Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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held the reins strongly and firmly, is now no longer appli-
cable, because these reins now only appear to rest in
its hand, for this very hand is steered and guided by an
alien hand. Such a nation can no longer depend upon
itself ; and it can rely as little on the conqueror, who would
be just as thoughtless, just as cowardly and weak as that
nation itself once was, if he did not hold fast to the advan-
tages he had won, and exploit them in every way. Or if in
>% I course of time he were ever to become so thoughtless and

\ ; i cowardly, he also would perish, like ourselves ; but not

^ I I to our advantage, for he would be the prey of another

conqueror, and we, as a matter of course, the insignificant
[addition to that prey. If, however, a nation so fallen
> Vere to be able to save herself, it would have to be by
means of something completely new and never previously
^ , employed, namely, by the creation of a totally new order
[of things. Let us see, therefore, what in the previously
existing order of things was the reason why such an
order had inevitably to come to an end at some time or
other, so that in the opposite of this reason for its down-
fall we may find the new element which must be intro-
duced into the age, in order that by its means the fallen
nation may rise to a new life.
f -P 6. On investigating this reason we find that in every

previous system of government the interest of the indi-
vidual in the community was linked to his interest in
himself by ties, which at some point were so completely
severed that his interest in the community absolutely
\ ceased. These ties were those of fear and hope concern-
ing the interests of the individual In relation to the fate
of the community — ^both in the present and in some

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future life. The enlightenment of the understanding,
with its purel]^ material calculations, was the force whidi
destroyed the connection established by religion between
some future life and the present, and which at the same
time conceived that such substitutes and supplements
of the moral sense as love of fame and national honour^
were but illusory phantoms^ It was the weakness of '
governments which removed the individual's fear for his
own interests even in this life (in so far as they depended
upon his behaviour towards the community) by frequently
allowing neglect of duty to go unpunished. Similarly,
it rendered the motive of hope ineffective by satisfying
it frequently on quite different grounds and principles,
without heed to services rendered to the community.
Such were the ties which at some point were completdy
severed ; and it was this severance that caused the breaking- I
up of the commonwealth.

Henceforth it matters not how industriously the con*
queror may do that which he alone can do, namely,
link up again and strengthen the latter part of the binding
tie — fear and hope for this present life. He alone will ^''
profit thereby, and not we at all ; for so surely as he per-
ceives his advantage will he link to this renewed bond first
and foremost only his own interests. Ours he will further
only in so far as their preservation can serve as a means
to his own ends. For a nation so ruined, fear and hope
are henceforth completely destroyed, because control
over them has now slipped from her hands, and because
she herself indeed has to fear and hope, but no one hence-
forth either fears her or hopes for aught from her. "^ There \
remains nothing for her but to find an entirely different
and new binding tie that is superior to fear and hope, in
order to link up the welfare of her whole being with the
self-interest of each of her memberi;>

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f 7. Above the material motive of fear or hope, and
bordering immediately upon it, there js the spiritual
motive of moral approval or disapproval^ and the higher
feeling of pleasure or displeasure at the condition of our-

< selves and of others. The physical eye, when accustomed
to cleanliness and order, is troubled and distressed, as
though actually hurt, by a spot which indeed causes the
body no actual injury, or by the sight of objects lying in
chaotic confusion ; while the eye accustomed to dirt and
disorder is quite comfortable under such circumstances.
So, too, the inner mental eye of man can be so accustomed
and trained that the very sight of a muddled and dis-
orderly, unworthy and dishonourable existence of its own
or of a kindred race causes it intense pain, apart from
anything there may be to fear or to hope from this for

^ its own material welfare. This pain, apart again from
material fear or hope, permits the possessor of such an
eye no rest until he has removed, in so far as he can, this
condition which displeases him, and has set in its place

Tthat which alone can please him. For the possessor of
such an eye, because of this stimulating feeling of approval
or disapproval, the welfare of his whole environment is
bound up inextricably with the welfare of his own wider
self, which is conscious of itself only as part of the whole
and can endure itself only when the whole is pleasing.
Tg^fidugate itself to £ossess such an eye will, therefore,
be a sure means, and indeed the only means left to a
nation which has lost her independence and with it all
influence over public fear and hope, of rising again into
life from the destruction she has suffered, and of entrusting
her national welfare, which since her downfall neither
God nor man has heeded, with cojiiidence to this new
and higher feeling that has arisen. [ It follows, then, that

t the means of salvation which I promised to indicate con-
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V sists in the fashioning of an entirely new self, 'which may I
have existed beTore perhaps in individuals as an exception,
but never as a universal and national self, and in the
education of the nation, whose former life has died out
and become the supplement of an alien life, to a com-
pletely new life, which shall either remain her exclusive
possession or, if it must go forth from her to others,
shall at least continue whole and undiminished in spite
^ of infinite division. In a word, it is a total change of
the existing system, of ^education that I propose as the vf
sole means of preserving tKe~^eXistence of the German ^ ]
nation. '^

