Johann Gottlieb Fichte

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Upon the progress of knowledge the whole progress of the human race is immediately dependent: he who retards that, hinders this also.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (19 May 176227 January 1814) was a German philosopher, who was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant.

Sourced[edit]

Humanity may endure the loss of everything: all its possessions may be torn away without infringing its true dignity; — all but the possibility of improvement.
  • The infinitely smallest part of space is always a space, something endowed with continuity, not at all a mere point or the boundary between specified places in space.
  • The correct relationship between the higher and lower classes, the appropriate mutual interaction between the two is, as such, the true underlying support on which the improvement of the human species rests. The higher classes constitute the mind of the single large whole of humanity; the lower classes constitute its limbs; the former are the thinking and designing [Entwerfende] part, the latter the executive part.
    • The System of Ethics According to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre (1798; Cambridge, 2005), p. 320.
  • 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 impossible. Such a will can henceforth be relied on with confidence and certainty.
    • Addresses to the German Nation (1807), Second Address : "The General Nature of the New Education". Chicago and London, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1922, p. 20.
  • 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 wish him to will.
    • Addresses to the German Nation (1807), Second Address : "The General Nature of the New Education". Chicago and London, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1922, p. 21
    • Paraphrased variant: The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will.

The Vocation of the Scholar (1794)[edit]

The Vocation of the Scholar (1794) by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, translated by William Smith.
  • Upon the progress of knowledge the whole progress of the human race is immediately dependent: he who retards that, hinders this also. And he who hinders this, —what character does he assume towards his age and posterity? Louder than with a thousand voices, by his actions he proclaims into the deafened ear of the world present and to come —"As long as I live at least, the men around me shall not become wiser or better; — for in their progress I too, notwithstanding all my efforts to the contrary, should be dragged forward in some direction; and this I detest I will not become more enlightened, — I will not become nobler. Darkness and perversion are my elements, and I will summon all my powers together that I may not be dislodged from them."
    • Αs translated by William Smith, in The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1889), Vol. I, Lecture IV, p. 188.
  • Humanity may endure the loss of everything: all its possessions may be torn away without infringing its true dignity; — all but the possibility of improvement.
    • "The Vocation of the Scholar" (1794), as translated by William Smith, in The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1889), Vol. I, Lecture IV, p. 188.

Introduction to Fichte's Science of Knowledge (1797)[edit]

Introduction to Fichte's Science of Knowledge (1797) by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, translated by Adolph Ernst Kroeger.
  • The representation of the self-sufficiency of the I can certainly co-exist with a representation of the self-sufficiency of the thing, though the self-sufficiency of the I itself cannot co-exist with that of the thing. Only one of these two can come first, only one can be the starting point; only one can be independent. The one that comes second, just because it comes second, necessarily becomes dependent upon the one that comes first, with which it is supposed to be connected. Which of these two should come first?
    • p. 17-18.

Outline of the Doctrine of Knowledge (1810)[edit]

