'With this edition the majority of those of his later works which Fichte himself saw to publication are finally available again in a readable and competent English translation. The writings contained in the set exhibit considerable literary as well as philosophical quality and are among Fichte's most moving works. The set should be of interest to students of German philosophy and students of German literature and culture alike' - Professor Günter Zöller, Editor of The Cambridge Companion to Fichte.
'Smith's translations, with a new introduction by Daniel Breazeale, the pre-eminent contemporary Fichte scholar, offer easy access to the main ideas of a great philosopher, a key member of German idealism, whose writings remain relevant today' - Professor Tom Rockmore
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762--1814) was the forerunner of the post-Kantian idealists and remains one of the most important figures in German philosophy. Throughout his career, Fichte published, in addition to his systematic or ‘scientific’ treatises, the best known of which is the Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre (1794--5), a series of works directed at the general public. The purpose of these ‘popular’ writings was to indicate, in a non-technical manner, some of the characteristic features of the new transcendental philosophy and to explicate some of its more significant implications.
William Smith translated most of these ‘popular writings’ in the nineteenth century and published them individually and in the various editions of The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Each edition included corrections and improvements in the translation. The fourth and final edition is the one reprinted here.
The texts translated by Smith include such well-known popular works as The Vocation of Man, which is, arguably, Fichte’s most successful effort to present his philosophy as a whole to non-specialists. Also included are early and late versions of his lectures on the nature and vocation of ‘the scholar’, works of great interest not only as indications of Fichte’s theory of education, but as summaries of his philosophical standpoint. The two published lecture series of 1806 are of particular interest, since Fichte did not publish any of the more technical versions of his philosophy after arriving in Berlin in 1800. Instead he announced his new standpoint in his popular works, Characteristics of the Present Age and The Way Towards the Blessed Life, the former of which is explicitly concerned with the philosophy of history, and the latter of which is explicitly concerned with the philosophy of religion. The Way Towards the Blessed Life is often read as evidence of a more ‘mystical’ turn in Fichte’s later thought. In addition to these translated texts, The Popular Works also includes a lengthy and valuable intellectual biography of Fichte by Smith.
--an ideal and accessible 'popular' introduction to Fichte's philosophy
--most of these texts are only available in English translation in these two volumes
--the contents of volume 2 are still virtually the only English-language sources for anyone interested in Fichtes later (or Berlin) period