Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

. Fichte is often perceived as a figure whose philosophy forms a bridge between the ideas of Kant and the German Idealist Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

. Recently, philosophers and scholars have begun to appreciate Fichte as an important philosopher in his own right due to his original insights into the nature of self-consciousness
Self-consciousness is an acute sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being; although some writers use both terms interchangeably or synonymously...

 or self-awareness
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals...

. Like Descartes and Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

 before him, he was motivated by the problem of subjectivity
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 and consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

. Fichte also wrote political philosophy and is considered one of the fathers of German nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...



Fichte was born in Rammenau
Rammenau is a municipality in the district of Bautzen, in Saxony, Germany....

, Upper Lusatia
Upper Lusatia
Upper Lusatia is a region a biggest part of which belongs to Saxony, a small eastern part belongs to Poland, the northern part to Brandenburg. In Saxony, Upper Lusatia comprises roughly the districts of Bautzen and Görlitz , in Brandenburg the southern part of district Oberspreewald-Lausitz...

. The son of a ribbon weaver, he came of peasant stock which had lived in the region for many generations. The family was noted in the neighborhood for its probity and piety. Christian Fichte, Johann Gottlieb's father, married somewhat above his station. It has been suggested that a certain impatience which Fichte himself displayed throughout his life was an inheritance from his mother.

Young Fichte received the rudiments of his education from his father. He early showed remarkable ability, and it was owing to his reputation among the villagers that he gained the opportunity for a better education than he otherwise would have received. The story runs that the Freiherr von Militz, a country landowner, arrived too late to hear the local pastor preach. He was, however, informed that a lad in the neighborhood would be able to repeat the sermon practically verbatim. As a result the baron took the lad into his protection, which meant that he paid his tuition.

Early schooling

Fichte was placed in the family of Pastor Krebel at Niederau
Niederau is a municipality in the district of Meißen, in Saxony, Germany....

 near Meissen
Meissen is a town of approximately 30,000 about northwest of Dresden on both banks of the Elbe river in the Free State of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Meissen is the home of Meissen porcelain, the Albrechtsburg castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche...

 and there received thorough grounding in the classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

. From this time onward, Fichte saw little of his parents. In October 1774, he was attending the celebrated foundation-school at Pforta
Pforta, or Schulpforta, is a former Cistercian monastery, Pforta Abbey , near Naumburg on the Saale River in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is now a celebrated German public boarding school, called Landesschule Pforta...

 near Naumburg
Naumburg is a town in Germany, on the Saale River. It is in the district Burgenlandkreis in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. It is approximately southwest of Leipzig, south-southwest of Halle, and north-northeast of Jena....

. This school is associated with the names of Novalis
Novalis was the pseudonym of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg , an author and philosopher of early German Romanticism.-Biography:...

, August Wilhelm Schlegel and Friedrich Schlegel, Fichte and Nietzsche. The spirit of the institution was semi-monastic and, while the education given was excellent in its way, it is doubtful whether there was enough social life and contact with the world for a pupil of Fichte's temperament and antecedents. Perhaps his education strengthened a tendency toward introspection and independence, characteristics which appear strongly in his doctrines and writings.

Theological studies

In 1780, he began study at the Jena
Jena is a university city in central Germany on the river Saale. It has a population of approx. 103,000 and is the second largest city in the federal state of Thuringia, after Erfurt.-History:Jena was first mentioned in an 1182 document...

 theology seminary. Fichte seems to have supported himself at this period of bitter poverty and hard struggle. Freiherr von Militz continued to support him, but when he died in 1784, Fichte had to end his studies prematurely, so without completing his degree. During the years 1784 to 1788, he supported himself in a precarious way as tutor in various Saxon families. Fichte then worked as a private tutor in Zürich for two years, which were a time of great contentment. Here he met Johanna Rahn, and became acquainted with Pestalozzi
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was a Swiss pedagogue and educational reformer who exemplified Romanticism in his approach....

. In 1790, he became engaged to Johanna Rahn, who happened to be the niece of the famous poet F. G. Klopstock. In 1790, Fichte began to study the works of Kant, initially since one of his students wanted to know about them. They were to have a lasting effect on the trajectory of his life and thought. While he was assimilating the Kantian philosophy and preparing to develop it, fate dealt him a blow: the Rahn family had suffered financial reverses, and the impending marriage had to be postponed.


