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

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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 continuously 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 spoiled by neglect, but only by educating the young, who are still unspoiled. 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.

[ . . . ]

Eighth Address

What is a People in the Higher Meaning of the Word, and what is Love of Fatherland?

The last four addresses have answered the question: What is the German as contrasted with other peoples of Teutonic descent? The proof to be adduced by all this for our investigation as a whole is completed when we examine the further question: What is a people? This latter question is similar to another, and when it is answered the other is answered too. The other question, which is often raised and the answers to which are very different, is this: What is love of fatherland, or, to express it more correctly, what is love of the individual for his nation?

If we have hitherto proceeded correctly in the course of our investigation, it must here be obvious at once that only the German–the original man, who has not become dead in an arbitrary organization–really has a people and is entitled to count on one, and that he alone is capable of real and rational love for his nation.

The problem having been thus stated, we prepare the way for its solution by the following observation, which seems at first to have no connection with what has preceded it.

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