JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE, (1762-1814), one of the most eminent of modern German metaphysicians, was born at Rammenau in Upper Lusatia on the 19th May 1762. His father, a ribbon-weaver in that village, was of Swedish origin, the first of the Fichte family having been a soldier in the army of Gustavus Adolphus, who was left wounded at Rammenau and settled there. All of the race were distinguished for piety, uprightness, and solidity of character. With these qualities Fichte himself combined a certain impetuosity of temper and impatience which were probably derived from his mother, a woman of somewhat querulous and jealous disposition. At a very early age the boy showed remarkable mental vigour and moral independence. A fortunate accident brought him under the notice of a neighbouring nobleman, Freiherr von Miltitz, and was the means of procuring him a more excellent education than his father's circumstances would have allowed. By Von Miltitz he was placed under the care of Pastor Krebel at Niederau, who prepared him admirably for higher school instruction. After a short stay at Meissen he was then entered at the celebrated school or seminary at Pforta, near Baumburg. In 1780, after six years residence at Schulpforta, Fichte, whose patron Von Miltitz had unfortunately died, entered the university of Jena as a student of theology. His means did not permit him to prosecute an uninterrupted course of study ; he supported himself mainly by private teaching, and during the years 1784-1787 acted as tutor in various families of Saxony. In 1787, after an unsuccessful application to the consistory for some pecuniary assistance, such as was frequently given to poor students of theology at the Saxon universities, he seems to have been altogether driven to miscellaneous literary work. A tutorship at Zurich was, however, obtained in the spring of 1788, through his friend Weisse, and Fichte spent in Switzerland two of the happiest years of his life. He made several valuable acquaintances, among others Lavater and his brother-in-law Hartmann Rahn, to whose daughter, Johanna Maria, he became engaged before leaving Zurich in 1790.
Settling at Leipsic, Fichte still found himself without any fixed means of livelihood, and was again reduced to literary drudgery, writing tales, plays, and reviews for the popular magazines. In the midst of this distracting work occurred the most important event of his life, his introduc-tion to the philosophy of Kant. That Fichte had been already interested in philosophico-theological questions we know, but up to this period his speculations had been but desultory. At Schulpforta he had read with delight Lessing's Anti-Goeze, and during his Jena student days had occupied himself with the difficult problem of the relation between philosophy and religion. The outcome of his speculations, as exhibited in the fragmentary ApJiorismen über Religion und Deismus (unpublished, date 1790; Werke, i. 1-8), was a species of Spinozistic determinism, regarded, however, as lying altogether outside the boundary of religion. It is remarkable that even for a time should fatalism have been predominant in Fichte's reasoning, for in character he was throughout opposed to such a view, and, as he has said, " according to the man, so is the system of philosophy he adopts." With such half-formed opinions,. Kant's philosophy was a new revelation. In particular, he seized upon the practical side, in which Kant works out his view of the absolute moral law as the essence of free intelligence. This doctrine lies at the root of all Fichte's after speculations ; in fact, his system is merely the rigidly consistent evolution of the true relation between reason as practical and reason as cognitive.
Fichte's Letters of this period sufficiently attest the influence exercised on him by the study of Kant. It effected a revolution in his whole mode of thinking; and so completely did the Kantian doctrine of the inherent moral worth of man harmonize with his own character, that from this time forward his life becomes one effort to realize and perfect a true philosophy, and to make its principles no mere theoretic axioms, but practical maxims. At first he seems to have thought that the best method for accomplishing his object would be to expound Kantianism in a popular, intelligible form. He felt, and rightly, that the reception of Kant's doctrines was impeded by the clumsy and scholastic phraseology in which they were stated. An abridgment of the Kritik der Urtheilskraft was begun, but was left unfinished.
