Addresses to the German Nation/Second Address


13. These addresses should lead you first of all, and with you the whole nation, to a clear perception of the remedy which I have proposed for the preservation of the German nation. Such a remedy follows from the nature of the age as well as of the German national characteristics, and must in turn influence the age and the moulding of those national characteristics. This remedy, therefore, does not become perfectly clear and intelligible until it is compared with the latter, and these with it, and both are represented in complete connection with each other. For these tasks time is needed; perfect clearness, therefore, is to be expected only at the end of our addresses. But, since we must begin at some point, it will be most convenient first of all to consider the inner nature of that remedy by itself, apart from its relations in time and space. Our address to-day, therefore, will be devoted to this task.

The remedy indicated was an absolutely new system of German national education, such as has never existed in any other nation. In the last address this new education, as distinguished from the old, was described thus: the existing education has at most only exhorted to good order and morality, but these exhortations have been unfruitful in real life, which has been moulded on principles that are quite different and completely beyond the influence of that education; in contrast to this, the new education must be able surely and infallibly to mould and determine according to rules the real vital impulses and actions of its pupils.

14. Now perchance someone might say, as indeed those who administer the present system of education almost without exception actually do say: “What more should one expect of any education than that it should point out what is right to the pupil and exhort him earnestly to it; whether he wishes to follow such exhortations is his own affair and, if he does not, his own fault; he has free will, which no education can take from him.” Then, in order to define more clearly the new education which I propose, I should reply that that very recognition of, and reliance upon, free will in the pupil is the first mistake of the old system and the clear confession of its impotence and futility. For, by confessing that after all its most powerful efforts the will still remains free, that is, hesitating undecided between good and evil, it confesses that it neither is able, nor wishes, nor longs to fashion the will and (since the latter is the very root of man) man himself, and that it considers this altogether impossible. On the other hand, the new education must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will, the opposite being impossible. Such a will can henceforth be relied on with confidence and certainty.

All education aims at producing a stable, settled, and steadfast character, which no longer is developing, but is, and cannot be other than it is. If it did not aim at such a character it would be, not education, but some aimless game; if it did not produce such a character it would still be incomplete. He who must still exhort himself, and be exhorted, to will the good, has as yet no firm and ever-ready will, but wills a will anew every time he needs it. But he who has such a stable will, wills what he wills for ever, and cannot under any circumstances will otherwise than he always wills. For him freedom of the will is destroyed and swallowed up in necessity. The past age had neither a true conception of education for manhood nor the power to realize that conception. It showed this by wanting to improve mankind by warning sermons, and by being angry and scolding when these sermons were of no avail. Yet how could they avail aught? Before the warning, and independent of it, the will of man has already its definite bent. If this agrees with your exhortation, the latter comes too late; without it he would have done what you exhort him to. If this bent and your exhortation are in opposition, you may at most bewilder him for a few moments; when the time comes, he forgets himself and your exhortation, and follows his natural inclination. If you want to influence him at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you wish him to will. It is idle to say: Fly—for he has no wings, and for all your exhortations will never rise two steps above the ground. But develop, if you can, his spiritual wings; let him exercise them and make them strong, and without any exhortation from you he will want, and will be able, to do nothing but fly.

15. The new education must produce this stable and unhesitating will according to a sure and infallible rule. It must itself inevitably create the necessity at which it aims. Those who in the past became good did so thanks to their natural disposition, which outweighed the influence of their bad environment, and not because of their education in any way, for otherwise all the pupils would have become good. Those who went to the bad did so just as little because of education, for otherwise all the pupils would have been corrupted; they went to the bad of themselves, thanks to their natural disposition. In this respect education was simply futile, and not pernicious at all; the real formative agency was spiritual nature. Henceforth education for manhood must be taken from the influence of this mysterious and incalculable force and put under the direction of a deliberate art, which will surely and infallibly accomplish its purpose with everyone entrusted to it; or which, if somehow it does not accomplish it, will at least know that it has not done so, and that therefore the training is still incomplete. The education proposed by me, therefore, is to be a reliable and deliberate art for fashioning in man a stable and infallible good will. That is its first characteristic.