From Zurich, Fichte returned to Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, and in 1791 obtained a tutorship at Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, in the house of a Polish nobleman. The situation, however, proved disagreeable. He was soon released. He then got a chance to see Kant at Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

. After a disappointing interview, he shut himself in his lodgings and threw all his energies into the composition of an essay which would compel Kant's attention and interest. This essay, completed in five weeks, was the Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung (Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation
Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation
An Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation was the first published work by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. It was briefly mistaken by the public to be a fourth Critique by Kant, and thereby gained Fichte much philosophical fame....

, 1792). This book that investigates the connections between divine revelation and Kant's critical philosophy
Critical philosophy
Attributed to Immanuel Kant, the critical philosophy movement sees the primary task of philosophy as criticism rather than justification of knowledge; criticism, for Kant, meant judging as to the possibilities of knowledge before advancing to knowledge itself...

. The first edition of the book was published, without Kant or Fichte's knowledge, without Fichte's name and signed preface; it was thus mistakenly thought to be a new work by Kant himself. Everyone, including the first reviews of the book, assumed Kant was the author; when Kant cleared the confusion and openly praised the work and author, Fichte's reputation skyrocketed, as many intellectuals of the day were of the opinion that it was "...the most shocking and astonishing news... [since] nobody but Kant could have written this book. This amazing news of a third sun in the philosophical heavens has set me into such confusion..."


In October 1793, he was married at Zürich, where he remained the rest of the year. Stirred by the events and principles of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, he wrote and published anonymously two pamphlets which mark him as a devoted defender of liberty of thought and action and an advocate of political changes. In December of the same year, he received an invitation to fill the position of extraordinary professor of philosophy at the University of Jena. He accepted and began his lectures in May of the next year. With extraordinary zeal, he expounded his system of “transcendental idealism.” His success was immediate. He seems to have excelled as a lecturer because of the earnestness and force of his personality. These lectures were later published under the title The Vocation of the Scholar. He gave himself up to intense production, and a succession of works soon appeared.

Atheism Dispute

After weathering a couple of academic storms, he was finally dismissed from Jena in 1799 as a result of a charge of atheism. He was accused of atheism in 1798 after publishing his essay “Ueber den Grund unsers Glaubens an eine göttliche Weltregierung” (On the Ground of Our Belief in a Divine World-Governance), which he had written in response to Friedrich Karl Forberg
Friedrich Karl Forberg
Friedrich Karl Forberg was a German philosopher and classical scholar.- Biography :He studied under Karl Leonhard Reinhold at Jena...

's essay “Development of the Concept of Religion,” in his Philosophical Journal. For Fichte, God should be conceived primarily in moral terms. To many, such a conception would to rob Him of personality, and in vain did Fichte deny the atheistic nature of his doctrine.


Since all the German states except Prussia had joined in the cry against him, he was forced to go to Berlin. Here he associated himself with the Schlegels, Schleiermacher
Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher
Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher was a German theologian and philosopher known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant orthodoxy. He also became influential in the evolution of Higher Criticism, and his work forms part of the foundation of...

, Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

 and Tieck
Ludwig Tieck
Johann Ludwig Tieck was a German poet, translator, editor, novelist, writer of Novellen, and critic, who was one of the founding fathers of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.-Early life:...

. In April 1800, through the introduction of Hungarian writer Ignaz Aurelius Fessler
Ignaz Aurelius Fessler
Ignaz Aurelius Fessler, aka Feßler was a Hungarian ecclesiastic, politician, historian and freemason.-Biography:Fessler was born in the village of Zurndorf in the county of Moson. In 1773, he joined the order of Capuchin friars, and in 1779 was ordained priest...

, he was initiated into Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 in the Lodge Pythagoras of the Blazing Star where he was elected minor warden. At first Fichte was the warm admirer of Fessler, and was disposed to aid him in his proposed Masonic reform. But later he became Fessler's bitter opponent. Their controversy attracted much attention among Freemasons. In 1805, Fichte was appointed to a professorship in Erlangen. The disaster at Jena
Battle of Jena-Auerstedt
The twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt were fought on 14 October 1806 on the plateau west of the river Saale in today's Germany, between the forces of Napoleon I of France and Frederick William III of Prussia...

 in 1806, in which Napoleon completely crushed the Prussian army, drove him to Königsberg for a time, but he returned to Berlin in 1807 and continued his literary activity.

