later, proves that the
inventor really means this, and does not understand by
perception that blindly groping and fumbling sense-
impression. Quite rightly, too, this general and very far-
reaching law is laid down for the stimulation of the pupil's
perception by education : from the beginning keep pace
exactly with the evolution of the child's powers that are
to be developed.

136. On the other hand, in Pestalozzi's system of
instruction all the mistakes in terms and proposals have
' [See De Guimps, £f/> oj Pestahzxiy Sonnenichein Sc Co.^ 19039 p. 183.]

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one common source, the confusion and opposition of
two things ; on one side, the paltry and limited end
originally aimed at, namely, to lend such aid as is abso-
lutely necessary to those children from among the people
who are the most neglected, on the supposition that the
whole people will remain as it is ; and on the other side,
the means leading to a far higher end. One b saved from
all error and obtains a completely consistent conception
by dropping the former and everything that results from
its consideration, and keeping only to the latter and carry-
ing it out consistently. Undoubtedly it was solely the
desire to release from school as soon as possible the very
poorest children for bread-winning, and yet to provide
them with a means of making up for the interrupted
instruction, that gave rise in Pestalozzi's loving heart to
the over-estimation of reading and writing, to the setting
up of these as almost the aim and climax of popular
education, and to his simple belief in the testimony of
past centuries, that this is the best aid to instruction. For
otherwise he would have found that reading and writinjjl^^^''^ -, ' ^

have been hitherto just the very instruments for envelop- '

ing men in mist and shadow and for making them con- 5

ceited. That same desire of his is undoubtedly the source
of several other proposals that are in contradiction to his ^

principle of direct perception, and especially his utterly
false notion of language as a means of raising our race
from dim perception to clear ideas. For our part, we
have not spoken of the education of the people in opposi-
tion to that of the higher classes, because we no longer
want to have the word '* people " used in the sense of
vulgar common populace, nor can German national
interests tolerate this sense of the word any longer ; but
we have spoken of national education. If it shall ever
come to this, the miserable wish that education shall


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be finished very soon and the child again set to work
must not be breathed any longer, but given up right at
the beginning of the consideration of this matter. In
my opinion, indeed, this education will not be expensive,
the institutions will be able to maintain themselves to
a great extent, and work will not suffer. I shall state my
thoughts about this in due course ; but even if it were not
so, the pupil must unconditionally, and at any cost, remain
until education is and can be finished. That half-

! education is not a bit better than none at all : it leaves
matters as they were ; and if anyone desires this, he had
better dispense also with the half and declare plainly at
the very beginning that he does not want mankind to be
helped. .:^Now, assuming that the pupil is to remain until
education is finished, fcadin|^nd writi ng c an be of no
use in the purely national education, so long as this
education continues^ But it can, indeed, be very harm-
f^^because, as it nas hitherto so often done, it mayeasily
le^ad_ih£_jju£il astray from direct perception to mere
signs, and from attention, which knows that it grasps
nothing if it does not grasp it now and here, to distrac-
tion, which consoles itself by writing things down and
wants to learn some day from paper what it will probably
never learn, and, in general, to the dreaming which so
often accompanies dealings with the letters of the alphabet.

""l^ot until the very end of education, and as its last gift
for the journey, should these arts be imparted and the
pupil led by analysis of the language, of which he has been
completely master for a long time, to discover and use
the letters. After the rest of the training he has already
acquired, this would be play.

137. So much for the purely universal national educa-

• tion. ^ It is a different matter with the future scholar.
Some day he shall not only express his feelings about what is

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universally valid, but also by solitary reflection lift up into

the light of language the hidden and real depths of hb v

heart, of which he is unconscious. He must, therefore, get

into his hands sooner, in the form of writing, the instru- f

ment of this solitary yet ai^dible thought, and learn to (

create ;;^yet even in his case there will be less need of 1^

haste than there has been in the past. This wrill become

distinctly clearer in due course, when we distinguish

between purely national and scholarly education.

138. Everything that Pestalozzi says about sound and
word as means for the development of mental power b to
be corrected and limited in accordance with thb view.
The scope of these addresses does not permit me to go '
into details. I make, however, just the following remark
which profoundly affects the whole matter. Hb book '

for mothers contains the foundation of his development
of all knowledge ; for, among other things, he relies very
much on home education. First of all, so far as thb
home education itself is concerned, we have certainly ^

no desire to quarrel with him over the hopes that he * . i

forms of mothers. But, so far as our higher conception |

of a national education is concerned, we are firmly con-
vinced that, especially among the working classes, it
cannot be either begun, continued, or ended in the parents' -p. , ^ , ^
house, nor, indeed, without the complete separation of ' ,

the children from them^ - The hardship, the daily anxiety
about making ends meet, the petty meanness and avarice,
which occur here, would inevitably infect the children^
drag them down, and prevent them from making a free
flight into the world of thought. This also is one of the
absolute and indispensable conditions for the realization
of our scheme. We have seen enough of what will happen
if mankind as a whole repeats itself in each successive
generation as it was in the previous one. If its complete

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reformation is intended, it must once for all be entir
separated from itself and cut off altogether from its (
life. Not until a generation has passed through the n
education can the question be considered, as to wl
part of the national education shall be entrusted
the home.