16. Moreover, man can will only what he loves; his love is the sole and at the same time the infallible motive of his will and of all his vital impulses and actions. Hitherto, in its education of the social man the art of the State assumed, as a sure and infallible principle, that everyone loves and wills his own material welfare. To this natural love it artificially linked, by means of the motives of fear and hope, that good will which it desired, namely, interest in the common weal. Anyone who has become outwardly a harmless or even useful citizen as a result of such a system of education remains, nevertheless, inwardly a bad man; for badness consists essentially in loving solely one’s own material welfare and in being influenced only by the motives of fear or hope for that welfare, whether in the present or in some future life. Apart from this fact, we have already seen that this method is no longer applicable to us, because the motives of fear and hope serve no longer with us but against us, and material love of self cannot be turned to our advantage in any way. We are, therefore, compelled by necessity to wish to mould men who are inwardly and fundamentally good, since it is through such men alone that the German nation can still continue to exist, whereas through bad men it will inevitably be absorbed in the outside world. Therefore, in place of that love of self, with which nothing for our good can be connected any longer, we must set up and establish in the hearts of all those whom we wish to reckon among our nation that other kind of love, which is concerned directly with the good, simply as such and for its own sake.

We have already seen that love of the good, simply as such and not for the sake of any advantage to ourselves, takes the form of pleasure in it; a pleasure so intense that a man is thereby stimulated to realize the good in his life. It is this intense pleasure, therefore, which the new education should produce as its pupil’s stable and constant character. Then this pleasure itself would inevitably be the foundation of the pupil’s constant good will.

17. A pleasure that stimulates us to bring about a certain state of affairs which does not yet actually exist presupposes an image of that state which, previous to its actual existence, hovers before the mind and attracts that pleasure which stimulates to realization. This pleasure, therefore, presupposes in the individual who is to be affected by it the power to create spontaneously such images, which are independent of reality and not copies of it, but rather its prototypes. I must now speak of this power, and I beg you during the consideration of it not to forget that an image created by this power can please simply as an image, and as one in which we feel our creative energy, without being for that reason taken as a prototype of reality and without pleasing to such a degree that it stimulates to realization. The latter is quite a different and our own special goal, of which we shall not fail to speak later; but the former is simply the preliminary condition for the attainment of the true ultimate aim of education.

18. That power to create spontaneously images, which are not simply copies of reality, but can become its prototypes, should be the starting-point for the moulding of the race by means of the new education. To create images spontaneously, I said, and in such a way that the pupil will produce them by his own power; but not indeed that he will merely be capable of receiving passively the image presented to him by education, of understanding it sufficiently, and of reproducing it just as it is presented to him, as if it were a question simply of the existence of such an image. The reason for demanding self-activity in regard to that image is this; only on that condition can the image created engage the active pleasure of the pupil. For it is one thing merely to allow oneself to be pleased at something and to have nothing against it; such passive pleasure can arise at best only from passive submission. But it is quite another thing to be so affected by pleasure at something that this pleasure becomes productive and stirs up all our energy to the act of creation. We speak not of the former, which happened no doubt even in the old education, but of the latter. Now, this pleasure will be kindled only by the pupil’s self-activity being stimulated at the same time and becoming manifest to him in the given object, so that this object pleases not only in itself, but also as an object of the manifestation of mental power. This pleases directly, inevitably, and invariably.

19. This creative mental activity which is to be developed in the pupil is undoubtedly an activity according to rules, which become known to the active pupil until he sees from his own direct experience that they alone are possible—that is, this activity produces knowledge, and that, too, of general and infallible laws. Moreover, in the free development that begins at this point it is impossible to undertake anything contrary to the law, and no act results until the law is obeyed. Even if, therefore, this free development should begin at first with blind efforts, it must still end in more extensive knowledge of the law. This training, therefore, in its final result, is the training of the pupil’s faculty of knowledge, and, of course, not historical training in the actual condition of things, but the higher and philosophical training in the laws which make that actual condition of things inevitable. The pupil learns.

I add: the pupil learns willingly and with pleasure, and there is nothing he would rather do than learn, so long as the effort lasts; for while he is learning his activity is spontaneous, and in this he has directly the greatest possible pleasure. Here we have found an outward sign of true education, at once obvious and infallible; namely, that every pupil on whom this education is brought to bear, without exception and irrespective of differences in natural talent, learns with pleasure and love, purely for the sake of learning and for no other reason. We have discovered the means of kindling this pure love of learning; it is to stimulate directly the spontaneous activity of the pupil and to make this the basis of all knowledge, so that whatever is learnt is learnt through it.