The deplorable situation of Germany stirred him to the depths and led him to deliver the famous Addresses to the German Nation (1808) which guided the uprising against Napoleon. He became a professor of the new university at Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin
The Humboldt University of Berlin is Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities...

 founded in 1809. By the votes of his colleagues Fichte was unanimously elected its rector in the succeeding year. But, once more, his impetuosity and reforming zeal led to friction, and he resigned in 1812. The campaign against Napoleon began, and the hospitals at Berlin were soon full of patients. Fichte's wife devoted herself to nursing and caught a virulent fever. Just as she was recovering, he himself was stricken down. He died of typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

 at the age of 52.

His son, Immanuel Hermann Fichte
Immanuel Hermann Fichte
Immanuel Hermann von Fichte was a German philosopher and son of Johann Gottlieb Fichte. In his philosophy, he was a theist and strongly opposed to the Hegelian School.-Life:...

, also made contributions to philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...


Fichte's philosophy

In mimicking Kant's difficult style, Fichte produced works that were barely intelligible. "He made no hesitation in pluming himself on his great
skill in the shadowy and obscure, by often remarking to his pupils, that 'there was only one man in the world who could fully understand his writings;
and even he was often at a loss to seize upon his real meaning.' " This remark was often mistakenly attributed to Hegel.

Fichte did not endorse Kant's argument for the existence of noumena
The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

, of "things in themselves", the supra-sensible reality beyond the categories of human reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

. Fichte saw the rigorous and system
System is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole....

atic separation of "things in themselves" (noumena
The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

) and things "as they appear to us" (phenomena
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

) as an invitation to skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

. Rather than invite such skepticism, Fichte made the radical suggestion that we should throw out the notion of a noumenal world and instead accept the fact that consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

 does not have a grounding in a so-called "real world". In fact, Fichte achieved fame for originating the argument that consciousness is not grounded in anything outside of itself. The phenomenal world as such, arises from self-consciousness; the activity of the ego; and moral awareness. His student (and critic), Schopenhauer, wrote:

Central theory

In his work Foundations of Natural Right (1796), Fichte argued that self-consciousness
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals...

 was a social phenomenon — an important step and perhaps the first clear step taken in this direction by modern philosophy. A necessary condition of every subject's self-awareness, for Fichte, is the existence of other rational subjects. These others call or summon (fordern auf) the subject or self out of its unconsciousness and into an awareness of itself as a free individual.

Fichte's account proceeds from the general principle that the I must set itself up as an individual in order to set itself up at all, and that in order to set itself up as an individual it must recognize itself as it were to a calling or summons (Aufforderung) by other free individual(s) — called, moreover, to limit its own freedom out of respect for the freedom of the other. The same condition applied and applies, of course, to the other(s) in its development. Hence, mutual recognition of rational individuals turns out to be a condition necessary for the individual 'I' in general. This argument for intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity is a term used in philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology to describe a condition somewhere between subjectivity and objectivity, one in which a phenomenon is personally experienced but by more than one subject....

 is central to the conception of selfhood developed in the Doctrine of Science (aka 'Wissenschaftslehre'). In Fichte's view consciousness of the self depends upon resistance or a check by something that is understood as not part of the self yet is not immediately ascribable to a particular sensory perception. In his later lectures (his Nova Methodo), Fichte incorporated it into his revised presentation of the very foundations of his system, where the summons takes its place alongside original feeling, which takes the place of the earlier Anstoss (see below) as both a limit upon the absolute freedom of the I and a condition for the positing of the same.

