Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Addresses to the German nation online

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the State assumed, as a sure and infallible principle, that

everyone loves and vnlls his own material welfare. To

this natural love it artificially .linked, by means of the

motives of fear and hope, that good will which it desired,

namely, interest in the common weal. Anyone who has

{ become outwardly a harmless or even useful citizen as a

^^ ' result of such a system of education remains, nevertheless,

v/ |(;. ^. inwardly a bad man; for badness consists essentially in

\ ' ^ loving solely one's own material welfare and in being

; influenced only by the motives of fear or hope for that

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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 23



welfare, whether in the present or in some future life.
Apart from this fact, we have already seen that this
method is no longer applicable to us, because the motives
of fear and hope serve no longer with us but against us,
and material love of self cannot be turned to our advantage
in any way. We are, therefore, compelled by necessity «
to wish to mould men who are inwardly and~ fundamen-
tally good, since it is through such men alone that the
German nation can still continue to exist» whf rras through
badj?ien it will inevitably be absorbed in jthe^outside
world. Therefore, in place of that love of self, withj
which nothing for our good can be connected any longer,
we must set up and establish in the hearts of all those
whom we wish to reckon among our nation that other /
j kind of love, which is concerned directly vnth the good^
-simply as such and for its own sake.

We have already seen that love of the good, simply
as such and not for the sake of any advantage to our-
selves, takes the form of pleasure in it ; a pleasure so
intense that a man is thereby stimulated to realize the
good in his life. It is this intense pleasure, therefore,^
which the new education should produce as its pupil's
stable and constant character. Then this pleasure
itself would inevitably be the foundation of the pupil's
constant good will.

17. A pleasure that stimulates us to bring about a
certain state of affairs which does not yet actually exist pre-
supposes an image of that state which, previous to its actual
existence, hovers before the mind and attracts that pleasure
which stimulates to realization. This pleasure, therefore,
presupposes in the individual who is to be affected by
it the power to create spontaneously such images, which
are independent of reality and not copies of it, but rather
its prototypes. I must now speak of this power, and l



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24 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

beg you during the consideration of it not to forget
that an image created by this power can please simply
as an image, and as one in which we feel our creative
energy, without being for that reason taken as a proto-
type of reality and without pleasing to such a degree that
it stimulates to realization. The latter is quite a different
and our own special goal, of which we shall not fail to
speak later ; but the former is simply the preliminary
condition for the attainment of the true ultimate aim of
education.

_ 1 8. That power to create spontaneously images, which
are not simply copies of reality, but can become its pro-
totypes, should be the starting-point for the moulding
of the race by means of the new education*. To create
images spontaneously, I said, and in such a way jhat the
pupil will produce them by his own power ; but not in-
deed that he will merely be capable of receiving passively
the image presented to him by education, of understanding
it sufficiently, and of reproducing it just as it is presented
to him, as if it were a question simply of the existence
of such an image, \The reason for demanding self-
activity in regard to that image is this ; only on that
condition can the image created engage the active
pleasure of the pupil. For it is one thing merely to allow
oneself to be pleased at something and to have nothing
against it ; such passive pleasure can arise at best only
^ from passive submission. But it is quite another thing
. I to be so affected by pleasure at something that this
\ pleasure becomes productive and stirs up all our energy
' to the act of creation. We speak not of the former>
which happened no doubt even in the old education, but
of the latter. Now, this pleasure will be kindled only
by the pupil's self-activity being stimulated at the same
time and becoming manifest to him in the given object.



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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 25



so that this object pleases not only in itself, but also as
an object of the manifestation of mental power. This
pleases directly^ inevitably, and invariably.

19. This creative mental activity vrhich is to be
developed in the pupil is undoubtedly an activity accord-
ing to rules, which become known to the active pupil
until he sees from his own direct experience that they
alone are possible — that is, this activity produces know-
ledge, and that, too, of general and infallible laws. More-
over, in the free development that begins at thu point
it is impossible to undertake anything contrary to the
law, and no act results until the law is obeyed. Even if,
therefore, this free development should begin at first
with blind efforts, it must still end in more extensive
knowledge of the law. This training, therefore, in its
final result, is the training of the pupiPs faculty of know-
ledge, and, of course, not historical training in the actual
condition of things, but the higher and philosophical ly'
training in the laws which make that actual condition of
things inevitable. The pupil learns. l

