This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by Paul Franks (Bloomington)
When Fichte was at the summit of his philosophical fame, during his Jena period (1794—99), he produced two presentations of the foundations of philosophy. The first version has been available in English for some time. But a rise in classroom interest is marked by George Seidel's bilingual edition with commentary of the most famous section of the first presentation of Fichte's system, Part One of the 1794-95 Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre.l Meanwhile Daniel Breazeale has made an enormous contribution to the Anglo-American study of Fichte, of German Idealism and of the philosophical implications of Kant's revolution, by translating Fichte's lectures on the second presentation of his system, the 1796—99 Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo.2 Fichte's second Jena presentation is thus accessible in English for the first time. These publications testify eloquently to the revival of interest in Fichte that has now spread from Europe to the Anglo-American philosophical community. And they make it possbile for English-speaking scholars and students to make an informed judgment, for the first time, about Fichte's massively influential but littleunderstood achievement at Jena. It is well-known (although little understood) that Fichte presented the I as the absolute ground of all reality in the Grundlage. But it is hardly known at all (at least among Anglo-American philosophers) that in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo Fichte argued that there could be no I without some relation to another who recognizes the I as an I, and that Fichte was the first to make intersubjectivity and the concept of reciprocal recognition — so important to Hegel and to the continental tradition — into a fundamental issue for philosophy. The second Jena presentation of Fichte's system is a rich and important work in its
Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre of 1794. A Commentary on Part 1 (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1993). Seidel uses the translation of Peter Heath and John Lachs from Fichte: The Science of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). Fichte: Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy. (Wissenschaftslehre) Nova Methodo (179619) (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992).
Archiv f. Gesch. d. Philosophie 79. Bd., S. 310-323 © Walter de Gruyter 1997 ISSN 0003-9101 Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven
Authenticated | 22.214.171.124 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM
But at least one of Fichte's major works — the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo on the basis of which he lectured from 1796-99. France. London. at best. The Science of Ethics. however. the Grundlage. he was a leading member of an intellectual community that included Goethe. there has been a dramatic reassessment of Fichte's philosophical significance. Oct. lecture by lecture. and Fichte's work at Jena should be regarded. Together.the philosophical baton passed from Fichte to Schelling and then to Hegel. Fichte. and with which he quickly became dissatisfied. in which he gives an account of Fichte's fateful decision to forego the publication of his main philosophical works. In recent decades. just as the nineteenth century was beginning — so the all-too-familiar story goes . as a necessary but preliminary step on the road to Hegel. Since the 1790's. W. However.3 When Fichte lectured on both versions of his system at Jena in the 1790's. when he migrated to Berlin amidst accusations of atheism that exploded into a full-blown national controversy: the atheism controversy. Moore pointed out the inadequacy of Kroeger's translation in "Review of J. Novalis and the brothers Schlegel At that time. which was written at great speed. during Fichte's first semester of university teaching. occupying the center of the philosophical stage with his ambitious projects and provocative pronouncements. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. As Breazeale explains. edited by the Honourable Dr. 92-97.3. E. G. and lately in America. together with an extremely useful historical introduction. But it is also in part the result of Fichte's decision not to publish the mature versions of his philosophy which he continued to develop and to teach until his death in 1814. Now Daniel Breazeale has prepared an excellent English translation of this highly important work. 1898. Fichte published two introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo and its first chapter 3 G. T Harris. Italy and Japan. as well as Schelling. Kroeger. IX. first in Germany. International Journal of Ethics. as based on the Science of Knowledge (translated by A. but it also suggests that the prevailing impression of Fichte's system as a species of metaphysical egoism requires revision. while his work at Berlin may be disregarded altogether. This version of the history of philosophy is in part the result of Hegel's powerful interpretation of world-history as a prelude to his own system.36.was apparently lost. At this moment. Fichte's reputation has been allowed to rest mainly on the first version of his system. Schiller and Herder. during the bulk of his Jena years . A second transcript was discovered in 1980 and published in 1982. Fichte has been regarded as a peripheral figure since 1799. This work reappeared in the form of a student transcript in the early years of this century and was published in 1937. This reassessment would hardly have been possible if not for the posthumous publication of Fichte's later works. the quantity and quality of the discussion of Fichte's ideas have never been so high as they are at present.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . E. Fichte's two Jena presentations represent a significant attempt to account for the necessary features of experience while laying the ground for the revolutionary practical philosophy outlined in Fichte's other major Jena works: the Grundlage des Naturrechts (1796) and the System der Sittenlehre (1798).Zur Diskussion 311 own right. Fichte was generally regarded as the leader of the radical Kantians. whose accurate English translations we still await. 1897)". Fichte's son published most of these works a few decades after his father's death. Hölderlin.
