Addresses to the German Nation/Seventh Address


88. In the preceding addresses we have indicated and proved from history the characteristics of the Germans as an original people, and as a people that has the right to call itself simply the people, in contrast to other branches that have been torn away from it; for, indeed, the word “deutsch” in its real signification denotes what we have just said. It will be in accordance with our purpose if we devote another hour to this subject and deal with a possible objection, viz., that if this is something peculiarly German one must confess that at the present time there is but little left that is German among the Germans themselves. As we are quite unable to deny that this appears to be so, but rather intend to acknowledge it and to take a complete view of it in its separate parts, we propose to give an explanation of it at the outset.

89. We have seen that the relationship in which the original people of the modern world stood to the progress of modern culture was as follows: the former received from the incomplete, and never more than superficial, efforts of foreign countries the first stimulus to more profound creative acts, which were to be developed from its own midst. As it undoubtedly takes time for the stimulus to result in a creative act, it is plain that such a relationship will bring about periods of time in which the original people must seem to be almost entirely amalgamated with foreign peoples and similar to them, because it is then being stimulated only, and the creative act which is to be the result has not yet forced its way through. It is in such a period of time that Germany finds itself at the present moment in regard to the great majority of its educated inhabitants; and that is the reason for those manifestations of a love of everything foreign which are a part of the very inner soul and life of this majority. In the preceding address we saw that the means by which foreign countries stimulate their motherland at the present time is philosophy, which we defined as free-thinking released from all fetters of belief in external authority. Now, when this stimulus has not resulted in a new creative act—and it will result thus in extremely few cases, for the great majority have no conception of what creation means—the following effects are observable. For one thing, that foreign philosophy which we have already described changes its own form again and again. Another thing is that its spirit usurps the mastery over the other sciences whose borders are contiguous with philosophy, and regards them from its own point of view. Finally, since the German after all can never entirely lay aside his seriousness and its direct influence on life, this philosophy influences the habits of public life and the principles and rules that govern it. We shall substantiate these assertions step by step.

90. First of all and before all things: man does not form his scientific view in a particular way voluntarily and arbitrarily, but it is formed for him by his life, and is in reality the inner, and to him unknown, root of his own life, which has become his way of looking at things. It is what you really are in your inmost soul that stands forth to your outward eye, and you would never be able to see anything else. If you are to see differently, you must first of all become different. Now, the inner essence of non-German ways, or of non-originality, is the belief in something that is final, fixed, and settled beyond the possibility of change, the belief in a border-line, on the hither side of which free life may disport itself, but which it is never able to break through and dissolve by its own power, and which it can never make part of itself. This impenetrable border-line is, therefore, inevitably present to the eyes of foreigners at some place or other, and it is impossible for them to think or believe except with such a border-line as a presupposition, unless their whole nature is to be transformed and their heart torn out of their body. They inevitably believe in death as Alpha and Omega, the ultimate source of all things and, therefore, of life itself.

91. Our first task here is to show how this fundamental belief of foreigners expresses itself among Germans at the present time.

It expresses itself first of all in their own philosophy. German philosophy of the present day, in so far as it is worthy of mention here, strives for thoroughness and scientific form, regardless of the fact that those things are beyond its reach; it strives for unity, and that also not without the example of foreign countries in former times; it strives for reality and essence—not for mere appearance, but to find for this appearance a foundation appearing in appearance. In all these points it is right, and far surpasses the philosophies prevailing in foreign countries at the present day; for German philosophy in its love of everything foreign is far more thorough and more consistent than the foreign countries themselves. Now this foundation, which is to be the basis of mere appearance, is for those philosophies, however much more incorrectly they may further define it, always fixed Being, which is just what it is and nothing more, chained in itself and bound to its own essence. Death, therefore, and alienation from originality, which are within them, stand forth before their eyes as well. Because they themselves are unable by any effort to rise out of themselves to life as such, but always need a prop and a support for their free upward flight, they do not get beyond this support in their thinking, which is the image of their life. That which is not Something is to them inevitably Nothing, for their eyes see nothing else between that Being in which growth has ceased and the Nothing, because their life has nothing else. Their feeling, which is their sole possible authority, seems to them infallible. If anyone does not acknowledge this support of theirs, they are far from assuming that to him life alone is enough; on the contrary, they believe that he merely lacks the cleverness to perceive the support, which they have no doubt supports him too, and the capacity to raise himself by his exertions to their high point of view. It is, therefore, futile and impossible to instruct them; one would have to construct them, and to construct them differently, if one could. Now, in this matter German philosophy of the present day is not German, but a product of the foreign spirit.