8. That children must be given a good education has
been said often enough, and has been repeated too often
even in our age ; and it would be a paltry thing if we, too,
for our part wished to do nothing but say it once again.
Rather will it be our duty, in so far as we think we can
• accomplish something new, to investigate carefully and
definitely what education hitherto has really lacked, and
to suggest what completely new element a reformed
system must add to the training that has hitherto existed.
After such an investigation we must admit that the
existing education does not fail to bring, before the eyes
of the pupils some sort of picture of a religious, moral^^and
law-abiding disposition and of order in all things and good
habits, and also that here and there it has faithfully ex-
horted them to copy such pictures in their lives.. With
very rare exceptions, however — ^and these were,moreover»
not the outcome of this education (because otherwise they^
must have appeared, and that too as the rule, amongst
all who received such instruction), but were occasioned
by other causes — ^with these very rare exceptions, I say,
the pupils of this education have in general followed,
not those moral ideas and exhortations, but the impulses



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of self-seeking which developed in them spontaneously
and without any assistance from education. This proves
I ' beyond dispute that the system may, indeed^ have been

able to fill the memory with some words and phrases
I . " and the cold and indifferent imagination with some faint /

and feeble pictures; but that it has never succeeded in
making its picture of a moral world-order so vivid that the
pupil was filled with passionate love and yearning for that
order, and with such glowing emotion as to incite him
to realize it in his life— emotion before which self-seeking
\ ' I j falls to the ground like withered leaves.^ It also proves

this education to have been far from reaching right down
to the roots of real impulse and action in life, and from
training them ; for these roots, neglected by this blind
and impotent system, have everywhere developed wild,
as best they could, yielding good fruit in a few who
were inspired by God, but evil fruit in the majority.
It is for the present, then, quite sufficient to describe this-
education by these its results, and for our purpose we
can spare ourselves the wearisome task of analysing the
^0 1 ^ inner sap and fibre of a tree whose fruit is now fully ripe

and lies fallen before the eyes of all, proclaiming most
clearly and distinctly the inner nature of its creator.
I Strictly speaking, according to this view, the present
Isystem has been by no means the art of educating men.
xhis, indeed, it has not boasted of doing, but has very
often frankly acknowledged its impotence by demanding
to be given natural talent or genius as the condition of
its success. Rather does such an art remain to be dis-
covered, and this discovery should be the real task of
Pthe new education. What was lacking in the old system — *^^
I namely, an influence penetrating to the roots of vital '
I impulse and action — the new education must supply^ J




1 1 impulse and action — the new education must supply.^ ,
Accordingly, as the old system was able at best to train

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some part of man;, so the new must train man himsdf ,
and must make the^training given, not, as hitherto, the
pupil's possession, but an integral part of himsel^r/ — I

9. Moreover, education, restricted in this way^ has
been brought to bear hitherto only on the very small
minority of classes which are for this reason called educated,
whereas the great majority on whom in very truth the
commonwealth rests, the people, have been almost
entirely neglected by this system and abandoned to blind
chance. By means of the new education we want to
mould tne Germans into a corporate body, which shall
be stimulated and animated in all its individual members
by the same interest. If by this means we wanted, indeed,
to mark off an educated class, which might perhaps be
animated by the newly developed motive of moral appro-
val, from an uneducated one, then the latter would desert
us and be Idst to us ; because the motives of hope and fear,
by which alone influence might be exercised over it, would
work no longer with us but against us. So there is nothing]
left for us but just to apply the new system to every i
German without exception, so that it is not the educationl
of a single class, but the education of the nation,^ simply >
as such and without excepting any of its individual mem-
bers. In this, that is to say in the training of man to
take real pleasure in what is right, all distinction of classes,
which may in the future find a place in other branches
of development, will be completely removed and vanish*
In this way there will grow up among us, not popular |
education, but real German n ational education.

10. I shall prove to you that a system of education
such as we desire has actually been discovered and is
already being practised, so that we have nothing to do
but to accept what is offered us. As I promised you con-
cerning the means of salvation that I should propose,



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this demands undoubtedly no greater amount of energy
than can reasonably be expected of our generation. To
that promise I added another, namely, that so far as
danger is concerned there is none at all in our proposal,
because the self-interest of the power that rules over us
demands that the carrying-out of such a proposal should
be assisted rather than hindered. I consider it appro-
priate to speak my mind clearly on this point at once in
this first address.