The circumstances of Fichte's life had not improved. No opening had presented itself, and it had been arranged in the beginning of 1791 that he should return to Zurich and be married to Johanna Kahn. This plan was overthrown by a commercial disaster which severely affected the fortunes of the Bahn family. Fichte accepted a post as private tutor to the family of a nobleman in Warsaw, and proceeded slowly on foot to that town. The situation proved unsuit-able ; the lady, as Kuno Fischer says, " required greater submission and better French " than Fichte could yield, and after little more than a fortnight's stay, Fichte set out for Königsberg, drawn thither by the desire to see Kant. His first interview with Kant was disappointing; the coldness and formality of the aged philosopher checked the enthu-siasm of the young disciple, though it did not diminish his admiration and reverence. He resolved to bring himself before Kant's notice in a more effective manner by sub-mitting to him some paper in which the principles of the Kantian philosophy should be applied. Such was the origin of the work, written in four weeks, the Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung (Essay towards a Critique of all Bevelation). The problem which Fichte dealt with in this essay was one not yet handled by Kant himself, and the relations of which to the critical philosophy furnished matter for considerable surmise. Indirectly, indeed, Kant had indicated a very definite opinion on theology : from the Critique of Pure Reason it was clear that for him specula-tive theology must be purely negative, while the Critique of Practical Reason as clearly indicated the view that the moral law is the absolute content or substance of any religion. A critical investigation of the notion of revealed religion, an examination of the conditions under which religious belief was possible, was still, therefore, an open problem. Fichte's essay was forwarded by him to Kant, who approved it highly, extended to the author a most warm reception, and exerted his influence to procure a publisher for the work. After some delay, consequent on the scruples of the theological censor of Halle, who did not like to see miracles rejected, the book appeared at Easter, 1792. By an over-sight of the publisher, Fichte's name did not appear on the title page, nor was the preface given, in which the author spoke of himself as a beginner in philosophy. Considering then the principles applied and the results reached, it was not unnatural that outsiders should ascribe the work to Kant himself. The Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung went so far as to say that no one who had read a line of Kant's immortal writings could fail to recognize the eminent author of this new werk. The mistake was soon rectified by Kant himself, who publicly announced the true author, at the same time highly commending the work. By this fortunate error Fichte's reputation was secured at a stroke, and he soon reaped the benefits of fame.
The Critique of Revelation is deserving of particular notice, since it marks the culminating point of Fichte's Kantian period. The exposition of the conditions under which revealed religion is possible turns upon the absolute requirements of the moral law in human nature. Beligion itself is the belief in this moral law as divine, and such belief is a practical postulate, necessary in order to add force to the law. It follows that no revealed religion, so far as matter or substance is concerned, can contain anything beyond this law; nor can any fact in the world of experience be recognized by us as supernatural. The supernatural element in religion can only be the divine character of the moral law. Now, the revelation of this divine character of morality is possible only to a being in whom the lower impulses have been or are successful in overcoming reverence for the law. In such a case it is con-ceivable that a revelation might be given in order to add strength to the moral law. Beligion ultimately then rests upon the practical reason, and expresses some demand or want of the pure ego or human will. In this conclusion we can trace the prominence assigned by Fichte to the practical element, and the tendency to make the require-ments of the ego the ground for all judgment on reality. It was not possible that having reached this point he should not press forward and leave the Kantian position.
Fichte's literary success was coincident with an improvement in the fortunes of the Bahn family. There seemed now no reason for delaying his marriage, which accordingly took place at Zurich in October 1793. The remainder of the year he spent in retirement at Zurich, slowly perfecting his thoughts on the fundamental problems left for solution in the Kantian philosophy. During this period also he published anonymously two remarkable political works, Zurückforderung der Denkfreiheit von den Fürsten Europa's, and Beiträge zur Berichtigung der Urtheile des Publicums über die französische Revolution. Of these the latter is much the more important. The French Bevolution seemed to many earnest thinkers the one great outcry of modern times for the liberty of thought and action which is the eternal heritage of every human being. Unfortun-ately the political condition of Germany was unfavourable to the formation of an unbiassed opinion on the great movement. The principles involved in it were lost sight of under the mass of spurious maxims on social order which had slowly grown up and stiffened into system. To direct attention to the true nature of revolution, to demon-strate how inextricably the right of liberty is interwoven with the very existence of man as an intelligent agent, to point out the inherent progressiveness of state arrangements, and the consequent necessity of reform or amendment, such are the main objects of the Beitrage; and although, as is often the case with Fichte, the arguments are too formal and the distinctions too wire-drawn, yet the general idea is nobly conceived and carried out. As in the Critique of Revelation so here the rational nature of man and the con-ditions necessary for its manifestation or realization become the standard for critical judgment.
