Page:Addresses to the German nation.djvu/31

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ADDRESSES TO THE GERMAN NATION

FIRST ADDRESS

INTRODUCTION AND GENERAL SURVEY

1. The addresses which I now commence I have announced as a continuation of the lectures which I gave three winters ago in this place, and which were published under the title: “Characteristics of the Present Age.” In those lectures I showed that our own age was set in the third great epoch of time,[1] an epoch which had as the motive of all its vital activities and impulses mere material self-seeking; that this age could comprehend and under-

  1. [In accordance with his fundamental conception that the aim of human life on earth is that mankind may consciously and voluntarily order all its relations according to reason, Fichte distinguishes five epochs in the life of the human race: (1) that in which those relations are ordered by reason acting in the human race as blind instinct, i.e., without man having any insight into the grounds of its activity; (2) that in which those relations are ordered by reason acting as an external ruling authority upon the human race through its more powerful individual members, in whom reason appears as the desire to raise the whole race to their level by compelling blind faith and unconditional obedience; (3) that in which mankind frees itself, directly from the rule of reason as an external ruling authority, indirectly from the dominion of reason as instinct, and generally from reason in any form, and gives itself over to absolute indifference towards all truth and to unrestrained licentiousness; (4) that in which mankind becomes conscious of reason and understands its laws with clear scientific knowledge; (5) that in which mankind, with clear consciousness and by its own free act, orders all its relations in accordance with the laws of reason. See Lectures I. and II. on the Characteristics of the Present Age in Smith’s translation of Fichte’s Popular Works.]