The I ('Das Ich') itself sets this situation up for itself (it posits itself). To 'set' (setzen) does not mean to 'create' the objects of consciousness. The principle in question simply states that the essence of an I lies in the assertion of ones own self-identity, i.e., that consciousness presupposes self-consciousness. Such immediate self-identity, however, cannot be understood as a psychological fact, nor as an act or accident of some previously existing substance or being. It is an action of the I, but one that is identical with the very existence of this same I. In Fichte's technical terminology, the original unity of self-consciousness is to be understood as both an action and as the product of the same I, as a fact and/or act (Tathandlung), a unity that is presupposed by and contained within every fact and every act of empirical consciousness, though it never appears as such therein.

The 'I' must set (setzen) itself in order to be an 'I' at all; but it can set itself only insofar as it sets itself up as limited. Moreover, it cannot even set for itself its own limitations, in the sense of producing or creating these limits. The finite I cannot be the ground of its own passivity. Instead, for Fichte, if the 'I' is to set itself off at all, it must simply discover itself to be limited, a discovery that Fichte characterizes as a repulse or resistance (Anstoss) to the free practical activity of the I. Such an original limitation of the I is, however, a limit for the I only insofar as the I sets it out as a limit. The I does this, according to Fichte's analysis, by setting its own limitation, first, as only a feeling, then as a sensation, then as an intuition of a thing, and finally as a summons of another person. The Anstoss thus provides the essential impetus that first sets in motion the entire complex train of activities that finally result in our conscious experience both of ourselves and others as empirical individuals and of the world around us.

Though Anstoss plays a similar role as the thing in itself does in Kantian philosophy, unlike Kant, Fichte's Anstoss is not something foreign to the I. Instead, it denotes the I's original encounter with its own finitude. Rather than claim that the Not-I is the cause or ground of the Anstoss, Fichte argues that non-I is set up by the I precisely in order to explain to itself the anstoss, that is, in order to become conscious of anstoss.

Though the Wissenschaftslehre demonstrates that such an Anstoss must occur if self-consciousness is to come about, it is quite unable to deduce or to explain the actual occurrence of such an Anstoss — except as a condition for the possibility of consciousness. Accordingly, there are strict limits to what can be expected from any a priori deduction of experience, and this limitation, for Fichte, equally applies to Kant's transcendental philosophy.

According to Fichte, transcendental philosophy can explain that the world must have space, time, and causality, but it can never explain why objects have the particular sensible properties they happen to have or why I am this determinate individual rather than another. This is something that the I simply has to discover at the same time that it discovers its own freedom, and indeed, as a condition for the latter.

Other works

Fichte also developed a theory of the state based on the idea of self-sufficiency. In his mind, the state should control international relations, the value of money, and remain an autarky
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

. Because of this necessity to have relations with other rational beings in order to achieve consciousness, Fichte writes that there must be a 'relation of right,' in which there is a mutual recognition of rationality by both parties.


Fichte made important contributions to political nationalism in Germany. In his Addresses to the German Nation (1808), a series of speeches delivered in Berlin under French occupation, he urged the German peoples to "have character and be German"--entailed in his idea of Germanness was antisemitism, since he argued that "making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation." Fichte answered the call of Freiherr vom Stein, who attempted to develop the patriotism necessary to resist the French specifically among the "educated and cultural elites of the kingdom." Fichte located Germanness in the supposed continuity of the German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, and based it on Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, who had hailed German virtues in Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

and celebrated the heroism of Arminius
Arminius , also known as Armin or Hermann was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest...

 in his Annales.

In an earlier work from 1793 dealing with the ideals and politics of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, Beiträge zur Berichtigung der Urteile des Publikums über die Französische Revolution (Contributions to the Correction of the Public's Judgment concerning the French Revolution), he called Jews a "state within a state" that could "undermine" the German nation. In regard to Jews getting "civil rights," he wrote that this would only be possible if one managed "to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea."

Historian Robert Nisbet
Robert Nisbet
Robert Alexander Nisbet was an American sociologist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside and as the Albert Schweitzer Professor at Columbia University.-Life:Nisbet was born in Los Angeles in 1913 and raised in the small...

 thought him to be "the true author of National Socialism".

Final period in Berlin

Some of Fichte's best-known works are from the last decade of his life, where he gave lecture courses in Berlin to the public at large on a wide variety of topics.

