Fichte on Philosophy As The Mind's Self-Mastery

Philosophy . . . elevates the human mind higher than any geometry can. It gives the mind not only attentiveness, dexterity, stability, but at the same time absolute independence, forcing it to be alone with itself, and to live and manage by itself. Compared with it, every other mental operation is infinitely easy; and to one who has been exercised in it nothing comes hard. Besides, as it prosecutes all objects of human lore to the centre, it accustoms the eye to hit the proper point at first glance in everything presented to it, and to prosecute it undeviatingly. For such a practical philosopher therefore there can be nothing dark, complicated, and confused, if only he is acquainted with the object of discussion. It comes always easiest to him to construct everything afresh and ab initio, because he carries within him plans for every scientific edifice. He finds his way easily, therefore, in any complicated structure. Add to this the security and confidence of glance which he has acquired in philosophy—the guide which conducts in all raisonnement, and the imperturbability with which his eye meets every divergence from the accustomed path and every paradox. It would be quite different with all human concerns, if men could only resolve to believe their eyes. At present they inquire at their neighbours and at antiquity what they really see, and by this distrust in themselves errors are eternalized. Against this distrust the possessor of philosophy is for ever protected. In a word, by philosophy the mind of man comes to itself, and from henceforth rests on itself without foreign aid, and is completely master of itself, as the dancer of his feet, or the boxer of his hands.


SOURCE: Fichte, Johann Gottlieb. Werke, II, 404; cited in a supplemental footnote in Hegel's Logic, trans. William Wallace, 3rd. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 303-304.


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