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the tone and contour of his features. Therefore we do not consider him notable merely because, while the best scholars of Germany were elaborating morphologies and constructing syntheses of Nature, he humanized life in Universities, made virtue the rage, set all the students at Napoleon, and was so adroit at revolutionizing Germany, that he got his name on the emperor's private proscriptionlist: but because his system of thought would have compelled him to do the best things in any era, because, in short, he represented the union of remote abstraction with earnest reality. He was knowledge, and he was power: he thought the subtlest thoughts into deeds: he condensed that German gas
a result which worthy men among us still consider to be too much for the most ponderous hydraulics.
Then while we smile most shrewdly at some of his metaphysical statements, and the Fichtean Egoism is dismissed with general merriment, and flourish of Scotch and Eng. lish reviewers' trumpets, we still have a suspicion that all is not right, and that it must be the man himself which makes his own statement appear so wretched. Fichte had his Theory of the Universe : a German would sooner be without his pipe than a compact, pocket cosmo-ontology. We all construct the same, with more or less absurdity, by the same instinct that sets the beaver to build his dam : and we are ready to swear by it stoutly to every passenger. But the first dun, or new music, or outrage upon misery, or note of reform, makes us suddenly serious : we drop the
cap and bells, and the noblest theory of the universe is demonstrated in the play or the gravity of our deeds. Setting aside Fichte's bare ontological statement, which after all was only a chance stone which he made his fulcrum, we find the grandest use and meaning in his moral system,
and all the merit of practical consistency. His keen analy. sis of consciousness, his lofty development of individual Freedom, his tender and religious admission of the Infinite Will, his stern and yet inspiring representations of Duty and Virtue, which no young man can read without longing with tears to be good and pure and just, all these noble utterances of that strong and honest spirit, will be the com. mon property of men's hearts, long after his system of Idealism, which he himself so well refuted, and the sharp irony of his critics, and the spleen of his traducers, become curiosities of literature, and morbid preparations in the museum of some future historian of philosophy.
The most elaborate satire of Fichte's Idealism was the “Clavis Fichtiana," by Jean Paul. He evidently understood him, and yet he did not do him justice, because the satire identifies Fichte with his Egoistic Idealism, which may be thrice demolished, without involving in the, ruin Fichte's special and only worth. Thus, among other clever things, Jean Paul writes with German bluntness: "it struck me (said I, as I glanced slightly over my system, during a foot-bath, and gazed significantly at my toes, whose nails they were paring) that I am the All and Uni. verse; one cannot be more in the world, than the world itself, and God, and the spirit-world too. Only I ought not to have sat so long a Time (which is another work of mine) without concluding, that I am the natura naturans, and the Demiurgus and Agent of the universe. I am now like that beggar who, waking out of a drunken sleep, found himself all at once a king. What a Being, which, itself excepted, (for it is always becoming, and never is) makes every thing, my absolute All-breeding, foaling, yeaning, hatching, casting, whelping, bearing I!”*
*“ If I saw my oldest friend, I should only say, I=1. If I saw Fichte,
in a higher strain, but with still less justice in view of the fine moral eloquence of Fichte, Jean Paul writes: “all the enthusiasm he permits me is logical : all my Metaphysics, Chemistry, Technology, Nosology, Botany, Entomology, subsists only in the old maxim, know thyself. I am not only, as Bellarmin says, my own Redeemer, but also my own Devil, Death and Knout-master. The practical reason itself (that only sacred shew-bread for a hungry philosophical David). hardly sets me a going, since, after all, I can only benefit somewhat my I, and no one further. Love and admiration are void, for like St. Francis, I press to my soi disant breast nothing but a maiden rolled together of
Around me is a wide, petrified humanity : in the dark, unpeopled stillness no love glows, no admiration, no prayer, no hope, no aim. I, so all alone, nowhere a single throb of life, nothing around me, and besides myself nothing but nothing, am only conscious of my lofty Un-consciousness ; within me the dumb, blind working Demogorgon is concealed, and I am it. So I emerge from eternity, so I proceed into eternity! And who knows me now and hears my sorrow? I. Who knows me and hears it to all eternity ? I.” *
Schiller also, in his correspondence with Goethe, calls Fichte “the great I," and says: “ To him, the world is only a ball which the I has thrown forth, and which it again catches in the act of reflexion ! Thus 'tis said he has
I being the Castor and he the Pollux, and both of us only existing by an alternate immortality of projection, I should only indulge myself in uttering, Soyons amis, Auguste.”
* After this, it is amusing to see Mad. de Staël, with her glib, Parisian goose-quill, also snatch a blow at the “Doctrine of Science.” She says quite conclusively, “nature and love lose all their charm by this system ; for if the objects that we love are only the work of our ideas, we may regard man himself as the great Bachelor of the Universe."
really declared his godhead, as we lately expected.” And yet the pulse of Schiller's heart was deeply stirred by the “ Nature of the Scholar," the “Destiny of Man," the "Addresses to the German Nation," through all of which runs Fichte's idea of the moral order of the Universe, and the sacredness of being called upon to exist. After Fichte had dropped his unusual terminology, and had somewhat popularized his system, he was accused of making himself felt and understood at the expense of his logic. Thus the third part of the “ Destiny of Man," which is the most popular development of his idea, was said to contradict the first part, and either to destroy his system, or to gain therefrom an esoteric meaning. It may be, that in writing his lofty invocation to the Divine Will, which occurs in the third part, he virtually abandons his idealism. We are more inclined to consider the latter as explained by his highest moments and clearest statements.
The charge of Atheism, seems to have arisen from his proposition, that the conception of personality subjects the Infinite Will to limitation. Any conception of the Deity which we may entertain, must necessarily be finite, even when it is a conception of His infinity. Our conception does not become less finite when we add the element of personality, even if we call Him an infinite Person. With the highest and most devout abstraction, we still only approach the God of our own conceptions : and the men of the greatest genuine faith, have always been accused of Atheism, because they dared not erect a finite conception into a dogmatic statement with respect to the Infinite Nature. There has always been this feud between the philosophers and the theologians : the latter making God after man's image, the former declaring that the intellect can neither name nor represent Him. And all the while,
the earnest men of both parties repose upon the same Infinite Will, and aspire to the same source of their com. mon life and thought. A downright Atheist would be, to speak rather paradoxically, a perfect God-send. The best thinkers of Germany absolved Fichte from this paltry charge, but nevertheless respectable fathers of families rather eschewed his society. But no man was ever more penetrated with the Divine Presence, or ever made loftier statements of that which, absolutely, must always be ineffable. His speech becomes transfigured when he meets the theme, his words conquer when he tries to say that he can say nothing.
It must be admitted, that Fichte was misunderstood, partly because he exaggerated his own positions. He conciliated no one, and disdained to make his wares marketable. He threw out the truth which he had, in huge, rude masses, and whoever thought it was worth taking, was wel. come to all he could retain. He was the servant of truth, and never trifled nor blasphemed, for he saw the truth too clearly. But this very superiority rendered him sometimes daring in the form of his statements. His simplest metaphysical propositions were hirsute and shocking; as he left the lecture room men looked to see whether or no he were a new avatar of the Enemy. Perhaps he secretly enjoyed the turmoil which his needless singularity created, and loved to aggravate the Philistines who sought to catch him in his talk. Yet much that was called arrogance was only positiveness of knowledge, and his blunt vanity was only sincerity of conviction. Still we may fairly censure him, because the earnest thinker is not only bound to receive truth with reverence and self-denial, but to proclaim it in love. He must win men over to its worship.
This excellent Memoir will properly establish Fichte