I add: the pupil learns willingly and with pleasure^ X
and there is nothing he would rather do than learn, so/
long as the effort lasts ; for while he is learning his activity rX"
is spontaneous, and in this he has directly the greatest
possible pleasure. Here we have found an outward^
rsTgn of true education, at once obvious and infallible ;
namely, that every pupil on whom this education it
brought to bear, without exception and irrespective of /
differences in natural talent, learns with pleasure and lover'
purely for the sake of learning and for no other reason.^^
We have discovered the means of kindling this pure love
of learning ; it is to stimulate directly the spontaneous [^
activity of the pupil and to make this the basis of all
knowledge, so that whatever is learnt is learnt through ity



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26 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

The first important point in the art of education b
just to stimulate this personal activity of the pupil in
something known to us. If we succeed in this, it is
simply a question of starting from that and of maintaining
the stimulated activity in ever new life. This is possible
only where progress is regxilar, and where every mistake
in education is discovered immediately through the
failure of what was intended. We have, therefore, found
ialso the link whereby the intended result is inseparably

* ^ ' . . ^ connected with the method plaimed, namely, the eternal,
\' I j universal, and fundamental law of man's mental nature,
y' I .that he must directly engage in mental activity.

* "^ I ; 20. Should anyone, misled by our usual dally experi-
^ ; ; I ence, doubt the very existence of such a fundamental

' ! ' law, we woxild remind him over and over again that.nian

^ j ,' I is i Tide o d-4>| nalmc mcroly material and self-seeking,

^ ^ ^ I V ^^ ^^^S ^^ ixtunediate necessity and present material need

]\ I . j spur him on^ and that he does not let any spiritual need

^ ; j I or feeling of consideration prevent him from satisfying

y \ that material need. But when it i& satisfied, he has

little inclination to let his fancy dwell on the painfxil

image of it, or to keep it in his mind. He is much more

inclined to free his thoughts and turn them without

restraint to the consideration of whatever attracts the

attention of his senses. Nor, indeed, does he scorn a

poetic flight to ideal worlds, for he has by nature but little

interest in the temporal, in order that his taste for the

eternal may have scope for development. This is proved

by the history of all ancient peoples, and by the various

observations and discoveries which have come down to us

from them. It is proved in our day by the observation

of races that are still savage, provided, of course, their

climate does not treat them far too unkindly, and by the

observation of our own children. It is proved even by



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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 27



the candid confession of the opponents of ideals, who com-
plain that it is a far more disagreeable business to learn
names and dates than to rise into this enipty (as it appears
to them) world of ideas ; but who would themselves, it
seems, if they might indulge, rather do the latter than the
former. In place of this natural freedom from-^eafe
there a ppears a nxiet y , in whir,h tnmnrrftwV hungf^r and
air possible future states of hunger in their whole long
series hang over even him who is satiated, as the one
thing that occupies his mind and evermore goads and
drives him on. In our age this.ii. caused artificially^ In
the boy by the repression of his natural freedom from care»
in the man by the endeavour to be considered prudent,
a reputation which falls to the lot only of him who does
not lose sight of that point of view for a moment. This,
then, is not the natural disposition with which we should
have to reckon, but a corruption imposed by force on
reluctant nature, which vanishes when that force is no
longer applied.

2 1 • lliis education, which stimulates directly the mental \ •
activity of the pupil, produces knowledge, we said above^^
This gives us the opportunity of distinguishing still more
clearly the new education from the old. \tlit new educa- l^.
|Tion, in fact, aims especially and directly only at stimulat-*
\ ing regular and progressive mental activity. Knowledge, v
as we saw above, results only incidentally and as an
inevitable consequence. Now, if it is only in such
knowledge that our pupil can conceive the image of real
life which shall /timulate ^fid to serious activity when he
becomes T "i^iiiiy knowledge- i& certainly an important
paxt_Qf the training which is to be obtained. "lfct"it
cannot be said that tte~ new education aims directly
at such knowledge ; knowledge is only incidental to it.
Qn the other hand, the old education aimed definitely



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28 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

at knowledge, and at a certain amount of some subject of
knowledge. ^Besides, there is a great difference between
that kind of knowledge which results incidentally from
the new education and that at which the old education
aimed. -^ The former results in knowledge of the laws which
condition all possible mental activity. For instance, if
the pupil tries in free fancy to enclose a space with
straight lines, this is the first stimulation of his mental
activity. If in these attempts he discovers that he cannot
enclose a space with fewer than three straight lines, this
is the incidental knowledge resulting from another quite
' 1 different activity, that of the faculty of knowledge,