These include two works from 1806: The Characteristics of the Present Age, where Fichte outlines his theory of different historical and cultural epochs, and a semi-mystical work: The Way Towards the Blessed Life; or, the Doctrine of Religion, which contains his most extensive thoughts on religion. In 1808 he gave a series of speeches in French-occupied Berlin, Addresses to the German Nation.

In 1810, in part because educational themes in Addresses..., although the University itself was designed along lines put forward by Wilhelm von Humboldt
Wilhelm von Humboldt
Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Humboldt was a German philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, and founder of Humboldt Universität. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice...

 and in part because of his earlier work at Jena University, Fichte was made the first Chair of Philosophy at the new Berlin University, where he was also made rector.

Fichte also continued to give private and university lectures on further versions of his Wissenschaftslehre. However, apart from a brief work of barely 15 pages from 1810: The Science of Knowledge in its General Outline, Fichte did not publish any of these lecture courses. A small selection was published thirty years after Fichte's death by his son, but the vast majority has only recently been made available in the last decades of the twentieth century, in the Gesamtausgabe. These writings include substantially reworked versions of the Wissenschaftslehre from the years 1810, 1811 and 1813, as well as a Doctrine of Right (1812), a Doctrine of Ethics (1812).


Jewish liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin
Sir Isaiah Berlin OM, FBA was a British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas of Russian-Jewish origin, regarded as one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century and a dominant liberal scholar of his generation...

 listed Fichte, along with his fellow German idealist
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

 G.W.F. Hegel, French materialist
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 and utilitarian
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

The philosophes were the intellectuals of the 18th century Enlightenment. Few were primarily philosophers; rather they were public intellectuals who applied reason to the study of many areas of learning, including philosophy, history, science, politics, economics and social issues...

Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius was a French philosopher and littérateur.-Life:...

, Swiss collectivist
General will
The general will , made famous by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a concept in political philosophy referring to the desire or interest of a people as a whole. As used by Rousseau, the "general will" is identical to the rule of law, and to Spinoza's mens una.The notion of the general will is wholly...

 philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

, French utopian socialist
Saint-Simonianism was a French political and social movement of the first half of the 19th century, inspired by the ideas of Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon ....

 Henri de Saint-Simon
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, positivism and the discipline of sociology...

, and Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

ard conservative
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 Joseph de Maistre
Joseph de Maistre
Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat. He defended hierarchical societies and a monarchical State in the period immediately following the French Revolution...

 as thinkers who constituted the ideological basis for modern authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

, in his book Freedom and Its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Liberty.

Collected Works in German

The new standard edition of Fichte's works in German, which supersedes all previous editions, is the Gesamtausgabe (Collected Works or Complete Edition, commonly abbreviated as 'GA'), prepared by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences: Gesamtausgabe der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften approx. 40 volumes. Edited by Reinhard Lauth, Erich Fuchs, Hans Gliwitzky, Ives Radrizzani, Günter Zöller, et al., Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1962 ff. (to be completed in 2010).

It is organized into four parts.
Part I: Published Works
Part II: Unpublished Writings
Part III: Correspondence
Part IV: Lecture Transcripts.

Works in English

  • Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation
    Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation
    An Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation was the first published work by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. It was briefly mistaken by the public to be a fourth Critique by Kant, and thereby gained Fichte much philosophical fame....

    . Trans. Garrett Green. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978 (Translation of Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung, 1st ed. 1792, 2nd ed. 1793).
  • Early Philosophical Writings Trans. and ed. Daniel Breazeale. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. (Contains Selections from Fichte's Writings and Correspondence from the Jena period, 1794–1799).
  • Foundations of the Entire Science of Knowledge (1794/95, 2nd ed. 1802). Translation of: Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre, Fichte's first major exposition of the Wissenschaftlehre. In: The Science of Knowledge, trans. and ed. Peter Heath and John Lachs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • Foundations of Natural Right
    Foundations of Natural Right
    Foundations of Natural Right is a philosophical text by the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and it was first published in 1797. The book is one of Fichte's most important and one of his broadest books in terms of subjects covered....

