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This chapter presents an interpretation of Fichte’s theory of society as an original theory of ethical life or ‘Sittlichkeit’ as distinguished from mere morality, or ‘Moralität’, in the very same direction which will be developed in a clearer way by Hegel. Moving from introductory remarks devoted to Hegel’s presentation of the distinction and to the terms “morality” and “ethical life”, it will be shown, first, in which passages of the “System of Ethics” Fichte seems to have in mind a strict sense of “morality” as a limited standpoint distinguished from the ethical one; second, the reorientation of Fichte’s argument in the “System of Ethics” which makes possible a new, ethical, and social point of view; third, Fichte’s peculiar reinterpretation of the Kantian notion of legality as a principle of the organization of social life; fourth, the proper dynamic of ethical life through its institutions: State, church and learned public; fifth, the consequences of the new, ethical point of view for the doctrine of duties in comparison with the tradition and with Hegel’s later view.
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