I which restricts the free power first stimulated.^This

j I education, therefore, results at the very outset in know-

ledge which transcends all experience, which is abstract,
. absolute, and strictly universal, and which includes within
itself beforehand all subsequently possible experience!
On the other hand, the old education was concerned, as a
rule, only with the actual qualities of things as they are
and as they should be believed and noted, vnthout anyone
being able to assign a reason for them. It aimed, therefore,
at purely passive reception by means .oi .the power of
memory, which was completely at the service of things.
It was, therefore, impossible to have any idea of the mind
as an independent original principle of things themselves.
Modern education must not think it can defend itself
against this reproach by appealing to its oft-declared
contempt for mechanical rote-learning and to its well-
known masterpieces in the Socratic manner. On this
point it was fully informed long ago from another source
that these Socratic reasonings are also learned by heart
purely mechanically, and that this is a much more dan-
gerous form of rote-learning, because it makes the pupil
who does not think appear capable of thinking. It was



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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 29

informed, too, that no other result was possible with the
material it employed to develop spontaneous thought,
and that for this purpose one must commence with
entirely different material. This quality of the old
education shows clearly why the pupil generally learned
unwillingly, and therefore slowly and but little, and why,
because learning itself was not attractive, extraneous
motives had to be introduced ; it also shows the reason
for the exceptions to the rule hitherto. Memdry, if
employed alone and without serving any other purpose
in the mind, is a passive condition rather than^ an activity
of the mind, and it is easy to understand that the pupil
will be very unwilling to accept this passive state. Besides,
acquaintance vdth things and with the properties of
things which are quite strange, and which have not the
slightest interest for him, is a poor recompense for the
passivity inflicted on him. His aversion, therefore, had
to be overcome by holding out hopes of the usefulness of
such knowledge in the future, by asserting that by it
alone could a living and a reputation be obtained^.and
even by direct immediate punishment and reward. Lllius-
from the very outset, knowledge was set up as a servant
of material welfare ; and this education, which was
described above, from ^he point of view of its content, as
simply incapable of developing a moral sense, was in fact
obliged, in order to reach the pupil at all, to implant and
develop moral corruption in him and to unite its own
interest with that of this corruption. Further, it will
be found that the natural talent, which, as an exception
to the rule, learned willingly and therefore well in schools
under the old education, overcame the moral corruption
of the environment and kept its character pure, thanks
to this greater love that governed it. Owing to its
natxural inclination it acquired a practical interest in



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30 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION



these subjects, and, guided by its happy instincty it aimed
at producing, far more than at merely receiving, such
knowledge. Then, in regard to the subjects taught,
this education usually succeeded best, in exception to the
rule, with those which it allowed to be practised actively.
For instance, the classical language^ in which writing and
speaking were the aim was nearly always fairly well learned ;
whereas the other language,* in which practice in writing
and speaking was neglected, was usually learned very

^ badly and superficially, and was forgotten in later years.

A ' I .. It follows, therefore, from previous experience, that it is

the development of mental activity by means of instruc-
tion which alone produces pleasure in knowledge simply
as such, and so keeps the mind open for moral training ; .
on the other hand, purely passive receptivity paralyses
and kills knowledge, just as it inevitably corrupts the moral
sense completely.

22. To return again to the pupil under the new
education. It is evident that, spurred on by his love,
he will learn much and, since he understands everything
in its relations and immediately puts into action what he
has understood, he will learn it correctly and will never
forget it. Yet that is but incidental. More important
is the fact that this love exalts his personality and intro-
duces him systematically and deliberately into a wholly
new order of things, into which hitherto only a few,
favoured by God, came by accident. JThe love which
spurs him on aims not at sensuous enjoyment, which quite
ceases to be a motive for him, but at mental activity and
the law of that activity for their own sakes/' Now, it is
not this mental activity in general with which morality
f 1' is concerned ; for this purpose a special direction must

be given to that activity. Xet this love is the specific
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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 31

quality and form of the moral wilL" This method of
I mental training is, therefore, the immediate preparation
for the moral ; it completely destroys the root of immor-
ality by never allowing sensuous enjoyment to become!
the motive. Formerly, that was the first motive to be I
stimulated and developed, because it was believed that
otherwise the pupil could not be influenced or controlled
at all. If the moral motive had to be developed after-
wards, it came too late and found the heart already
occupied by, and filled with, another love. ^On the other
hand, in the new education the training^ of a pure will
is to be the first aim, so that if, la^, selfishness sHoxild
awake within, or be stimulated from without, it may come
too late, and find no room for itself in a heart which it
already occupied by something elsci^

237rit is essential both for this first aim and also for
the second, which will be mentioned soon, that from the
very beginning the pupil should be continuously and
completely under the influence of this education, and
should be separated altogether from the community, and
kept from all contact with iv He must not even heair
that our vital impulses and actions can be directed towards
our maintenance and welfare, nor that we may learn ioty
that reason, nor that learning may be of some use for that
purpose. It follows that mental development should be
produced in him only in the manner described above, that
he should be occupied with it unceasingly, and that this
method of instruction should on no account be exchanged
for that which requires the opposite material motive.