1 39. Setting that aside, and considering Pestalozzi's b(
for mothers simply as the first foundation of instructic
to take, as the book does, the child's body as the subj
of instruction is also a complete mistake. He starts w
the very correct statement, that the first object of 1
child's knowledge must be the child himself. But is 1
child's body, then, the child himself? If it must b(
human body, would not the mother's body be far clo
and more visible to him ? And how can the cl]
obtain a perceptual knowledge of his body, without £
having learnt to use it i That information is not knc
ledge, but simply the learning by heart of arbitr
word-symbols, brought about by the over-estimat
of speaking. The true foundation of instruction 2
knowledge would be, to use Pestalozzi's language,
A B C of the sensations. When the child begins
understand, and imperfectly to make, speech sounds,
should be led to make himself quite clear, whether h(
hungry or sleepy, whether he sees or hears the act
sensation denoted by this or that expression, or, inde
simply imagines it. He should be clear, too, as to
differences and degrees of difference of the vari
impressions on the same sense that are denoted by spe(
words, e,g.y the colours and the sounds of different bod
etc. All this should take place in succession, develop
properly and regularly the power of sensation. By 1
means the child first obtains an ego^^which he abstract
free and conscious conception, and which he scrutini

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by its aid ; as soon as it awakes to life, a mental eye is
set in life, and from that time onward never leaves it»
Thus, also, measure and number, in themselves empty
forms, obtain for the succeeding exercises of perception
their clearly recognized inner content which, according
to Pestalozzi's method, can be given them only by
obscure tendency and compulsion. In Pestalozzi*s writ*
ings a confession, which is remarkable from thb point of
view, is made by one of his teachers who, when initiated
into this method, began to perceive only empty geometrical
bodies. This would happen to all pupils of that method
if spiritual nature did not, unnoticed, guard against it«
It is at this stage, too, when what is really perceived it
thus clearly grasped, that not language signs, indeed^lbu^
speech itself and the need for expressing oneself to otheri
trains man, and raises him^out of darkijess and confusion\
to clearness and definiteness^.* When the child first awakes
to consciousness, all the impressions of surrounding
nature immediately crowd upon him and are mingled
to a vague chaos, in which no single thing stands out from
among the general confusion. How is he ever to emerge
from this stage of vagueness \ He needs the help of
others ; he cannot get it except by definitely expressing
his need and distinguishing it from similar needs which
are already denoted in the language. Under the guidance
of those distinctions he is compelled to reflect and to
collect his thoughts, to notice what he actually feels, to
compare it with, and differentiate it from, something else
which he already knows but does not at present feeL
Thus a conscious and free ego begins to be separated off
in him. Now, education ought with deliberate and free
art to continue the course which necessity and nature
begin with ut.

140. In the field of objective knowledge, which is

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concerned with external objects, acquaintance with
the word-sign adds absolutely nothing to the clearness
and dcfinitcness of the inner knowledge for the knower
himself, but simply brings it within thp sphere of what
can be communicated to others, which is an altogether
different sphere. The clearness of that knowledge
depends entirely on perception, and whatever man's
imagination can create again at will in all its parts, just
as it really is, is fully known, whether one has a word for
it or not. ^ Indeed, we are convinced that this perfection
of the perception should precede acquaintance with the
word-symbol. • The opposite process leads straight to
that world of shadow and mist, and to premature loqua-
city, both of which are rightly so hateful to Pestalozzi.
He who wants to know the word as soon as possible, and
considers his knowledge increased as soon as he knows it,
lives in that very world of mist and is anxious merely to
extend it. Considering Pestalozzi's system of thought as
a whole, I believe that it was just this A B C of sensation
that he aimed at as the first foundation of mental develop-
ment and as the content of his book for mothers. In all
his statements about language he had a dim notion of
it, and it was only lack of training in philosophy that
prevented him from becoming quite clear on this point.