The first important point in the art of education is just to stimulate this personal activity of the pupil in something known to us. If we succeed in this, it is simply a question of starting from that and of maintaining the stimulated activity in ever new life. This is possible only where progress is regular, and where every mistake in education is discovered immediately through the failure of what was intended. We have, therefore, found also the link whereby the intended result is inseparably connected with the method planned, namely, the eternal, universal, and fundamental law of man’s mental nature, that he must directly engage in mental activity.

20. Should anyone, misled by our usual daily experience, doubt the very existence of such a fundamental law, we would remind him over and over again that man is indeed by nature merely material and self-seeking, so long as immediate necessity and present material need spur him on, and that he does not let any spiritual need or feeling of consideration prevent him from satisfying that material need. But when it is satisfied, he has little inclination to let his fancy dwell on the painful image of it, or to keep it in his mind. He is much more inclined to free his thoughts and turn them without restraint to the consideration of whatever attracts the attention of his senses. Nor, indeed, does he scorn a poetic flight to ideal worlds, for he has by nature but little interest in the temporal, in order that his taste for the eternal may have scope for development. This is proved by the history of all ancient peoples, and by the various observations and discoveries which have come down to us from them. It is proved in our day by the observation of races that are still savage, provided, of course, their climate does not treat them far too unkindly, and by the observation of our own children. It is proved even by the candid confession of the opponents of ideals, who complain that it is a far more disagreeable business to learn names and dates than to rise into this empty (as it appears to them) world of ideas; but who would themselves, it seems, if they might indulge, rather do the latter than the former. In place of this natural freedom from care there appears anxiety, in which tomorrow’s hunger and all possible future states of hunger in their whole long series hang over even him who is satiated, as the one thing that occupies his mind and evermore goads and drives him on. In our age this is caused artificially, in the boy by the repression of his natural freedom from care, in the man by the endeavour to be considered prudent, a reputation which falls to the lot only of him who does not lose sight of that point of view for a moment. This, then, is not the natural disposition with which we should have to reckon, but a corruption imposed by force on reluctant nature, which vanishes when that force is no longer applied.

21. This education, which stimulates directly the mental activity of the pupil, produces knowledge, we said above. This gives us the opportunity of distinguishing still more clearly the new education from the old. The new education, in fact, aims especially and directly only at stimulating regular and progressive mental activity. Knowledge, as we saw above, results only incidentally and as an inevitable consequence. Now, if it is only in such knowledge that our pupil can conceive the image of real life which shall stimulate him to serious activity when he becomes a man, knowledge is certainly an important part of the training which is to be obtained. Yet it cannot be said that the new education aims directly at such knowledge; knowledge is only incidental to it. On the other hand, the old education aimed definitely at knowledge, and at a certain amount of some subject of knowledge. Besides, there is a great difference between that kind of knowledge which results incidentally from the new education and that at which the old education aimed. The former results in knowledge of the laws which condition all possible mental activity. For instance, if the pupil tries in free fancy to enclose a space with straight lines, this is the first stimulation of his mental activity. If in these attempts he discovers that he cannot enclose a space with fewer than three straight lines, this is the incidental knowledge resulting from another quite different activity, that of the faculty of knowledge, which restricts the free power first stimulated. This education, therefore, results at the very outset in knowledge which transcends all experience, which is abstract, absolute, and strictly universal, and which includes within itself beforehand all subsequently possible experience. On the other hand, the old education was concerned, as a rule, only with the actual qualities of things as they are and as they should be believed and noted, without anyone being able to assign a reason for them. It aimed, therefore, at purely passive reception by means of the power of memory, which was completely at the service of things. It was, therefore, impossible to have any idea of the mind as an independent original principle of things themselves. Modern education must not think it can defend itself against this reproach by appealing to its oft-declared contempt for mechanical rote-learning and to its well-known masterpieces in the Socratic manner. On this point it was fully informed long ago from another source that these Socratic reasonings are also learned by heart purely mechanically, and that this is a much more dangerous form of rote-learning, because it makes the pupil who does not think appear capable of thinking. It was informed, too, that no other result was possible with the material it employed to develop spontaneous thought, and that for this purpose one must commence with entirely different material. This quality of the old education shows clearly why the pupil generally learned unwillingly, and therefore slowly and but little, and why, because learning itself was not attractive, extraneous motives had to be introduced; it also shows the reason for the exceptions to the rule hitherto. Memory, if employed alone and without serving any other purpose in the mind, is a passive condition rather than an activity of the mind, and it is easy to understand that the pupil will be very unwilling to accept this passive state. Besides, acquaintance with things and with the properties of things which are quite strange, and which have not the slightest interest for him, is a poor recompense for the passivity inflicted on him. His aversion, therefore, had to be overcome by holding out hopes of the usefulness of such knowledge in the future, by asserting that by it alone could a living and a reputation be obtained, and even by direct immediate punishment and reward. Thus from the very outset, knowledge was set up as a servant of material welfare; and this education, which was described above, from the point of view of its content, as simply incapable of developing a moral sense, was in fact obliged, in order to reach the pupil at all, to implant and develop moral corruption in him and to unite its own interest with that of this corruption. Further, it will be found that the natural talent, which, as an exception to the rule, learned willingly and therefore well in schools under the old education, overcame the moral corruption of the environment and kept its character pure, thanks to this greater love that governed it. Owing to its natural inclination it acquired a practical interest in these subjects, and, guided by its happy instinct, it aimed at producing, far more than at merely receiving, such knowledge. Then, in regard to the subjects taught, this education usually succeeded best, in exception to the rule, with those which it allowed to be practised actively. For instance, the classical language[1] in which writing and speaking were the aim was nearly always fairly well learned; whereas the other language,[2] in which practice in writing and speaking was neglected, was usually learned very badly and superficially, and was forgotten in later years. It follows, therefore, from previous experience, that it is the development of mental activity by means of instruction which alone produces pleasure in knowledge simply as such, and so keeps the mind open for moral training; on the other hand, purely passive receptivity paralyses and kills knowledge, just as it inevitably corrupts the moral sense completely.

