Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

What are some important facts about Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s career?

Fichte was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Jena in 1794, where he extended his Kantian idea of duty to criticize the drunkenness, lewdness, and brawling of the students. In 1795 he became an editor of the Philosophiches Journal, and in the preface to an article he was going to publish that had been written by a friend of his, he wrote that God was the moral order of the universe. There were complaints that this was an atheistic view, and so the governments of Saxony and other German states suppressed the Philosophiches Journal and demanded that Fichte be kicked out of Jena.

Fichte defended himself in writing and then threatened to resign his university position. The Jena University authorities interpreted his threat as an offer, which they immediately accepted, so he lost his position there. Much later, in 1810, he became the first professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin.

Fichte’s independent philosophy was first stated in Foundation of the Science of Knowledge (1794) and popularized in The Vocation of Man (1800). In 1796 he wrote Foundations of Natural Right, which was his treatment of natural law. In 1808 he gave a series of “Speeches to the German Nation” in French-occupied Berlin (published as “Addresses to the German Nation” in 1922). In those talks, Fichte supported resistance against French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, arguing for the common good.


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