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

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But he, in whom those higher demands on life remain alive and powerful and who has a feeling that their right is divine, feels himself set back, much against his will, into those early days of Christianity, when it was said: “Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any man will take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” The latter is well said, for, so long as he sees that thou still hast a cloak, he seeks to pick a quarrel with thee so as to take this from thee also, and only when thou art quite naked wilt thou escape his attention and be left in peace. To such a man the earth becomes a hell and a place of horror, just because of his higher mind, which does him honor. He wishes he had never been born; he wishes that his eyes may be closed to the light of day, and the sooner the better; his days are filled with everlasting sorrow until he descends to the grave, and for those whom he loves he can wish no greater boon than a dull and contented mind, so that with less suffering they may live for an eternal life beyond the grave.

These addresses lay before you the sole remaining means, now that the others have been tried in vain, of preventing this annihilation of every nobler impulse that may break out among us in the future, and of preventing this degradation of our whole nation. They propose that you establish deeply and indelibly in the hearts of all, by means of education, the true and all-powerful love of fatherland, the conception of our people as an eternal people and as the security for our own eternity. What kind of education can do this, and how it is to be done, we shall see in the following addresses.

Source of English text: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Address to the German Nation, ed., George Armstrong Kelly. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row Publishers, 1968, pp. 92-129.

Source of original German text: J. G. Fichte, Gesamtausgabe Werkeband 10 [Complete Works Volume 10]. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: F. Frommann, 1988-2000, pp.183-212.

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