The Shackles of Freedom: The Modern Philosophical Notion of Public Safety

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Although Fichte’s ethical position is egalitarian and based on absolute freedom, his philosophy of right is fundamentally aimed at substantialising a conception of the state that facilitates a feeling of public safety. Public safety becomes the foundational problem of the state, because individual ethical practices cannot by themselves establish it. Even Fichte’s attempt to demonstrate the validity of human rights is presented as a matter of ‘securing’ these rights. It was Fichte’s strict separation of ethical and political discourse that led safety, or the feeling of (un)safety, to become a political end in itself, perhaps the main political intuition, which is all too easily separated from the human action that it was originally supposed to guarantee, rather than curtail.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cultural Construction of Safety and Security
Subtitle of host publicationImaginaries, Discourses and Philosophies that Shaped Modern Europe
EditorsGemma Blok, Jan Oosterholt
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789048555208, 9789048554768
ISBN (Print)9789463720472
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Public safety
  • security
  • sicherheit
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte
  • german idealism
  • Philosophy of Right
  • Political Philosophy
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt
  • Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
  • Gottlieb Hufeland
  • Salomon Maimon
  • Carl Christian Erhard Schmid
  • Michel Foucault


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