Towards the close of 1793 Fichte received an invitation to fill the post of extraordinary professor of philosophy at Jena, vacant by the transference of Beinhold to Kiel. This chair, though not in the ordinary faculty, had become, through Beinhold, the most important in the university, and great deliberation was exercised in selecting his successor. It was desired to secure an able exponent of Kantianism, and none seemed so highly qualified as the author of the Critiqtie of Revelation. Fichte, while accept-ing the call, at first desired to delay entry on his duties for a year, in order to be more thoroughly prepared ; but as this was deemed inexpedient, he rapidly drew out an introductory outline of his system for the use of his students, and began his lectures in May 1794. His success was instantaneous and complete. The fame of his predecessor was altogether eclipsed; as Forberg writes, " Fichte is believed in as Beinhold never was. The students understand him even less than they did his predecessor, but they believe all the more earnestly on that account." Much of this success was undoubtedly due to Fichte's rare power as a lecturer. In oral exposition the vigour of thought and moral inten-sity of the man were most of all apparent, while his prac-tical earnestness completely captivated his hearers. He lectured not only on philosophy to his own class, but on general moral subjects to all students of the university. These general addresses, published under the title Vocation of the Scholar (Bestimmung des Gelehrten), were on a subject very dear to Fichte's heart, the supreme importance of the highest intellectual culture and the duties incumbent on those who had received it. Their tone is stimulating and lofty.
The years spent at Jena were unusually productive; indeed, the completed Fichtean philosophy is contained in the writings of this period. A general introduction to the system is given in the tractate On tlie Notion of the Theory of Science (Ueber den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre, 1794), and the theoretical portion is worked out in the Foundation of the whole Theory of Science (Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, 1794), and Outline of what is peculiar inthe Theory of Science (Grundrissdes Eigenthum-lichen d. Wissenschaftslehre, 1794). To these were added in 1797 a First and a Second Introduction to the Theory of Science,&n& an Essay towards a new Exposition of the Theory of Science. The Introductions are masterly expositions. The practical philosophy, which was with Fichte thefundamen tal, was given in the Grundlage des Naturrechts, 1796, and System der Sittenlehre, 1798. The last is, we think, the most important of all Fichte's works; apart from it, his theoretical philosophy is unintelligible and absurd.
During this period of literary activity Fichte's academic career had been troubled by various storms, the last so violent as to put a close to his professoriate at Jena. The first of them, a complaint against the delivery of his general addresses on Sundays, was easily got over. The second, arising from Fichte's strong desire to suppress the Lands mannschaften, or students' orders, which were productive of much harm, was more serious. Some misunderstanding caused an outburst of ignorant ill-feeling on the part of the students, who proceeded to such lengths that Fichte was compelled to obtain leave to reside ontof Jena. The third storm, however, was the most violent. In 1798 Fichte, who, with Niethammer, had edited the Philosophical Journal since 1795, received from his friend Forberg an essay on the " Development of the Idea of Religion." "With much of the essay he entirely agreed, but he thought the exposition in so many ways defective and calculated to create an erroneous impression, that he prefaced it with a short paper On the Grounds of our Belief in a Divine Government of the Universe, in which God is defined as the moral order of the universe, the eternal law of right which is the foundation of all our being. Any other mode of existence must be denied to him. Against these papers the cry of atheism was raised, and the electoral Government of Saxony suppressed the Journal and confiscated the copies found in their universities, acts imitated by all the German states except Prussia. The duke of Saxe-Weimar, patron of Jena university, was almost ordered to reprove and dismiss the offenders. Fichte's defences (Appellation an das Publicum gegen die Anklage des Atheismus, and Gerichtliche Verantwortung der Herausgeber der phil. Zeitschrift (1799), though masterly, did not make the matter easier for the court of Saxe-Weimar, who strongly wished to let the affair pass quietly, and an unfortunate letter, in which he threatened to resign in case of reprimand, turned the scale altogether against him. The court arbitrarily accepted his threat as a request to resign, passed censure, and extended to him permission to withdraw from his chair at Jena ; nor would they alter their decision, even though Fichte himself endeavoured to explain away the unfortunate letter.
