Achtundvierzig Briefe Von Johann Gottlieb Fichte Und Seinen Verwandten Informative Summary


This book presents a collection of 48 letters exchanged between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a prominent German philosopher, and his family members. Edited by Moritz Weinhold, the letters span several decades of Fichte’s life, offering insights into his personal relationships, financial struggles, career advancements, and philosophical development. While many letters focus on mundane family matters, they also touch upon key events like Fichte’s studies, courtship, marriage, career difficulties, and the infamous atheism accusations.

Weinhold emphasizes the value of these letters in providing a nuanced and intimate portrait of Fichte, complementing the grand, monumental image often associated with him. The letters reveal Fichte’s honest, decisive character, his deep affection for his father and brother Gotthelf, and his complex relationship with his mother. They also demonstrate his pragmatic side, as he meticulously manages financial affairs and offers business advice to his brothers. Throughout the correspondence, Fichte’s unwavering commitment to his philosophical pursuits and his dedication to his family are evident.

Key Findings:

  • Fichte’s complex relationship with his mother, characterized by mutual respect and affection, but also by tension and misunderstanding, due to their strong personalities and differing views on his life choices.
  • Fichte’s deep love and concern for his father, whom he wished to support financially and emotionally.
  • Fichte’s close bond with his brother Gotthelf, who he mentored and tried to guide towards intellectual and social advancement.
  • Fichte’s financial struggles during his early career, exacerbated by family obligations and a precarious academic landscape.
  • Fichte’s unwavering commitment to his philosophical work, even amidst personal and professional challenges.


  • Fichte’s Character: Readers will gain a deeper understanding of Fichte’s multifaceted personality, moving beyond the image of the formidable philosopher to reveal a complex individual grappling with personal relationships, financial worries, and professional ambitions.
  • Philosophical Journey: The letters trace Fichte’s intellectual development, from his early exposure to Kantian philosophy to his later work on educational reform and his famous “Addresses to the German Nation.”
  • Historical Context: The letters offer a glimpse into the social and political realities of late 18th and early 19th century Germany, particularly the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Fichte’s life and work.
  • Importance of Family: Despite his intellectual pursuits, Fichte maintained a strong connection to his family, demonstrating his commitment to familial bonds even amidst a demanding career.

Historical Context: The letters were written during a turbulent period in European history, marked by the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. These events significantly impacted Fichte’s life and work, forcing him to relocate, grapple with financial insecurity, and engage in political and social debates. His “Addresses to the German Nation” were a direct response to the French occupation of Germany and reflect his fervent patriotism and desire for national unity.


  1. Fichte disliked being a tutor: He expressed his aversion to tutoring in multiple letters, finding it unfulfilling despite the financial stability it offered.
  2. Fichte was a dedicated student: He immersed himself in Kantian philosophy, even while facing financial hardship, finding solace and intellectual stimulation in its complexities.
  3. Fichte married Johanna Maria Rahn: Their love story began during his time as a tutor in Zurich, and they ultimately married after facing various delays and challenges.
  4. Fichte was a homeowner: He purchased a house in Jena, demonstrating his desire for stability and a comfortable family life.
  5. Fichte was a father: He had a son named Hermann, for whom he expressed deep affection and concern throughout the letters.
  6. Fichte faced financial challenges: Despite his professorship, his salary was often insufficient, forcing him to rely on writing and external income to support his family.
  7. Fichte was accused of atheism: His philosophical views led to accusations of atheism by the Saxon government, forcing him to defend his work and ultimately relocate to Berlin.
  8. Fichte was involved in educational reform: He played a key role in planning the establishment of the University of Berlin, demonstrating his dedication to educational advancement.
  9. Fichte experienced health problems: He suffered from rheumatism and eye inflammation, leading to prolonged periods of illness and reduced productivity.
  10. Fichte visited his birthplace in 1810: Despite previous reluctance, he travelled to Rammenau to see his aging parents after years of absence.
  11. Fichte’s father died in 1812: He died after a long illness, deeply mourned by Fichte and his family.
  12. Fichte took care of his mother: He ensured his mother’s financial security and well-being after his father’s death, even while facing his own challenges.
  13. Fichte’s mother died in 1813: She passed away just months after her husband, marking the end of Fichte’s parents’ generation.
  14. Fichte died in 1814: He succumbed to typhus, leaving behind his wife and young son.
  15. Fichte supported his siblings financially: He regularly sent money to his brothers, particularly Gottlob, who he partnered with in a business venture.
  16. Fichte was concerned about his reputation: He was meticulous about his public image and sought to avoid any actions that might tarnish his standing as a professor.
  17. Fichte was a meticulous business person: He displayed a sharp understanding of financial matters, offering detailed advice and instructions to his brothers regarding their business dealings.
  18. Fichte had strong opinions about language: He criticized his brother Gotthelf’s dialect and emphasized the importance of proper pronunciation and writing skills.
  19. Fichte believed in practical education: He advocated for a curriculum that emphasized the application of knowledge to real-world situations, as seen in his “Vocation of Man” and his plans for the University of Berlin.
  20. Fichte was a patriot: He expressed deep concern for Germany’s future and urged his countrymen to embrace national unity and resist foreign oppression, particularly in his “Addresses to the German Nation.”