    . Trans. Michael Baur. Ed. Frederick Neuhouser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. (Translation of Grundlage des Naturrechts 1796/97).
  • Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo (1798/99). Trans. and ed. Daniel Breazeale. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.
  • The System of Ethics according to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre (1798). Ed. and trans. Daniel Breazeale and Günter Zöller. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings. Trans. and ed. Daniel Breazeale. Indianapolis, and Cambridge: Hackett, 1994. (Contains mostly writings from the late Jena period, 1797–1799).
  • The Vocation of Man. Trans. Peter Preuss. Indianapolis. (Translation of Die Bestimmung des Menschen (1800).
  • A Crystal Clear Report to the General Public Concerning the Actual Essence of the Newest Philosophy: An Attempt to Force the Reader to Understand. Trans. John Botterman and William Rash. In: Philosophy of German Idealism, pp. 39–115. (Translation of Sonnenklarer Bericht an das grössere Publikum über das Wesen der neuesten Philosophie, 1801).
  • The Science of Knowing: J. G. Fichte's 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre. Ed. and trans. Walter W. Wright. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.
  • Characteristics of the Present Age (Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters, 1806). In: The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 2 vols., trans. and ed. William Smith. London: Chapman, 1848/49. Reprint, London: Thoemmes Press, 1999.
  • Addresses to the German Nation (1808), ed. and trans. Gregory Moore. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Other Works

  • Jacobi an Fichte, German Text (1799/1816), with Introduction and Critical Apparatus by Marco Ivaldo and Ariberto Acerbi (Introduction, German Text, Italian Translation, 3 Appendices with Jacobi's and Fichte's complementary Texts, Philological Notes, Commentary, Bibliography, Index): Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici - Press, Naples 2011, ISBN 978-88-905957-5-2.

Secondary sources

  • Arash Abizadeh. "Was Fichte an Ethnic Nationalist?" History of Political Thought 26.2 (2005): 334–359.
  • Daniel Breazeale. "Fichte's 'Aenesidemus' Review and the Transformation of German Idealism" The Review of Metaphysics 34 (1980/1) 545–68.
  • Daniel Breazeale and Thomas Rockmore (eds) Fichte: Historical Contexts/Contemporary Controversies. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1997.
  • Franks, Paul, All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005
  • Dieter Henrich
    Dieter Henrich
    Dieter Henrich is a German philosopher. A contemporary thinker in the tradition of German Idealism, Henrich is particularly known for the influence of Kant, Hegel and Fichte in his work.-Life:...

    . "Fichte's Original Insight" Contemporary German Philosophy 1 (1982) 15–52.
  • T. P. Hohler. Imagination and Reflection: Intersubjectivity. Fichte's 'Grundlage' of 1794. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982.
  • Wayne Martin. Idealism and Objectivity: Understanding Fichte's Jena Project. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
  • Frederick Neuhouser
    Frederick Neuhouser
    Frederick Neuhouser is the Viola Manderfeld Professor of German and a Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University.Before joining Columbia as a faculty member, Neuhouser taught at Harvard University, University of California, San Diego, Cornell University and Johann Wolfgang...

    . Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  • Peter Suber
    Peter Suber
    Peter Suber is the creator of the game Nomic and a leading voice in the open access movement. He is a senior research professor of philosophy at Earlham College, the open access project director at Public Knowledge, a senior researcher at SPARC , and a Fellow at Harvard's and...

    . "A Case Study in Ad Hominem Arguments: Fichte's Science of Knowledge," Philosophy and Rhetoric, 23, 1 (1990) 12–42.
  • Robert R Williams. Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  • Xavier Tilliette
    Xavier Tilliette
    Xavier Tilliette is a French philosopher, historian of philosophy and theologian, born on July 23, 1921, in Corbie . Former student of Jean Wahl and of Vladimir Jankélévitch, he is a member of the Society of Jesus and professor emeritus at the Catholic Institute of Paris , at the Pontifical...

    , Fichte. La science la liberté, pref. by Reinhard Lauth, Vrin, 2003
  • Gunther Zoller. Fichte's Transcendental Philosophy: The Original Duplicity of Intelligence and Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Rainer Schafer. Johann Gottlieb Fichtes >Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre< von 1794. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006.
  • Ulrich Schwabe. Indivdiuelles und Transindividuelles Ich. Die Selbstindividuation reiner Subjektivität und Fichtes "Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo". Paderborn 2007.

External links

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