Berlin was now the only town in Germany open to him. His residence there from 1799 to 1806 was only broken by the delivery of lectures during the summer of 1805 at Erlangen, where he had been named professor. Surrounded by friends, including such men as Schlegel and Schleier-macher, he continued his literary work, perfecting and amending the Wissenschaftslehre. The most remarkable of the works from this period are(1) the Bestimmung des Menschen (Vocation of Man, 1800), a book which, for beauty of style, richness of content, and elevation of thought, may be ranked with the Meditations of Descartes ; (2) Der geschlossene Handelsstaat, 1800 (The Exclusive or Isolated Commercial State), a very remarkable treatise, intensely socialist in tone, and bitterly opposed to free-trade and competition, inculcating in fact organized protection ; (3) Sonnenklarer Bericht cm das grbssere Publicum iiber die neueste Philosophic, 1801. In 1801 was also written the Dcn-stellung der Wissenschaftslehre, which was not published till after his death. In 1804 a set of lectures on the Wissen-schaftslehre was given at Berlin, the notes of which were pub-lished in the Nachgelassene Werke, vol. ii. In 1804 were also delivered the noble lectures on the Characteristics of the Present Age (Grundziige der gegen wartigen Zeitalters, 1804), containing a most admirable analysis of the Aufklarung, tracing the position such a movement of thought holds in the natural evolution of the general human consciousness, point-ing out its inherent defects, and indicating as the ultimate goal of progress the life of reason in its highest aspect as a belief in the divine order of the universe. The philosophy of history sketched in this work has something of value with much that is fantastic and absurd. In 1805 and 1806 ap-peared the Nature of the Scholar (Wesen des Gelehrten) and the Way to a Blessed Life (Anweisung zum seligen Leben oder Beligionslehre), the latter the most important work of this Berlin period. In it the union between the finite self-consciousness and the infinite ego or God is handled in an almost mystical manner. The knowledge and love of God is the end of life ; by this means only can we attain blessedness (Seligkeit), for in God alone have we a perma-nent, enduring object of desire. The infinite God is the all; the world of independent objects is the result of re-flection or self-consciousness, by which the infinite unity is broken up. God is thus over and above the distinction of subject and object; our knowledge is but a reflex or picture of the infinite essence. Being is not thought.
The disasters of Prussia in 1806 drove Fichte from Berlin. He retired first to Stargard, then to Königsberg (where he lectured for a time), then to Copenhagen, whence he returned to the capital in August 1807. From this time till his death his only published writings are practical in character; not till after the appearance of the Nachge-lassene Werke was it known in what shape his final specula-tions had been thrown out. We may here note the order of these posthumous writings as being of importance for tracing the development of Fichte's thought. From the year 1806 we have the remarkable Bericht iiber die Wissen-schaftslehre (Werke, vol. viii.) with its sharp critique of Schel-liug; from 1810 we have the Thatsachen des Bewusstseyns, published in 1817, of which another treatment is given in lectures of 1813 (Nachgel. Werke, vol i.). Of the Wissen-schaftslehre we have, in 1812-13, four separate treatments contained in the Nachgel. Werke. As these consist mainly of notes for lectures, couched in uncouth phraseology, they cannot be held to throw much light on Fichte's views. Perhaps the most interesting are the lectures of 1812 on Transcendental Logic (Nach. Werke, i. 106-400).
From 1812 we have notes of two courses on practical philosophy, Rechtslehre (Nach. Werke, vol ii.) and Sittenlehre (Ib., vol. iii.), A finished work in the same department is the Staatslehre, published in 1820. This gives the Fichtean Utopia or state organized on principles of pure reason ; in too many cases the proposals are identical with principles of pure despotism.
During these later years, however, Fichte's energies were mainly occupied with public affairs. In 1807 he drew up an elaborate and minute plan for the proposed new uni-versity of Berlin. In 1807-1808 he delivered at Berlin, amidst danger and discouragement, his noble addresses to the German people (Reden an die Deutsche Nation). Even if we think that in these pure reason is sometimes over-shadowed by patriotism, we cannot but recognize the im-mense practical value of what he recommended as the only true foundation for national prosperity.
In 1810 he was elected rector of the new university founded in the previous year. This post he resigned in 1812, mainly on account of the difficulties he experienced in his endeavour to alter and amend the student life of the university.
In 1813 began the great effort of Germany for national independence. Debarred from taking an active part, Fichte made his contribution by way of lectures. The addresses on the idea of a true war (Uiber den Begriff einer wahrhaften Kriegs, forming part of the Staatslehre) contain a very subtle and admirable contrast between the positions of France and Germany in the war.
