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The Evolution of Fichte’s Moral State

Benjamin Wollet
Ohio Northern University

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, an early-nineteenth century German Idealist, is considered among the first theorists on his country’s brand of nationalism. His approach to the state, while changing over the course of his career, remains steadfastly rational and ethical. Fichte’s doctrine recognizes that one’s purpose and actions on earth simultaneously influence the supernatural. As a guiding force on one’s behavior, reason infuses the course of one’s life with the moral law of the government. Fichte’s model for states is just, as it promotes peace and humanitarianism, individuality, pragmatism, and the means to an enlightened spiritual end. His early political philosophy evaluates historical states abstractly based on reason and freedom. Fichte later creates a recognizable system of government with methods for global growth. His final state theory, which is realized via nationalist Germany, promotes republicanism and the divine. At first glance, one might view this shift as one from ideal to real. Instead, consider that Fichte’s reactions to the Napoleonic Wars uphold the same rigorous ethical guidelines throughout his movement from an historic to a nationalist model. The legacy of this early founder of German nationalism should be preserved due to his resolute example and advocacy of a moral life.

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