Johann Gottlieb Fichte: Addresses to the German Nation

(1808)

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), a transcendental philosopher in the tradition of Immanuel Kant, was one of the philosophical founders of German nationalism. His Addresses to the German Nation (of which the “Thirteenth Address” is excerpted here) was originally a series of lectures delivered in Berlin in the winter of 1807–1808. Fichte wrote them when German political and military fortunes were at a very low ebb, after the forces of the German states had been defeated by the French under Napoléon Bonaparte, who had annexed some German territories, subjugated others, and installed puppet regimes throughout Germany. The Holy Roman Empire, the political expression of German unity, had been abolished in 1806, and Berlin itself, the capital of the most powerful North German state, Prussia, was under French occupation. In this context Fichte explained the causes of the disaster and pointed a path to recovery.