92. True philosophy, on the other hand, which has been perfected in itself and has penetrated beyond appearance to the very kernel of appearance, proceeds from the one, pure, divine life—life simply as such, which it remains for all eternity, and always one—but not from this or that kind of life. It sees how it is only in appearance that this life ceaselessly closes and opens again, and how it is only in accordance with this law that life attains Being and becomes a Something. In the view of this philosophy, Being arises, whereas the other presupposes it. So, then, this philosophy is in a very special sense German only—that is, original. Vice versa, if anyone were but a true German, he could not philosophize in any way but this.

93. That system of thought, although it dominates the majority of those who philosophize in German, is nevertheless not really a German system. Yet, whether it is consciously set up as a true system of philosophical doctrine, or whether, unknown to us, it is merely the basis for the rest of our thinking, it influences the other scientific views of the age. Indeed, it is a main effort of our age, stimulated by foreign countries as we are, not merely to lay hold of the material of science with the memory, as our forefathers may be said to have done, but to turn it over in our own independent thought and to philosophize upon it. So far as the effort is concerned, our age is in the right; but when, in the execution of this philosophizing, it proceeds, as is to be expected, from the death-creed of foreign philosophy, it will be in the wrong. In this place we propose to glance only at those sciences which are most closely connected with our whole plan, and to trace the foreign ideas and views which are so widespread in them.

94. In holding that the establishment and government of States should be looked upon as an independent art having its own fixed rules, non-German countries have undoubtedly served us as forerunners, and they themselves found their pattern in antiquity. But what will be regarded as the art of the State by such a non-German country, which in its language, the very element of its thinking and willing, has a support that is fixed, closed, and dead? What, too, will all who follow its example regard as the art of the State? Undoubtedly it will be the art of finding a similarly fixed and dead order of things, from which condition of death the living movement of society is to proceed, and to proceed as this art intends. This intention is to make the whole of life in society into a large and ingeniously constructed clockwork pressure-machine, in which every single part will be continually compelled by the whole to serve the whole. The intention is to do a sum in arithmetic with finite and given quantities, and produce from them an ascertainable result; and thus, on the assumption that everyone seeks his own well-being, to compel everyone against his wish and will to promote the general well-being. Non-German countries have repeatedly enunciated this principle and produced ingenious specimens of this art of social machinery. The motherland has adopted the theory, and developed its application in the construction of social machines; and here, too, as always, in a manner that is deeper, truer, more thoroughgoing, and much superior to its models. If at any time there is a stoppage in the accustomed process of society, such artists of the State can give no other explanation than that perhaps one of the wheels has become worn out, and they know no other remedy than to remove the defective wheels and insert new ones. The more deeply rooted anyone is in this mechanical view of society, and the better he understands how to simplify the mechanism by making all the parts of the machine as alike as possible and by treating them all as if they were of the same material, the higher is his reputation as an artist of the State in this age of ours: and rightly so, for things are even worse when those in control hesitate and come to no decision and are incapable of any definite opinion.