  1. 50 Carolins (300 thalers): Fichte sent this amount to his brothers for their business venture, demanding a 4% interest paid to his wife’s sister, the original owner of the funds.
  2. 100 thalers: Amount owed to Johanna Fichte from her late parents’ estate.
  3. 200 thalers: Amount sent by Fichte to his parents in the two years before his father’s death.
  4. 75: Age of Fichte’s father-in-law, Hartmann Rahn, at the time of his death.
  5. 80: Approximate number of Russian students recalled from the University of Jena, impacting Fichte’s income and foreshadowing the institution’s decline.
  6. 10 weeks: Duration of Fichte’s son Hermann’s illness due to a leg injury.
  7. 4 thalers: Amount saved by Fichte’s son Hermann from his allowance to give to his grandparents as a Christmas gift.
  8. 3/4 year: Length of Fichte’s illness in 1808-1809, causing financial hardship due to his inability to work.
  9. 50 thalers: Amount requested by Fichte from his brother Gottlob to support their father, citing Gottlob’s outstanding payments since 1805.
  10. 16 ells: Length of one “Stück” of ribbon, a common measurement used in the brothers’ business.
  11. 24 threads: Width of the ribbon, specified in “Faden,” another common unit of measurement.
  12. 8 Groschen: Price of three “Stück” of narrow white ribbon purchased by Johanna Fichte, used for comparison with their own production costs.
  13. 15: Number of large ribbon factories said to be operating in Erfurt, highlighting the competition faced by Fichte’s brothers.
  14. 12 Groschen: Rental cost for a booth at the Leipzig trade fair.
  15. 30: Number of gears on some of the ribbon-making mills, indicating the scale of production in other regions.
  16. 100 ells (Dresden): Unit of measurement used by Fichte to compare yarn prices from different suppliers.
  17. 5 livres: Price per dozen “Stück” of 19 Parisian ells of ribbon from a Westphalian supplier.
  18. 6 Groschen: Value of one French “livre” in Saxon currency.
  19. 20 sous: Number of “sous” in one French “livre,” used to calculate finer price distinctions.
  20. 5%: Commission taken by the authorities from inheritance settlements, highlighting the financial burden imposed on Fichte’s family.


  1. Censur: A report card or evaluation of a student’s performance.
  2. Examen: Examination period in school, involving intensive study and evaluation.
  3. Obergesell: A senior student assigned to mentor a younger student.
  4. Principal: Headmaster or principal of a school.
  5. Kantische Philosophie: Refers to the philosophical system of Immanuel Kant, which significantly influenced Fichte.
  6. Premier Ministre: Prime Minister, referring to a high-ranking government official.
  7. Conrektor: Assistant headmaster or vice-principal of a school.
  8. Externus: A student attending a school but not living in its dormitory.
  9. Schuzgeld: Protection money or fee paid to avoid harassment or mistreatment.
  10. Theolog: Theologian, a person who studies theology or religious matters.
  11. Collegia: University lectures or courses.
  12. Louisd’or: French gold coin, commonly used as a stable currency in Europe.
  13. Rthr: Abbreviation for Reichstaler, a German currency unit.
  14. Carolin: A gold coin issued in various German states, named after Emperor Charles VI.
  15. Laubthaler: A silver coin used in various German states, often fluctuating in value.
  16. Töplitz: Teplitz, a spa town in Bohemia known for its therapeutic waters.
  17. Louisdor: Another spelling of Louisd’or, a French gold coin.
  18. Biviak: Bivouac, a temporary encampment of soldiers, often implying exposure to harsh conditions.
  19. Marodörs: Marauders, soldiers or individuals who plunder and steal during wartime.
  20. Salvegarden: Safeguards, protective measures or guards stationed to prevent looting or violence.


  1. Fichte’s childhood: His letter from Schulpforta reveals his early character, financial struggles, and anxieties about social obligations at school.
  2. Fichte’s love for Johanna Maria: He describes her character, intellect, and affection for him, highlighting the importance of this relationship in his life.
  3. Fichte’s financial support for his father: He consistently sends money to his father, even when facing his own financial difficulties, demonstrating his filial devotion.
  4. Fichte’s concern for his wife’s health: He expresses worry and offers comfort during her illnesses, revealing the depth of their love and interdependence.
  5. Fichte’s anger at his siblings: He criticizes their perceived selfishness and mistreatment of their mother, showcasing his strong moral compass and protective instincts.
  6. Fichte’s meticulous planning for his brother’s education: He outlines a detailed plan for Gotthelf’s intellectual and social development, highlighting the importance of discipline and self-improvement.
  7. Fichte’s involvement in the University of Berlin’s founding: His role demonstrates his commitment to educational advancement and his willingness to contribute to broader societal progress.
  8. Fichte’s struggles with rheumatism: His prolonged illness and the impact on his work highlight the physical challenges he faced alongside intellectual pursuits.
  9. The impact of war on Fichte’s family: The letters detail the disruptions caused by the Napoleonic Wars, from financial strain to personal anxieties and the challenges of maintaining communication.
  10. Johanna Fichte’s strength and resilience: Her letters reveal her unwavering support for her husband, her caring nature, and her ability to cope with personal loss and hardship.

Conclusion: This collection of letters offers a unique and intimate glimpse into the life and character of Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Beyond the image of a formidable philosopher, we encounter a complex individual grappling with personal relationships, financial anxieties, professional ambitions, and the turbulent social and political realities of his time. The letters reveal his unwavering commitment to his philosophical pursuits, his deep affection for his family, and his determination to overcome obstacles. The reader gains a more nuanced understanding of Fichte’s personality, his intellectual journey, and his unwavering dedication to his principles, offering a valuable supplement to his more well-known philosophical works.

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