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Johann Gottlieb Fichte, "Addresses to the German Nation" (1807/08)

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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 times 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.

First and most importantly: 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 borderline, 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 borderline 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 borderline 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.

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