[Footnote 1: The most important of Schiller’s aesthetic essays are those On Grace and Dignity, 1793; On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, 1795-96; and the Letters on Aesthetic Education, intermediate between them. Cf. Kuno Fischer, Schiller als Philosoph, 1858, 2d ed. (Schillerschriften, iii., iv.) 1891-92.]
Fichte is a Kantian in about the same sense that Plato was a Socratic. Instead of taking up and developing particular critical problems he makes the vivifying kernel, the soul of criticism, his own. With the self-activity of reason (as a real force and as a problem) for his fundamental idea, he outlines with magnificent boldness a new view of the world, in which the idealism concealed in Kant’s philosophy under the shell of cautious limitations was roused into vigorous life, and the great Koenigsberger’s noble words on the freedom, the position, and the power of the spirit translated from the language of sober foresight into that of vigorous enthusiasm. The world can be understood only from the standpoint of spirit, the spirit only from the will. The ego is pure activity, and all reality its product. Fichte’s system is all life and action: its aim is not to mediate knowledge, but to summon the hearer and reader to the production of a new and pregnant fundamental view, in which the will is as much a participant as the understanding; it begins not with a concept or a proposition, but with a demand for action (posit thyself; do consciously what thou hast done unconsciously so often as thou hast called thyself I; analyze, then, the act of self-consciousness, and cognize in their elements the forces from which all reality proceeds); its God is not a completed absolute substance, but a self-realizing world-order. This inner vivacity of the Fichtean principle, which recalls the pure actuality of Aristotle’s [Greek: nous] and the ceaseless becoming of Heraclitus, finds its complete parallel in the fact that, although he was wanting neither in logical consecutiveness nor in the talent for luminous and popular exposition, Fichte felt continually driven to express his ideas in new forms, and, just when he seemed to have succeeded in saying what he meant with the greatest clearness, again unsatisfied, to seek still more exact and evident renderings for his fundamental position, which proved so difficult to formulate.