22. To return again to the pupil under the new education. It is evident that, spurred on by his love, he will learn much and, since he understands everything in its relations and immediately puts into action what he has understood, he will learn it correctly and will never forget it. Yet that is but incidental. More important is the fact that this love exalts his personality and introduces him systematically and deliberately into a wholly new order of things, into which hitherto only a few, favoured by God, came by accident. The love which spurs him on aims not at sensuous enjoyment, which quite ceases to be a motive for him, but at mental activity and the law of that activity for their own sakes. Now, it is not this mental activity in general with which morality is concerned; for this purpose a special direction must be given to that activity. Yet this love is the specific quality and form of the moral will. This method of mental training is, therefore, the immediate preparation for the moral; it completely destroys the root of immorality by never allowing sensuous enjoyment to become the motive. Formerly, that was the first motive to be stimulated and developed, because it was believed that otherwise the pupil could not be influenced or controlled at all. If the moral motive had to be developed afterwards, it came too late and found the heart already occupied by, and filled with, another love. On the other hand, in the new education the training of a pure will is to be the first aim, so that if, later, selfishness should awake within, or be stimulated from without, it may come too late, and find no room for itself in a heart which is already occupied by something else.

23. It is essential both for this first aim and also for the second, which will be mentioned soon, that from the very beginning the pupil should be continuously and completely under the influence of this education, and should be separated altogether from the community, and kept from all contact with it. He must not even hear that our vital impulses and actions can be directed towards our maintenance and welfare, nor that we may learn for that reason, nor that learning may be of some use for that purpose. It follows that mental development should be produced in him only in the manner described above, that he should be occupied with it unceasingly, and that this method of instruction should on no account be exchanged for that which requires the opposite material motive.

24. But, although this mental development does not let self-seeking come to life and provides indeed the form of a moral will, it is not yet, however, the moral will itself. If the new education which we propose did not go further, it would at best train excellent men of learning, as in the past, of whom only a few are needed, and who would be able to do no more for our true human and national aim than such men have done hitherto—exhort, and exhort again, get themselves wondered at, and occasionally abused. But it is clear, as I have already said, that this free activity of the mind is developed with the intention that by it the pupil may voluntarily create the image of a moral order of life that actually exists, may lay hold of this image with the love that is also already developed in him, and be spurred on by this love to realize it actually in and by his life. The question is, how can the new education prove to itself that it has achieved this, its true and final purpose with the pupil.