95. This view of the art of the State enforces respect by its iron consistency and by an appearance of sublimity which falls upon it; and up to a certain point, especially when the whole tendency is towards a monarchical constitution, and one that is always becoming more purely monarchical, it renders good service. But, when it reaches that point, its impotence is apparent to everyone. I will suppose that you have made your machine as perfect as you intended, and that each and every lower part of it is unceasingly and irresistibly compelled by a higher part, which is itself compelled to compel, and so on up to the top. But how will your final part, from which proceeds the whole compelling power present in the machine, be itself compelled to compel? Suppose you have overcome absolutely all the resistance to the mainspring that might arise from the friction of the various parts, and suppose you have given that mainspring a power against which all other power vanishes to nothing, which is all you could do even by mechanism, and suppose you have thus created a supremely powerful monarchical constitution; how are you going to set this mainspring itself in motion and compel it without exception to see the right and to will it? Tell me how you are going to bring perpetual motion into your clockwork, which, though properly designed and constructed, does not go. Is, perhaps, as you sometimes say in your embarrassment, the whole machine itself to react and to set its own mainspring in motion? Either this happens by a power that itself proceeds from the stimulus of the mainspring; or else it happens by a power that does not proceed thence, but is to be found in the whole thing independent of the mainspring. No third way is possible. If you suppose the first, you find yourselves reasoning in a circle, and your principles of mechanics are in a circle too; the whole machine can compel the mainspring only in so far as the machine itself is compelled by the mainspring to compel it—that is to say, in so far as the mainspring only indirectly compels itself. But if it does not compel itself, and this is the defect we set out to remedy, no motion whatever results. If you suppose the second case, you confess that the source of all motion in your machine is a power that has not entered at all into your calculations and regulations, and is not in any way controlled by your mechanism. This power undoubtedly works as it can without your aid and according to its own laws, which are unknown to you. In each of the two cases, you must confess yourselves botchers and impotent boasters.

96. Now, people have felt this, and so they have wished, under this system which, in its reliance upon compulsion, need not concern itself about the other citizens, to educate at any rate the prince by every kind of good doctrine and instruction; for from the prince the whole movement of society proceeds. But how can one be sure of finding someone who by nature is capable of receiving the education that is to make a prince? Even if by a stroke of luck he were to be found, how can one be sure that he, whom no man can compel, will be ready and willing to submit to discipline? Such a view of the art of the State, whether it is found on foreign or German soil, is always a product of the foreign spirit. Here we may remark, to the honour of the German race and the German spirit, that, however good artists we might be in the mere theory of these calculations which are based on compulsion, none the less, when it came to putting them into practice, we were very much hampered by the dim feeling that things should not be done in this way; and so in this matter we remained behind foreign countries. Therefore, even should we be compelled to accept the boon of foreign forms and laws intended for us, at least let us not be unduly ashamed, as if our intelligence had been incapable of attaining these heights of legislation. As we are not inferior to any nation even in legislating, when we only have the pen in our hands, it may well be that we felt with regard to life that even the making of such laws was not the right thing; and so we preferred to let the old system stand until the perfect system should come to us, instead of merely exchanging the old fashion for a new one just as transitory.

97. Altogether different is the genuine German art of the State. It, too, seeks fixity, surety, and independence of blind and halting nature, and in this it is quite in agreement with foreign countries. But, unlike these, it does not seek a fixed and certain thing, as the first element, which will make the spirit, as the second element, certain; on the contrary, it seeks from the very beginning, and as the very first and only element, a firm and certain spirit. This is for it the mainspring, whose life proceeds from itself, and which has perpetual motion; the mainspring which will regulate, and continually keep in motion, the life of society. The German art of the State understands that it cannot create this spirit by reprimanding adults who are already spoilt by neglect, but only by educating the young, who are still unspoilt. Moreover, with this education it will not turn, as foreign countries do, to the solitary peak, the prince, but to the broad plain which is the nation; for indeed the prince, too, will without doubt be part of the nation. Just as the State, in the persons of its adult citizens, is the continued education of the human race, so must the future citizen himself, in the opinion of this art of the State, first be educated up to the point of being susceptible to that higher education. So this German and very modern art of the State becomes once more the very ancient art of the State, which among the Greeks founded citizenship on education and trained such citizens as succeeding ages have never seen. Henceforth the German will do what is in form the same, though in content it will be characterized by a spirit that is not narrow and exclusive, but universal and cosmopolitan.

