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Conscience And The Rhetoric Of Freedom

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Chapter Summary

Some members of the Enlightenment in Germany began to identify enlightened social control as a problem in itself. This chapter pursues the youthful rebellion against such control through an analysis of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's reactions to the Edict on Religion. It begins with the recognition that the edict prompted Fichte's earliest attempts to define freedom of thought. Fichte's "Open Call" is notable for its having exhorted Prussians to respect both the Edict on Religion and the good intentions that stood behind it. In contrast to this gentleness of spirit is the warning that he issued only a year later in the Reclamation, when he wrote, "Humanity takes revenge in the most gruesome ways on its oppressors. Revolutions are becoming necessary". The chapter offers a close reading of both texts and considers the nature of the shift in Fichte's attitudes by connecting the author and his texts to the intellectual world.

Keywords: Edict on Religion; enlightened social control; freedom of thought; Johann Gottlieb Fichte; Open Call; Reclamation



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