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Short life history: Johann Gottlieb Fichte

“Besides I would like you and all who won’t do me any injustice to not believe any notice
until I myself will speak.”

Fichte in a letter to the author and philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi.
The quotation refers to the circumstances of his dismissal from the chair in Jena in April 1799.
 

Short life history: Johann Gottlieb Fichte

* May 19, 1762 Rammenau / Oberlausitz, January 29, 1814 Berlin

The German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte began studying theology and philosophy in Jena and later in Leipzig in 1780. After his studies he worked for a long time as private tutor to earn a living. Because of a job he was offered he went to Zurich for two years.

Back again in Germany he got to know the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Heavily influenced by it Fichte’s “Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung” (A Attempt of the Critique of All Revelations) was published in 1792. This work was published anonymously and everybody thought in the beginning that Immanuel Kant was the author. After Kant’s correction Fichte got famous very quickly and thus was offered a chair for philosophy in Jena.

He took on this chair in 1794 and dealt with scientific theory, theoretical philosophy, philosophy of justice and moral philosophy. But Fichte made himself unpopular during the years because of his spreading atheistic ideas in Jena. When Fichte’s written polemic “Atheismusstreit” (the controversy over atheism) was published in 1799, the court of Weimar forced him to resign office.

He continued his writing and teaching and received a chair for philosophy in Erlangen in 1805. He spent some time in Koenigsberg in 1806, the birth place of Kant. He demanded in his speech “Rede an die deutsche Nation” (Speech to the German Public) the spiritual reformation through a general national education in 1807/1808. He became the first head of the newly founded University of Berlin in 1810. Due to the expansionist policies of Napoleon, Fichte saw the independence of the German states in danger and called for resistance against the occupiers and thus became an advocate of the German national consciousness.

Fichte is, next to Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770–1831) and Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775–1854), the most important representative of German philosophic idealism.


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