In the autumn of 1813 the hospitals of Berlin were filled with sick and wounded from the campaign. Among the most devoted in her exertions was Fichte's wife, who, in January 1814, was attacked with a virulent hospital fever. On the day after she was pronounced out of danger Fichte was struck down by the same disease. His constitution, weakened by severe illness in 1808, was unable to withstand the attack. He lingered for some days in an almost un-conscious state, and died on the 27th January 1814.
The philosophy of Fichte, worked out in a series of writings, and falling chronologically into two distinct periods, that of Jena and that of Berlin, seemed in the course of its development to undergo a change so fundamental that many critics have sharply separated and opposed to one another an earlier and a later phase. The ground of the modification, further, has been sought and apparently found in quite external influences, principally that of Schelling's Naturphilosophie, to some extent that of Schleiermacher. But as a rule most of those who have adopted this view have done so without the full and patient examination which the matter demands ; they have been misled by the difference in tone and style between the earlier and later writings, and have concluded that underlying this was a fundamental difference of philosophic conception. One only, Erdmann, in his Entvoicklung d. deuts. Spek. sett Kant, § 29, seems to give full references to justify his opinion, and even he, in his later work, Grundriss cler Gesch. der Fhilos. (ed. 3), § 311, admits that the difference is much less than he had at the first imagined. He certainly retains his former opinion, but mainly on the ground, in itself intelligible and legitimate, that, so far as Fichte's philosophical reputation and influence are concerned, attention may be limited to the earlier doctrines of the Wissen-schaftslehre. This may be so, but it can neither be admitted that Fichte's views underwent radical change, nor that the Wissenscha/ts-lehre was ever regarded as in itself complete, nor that Fichte was unconscious of the apparent difference between his earlier and later utterances. It is demonstrable by various passages in the works and letters that he never looked upon tl.e Wissenscha/tslehre as con-taining the whole system; it is clear from the chronology of his writings that the modifications supposed to be due to other thinkers were from the first implicit in his theory ; and if one fairly traces the course of thought in the early writings, one can see how he was inevitably led on to the statement of the later and, at first sight, divergent views. On only one point, the position assigned in the Wissenscha/tslehre to the absolute ego, is there any obscurity; but the relative passages are far from decisive, and from the early work, Neue Darstellung der Wissenscha/tslehre, unquestionably to be in-cluded in the Jena period, one can see that from the outset the doctrine of the absolute ego was held in a form differing only in statement from the later theory.
Fichte's system is one absolutely refusing to be compressed with intelligibility. We shall here note only three points :(a) the origin in Kant; (b) the fundamental principle and method of the Wissenscha/tslehre ; (c) the connexion with the later writings. The most important works for (a) are the "Review of jEnesidemus," and the Second Introduction to the Wissenscha/tslehre; for (b) the great treatises of the Jena period; for (c) the Thatsachen des Bewusstseyns of 1810.
(a) The Kantian system had for the first time opened up a truly fruitful line of philosophic speculation, the transcendental con-sideration of knowledge, or the analysis of the conditions under which cognition is possible. To Kant the fundamental condition was given in the synthetical unity of consciousness. The primitive fact under which might be gathered the special conditions of that synthesis which we call cognition was this unity. But by Kant there was no attempt made to show that the said special conditions were necessary from the very nature of consciousness itself. Their necessity was discovered and proved in a manner which might be called empirical. Moreover, while Kant in a quite similar manner pointed out that intuition had special conditions, space and time, he did not show any link of connexion between these and the primitive conditions of pure cognition. Closely connected with this remarkable defect in the Kantian view,lying, indeed, at the founda-tion of it,was the doctrine that the matter of cognition is altogether given, or thrown into the form of cognition from without. So strongly was this doctrine emphasized by Kant, that he seemed to refer the matter of knowledge to the action upon us of a non-ego or Ding-an-sich, absolutely beyond consciousness. While these hints towards a completely intelligible account of cognition were given by Kant, they were not reduced to system, and from the way in which the elements of cognition were related, could not be so reduced. Only in the sphere of practical reason, where the intelligible nature prescribed to itself its own laws, was there the possibility of systematic deduction from a single principle.