141. Now, presupposing this development of the
knowing subject by means of sensation and setting it as the
first foundation of the national education we have in
view, Pestalozzi's A B C of sense-perception, the theory
of the relations of number and measure, is the entirely
appropriate and excellent consequence. With this per-
ception any part of the world of sense can be connected ;
it can be introduced into the domain of mathematics,
until the pupil is sufficiently trained by these preliminary
exercises to be led on to the planning of a social order of

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mankind and to love of that order. This is the second

and essential step in his training. s'

142. But in the first part of education another subject,
which is also mentioned by Pcstalozzi^ is not to be over- r

looked ; the development of the pupil's bodily powers, *

which must necessarily go hand in hand with those of . .^

the mind. He demands an A B C of Art, 1./., of the
bodily powers. His most striking statements about this
are the following : * " Striking, carrying, throwing, .

pushing, pulling, turning, struggling, swingings etc., are
the simplest exercises of strength. There is a natural
sequence in these exercises from the beginnings to the
perfect art, t.^., to the highest stage of the nerve rhythm,
which ensures blow and push, swing and throw, in a
hundred different ways, and makes hand and foot certain.** -

In this, everything depends on the natural sequence,
and it is not enough that we should interfere in a blind
arbitrary way and introduce any kind of exercise, just
in order that it may be said of us that we too, like the ^ ^ ^

Greeks perhaps, have physical education. Now, every thing C

still remains to be done in this matter, for Pestalozzi has !

supplied no A B C of Art. This must first of all be sup- <

plied, and that certainly requires a man who is versed
in the anatomy of the^^man body and also in scientific ^

mechanics, and who combines with this knowledge a 1 . .

high degree of philosophical spirit. Such a man will be
capable of discovering in all-round perfection that machine
which the human body is designed to be, and of showing
how this machine may gradually be developed out of
every healthy human body, so that every advance occurs

^ [An almost exact quotation from Pestalozzi'i Wie Grrimd ihrf
Kinder Uhrt ; cf . Pestalozzi's Ausgfwaeblu ScbrifUn^ ed. F. Mann, Lingen-

salza, vol. iii, p. 275, and see translation by Cooke, Sonnenschein ft Co.y i ' < |

>907. pp. I77t 178-]

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in the only possible correct sequence, thus preparing for
and facilitating those that follow. Thereby the health
and beauty of the body and the strength of the mind
are not only not endangered, but are even confirmed and
increased. It is obvious without further mention how
indispensable this element is to an education which pro-
mises to train the whole man and is especially intended for
a nation which shall restore again, and in the future
maintain, its independence.

We reserve for the next address what there b still to
say by way of further definition of our conception of
German national education.

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143. The training of the pupil to make clear to himsdf A ^
first his sensations and then his. perceptions, which must V >
be accompanied by a systematic art of training his body, I . ,

is the first part of the new German national educationj^^y -^

In regard to the education of perception^ we have a
suitable method from Pestalozzi* A method for the
education of the power of sensation is still lacking, but
he and his collaborators, who have been summoned ^

chiefly to solve this problem, will be able to furnish this {

easily. A method for the systematic development of !

physical strength is still lacking. What is required for <

the solution of this problem has been indicated, and it
is to be hoped that, if the nation should show any eager-
ness for this solution, it will be found. All this part of 1
education is but a means and a preliminary exercise for
the second essential part^the civic and religious educa tion , ^^^
The general remarks that it is necessary atpiresent to make
about this have already been mentioned in our second and
third addresses, and ^ we have nothing to add to them.
It is the business of that philosophy which proposes a
German national education to furnish definite instruc-
tions for the art of this education — ^always, of course^ , •
taking into consideration and consultation Pestalozzi*s own


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art of education. Once the need for such instructions
arises,' through the first part being fully carried out, that
philosophy will, not be slow to supply it. Every pupil,
even if born in the lowest class — for, in truth, the class
into which children are born makes no difference to their
talents — will grasp, and indeed grasp easily, the instruction

I in those subjects. Such instruction, indeed, comprises,
if you like, the most profound metaphvsics and is the result
of the most abstract speculation, and those subjects at
present even scholars and speculating brains find it

timpossible to grasp. Let no one grow weary just now,
wondering how this may be possible ; experience will
teach this later, if only we will obey in regard to the first
steps. It is only because our generation is held captive
in the world of empty ideas and has not entered the world
of true reality and perception at any point, that it is not to
be expected that this generation should begin perception
with the highest and most spiritual perception of all,
and when it is already clever beyond measure. Philo-
sophy must require it to give up its present world and to
provide itself with an entirely different one. It is no
wonder if such a demand proves unavailing. But, from
the very beginning, the pupil of our education has been
at home in the world of perception* and has never seen
any other. He has not to change, but only to strengthen,
his world ; and this takes place of itself. This education
is, as we have already pointed out, the only possible
education for philosophy and also the sole means of

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Online LibraryJohann Gottlieb FichteAddresses to the German nation → online text (page 14 of 22)