25. Above all it is clear that the mental activity of the pupil, which has been exercised already on other objects, should be stimulated to create an image of the social order of mankind as it ought to be, simply in accordance with the law of reason. Whether the image created by the pupil be true can be judged most easily by an education which alone is in possession of this true image. Whether it is created by the pupil’s spontaneous activity, and not simply passively accepted and credulously repeated in school fashion, and, further, whether it is raised to the proper clearness and vividness, education will be able to judge, just as it has hitherto correctly judged other things in this respect. Yet all this is a matter for mere knowledge, and remains within the domain of knowledge, which is very accessible in this system of education. It is a very different and a higher question, whether the pupil is so filled with ardent love for such an order of things, that it will be utterly impossible for him not to desire it and to work with all his strength to promote it, when freed from the guidance of education and left independent. This question, undoubtedly, not words and tests which are arranged in words, but only the appearance of deeds, can decide.

26. This is my solution of the problem raised by this last consideration. Under the new system of education the pupils, although separated from the adult community, will, nevertheless, undoubtedly live together among themselves, and so form a separate and self-contained community with its organization precisely defined, based on the nature of things and demanded throughout by reason. The very first image of a social order which the pupil’s mind should be stimulated to create will be that of the community in which he himself lives. He will be inwardly compelled, therefore, to fashion this order for himself bit for bit, just as it is actually sketched out for him, and to conceive it in all its parts as absolutely inevitable because of its elements. This, again, is merely the work of knowledge. Now, in real life under this social arrangement every individual has continually to abstain, for the sake of the community, from much that he could do without hesitation if he were alone. It will be fitting, therefore, that the legislation, and the instruction concerning the constitution which is to be based thereon, should represent to each individual all the others as animated by a love of order exalted to the ideal, which perhaps no one person really has, but which all ought to have. It will be fitting, too, that the legislation should consequently maintain a high standard of severity, and should prohibit the doing of many things. Such prohibitions, which simply must exist and on which the existence of the community depends, are to be enforced in case of necessity by fear of immediate punishment, and this penal law must be administered absolutely without indulgence or exception. This application of fear as a motive does not impair in any way the morality of the pupil, for in this case he is incited, not to do good, but only to abstain from what under this system of government is evil. Moreover, the instruction concerning the constitution must make it quite clear that anyone who still needs the idea of punishment, or even indeed to revive that idea by suffering punishment, is at a very low stage of civilization. Yet, in spite of all this, it is clear that in these circumstances the pupil will be unable to show his good will outwardly, and education will be unable to estimate it, since no one can ever know whether obedience results from love of order or from fear of punishment.

On the other hand, in the following circumstances such an estimate is possible. The system of government must be arranged in such a way that the individual must not only abstain, but will also work and act, for the sake of the community. Physical exercises, the mechanical, but here idealized, work of farming, and trades of various kinds, in addition to the development of the mind by learning, are included in this commonwealth of pupils. A fundamental principle of the system of government will be that anyone who may excel in one of these departments will be expected to help to instruct the others in it, and to undertake superintendence and responsibilities of various kinds. Anyone who discovers an improvement, or understands most clearly, and before the others, an improvement proposed by a teacher, is expected to work it out by his own efforts, without being set free for this purpose from his other personal tasks of learning and working which are understood. Everyone is supposed to fulfil this expectation voluntarily, not compulsorily; for anyone who is unwilling is free to refuse. He is to expect neither reward for it, for under this system of government all are quite equal in regard to work and pleasure, nor even praise, for the attitude of mind prevailing in the community is that it is just everyone’s duty to act thus; but he alone enjoys the pleasure of acting and working for the community, and of succeeding, if that should fall to his lot. Under this system of government, therefore, the acquirement of greater skill and the effort spent therein will result only in fresh effort and work, and it will be the very pupil who is abler than the rest who must often watch while others sleep, and reflect while others play.

27. To some pupils all this will be quite clear and intelligible. Yet they will continue to undertake that initial toil and the further labours that result from it so joyfully that they may be relied on with certainty. They will remain strong, and become even stronger, in their feeling of power and activity. Such pupils education can confidently send out into the world; it has achieved its purpose with them. Their love has been kindled and burns down to the root of their vital impulse; from now onwards it will lay hold of everything, without exception, that comes in contact with this vital impulse. In the larger community, which they now enter, they can never be anything but the steady and constant beings they have been in the little community they are now leaving.

The pupil has in this way been fully prepared for the demands which the world will immediately and certainly make of him. What education, in the name of this world, demands of him has been done. But he is still not perfect in and for himself, and what he himself can claim from education has not yet been done. When this demand, too, has been met, he will be able to satisfy also the demands which, in special circumstances, a higher world, in the name of the present world, may make of him.


  1. [Latin].
  2. [Greek].