Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

J. G. Fichte, fully Johann Gottlieb Fichte

German Philosopher, founding figure in German Idealism

"What sort of philosophy one chooses depends, therefore, on what sort of man one is; for a philosophical system is not a dead piece of furniture that we can reject or accept as we wish; it is rather a thing animated by the soul of the person who holds it. A person indolent by nature or dulled and distorted by mental servitude, learned luxury, and vanity will never raise himself to the level of idealism."

"Our task is to discover the primordial, absolutely unconditioned first principle of all human knowledge... It is intended to express that Act which does not and cannot appear among the empirical states of our consciousness, but rather is at the basis of all consciousness and alone makes it possible."

"Our doctrine here is therefore that all reality... is brought forth solely by the imagination."

"A man can do what he ought to do; and when he says he cannot, it is because he will not. "

"He who is firm in will molds the world to himself. "

"All death in nature is birth, and at the moment of death appears visibly the rising of life. There is no dying principle in nature, for nature throughout is unmixed life, which, concealed behind the old, begins again and develops itself. Death as well as birth is simply in itself, in order to present itself ever more brightly and more like to itself."

"If we cannot live so as to be happy, let us at least live so as to deserve happiness."

"Not alone to know, but to act according to thy knowledge, is thy destination,--proclaims the voice of my inmost soul. Not for indolent contemplation and study of thyself, nor for brooding over emotions of piety,--no, for action was existence given thee; thy actions, and thy actions alone, determine thy worth."

"To be happy is not the purpose of our being, but to deserve happiness."

"If you are to judge a man, you must know his secret thoughts, sorrows, and feelings; to know merely the outward events of a man's life would only serve to make a chronological tableā€”a fool's notion of history."

"We do not act because we know, but we know because we are called upon to act; the practical reason is the root of all reason."