98. That foreign spirit to which we have referred prevails among the great majority of our people in another matter, viz., their view of the whole life of a human race and of history as the picture of that life. A nation whose language has a dead and completed foundation can only advance, as we showed on a previous occasion, to a certain stage of development in all the departments of rhetoric. That stage depends on the foundation of the language, and the nation will experience a golden age. Unless such a nation is extremely modest and self-depreciative, it cannot fittingly think more highly of the whole race than it does of itself, from its own knowledge; hence, it must assume that there will be a final, highest, and for ever unsurpassable goal for all human development. Just as those animal species, the beavers and the bees, still build in the way they built thousands of years ago, and have made no progress in the art during that long period of time, so it will be, according to that nation, with the animal species called man in all branches of his development. These branches, impulses, and capacities it will be possible to survey exhaustively, and indeed to see on examining a few members; and then it will be possible to indicate the highest development of each one of them. Perhaps the human species will be far worse off than the bee or beaver species; for, though the latter learn nothing new, they nevertheless do not deteriorate in their art, whereas man, when he has once reached the summit, is hurled back again, and may struggle for hundreds or thousands of years to regain the point at which it would have been better to leave him undisturbed. The human species, so these people think, will undoubtedly have attained such culminating points in education in the past, and enjoyed more than one golden age; to discover these points in history, to judge all the efforts of humanity by them, and to lead humanity back to them, will be their most strenuous endeavour. According to them, history was finished long ago and has been finished several times already. According to them, there is nothing new under the sun, for they have destroyed the source of eternal life under and over the sun, and only let eternally-recurring death repeat itself and subside time after time.

99. It is well known that this philosophy of history has come to us from foreign countries, although it is dying away even there at the present day and has become almost exclusively German property. From this closer kinship it follows also that this philosophy of history, which we call ours, is able to understand the efforts of foreign countries through and through; and, although this view of history is no longer expressed very often in those countries, they go beyond expression, for they are acting in accordance with it and constructing once more a golden age. This philosophy is even able to prophesy, and to point out to them the path they have still to take; it can pay them the tribute of genuine admiration, which one who thinks as a German cannot pretend to do. Indeed, how could he? Golden ages are to him in every respect a limitation proceeding from a state of death. Gold may indeed be the most precious metal in the lap of dead earth, he thinks, but the stuff of the living spirit is beyond the sun and beyond all suns, and is their source. For him history, and with it the human race, does not unfold itself according to some mysterious hidden law, like a round dance; on the contrary, in his opinion a true and proper man himself makes history, not merely repeating what has existed already, but throughout all time creating what is entirely new. Hence, he never expects mere repetition, and even if it should happen word for word as the old book says, at any rate he does not admire it.

100. Now, the deadly foreign spirit, without our being clearly aware of it, spreads itself in a similar way over the rest of our scientific views, of which it may suffice to have adduced the examples quoted. This happens because at the present day we are working in our own fashion upon stimuli previously received from abroad, and are passing through that intermediate state. Because it was pertinent to the matter in hand, I adduced those examples; and partly, too, so that no one should think himself able to refute the statements here made by deductions from the principles which we have quoted. It is not the case that those principles would have remained unknown to us, or that we could not ourselves have risen to their high level; far from it. On the contrary, we know them quite well, and might perhaps, if we had time to spare, be capable of developing them backwards and forwards in their complete logical sequence. Only we reject them right from the very beginning and also all their consequences, of which there are more in our traditional way of thinking than the superficial observer may find it easy to believe.

This foreign spirit influences not only our scientific view of things, but also, and in the same way, our ordinary life and the rules that govern it. But, in order to make this clear, and to make what has been said still clearer, it is necessary first of all to scrutinize more keenly the essence of original life, or freedom.

101. Freedom, taken in the sense of indecisive hesitation between several courses equally possible, is not life, but only the forecourt and portal to real life. At some time or other there must be an end of this hesitation and an advance to decision and action; and only then does life begin.

Now, at first sight, and when viewed directly, every decision of the will appears as something primary, and in no wise as something secondary, or as the effect of a primary thing which is its cause. It appears to be something existing simply by itself, and existing just as it is. This meaning we wish to establish as the sole possible sensible meaning of the word freedom. But, with regard to the inner content of such a decision of the will, there are two cases possible, viz., on the one hand, there appears in it only appearance, separated from essence and without essence entering into its appearance in any way; on the other hand, essence enters in appearance into this appearance of a decision of the will. In this connection it must be remarked at once that essence can become apparent only in a decision of the will, and in nothing else whatever, although, on the other hand, there may be decisions of the will in which essence does not manifest itself at all, but only mere appearance. We proceed to discuss the latter case first.