24. But, although this mental development does not
let self-seeking come to life and provides indeed the form
of a moral Mrill, it is not yet, however, the moral will
itself. If the new education which we propose did not
go further, it would at best train excellent men of learn-



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32 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

ing, as in the past, of whom only a few are needed, and
who would be able to do no more for our true human
and national aim than such men have done hitherto —
exhort, and exhort again, get themselves wondered at,
and occasionally abused. But it is clear, as I have already
said, that this free activity of the mind is developed with
the intention that by it the pupil may voluntarily create
the image of a moral order of life that actually exists,
may lay hold of this image with the love that is also
already developed in him, and be spurred on by this love
7^. ' ' to realize it actually in and by his life. The question is,

how can the new education prove to itself that it has
achieved this, its true and final purpose with the pupiL
. 25. Above all it is clear that the mental activity of

'the pupil, which has been exercised already on other
objects, should be stimulated to create an image of the
social order of mankind as it ought to be, simply in accord-

I ance with the law of reason. Whether the image created
by the pupil be true can be judged most easily by an
education which alone is in possession of this true image.
Whether it is created by the pupil's spontaneous activity,
and not simply passively accepted and credulously repeated
in school fashion, and, further, whether it is raised to the
proper clearness and vividness, education will be able
to judge, just as it has hitherto correctly judged other
things in this respect. Yet all this is a matter for mere
knowledge, and remains within the domain of knowledge,

.which is very accessible in this system of education.

I It is a very different and a higher question, whether the
pupil is so filled with ardent love for such an order of
things, that it will be utterly impossible for him not to
desire it and to work with all his strength to promote it,
when freed from the guidance of education and left inde-

^ pendent. This question, undoubtedly, not words and



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GENERAL NATURE OF NEW EDUCATION 33

tests which are arranged in words, but only the appear-
ance of deeds, can decide.

26. This is my solution of the problem raised by this last
consideration. Under the new system of education the
pupils, although separated from the adult community,
will, nevertheless, undoubtedly live together among them-
selves, and so form a separate and self-contained com- /
munity with its organization precisely defined, based ott^
the nature of things and demanded throughout by reason. -
The very first image of a social order which the pupil's
mind should be stimulated to create will be that of the«
. community in which he himself lives. He will be inwardly
compelled, therefore, to fashion this order for himself
bit for bit, just as it is actually sketched out for him, and
to conceive it in all its parts as absolutely inevitable
because of its elements. This, again, is merely the work
of knowledge. Now, in real life under this social arrange-
ment every individual has continually to abstain, for the
sake of- the community, from much that he could do
without hesitation if he were alone. 'It will be fitting,
therefore, that the legislation, and the instniction ron-
'I'cerlung the constitution which is to be based thereqii,
/ should represent to each individual all the. othos as
animated by a love of order exalted to the ideal, which
perhaps no one person really has, but which all ought
to have. It will be fitting, too, that the legislation should
consequently maintain a high stlRKUtd^pf.iseited:^, \
and should prohibit the doing of many things. Such
prohibitions, which simply must exist and on which the
existence of the community depends, are to be enforced /
incase of necessity by fear of immediate punishment,"^ ">
and this penal law must be administered absolutely
without indulgence or exception. This application of
fear as a motive does not impair in any way the morality

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34 ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

of the pupil, for in this case he is incited, not to do good, '
'but only to abstain from what under this system of govern-
ment is evil. Moreover, the instruction concerning the
constitution must make it quite clear that anyone who
still needs the idea of punishment, or even indeed to
revive that idea by suffering punishment, is at a very low
stage of civilization. Yet, in spite of all this, it is clear
that in these circumstances the pupil will be unable to
show his good will outwardly, and education will be
unable to estimate it, since no one can ever know whether
obedience results from love of order or from fear of
punishment.

On the other hand, in the following circumstances
such an estimate is possible. The system of government
I must be arranged in such a way that the individual must
' not only abstain, but will also work and act, for the sake
{ of the community. Physical exercises, the mechanical,
Imt here idealized, work of farming, and trades of various
kinds, in addition to the development of the inind by
learning, are included in this commonwealth of pupils.
A fundamental principle of the system of government will
be that anyone who may excel in one of these depart-
ments will be expected to help to instruct the others in
it, and to undertake superintendence and responsibilities
of various kinds. Anyone who discovers an improvement,
or understand^ most clearly, and before the others, an im*>
provement proposed by a teacher, is expected to work it
out by his own efforts, without being set free for this


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Online LibraryJohann Gottlieb FichteAddresses to the German nation → online text (page 4 of 22)