Isaiah Berlin on Fichte:
“The highest drive in human beings is … the drive toward identity, toward complete oneness of one’s Self, and, in order to be identical with one’s Self, toward oneness with everything outside the Self with one’s own necessary concepts of it. The outside world should not only be prevented from contradicting one’s concepts… Rather, something should come into being that corresponds to one’s rational ideas. All concepts that lie in my Self should have an expression in the Not-Self, a corresponding representation. That is the nature of the human drive.”“Inspired both by Kant and less obviously by Herder, an admirer of the French Revolution, but disillusioned by the Terror, humiliated by the misfortunes of Germany, speaking in defence of reason and harmony — words used by now in more and more attenuated and elusive senses — Fichte is the true father of romanticism, above all in his celebration of will over calm, discursive thought. A man is made conscious of being what he is — of himself as against others or the external world — not by thought or contemplation, since the purer it is, the more a man’s thought is in its object, the less conscious of itself it will be as a subject; self-awareness springs from encountering resistance.
— Johann Gottlieb Fichte, The Vocation of the Scholar , 1794, based on lectures Fichte had given earlier at the University of Jena; translated from the German by Jorn K. Bramann
It is the impact on me of what is external to me, and the effort to resist it, that makes me know that I am what I am, aware of my aims, my nature, my essence, as opposed to what is not mine; and since I am not alone in the world, but connected by a myriad strands, as Burke has taught us, to other men, it is this impact that makes me understand what my culture, my nation, my language, my historical tradition, my true home, have been and are. I carve out of external nature what I need, I see it in terms of my needs, temperament, questions, aspirations: “I do not accept what nature offers because I must,” Fichte declares, “I believe it because I will.”
— Isaiah Berlin, The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will, collected in The Proper Study of Mankind (2000) thx varia