102. By its separation from, and its opposition to, essence, as well as by the fact that it is itself capable of appearing and presenting itself, mere appearance simply as such is unalterably determined, and it is, therefore, inevitably just what it is and turns out to be. Hence, if any given decision of the will is, as we assume, in its content mere appearance, it is to that extent, not in fact free, primary, and original, but it is a result of necessity, and is a secondary element proceeding just as it is from a higher primary element, viz., the general law of appearance. Now, the thinking of man, as we have mentioned several times already, represents man to himself just as he actually is, and always remains the true copy and mirror of his inner being. For this reason, although such a decision of the will appears at first sight to be free, just because it is called a decision of the will, yet it cannot appear so at all to deeper and prolonged thinking; on the contrary, the latter must think that it is a result of necessity, which, of course, it actually is in fact. For those people, whose will has never yet raised itself to a higher sphere than the one in which it is held that a will merely appears in them, the belief in freedom is, of course, a delusion and a deception, proceeding from a view that is casual and does not go beneath the surface. For them there is truth only in thought—thought that shows them everywhere only the chain of strict necessity.

103. The first and fundamental law of appearance, simply as such, (we are entitled to refrain from stating the reason, all the more so because it has been sufficiently given elsewhere) is this: that it falls into a manifoldness, which, in a certain respect, is an endless whole and, in a certain other respect, a whole complete in itself. In this completed whole of manifoldness every single part is determined by all the rest, and, again, all the rest are determined by this single part. Hence, if in the decision of the will of the individual there emerges into appearance nothing but the possibility of appearance and of representation, and visibility in general, which is in fact the visibility of nothing, then the content of such a decision of the will is determined by the completed whole of all the possible will-decisions of this will and of all the other possible individual wills; and it contains, and can contain, nothing more than that which remains to be willed after all those possible decisions of the will have been abstracted. Hence, there is in fact nothing independent, original, and individual in it; on the contrary, it is merely secondary, the consequence of the general connection of the sum of appearance in its separate parts. Indeed, it has always been recognized as such by all who, though on this level of culture, were capable of profound thought, and their recognition of it has been expressed in the same words as those of which we have just made use. But all this is the result of the fact that in them not essence, but merely appearance, enters into appearance.

104. On the other hand, where essence itself enters into the appearance of a decision of the will directly and, so to speak, in its own person and not by any representative, then all that has been mentioned above is likewise present, following as it does from appearance as a completed whole, for appearance appears here also. But an appearance of this kind does not consist merely of this sum of its component parts, nor is it exhausted by that sum; on the contrary, there is in it something more, another component part which is not to be explained by that connection, but remains over after what is explicable has been abstracted. That first component part is present here too, I said; that ‘something more’ becomes visible, and, by means of this visibility, but not at all by means of its inner essence, it comes under the general law and the conditions of visibleness. But it is still more than this ‘something,’ which proceeds from some law or other and which, therefore, is a secondary thing and the result of necessity; and, in respect of this ‘more,’ it is of itself what it is, a truly primary, original, and free thing. Since it is this, it also appears thus to that thought which is deepest and which has found completion in itself. The highest law of visibleness is, as we have said, this: that the thing appearing splits itself into an infinite manifoldness. This ‘more’ becomes visible, on every occasion, as more than what proceeds at any particular moment from the sum total of appearance, and so on into infinity; hence, this ‘more’ itself appears infinite. But it is as clear as noonday that it acquires this infinity only because it is on each occasion visible and thinkable, and that it is to be discovered only by its contrast to what follows eternally from the sum total, and by its being more than this. But, apart from this need of thinking it, it exists, this ‘more than everything infinite,’ which has the power of presenting itself eternally; this ‘more,’ I say, exists in pure simplicity and invariability from the very beginning, and in all infinity it does not become more than this ‘more,’ nor does it become less. Nothing but its visibleness as more than the infinite—and in no other way can it become visible in its highest purity—creates the infinite and all that appears to appear in it. Now, where this ‘more’ actually enters as such a visible ‘more’—but it can only enter in an act of will—there essence itself, which alone exists and alone can exist, and which exists of itself and by itself, divine essence enters into appearance and makes itself directly visible; and in that place there exists, for that very reason, true originality and freedom, and so there is also a belief in them.