It is true that in ancient as in modern times the arts

V'l j of corrupting and of morally degrading the conquered

have very frequently been used with success as a means
of ruling. By lying fictions, and by skilful confusion of
ideas and of language, princes have been libelled to the
people, and peoples to princes, in order that the two
parties, because of their dissension, might the more surely
be controlled. All the impulses of vanity and of self-
interest have been cunningly aroused and fostered, so
as to make the conquered contemptible, and thus to crush
them with something like a good conscience. But it
. ' would be a fatal error to propose this method with us

^ Germans. Apart from the tie of fear and hope, the H

coherence of diat part of the outside world with which we
have now come into contact is founded on the motives of
honour and of national glory. The clear vision of the
German, however, has long since come to the unshakable
conviction that these are empty illusions, and that no
injury or mutilation of the individual is healed by the
glory of the whole nation, and we shall indeed, if a wider
view of life be not brought before us, probably become
dangerous preachers of this very natural and attractive
doctrine. Without, therefore, taking to ourselves any
new corruption, we are already in our natural condition
a harmful prey ; only by carrying out the proposal

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that has been made can we become a wholesome one«
Then the outside world, as certainly as it knows its own
interests, will be guided by them, and prefer to have ui
in the latter state rather than in the former.

11. Now in making this proposal my address is directed V"
especially towards the educated classes in Germany, for

I hope that it will be intelligible to them first. My pro*
posal is first and foremost that they become the authon
of this new creation, thereby, on the one hand, reconciling
the world to their former influence, and, on the other,
deserving its continuance in the future. We shall see
in the course of these addresses that up to the present
all human progress in theJGerman nation has sprung from
the people, and that to it, in the first instance, gieatnational
affairs have always been brought, and by it have been cared
for and furthered. Now, for the first time, therefore, it
happens that the fundamental reconstruction of the nation
is offered .as-a. tast to die edtrcated classes, and if th^
were really to accept this offer, that, too, would happen
for the first time. We shall find that these classes cannot
calculate how long it will still remain in their power to
place themselves at the head of this movement, since it it
now almost prepared and ripe for proposal to the people,
and is being practised on individuals from among the
people ; and the people will soon be able to help themselves
without any assistance from us. The result of this for us
will simply be that the present educated classes and thdr
descendants will become the people ; while from among
the present people another more highly educated class
will arise.

12. Finally, it is the general aim of these addresses xo\^
bring courage and hope to the suffering, to proclaim joy
in the midst of deep sorrow, to lead us gently and softly
through the hour of deep affliction. This age is to me as a

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shade that stands weeping over its own corpse, from which
it has been driven forth by a host of diseases, unable to
tear its gaze from the form so beloved of old, and trying in
despair every means to enter again the home of pestilence.
Already, it is true, the quickening breezes of that other
world, which the departed soul has entered, have taken it
unto themselves and are surrounding it with the warm
breath of love ; the whispering voices of its sisters greet
it with, joy and bid it welcome ; and already in its depths
it stirs and grows in all directions towards the more
glorious form into which it shall develop. But as yet the
soul has no feeling for these breezes, no ear for these
voices^-or if it had them, they have disappeared in sorrow
for the loss of mortal form ; for with its form the soul
thinks it has lost itself too. What is to be done with it ?
The dawn of the new world is already past its breaking ;
already it gilds the mountain tops, and shadows forth
the coming day. I wish, so far as in me lies, to catch the
rays of this dawn and weave them into a mirror, in which
our grief-stricken age may see itself; so that it may
believe in its own existence, may perceive its real self, and,
as in prophetic vision, may see pass by its own develop-
ment, its coming forms. In the contemplation of this,
the picture of its former life will doubtless sink and vanish ;
and the dead body may be borne to its resting-place
without undue lamenting.


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13. These addresses should lead you first of all, and with
you the whole nation, to a clear perception of the remedy
which I have proposed for the preservation of the German •
nation. Such a remedy follows from the nature of the
age as well as of the German national characteristics,
and must in turn influence the age and the moulding of '
those national characteristics. This remedy, therefore,
does not become perfectly clear and intelligible until it
is compared with the latter> and these Mrith it, and both
are represented in complete connection vfiih each other.
For these tasks time is needed ; perfect clearness, there- -
fore, is to be expected only at the end of our addresses.
But, since we must begin at some point, it wiU be most
convenient first of all to consider the inner nature of
that remedy by itself, apart from its relations in time and ^
space. Our address to-day, therefore, wiU be devoted to
this task.