Outline of the Doctrine of Knowledge (1810), as translated by William Smith
The Power liberates itself from Instinct, to direct itself towards Unity.
Every Individual can and must, under the given condition, construct the True World of Sense, — for this indeed has beyond the universal and formal laws above deduced, no other Truth and Reality than this universal harmony.
A Will, clear and intelligible to itself and reposing upon itself without wavering or perplexity, is possible, — to return wholly into Actual Life; — not into the Life of blind and irrational Instinct which we have laid bare in all its nothingness, but into the Divine Life which shall become visible to us.
  • The Doctrine of Knowledge, apart from all special and definite knowing, proceeds immediately upon Knowledge itself, in the essential unity in which it recognises Knowledge as existing; and it raises this question in the first place — How this Knowledge can come into being, and what it is in its inward and essential Nature?
    The following must be apparent: — There is but One who is absolutely by and through himself, — namely, God; and God is not the mere dead conception to which we have thus given utterance, but he is in himself pure Life. He can neither change nor determine himself in aught within himself, nor become any other Being; for his Being contains within it all his Being and all possible Being, and neither within him nor out of him can any new Being arise.
    • I.
  • Since it cannot be overlooked by the Doctrine of Knowledge that Actual Knowledge does by no means present itself as a Unity, such as is assumed above but as a multiplicity, there is consequently a second task imposed upon it, — that of setting forth the ground of this apparent Multiplicity. It is of course understood that this ground is not to be derived from any outward source, but must be shown to be contained in the essential Nature of Knowledge itself as such; — and that therefore this problem, although apparently two-fold, is yet but one and the same, — namely, to set forth the essential Nature of Knowledge.
    • II.
  • This Being out of God cannot, by any means, be a limited, completed, and inert Being, since God himself is not such a dead Being, but, on the contrary, is Life; — but it can only be a Power, since only a Power is the true formal picture or Schema of Life. And indeed it can only be the Power of realising that which is contained in itself — a Schema.
    • III.
  • Only through blind Instinct, in which the only possible guidance of the Imperative is awanting, does the Power in Intuition remain undetermined; where it is schematised as absolute it becomes infinite; and where it is presented in a determinate form, as a principle, it becomes at least manifold. By the above-mentioned act of Intelligising, the Power liberates itself from Instinct, to direct itself towards Unity.
    • XI.
  • There is but One Principle that proceeds from God; and thus, in consequence of the unity of the Power, it is possible for each Individual to schematise his World of Sense in accordance with the law of that original harmony; — and every Individual, under the condition of being found on the way towards the recognition of the Imperative, must so schematise it. I might say: — Every Individual can and must, under the given condition, construct the True World of Sense, — for this indeed has beyond the universal and formal laws above deduced, no other Truth and Reality than this universal harmony.
    • XI.
  • I know now that I shall. But all Actual Knowledge brings with it, by its formal nature, its schematised apposition; — although I now know of the Schema of God, yet I am not yet immediately this Schema, but I am only a Schema of the Schema. The required Being is not yet realised.
    I shall be. Who is this I? Evidently that which is, — the Ego gives in Intuition, the Individual. This shall be.
    What does its Being signify? It is given as a Principle in the World of Sense. Blind Instinct is indeed annihilated, and in its place there now stands the clearly perceived Shall. But the Power that at first set this Instinct in motion remains, in order that the Shall my now set it (the Power) in motion, and become its higher determining Principle. By means of this Power, I shall therefore, within its sphere, — the World of Sense, — produce and make manifest that which I recognise as my true Being in the Supersensuous World.
    • XIII.
  • The Power is given as an Infinite; — hence that which in the World of Thought is absolutely One — that which I shall — becomes in the World of Intuition an infinite problem for my Power, which I have to solve in all Eternity.
    This Infinitude, which is properly a mere indefiniteness, can have place only in Intuition, but by means in my true Essential Being, which, as the Schema of God, is as simple and unchangeable as himself. How then can this simplicity and unchangeableness be produced within the yet continuing Infinitude, which is expressly consecrated by the absolute Shall addressed to me as an Individual?
    If, in the onflow of Time, the Ego, in every successive moment, had to determine itself by a particular act, through the conception of what it shall, — then in its original Unity, it was assuredly indeterminate, and only continuously determinable in an Infinite Time. But such an act of determination could only become possible in Time, in opposition to some resisting power. This resisting power, which was thus to be conquered by the act of determination, could be nothing else than the Sensuous Instinct; and hence the necessity of such a continuous self-determination in Time would be the sure proof that the Instinct was not yet thoroughly abolished; which abolition we have made a condition of entering upon the Life in God.
    • XIII.
  • Thus then does the Doctrine of Knowledge, which in its substance is the realisation of the absolute Power of intelligising which has now been defined, end with the recognition of itself as a mere Schema in a Doctrine of Wisdom, although indeed a necessary and indispensable means to such a Doctrine: — a Schema, the sole aim of which is, with the knowledge thus acquired, — by which knowledge alone a Will, clear and intelligible to itself and reposing upon itself without wavering or perplexity, is possible, — to return wholly into Actual Life; — not into the Life of blind and irrational Instinct which we have laid bare in all its nothingness, but into the Divine Life which shall become visible to us.
    • XIV.

Quotes about Fichte[edit]

  • We cannot hope to give here a final clarification of the essence of fact, judgement, object, property; this task leads into metaphysical abysses; about these one has to seek advice from men whose name cannot be stated without earning a compassionate smile—e.g. Fichte.
  • Fichte, by his stubbornness in pursuing an idea, blind to nature and facts, was swept away into increasingly abstruse abstractions.
    • Hermann Weyl, "Erkenntnis und Besinnung (Ein Lebensrückblick)" Studia Philosphica (1954) GA IV, as quoted/translated by Erhard Scholz, "Philosophy as a Cultural Resource and Medium of Reflection for Hermann Weyl" (2004).

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