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Fichte, Johann Gottlieb. Werke 1808-1812.

FICHTE, Johann Gottlieb. Werke 1808-1812. Herausgegeben yon Reinhard Lauth, Erich Fuchs, Peter K. Schneider, Hans Georg von Manz, Ives Radrizzani, Martin Siegel und Gunter Zoller unter Mitwirkung von Josef Beeler-Port. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Friedrich Frommann Verlag Gunter Holzboog, 2005. xvi + 482 pp. Cloth, 291,00 Euro--The Fichte Gesamtausgabe of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences is an impressive and very important editorial enterprise. This edition will eventually not only contain all of Fichte's published works (Werke 1-10), but also his unpublished manuscripts (Nachgelassene Schriften 1-16), his letters (Briefe 1-8), and lecture transcripts (Kollegnachschriften 1-7). Since 1964, 29 volumes have already been published. This edition has not only facilitated a much deeper and better understanding of Fichte's philosophy and its historical development; it has also increased the interest in the work of one of the most important German philosophers, whose Science of Knowledge in its various editions belongs to the key documents of the history of transcendental philosophy.

This volume is the last volume of Fichte's Werke. It contains everything that Fichte published between 1808 and 1812 and--as a supplement to the edition of Fichte's published works--fourteen reviews, presumably written by Fichte, that were published in 1788.

Particularly important among the works that Fichte published before his death in 1814 are his Addresses to the German People (Reden an die deutsche Nation). This work is a series of fourteen lectures that Fichte delivered in Berlin in the autumn of 1807 and in the spring of 1808 when Berlin was occupied by Napoleon's army. In these lectures, Fichte continues his philosophical reflection on the current age for a wider audience as earlier already presented in his lectures on the Basic Features of the Present Age (Grundzuge des gegenwartigen Zeitalters). He is doing this particularly in reflecting on the very character of the German nation: In this endeavor, Fichte does not only reflect on issues of education, but also on the differences between the Germans and other Germanic nations, on German history, and on the love of one's fatherland. Fichte argues in his lectures that history has moved on very fast since his earlier lectures on the present age. The French occupation shows according to Fichte that, at least in Germany, "egoism (Selbstsucht) has now been exterminated": While egoism made the occupation by a foreign army possible, it no longer exists in Germany. This is why Fichte holds that a new period of history has begun. He claims to interpret this new period philosophically in his lectures and thus also provides the outline of a philosophy of history that is based on his philosophy of freedom. Fichte also provides practical orientation in what many considered wholly chaotic times. Vis-a-vis the historical context, he aims at more than a mere understanding of the present age; he intends to "bring courage and hope." Fichte holds in 1807/08 that a radical change of the traditional educational system would be the only means to keep the German nation alive. Education (Bildung) should now form (bilden) the human person. That is to say that education should no longer be something that the educated person possesses as something that is somehow external to his very being, but something that is an essential part of his very personality. The new education, Fichte further argues, should also be directed towards the whole German nation and not only towards a small minority or elite. While traditional education, Fichte argues, only admonished people in a rather unfruitful way to keep good order and to be moral, the new education will have to determine the real life of the people. Its end is "pure morality" (reine Sittlichkeit).

In developing the concept of an "education of the whole people," Fichte not only contributed significantly to early 19th century debates on education and University reform (which led to the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810 of which he became rector in 1811), but he also wrote one of the key texts of German Romantic nationalism. These lectures have been subject to severe criticism for their nationalism and for their influence on later political ideologies. Those familiar with these lectures have always pointed out that Fichte can hardly be discredited with how later generations have read these lectures and that these lectures need to be understood against their historical background. Fichte does not betray the main principles of his philosophy of freedom. Nonetheless, these lectures remain an ambiguous document that deserves a close reading and a very careful interpretation, not only of itself, but also of its adoption in the course of 19th and 20th century history.

This volume also contains a short presentation of Fichte's Science of Knowledge (the last presentations by Fichte), two lectures about the vocation of the scholar (Vorlesungen uber die Bestimmung des Gelehrten), and two translations by Fichte. It also contains his rectoral address about the only possible disruption of academic freedom--another important document that shows Fichte's understanding of university education. Indices of works cited by Fichte, of proper names, places, and subjects make this volume a useful instrument for any future research about the later Fichte's philosophy.--Holger Zaborowski, The Catholic University of America.
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Author:Zaborowski, Holger
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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