1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fichte, Immanuel Hermann von
FICHTE, IMMANUEL HERMANN (originally Hartmann) VON (1797–1879), German philosopher, son of J. G. Fichte, was born at Jena on the 18th of July 1797. Having held educational posts at Saarbrücken and Düsseldorf, in 1836 he became extraordinary professor of philosophy at Bonn, and in 1840 full professor. In 1842 he received a call to Tübingen, retired in 1867, and died at Stuttgart on the 8th of August 1879. The most important of his comprehensive writings are: System der Ethik (1850–1853), Anthropologie (1856, 3rd ed. 1876), Psychologie (1864–1873), Die theistische Weltansicht (1873). In 1837 he had founded the Zeitschrift für Philosophie as an organ of his views, more especially on the subject of the philosophy of religion, where he was in alliance with C. H. Weisse; but, whereas Weisse thought that the Hegelian structure was sound in the main, and that its imperfections might be mended, Fichte held it to be incurably defective, and spoke of it as a “masterpiece of erroneous consistency or consistent error.” Fichte’s general views on philosophy seem to have changed considerably as he advanced in years, and his influence has been impaired by certain inconsistencies and an appearance of eclecticism, which is strengthened by his predominantly historical treatment of problems, his desire to include divergent systems within his own, and his conciliatory tone. His philosophy is an attempt to reconcile monism (Hegel) and individualism (Herbart) by means of theism (Leibnitz). He attacks Hegelianism for its pantheism, its lowering of human personality, and imperfect recognition of the demands of the moral consciousness. God, he says, is to be regarded not as an absolute but as an Infinite Person, whose nature it is that he should realize himself in finite persons. These persons are objects of God’s love, and he arranges the world for their good. The direct connecting link between God and man is the “genius,” a higher spiritual individuality existing in man by the side of his lower, earthly individuality. Fichte, in short, advocates an ethical theism, and his arguments might easily be turned to account by the apologist of Christianity. In his conception of finite personality he recurs to something like the monadism of Leibnitz. His insistence on moral experience is connected with his insistence on personality. One of the tests by which Fichte discriminates the value of previous systems is the adequateness with which they interpret moral experience. The same reason that made him depreciate Hegel made him praise Krause (panentheism) and Schleiermacher, and speak respectfully of English philosophy. It is characteristic of Fichte’s almost excessive receptiveness that in his latest published work, Der neuere Spiritualismus (1878), he supports his position by arguments of a somewhat occult or theosophical cast, not unlike those adopted by F. W. H. Myers. He also edited the complete works and literary correspondence of his father, including his life.
See R. Eucken, “Zur Erinnerung I. H. F.,” in Zeitschrift für Philosophie, ex. (1897); C. C. Scherer, Die Gotteslehre von I. H. F. (1902); article by Karl Hartmann in Allegemeine deutsche Biographie xlviii. (1904). Some of his works were translated by J. D. Morell under the title of Contributions to Mental Philosophy (1860).
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