105. So, to the general question whether man is free or not, there is no general answer; for, just because man is free in the lower sense, because he begins in indecisive vacillation and hesitation, he may be free, or he may not be free, in the higher sense of the word. In reality, the way in which anyone answers this question is the clear mirror of his true inward being. He who is in fact no more than a link in the chain of appearances may, perhaps, for a moment be under the delusion that he is free; but this delusion cannot hold its ground when he thinks more strictly. Of necessity he thinks that all his fellows are in the condition in which he finds himself. On the other hand, he, whose life is possessed by the truth and has become life direct from God, is free and believes in freedom in himself and others.

106. He who believes in a fixed, rigid, and dead state of being believes in it only because he is dead in himself; and, once he is dead, he cannot do anything but believe thus, so soon as ever he becomes clear in himself. He himself, with all his kind from beginning to end, becomes something secondary and a necessary consequence of some presupposed primary element. This presupposition is his actual thinking, and by no means a merely fancied thinking; it is his true mind, the point at which his thinking is itself directly life. Thus it is the source of all the rest of his thinking, and of his judgment of his kind in its past, which is history, in its future, which is his expectations for it, and in its present, which is actual life in himself and others.

This belief in death, as contrasted with an original and living people, we have called the foreign spirit. When once this foreign spirit is present among Germans it will, therefore, reveal itself in their actual life also, as quiet resignation to what they deem the unalterable necessity of their existence, as the abandonment of all hope of improvement of ourselves or others by means of freedom, as a disposition to make use of themselves and everyone else just as they are, and to derive from their existence the greatest possible advantage for ourselves; in short, it will reveal itself as the confession, eternally reflecting itself in every stirring of life, of a belief in the universal and equal sinfulness of all. This belief I have sufficiently described in another place;[1] I leave you to read this description for yourselves and to decide how far it fits the present time. This way of thinking and acting arises from the state of inward death, as has often been mentioned, only when that state becomes clear about itself. On the other hand, so long as that state remains in darkness, it retains the belief in freedom, which belief is in itself true, and is only a delusion when it is applied to existence in such a state of mind. Here we see clearly and distinctly the disadvantage of clearness when the soul is base. So long as this baseness remains in darkness, it is continually disquieted, goaded, and impelled by the unceasing claim to freedom, and it presents a point of attack to the attempts to improve it. But clearness completes it and rounds it off in itself; clearness imparts to this base state of mind a cheerful resignation, the calm of a good conscience, and self-satisfaction. As their belief is, so is the result; from now onwards they are in fact incapable of improvement; at the most they serve to keep alive among their betters a pitiless loathing of evil or a resignation to the will of God; but, apart from that, they are not of the least use in the world.

107. So, let there appear before you at last in complete clearness what we have meant by Germans, as we have so far described them. The true criterion is this: do you believe in something absolutely primary and original in man himself, in freedom, in endless improvement, in the eternal progress of our race, or do you not believe in all this, but rather imagine that you clearly perceive and comprehend that the opposite of all this takes place? All who either are themselves alive and creative and productive of new things, or who, should this not have fallen to their lot, at any rate definitely abandon the things of naught and stand on the watch for the stream of original life to lay hold of them somewhere, or who, should they not even be so far advanced as this, at least have an inkling of freedom and do not hate it or take fright at it, but on the contrary love it—all these are original men; they are, when considered as a people, an original people, the people simply, Germans. All who resign themselves to being something secondary and derivative, and who distinctly know and comprehend that they are such, are so in fact, and become ever more so because of this belief of theirs; they are an appendix to the life which bestirred itself of its own accord before them or beside them; they are an echo resounding from the rock, an echo of a voice already silent; they are, considered as a people, outside the original people, and to the latter they are strangers and foreigners. In the nation which to this very day calls itself simply the people, or Germans, originality has broken forth into the light of day in modern times, at any rate up to now, and the power of creating new things has shown itself. Now, at last, by a philosophy that has become clear in itself, the mirror is being held up to this nation, in which it may recognize and form a clear conception of that which it hitherto became by nature without being distinctly conscious of it, and to which it is called by nature; and a proposal is being made to this nation to make itself wholly and completely what it ought to be, to do this according to that clear conception and with free and deliberate art, to renew the alliance, and to close its circle. The principle according to which it has to close its circle is laid before it: whoever believes in spirituality and in the freedom of this spirituality, and who wills the eternal development of this spirituality by freedom, wherever he may have been born and whatever language he speaks, is of our blood; he is one of us, and will come over to our side. Whoever believes in stagnation, retrogression, and the round dance of which we spoke, or who sets a dead nature at the helm of the world’s government, wherever he may have been born and whatever language he speaks, is non-German and a stranger to us; and it is to be wished that he would separate himself from us completely, and the sooner the better.

