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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Fichte was in close fellowship


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appeared in 1794, the _Naturrecht_

in 1796, and the _Sittenlehre_ in 1798), by which he exerted a powerful influence upon the scientific movement in Germany, aided as he was in this by the fact that Jena was then one of the most flourishing of the German universities, and the resort of every vigorous head. With Goethe, Schiller, the brothers Schlegel, William von Humboldt, and Hufeland, Fichte was in close fellowship, though this was unfortunately broken after a few years. In 1795 he became associate editor of the "_Philosophical Journal_," which had been established by Niethammer. A fellow-laborer, Rector Forberg, at Saalfeld, offered for publication in this journal an article "to determine the conception of religion." Fichte advised the author not to publish it, but at length inserted it in the journal, prefacing it, however, with an introduction of his own. "_On the ground of our faith in a divine government of the world_," in which he endeavored to remove, or at least soften, the views in the article which might give offence. Both the essays raised a great cry of atheism. The elector of Saxony confiscated the journal in his territory, and sent a requisition to the dukes Ernest, who held in common the university of Jena, to summon the author to trial and punishment. Fichte answered the edict of confiscation and attempted to justify himself to the public (1799), by his "_Appeal to the Public. An essay which it is requested may be read before it is confiscated_;" while he defended his course to the government
by an article entitled "_The Publishers of the Philosophical Journal justified from the charge of Atheism_." The government of Weimar, being as anxious to spare him as it was to please the elector of Saxony, delayed its decision. But as Fichte, either with or without reason, had privately learned that the whole matter was to be settled by reprimanding the accused parties for their want of caution; and, desiring either a civil acquittal or an open and proper satisfaction, he wrote a private letter to a member of the government, in which he desired his dismission in case of a reprimand, and which he closed with the intimation that many of his friends would leave the university with him, in order to establish together a new one in Germany. The government regarded this letter as an application for his discharge, indirectly declaring that the reprimand was unavoidable. Fichte, now an object of suspicion, both on account of his religious and political views, looked about him in vain for a place of refuge. The prince of Rudolstadt, to whom he turned, denied him his protection, and his arrival in Berlin (1799) attracted great notice. In Berlin, where he had much intercourse with Frederick Schlegel, and also with Schleiermacher and Novalis, his views became gradually modified; the catastrophe at Jena had led him from the exclusive moral standpoint which he, resting upon Kant, had hitherto held, to the sphere of religion; he now sought to reconcile religion with his standpoint of the _Wissenshaftslehre_, and turned himself to a certain mysticism (the second form of the Fichtian theory). After he had privately taught a number of years in Berlin, and had also held philosophical lectures for men of culture, he was recommended (1805) by Beyme and Altenstein, chancellor of state of Hardenberg, to a professorship of philosophy in Erlangen, an appointment which he received together with a permit to return to Berlin in the winter, and hold there his philosophical lectures before the public. Thus, in the winter of 1807-8, while a French marshal was governor of Berlin, and while his voice was often drowned by the hostile tumults of the enemy through the streets, he delivered his famous "_Addresses to the German nation_." Fichte labored most assiduously for the foundation of the Berlin university, for only by wholly transforming the common education did he believe the regeneration of Germany could be secured. As the new university was opened 1809, he was made in the first year dean of the philosophical faculty, and in the second was invested with the dignity of rector. In the "war of liberation," then breaking out, Fichte took the liveliest participation by word and deed. His wife had contracted a nervous fever by her care of the sick and wounded, and though she recovered, he fell a victim to the same disease. He died Jan. 28, 1814, not having yet completed his fifty-second year.


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