Fichte’s Theory of the State in the Foundations of Natural Right
This chapter explores Fichte’s account of the structure, functions, and limits of the state in his 1796/1797 Foundations of Natural Right. In the first three sections, I discuss Fichte’s methodology, his theory of the social contract, and his account of the various powers of government. I then turn, in the fourth section, to a critical examination of Fichte’s theory of the institution that is supposed to serve as a bulwark against despotism and to protect individual freedom: the “ephorate.” In the fifth and final section, I discuss Fichte’s account of the police and consider whether it can be defended. I conclude that an adequate defense of Fichte would require a substantial revision to his theory of the state.