The peculiar position in which Kant had left the theory of cognition was assailed from many different sides and by many writers, specially by Schultze (Aenesidemus) and Maimón. To the criticisms of the latter, in particular, Fichte owed much, but his own activity went far beyond what they supplied to him. To complete Kant's work, to demonstrate that all the necessary con-ditions of knowledge can be deduced from a single principle, and consequently to expound the complete system of reason, that is the business of the Wissenscha/tslehre. By it the theoretical and practical reason shall be shown to coincide; for while the categories of cognition and the whole system of pure thought can be expounded from one principle, the ground of this principle is scientifically, or to cognition, inexplicable, and is made conceivable only in the practical philosophy. The ultimate basis for the activity of cogni-tion is given by the will. Even in the practical sphere, however, Fichte found that the contradiction, insoluble to cognition, was not completely suppressed, and he was thus driven to the higher view, which is explicitly stated in the later writings, though not, it must be confessed, with the precision and scientific clearness of the Wissenscha/tslehre.
(b) What, then, is this single principle, and how does it work itself out into system ? To answer this one must bear in mind what Fichte intended by designating all philosophy Wissenschafts-lehre, or theory of science. Philosophy is to him the rethinking of actual cognition, the theory of knowledge, the complete, systematic exposition of the principles which lie at the basis of all reasoned cognition. It traces the necessary acts by which the cognitive consciousness comes to be what it is, both in form and content. Not that it is a natural history, or even a phenomenology of con-sciousness ; only in the later writings did Fichte adopt even the genetic method of exposition ; it is the complete statement of the pure principles of the understanding in their rational or necessary order. But if complete, this Wissenschaftslehre must be able to deduce the whole organism of cognition from certain fundamental axioms, themselves unproved and incapable of proof; only thus can we have a system of reason. From these primary axioms the whole body of necessary thoughts must be developed, and, as Socrates would say, the argument itself will indicate the path of the development.
Of such primitive principles, the absolutely necessary conditions of possible cognition, only three are thinkable,one perfectly un-conditioned both in form and matter ; a second, unconditioned in form but not in matter ; a third, unconditioned in matter but not in form. Of these, evidently the first must be the fundamental; to some extent it conditions the other two, though these cannot be deduced from it or proved by it. The statement of these principles forms the introduction to Wissenschaftslehre.
The method which Fichte first adopted for stating these axioms is not calculated to throw full light upon them, and tends to exaggerate the apparent airiness and unsubstantiality of his deduction. They may be explained thus. The primitive condition of all intelligence is that the ego shall posit, affirm, or be aware of itself. The ego is the ego ; such is the first pure act of conscious intelli-gence, that by which alone consciousness can come to be what it is. It is what Fichte called a Deed-act (Thathandlung); we cannot be aware of the process,the ego is not until it has affirmed itself, but we are aware of the result, and can see the necessity of the act by which it is brought about. The ego then posits itself as real. What the ego posits is real. But in consciousness there is equally given a primitive act of op-positing, or contra-positing, formally distinct from the act of position, but materially determined, in so far as what is op-posited must be the negative of that which was posited. The non-egonot, be it noticed, the world as we know ifis op-posed in consciousness to the ego. The ego is not the non-ego. How this act of op-positing is possible and necessary, only becomes clear in the practical philosophy, and even there the inherent difficulty leads to a higher view. But third, we have now an absolute antithesis to our original thesis. Only the ego is real, but the non-ego is posited in the ego. The contradiction is solved in a higher synthesis, which takes up into itself the two opposites. The ego and non-ego limit one another, or determine one another; and, as limitation is negation of part of a divisible quantum, in this third act, the divisible ego is op-posed to a divisible non-ego.
From this point onwards the course proceeds by the method already made clear. We progress by making explicit the oppositions contained in the fundamental synthesis, by uniting these opposites, analysing the new synthesis, and so on, until we reach an ultimate pair. Now, in the synthesis of the third act two principles may be distinguished :(1) the non-ego determines the ego ; (2) the ego determines the non-ego. As determined the ego is theoretical, as determining it is practical ; ultimately the opposed principles must be united by showing how the ego is both determining and deter-mined.
