Johann Gottlieb Fichte

200 years ago, on 27th January 1814, Johann Gottlieb Fichte died of typhus in Berlin.  He was 51 years old.

Fichte was a major philosopher of the German idealism movement; his work followed on from Kant and preceded Hegel.  He was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Jena in 1794, but dismissed from that post in 1799 after being accused of atheism.  In 1809 he was offered the Chair of Philosophy at the new University of Berlin, a position which he held until his death and which then remained vacant until Hegel was appointed to it in 1818.

Fichte is also regarded as an important figure for German nationalism.  His Reden an die deutsche Nation in 1808 were speeches made in a Berlin occupied by the French under Napoleon.

The anniversary of his death gives us occasion to highlight some of our holdings of his works, in particular the recently completed critical edition of his works, the Gesamtausgabe der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (184.b.96.213-253).  This monumental 42 volume set is the result of 50 years’ work, started in 1962 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Fichte’s birth and completed in 2012.  It is organised into four parts: published works, unpublished writings, correspondence and student lecture transcripts.

IMG_0607During Fichte’s lifetime the University Library acquired very little by him.  In the later 19th century as Fichte’s importance was realised, some significant purchases were made (K.27.31-45).  In recent years attempts have been made to increase the Library’s holdings of both Fichte’s works published in his lifetime and those by his contemporaries about him. title pages In particular, we acquired a volume containing four works, one by Fichte and the other three discussing his controversial stance on atheism which led to his dismissal from Jena in 1799 (7000.d.1631). This is in addition to the extensive acquisition of monographs documenting current scholarship.  You can access these by searching in Newton for Fichte within subject heading or in LibrarySearch by using the subject about a person filtering in the right-hand refine column.

If you would like to find out more about the life of Fichte, we have two recent biographies of him:

  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte: eine Biografie by Wilhelm G. Jacobs (184:2.d.201.14)
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte: ein deutscher Philosoph by Manfred Kühn (184:2.c.201.546)

For  more details of Fichte’s philosophical thinking and his relationship to other German philosophers, we recommend The twenty-five years of philosophy: a systematic reconstruction  by Eckart Förster (184:2.c.201.558).  Fichte-Studien (P180.c.706) and the accompanying Supplementa (P180.c.708), organised by the Internationale J. G.-Fichte-Gesellschaft, is another useful resource for Fichte scholars, offering a forum for discussion in both monograph and conference proceedings formats.

Katharine Dicks

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