108. So, too, at this point let there appear before you at last, and unmistakably, what that philosophy, which with good reason calls itself the German philosophy, really wants, and wherein it is strictly, earnestly, and inexorably opposed to any foreign philosophy that believes in death. The German philosophy has as its support what we said above about freedom; and he that still hath ears to hear, let him hear. Let it appear before you, not in the least with the intention of making the dead understand it, which is impossible, but so that it may be harder for the dead to twist its words, and to make out that they themselves want more or less the same thing and at bottom are of the same mind. This German philosophy does, indeed, raise itself by the act of thinking—not merely boasting about it, in accordance with a dim notion that it ought to be so, without being able to put it into practice—it raises itself to the ‘more than all infinity’ that is unchangeable, and in this alone it finds true being. It perceives time and eternity and infinity in their rise from the appearing and becoming visible of that One which is in itself invisible and which is only comprehended, rightly comprehended, in this invisibility. Even infinity is, according to this philosophy, nothing in itself, and there is in it no true being whatever. It is solely the means by which the One thing that exists, and exists only in its invisibility, becomes visible, and the means by which there is built up for the One an image, a form, and a shadow of itself in the sphere of imagery. Everything else that may become visible within this infinity of the world of images is a nothing proceeding from nothing, a shadow of the shadow, and solely the means by which that first nothing of infinity and time itself becomes visible and opens up to thought the ascent to invisible being without image.

Within this, the sole possible image of infinity, the invisible directly manifests itself only as free and original life of the sight, or as a decision of the will made by a reasonable being; in no other way whatever can it appear and manifest itself. All continuous existence that appears as non-spiritual life is only an empty shadow projected from the world of sight and enlarged by the intermediary of the nothing—a shadow, in contrast to which, and by recognizing it as a nothing enlarged by transmission, the world of sight itself ought to elevate itself to the recognition of its own nothingness and to the acknowledgment of the invisible as the only thing that is true.

109. Now, in these shadows of the shadows of shadows that philosophy of being, which believes in death and becomes a mere philosophy of nature, the deadest of all philosophies, remains a captive, and dreads and worships its own creature.

This constancy is the expression of its true life and of its love; and herein this philosophy is to be believed. But, when it goes on to say that this being, which it presupposes as actually existing, is one with, and precisely the same as, the Absolute, it is not to be believed, no matter how often it asserts this, nor even though it takes many an oath in confirmation. It does not know this, but only utters it trusting to luck, and blindly echoing another philosophy whose tenet in this matter it does not venture to dispute. If it should want to make good its claim to knowledge, it would have to proceed, not from duality as an undisputed fact (which its dictum, against which there is no appeal, does away with only to leave in full sway) but, on the contrary, from unity. From this unity it would have to be capable of deducing duality, and with it all manifoldness, in a clear and intelligible fashion. For this, however, thought is needed, and reflection consummated and perfected in itself. The philosophy we are referring to has, for one thing, never learnt the art of thinking in this way and is indeed incapable of it, having only the power to indulge in reverie. Besides, it is hostile to this way of thinking and has no inclination whatever to attempt it; for, if it did, it would be disturbed in the illusion that it holds so dear.

This, then, is the essential thing in which our philosophy deliberately opposes that philosophy; and on this occasion it has been our purpose, once for all, to enunciate and establish this as definitely as possible.


  1. [Fichte adds this note here: see the Guide to the Blessed Life, Lecture II.]