It is impossible to enter here on the steps by which the theo-retical ego is shown to develop into the complete system of cognitive categories, or to trace the deduction of the processes (productive imagination, intuition, sensation, understanding, judgment, reason) by which the quite indefinite non-ego comes to assume the appear-ance of definite objects in the forms of time and space. All this evolution is the necessary consequence of the determination of the ego by the non-ego. But it is clear that the non-ego cannot really determine the ego. There is no reality beyond the ego itself. The contradiction can only be suppressed if the ego itself opposes to itself the non-ego, places it as an Anstoss or plane on which its own activity breaks and from which it is reflected. Now, this op-positing of the Anstoss is the necessary condition of the practical ego, of the will. If the ego be a striving power, then of necessity a limit must be set by which its striving is manifest. But how can the infinitely active ego posit a limit to its own activity ? Here we come to the crux of Fichte's system, which is only partly cleared up in the Bechtslehre and Sittenlehre. If the ego be pure activity, free activity, it can only become aware of itself by positing some limit. We cannot possibly have any cognition of how such an act is possible. But as it is a free act, the ego cannot be determined to it by anything beyond itself; it cannot be aware of its own free-dom otherwise than as determined by other free egos. Thus in the Bechtslehre and Sittenlehre, the multiplicity of egos is deduced, and with this deduction the first form of the Wissenschaftslehre appeared to end.
(c) But in fact deeper questions remained. "We have spoken of the ego as becoming aware of its own freedom, and have shown how the existence of other egos and of a world in which these egos may act are the necessary conditions of consciousness of freedom. But all this is the work of the ego. All that has been expounded follows if the ego comes to consciousness. We have therefore to consider that the absolute ego, from which spring all the individual egos, is not subject to these conditions, but freely determines itself to them. How is this absolute ego to be conceived ? As early as 1797 Fichte had begun to see that the ultimate basis of his system was the absolute ego, in which is no difference of subject and object ; in 1800 the Bcstimmung des Menschen defined this absolute ego as the in-finite moral will of the universe, God, in whom are all the individ-ual egos, from whom they have sprung. It lay in the nature of the thing that more precise utterances should be given on this subject, and these we find in the Thatsachen des Bewusstseyns and in all the later lectures. God in them is the absolute Life, the absolute One, who becomes conscious of himself by self-diremption into the individ-ual egos. The individual ego is only possible as opposed to a non-ego, to a world of the senses ; thus God, the infinite will, manifests himself in the individual, and the individual has over against hini the non-ego or thing. " The individuals do not make part of the being of the one life, but are a pure form of its absolute freedom." " The individual is not conscious of himself, but the Life is conscious of itself in individual form and as an individual." In order that the Life may act, though it is not necessary that it should act, in-dividualization is necessary. "Thus," says Fichte, "we reach a final conclusion. Knowledge is not mere knowledge of itself, but of being, and of the one being that truly is, viz., God. . . This one possible object of knowledge is never known in its purity, but ever broken into the various forms of knowledge which are and can be shown to be necessary. The demonstration of the necessity of these forms is philosophy or Wissenschaftslehre" (Thats. des. Bewuss., Werke, ii. 685). This ultimate view is expressed throughout the lectures (in the Nachgel. Werke) in uncouth and mystical language.
It will escape no one (1) how the idea and method of the Wissenschaftslehre prepare the way for the later Hegelian dialectic, and (2) how completely the whole philosophy of Schopenhauer is contained in the later writings of Fichte. It is not to the credit of historians that Schopenhauer's debt should have been allowed to pass with so little notice.
Fichte's complete works have been published by his son, J. H. Fichte; Werke 11 vols. (vols, i.-viii., 1845-6; lx.-xi. Nachgelassene Werke, 1S34); also the Leben und Briefweclisel. 2 vols., 1830 (2d ed. 1862). The most complete works on his philosophy areBusse, Fichte und seine Beziehung zur Gegenwart, 1848-9; Lowe, Die Philosophie Fichte's, 1862; Noack, Fichte nach seinem Leben, Lehren, und Werken, 1862 ; Fischer, Geschichte d. neuern Philosophie, v., 1868-9. See also the histories of post-Kantian philosophy by Erdmann, Fortlage (whose account is remarkably good), Michelet, Biedennann, and others. Dr William Smith has translated many of the later and more popular writings, and has contributed a very excellent biography of Fichte (Popular Writings of Fichte, with Memoir, new edition 1871); Kroeger has translated the best portions of the Wissenschaftslehre (Science of Knowledge, Philadelphia, 1868) and the Naturrecht (Science of Rights, 1870). Several other pieces have been translated in the St Louis Journal of Speculative Philosophy. (R. AD.)