Johann Gottlieb Fichte

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Johann Gottlieb Fichte (May 19, 1762 - January 28, 1814) is regarded by some as one of Germany's greatest philosophers, and one of the most noted writers on the subject of national education.

Friedrich Hayek notes that along with Rodbertus and Lasalle, Fichte is one of the acknowledged fathers of socialism.

Early life

He was born May 19, 1762.


He was a professor of philosophy at Jena; but being charged with atheism by some persons who had completely misunderstood him, he left that university, and went to Berlin, where he afterward became a professor. His philosophy is a development of that of Kant, and rests entirely upon the notion that the mind constructs its objects by an internal necessity.



All activity, as well as the condition of the existence of all things, depends upon the ego. Very many profound remarks and fine psychological analyses occur in his philosophical writings. His bent of mind was strongly ethical; he viewed nature as valueless except as a means for developing the moral character of the individual. Like Kant he had the greatest abhorrence of all utilitarian ethics, and would not sanction any attempt to reduce the moral law to a means of gaining either happiness or heaven. His addresses to the German nation, delivered while Napoleon was in Berlin, are full of this ethical rigor, and are so stirring, that it is a wonder that Napoleon suffered him to deliver them.


His connection with pedagogy consists in his emphatic enunciation of the doctrine that education must be an unfolding of the whole nature, moral as well as mental. The mere acquisition of knowledge he viewed as the smallest part of education. The great aim of instruction is to make good men; or, since will was the man with him, to develop a will to do right. His hatred of selfishness—which was probably much increased by the political events of his time— brought him into sharp antagonism with the prevailing theories both of education and of religion. I le complained that the aim of the schools was simply to make men knowing, and that they were utterly indifferent to their moral development. Religion itself, he said, as taught, ministers to selfishness by its theory of rewards and punishments. Selfishness was, for him, the root of all evil, and tainted the old methods in church, school, and state. The new education, therefore, must aim to produce complete and unselfish men. This demand for unselfishness led Fichte, in his Addresses to the German Nation (the book which contains his leading utterances on education) to lay down a theory of state or national education, in which the rights of the individual do not receive proper recognition. This was a necessary revolt from the individualism of the previous century, but it was no less one-sided, and prepared the way for the opposite theory of Herbart.[1]


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