Die „Gesellschaft der Freien Männer“ und ihre Entwicklung auf dem Weg zu einer Identitätsphilosophie

Elena Agazzi


This article focuses on productive intellectual reactions shared by some members of the Gesellschaft der Freien Männer (1794–1799) in Jena who gathered around Fichte starting in 1794 and shaped an association with a statute and a protocol. Those members did not completely agree with the philosopher’s proposal to construct positive knowledge based on the metaphysical unity of the “I”. As in Fichte’s premise to Wissenschaftslehre, where the forms of individual consciousness are simply “coordinated” with the pure infinite “I,” and the definite world as “non-I” is inevitably curtailed in its participative freedom. Johann Friedrich Herbart, August Ludwig Hülsen, and Johann Erich von Berger derived in their writings suggestions for a social ethics closer to the needs of individuals following the model of Pestalozzi. Berger’s study of civil rights, conducted until his death in 1833, proves to be the best inheritance of Late Enlightenment as struggle to defend individual dignity and freedom.

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