Fichte’s Theory of the State in the Foundations of Natural Right

  • James A. ClarkeEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism book series (PHGI)


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.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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