The remedy indicated was an absolutely new system
of German national education, such as has never existed
in any other nation. In the last address this new educa-
tion, as distinguished from the old, ^was described thus :
the existing education has at most only exhorted to good
order and morality, but these exhortations have been
unfruitfxil in real life, wHich has been moxilded on prin-




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ciples that are quite different and completely beyond
the influence of that education ; in contrast to this, the
new education must be able surely and infallibly to
mould and determine according to rules the real vital
impulses and actions of its pupils.

14. Now perchance someone might say, as indeed
those who administer the present system of education
almost without exception actually do say : " What more
should one expect of any education than that it should
J I point out what is right to the pupil and exhort him

earnestly to it ; whether he wishes to follow such exhorta-
tions is his own aflfair and, if he does not, his own fault ;
he has free will, which no education can take from him."

^ Then, in order to define more clearly the new education
which I propose, I shoxild reply that that very recognition
of, and reliaaee upon^ free will in the pupil is the first
mistake of the old system and the clear confession of its
impotence and futility/ For, by confessing that after
all its most powerful efforts the will still remains free,
.-):.': that is, hesitating undecided between good and evil, it

^ confesses that it neither is able, nor vtrishes, nor longs to

fashion the will and (since the latter is the very root of
man) man himself, and that it considers this altogether
impossible. On the other hand, the new education must

[consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys
freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate,
and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the
decisions of the will, the opposite being imposMble.

i Such ^a^will caiThenceforth be relied on with confidence

'and certainty.

^ All education aims at producing a stable, settled, and
steadfast character, which no longer is developing, but
is, and cannot be other than it is. If it did not aim at
such a character it would be, not education, but some

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aimless game ; if it did not produce such a character it
would still be incomplete. He who must still exhort
himself, and be exhorted, to will the good, has as yet no
firm and ever-ready will, but wills a will anew every
time he needs it. But he who has such a stable wiH,
wills what he wills for ever, aad cannot under any cir-
cumstances will otherwise than he always wills. For him
rlreedom of the will is destroyed and swallowed up in-
\^necessity. The past age had neither a true conception
of education for manhood nor the power to realize that
conception. It showed this by wanting to improve man-
kind by warning sermons, and by being angry and scolding
when these sermons were of no avail/ Yet how could
they avail aught ? Before the warning, and independent
of it, the will of man has already its definite bent. If
this agrees with your exhortation, the latter comes toa
late ; without it he would have done what you exhort
him to. If this bent and your exhortation are in opposi-
tion, you may at most bewilder him for a few moments ;
when the time comes, he forgets himself and your exhorta-
tion, and follows his natural inclination.'. If you want ^
to influence him at all, you must do more than merely
talk to him ; you must fashion him, and fashion him in
such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you
I wish him to will. It is idle to say : Fly — ^for he has no 1
wings, and for all your exhortations will never rise twcT
steps above the ground. But develop, if you can, his
spiritual wings ; let him exercise them and make them
strong, and without any exhortation from you he will
want, and will be able, to do nothing but fly.

15. The new education must produce this stable and P^
unhesitating will according to a sure and infallible rule. ^\
It must itself inevitably create the necessity at which it
aims. Those who in the past became good did so thanks



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if ; I to their natural disposition, which outweighed the in-

I I j fluence of their bad environment, and not because of

their education in any way, for otherwise all the pupils
would have become good. Those who went to the bad
did so just as little because of education, for otherwise
all the pupils would have been corrupted; they went
to the bad of themselves, thanks to their natural disposi-
tion. In this respect education was simply futile, and
not pernicious at all ; the real formative agency was
spiritual nature. Henceforth education for manhood
must be taken from the influence of this mysterious and
incalculable force and put under the direction of a deliber-
ate art, which will surely and infallibly accomplish its
purpose with everyone entrusted to it ; or which, if
somehow it does not accomplish it, vnVL at least know that
it has not done so, and that therefore the training is still
incomplete. The education proposed by me, therefore,
is to be a reliable and deliberate art for fashioning in
man a stable and infallible good vnXL. That is its first
li • ; .^characteristic.

^ 1 6. Moreover, man can will only what he loves ; his

love is the sole and at the same time the infallible motive

of his vtrill and of all his vital impulses and actions.

Hitherto, in its education of the social man the art of

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Online LibraryJohann Gottlieb FichteAddresses to the German nation → online text (page 3 of 22)