His reluctance to expose philosophy to misunderstanding and ridicule by publishing it in written texts was exacerbated by the gross incomprehension which he encountered during the atheism controversy. But by the spring of 1798 — before the accusation of atheism was first made in an anonymous pamphlet published in the autumn of that year — Fichte had already come to think that he had not yet accounted adequately for the unity or worldhood of the spiritual world. Fichte's views had developed in such a way that revising the 1796—99 lectures was not enough. Although Fichte continued to revise the manuscript until 1800. whose Evolution et Structure de la Doctrine de la Science chez Fichte (Paris. which is all spirit and is inadequately expressed by written texts. Fichte decided to confine himself to oral communication of his still developing thought about the foundations of philosophy. Consequently. 1994). demands a spiritual activity that cannot be conveyed by the text and must be supplied by the reader. 1930) is a landmark in the study of Fichte. failed to realize the significance of the shift in Fichte's thinking in 1795—96 and failed to recognize the distinction between the two Jena presentations. The unpublished Jena manuscript thus provides the key that makes it possible to understand the (otherwise quite puzzling) transition from the Jena philosophy of the self to the theocentric works of the Berlin period. which connects Fichte to a tradition of philosophical esotericism whose classical representative is Plato's Seventh Letter. The atheism controversy only strengthened Fichte's pre-existing commitment to lay theistic foundations for philosophy and it was this project that ultimately led Fichte beyond the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo in 1801. ' The disappearance of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo for over a century led to enormous confusion and some injustice. Fichte's attitude towards publication was shifting. into which he imported the specific doctrine of intellectual intuition outlined in the 4 Breazeale has translated these texts in Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett.36.4 but he was interrupted by the atheism controversy. (2) Meanwhile. Fichte's major innovation in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo (to which I shall return later) had been the thematization of intersubjectivity — of reciprocal recognition in the intelligible or spiritual world of finite rational beings — within the foundations of philosophy.312 Zur Diskussion in 1797-98. Les Belles Lettres. Even Martial Gueroult. he never resumed publication for two reasons: (1) By 1801.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . he had transcended the "new method" of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo and an entirely new manuscript was needed. and he had long maintained that philosophy. Fichte's conception of philosophical education and his understanding of the difference between written and oral communication deserve full investigation elsewhere. and he had realized that his account of that unity would have to take the form of a philosophy of religion or an account of God. Gueroult misinterpreted the Grundlage. He had always distinguished sharply between the spirit and the letter. By 1804. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128.3. which drained most of his energy for two years and cost him his chair at Jena. Breazeale deserves credit for bringing our attention to this little-known aspect of Fichte's conception of philosophy.
6 Gueroult may perhaps be excused on the grounds that the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo had not yet been published when he wrote (although extracts had already been printed in Germany). 1900).5 In fact. Kant sought to deduce the actuality of freedom from impractical point of view. 68.although. 34. 88. To appreciate the significance of Fichte's work at Jena. one of the first scholars to recognize the importance of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. I think.7 But echoes of these misinterpretations can still be heard. of determining ourselves in accordance with the moral law that governs the intelligible world. Seidel is correct. nach Principien der Wissenschaftslehre — as if Fichte used the term Wissenschaftslehre to signify a book. Foundations. in my opinion. demonstrates the unreality of everything except the absolute I . and E. the latter works pertain to Fichte's second presentation and it is no criticism of Fichte to say that they cannot be effortlessly reconciled with his first . despite the temptations of desire.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . depended on the reality of a community of finite consciousnesses. he also accused Fichte of a contradiction between the theoretical philosophy of 1794-95 .Zur Diskussion 313 1797-98 introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. he said. s Seidel. In fact. 5 Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. For Fichte. In the Critique of Practical Reason. von Hartmann.which. Following Eduard von Hartmann. but also the sense in which both are responses to the same set of philosophical problems.and the practical philosophy articulated in the Naturrecht of 1796 and the Sittenlehre of 1798 . Kant argued that freedom was not impossible from the theoretical point of view. according to their subtitles. In the Third Antinomy. 6 This criticism of Gueroult originates with Luigi Pareyson. by Wissenschaftslehre Fichte meant philosophy itself — the foundation of all knowledge — which he strove until his death to articulate and which he thought no text could adequately express. This is bound to confuse the unwary reader and is likely to perpetuate Gueroult's misinterpretations. to portray Fichte as both inheriting and transcending the Kantian problem of the actuality of freedom and the relationship between the intelligible and the empirical worlds. by showing that we humans are capable. And it is more difficult to excuse Peter Heath and John Lachs for including both the two 1797—98 introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo and the Grundlage in their English translation without once explaining that the First and Second Introductions are introductions to a different version of the Wissenschaftslehre. 7 See Breazeale. I: 315-317.which. he said. II: 75 f. 1950). Kant was the one who had made the greatest discovery in the history of humanity without. Haacke. 2. like all discoverers. provided that it was located within the intelligible world and not within the empirical world governed by the law of causality. Seidel is also not free from this confusion. one must understand not only the differences between the 1794-95 and the 1796-99 presentations. See Gueroult. Geschichte der Metaphysik (Leipzig: H. for he suggests repeatedly8 that the Naturrecht and the Sittenlehre are to be understood in terms of the Grundlage because they are.3. in his Fichte (Turin: Edizioni di "Filosofia".36. Evolutional: 41 f. it is an open question whether some effort might ultimately succeed in reconciling them.
' I possess free and autonomous causality to jump from an airplane or not.. However. And both Fichte's 1794-95 and 1796-99 works may be described as attempts to carry out the massively ambitious project of a thoroughgoing deduction of freedom. It is rather that I am free to determine myself to act by adopting a maxim or general policy — indeed. For Seidel thinks that the distinction between the intelligible world and the empirical world is a distinction between actions and their consequences: "For example. the problematic that he is wrestling with and the reason for his later insistence that there has to be an intellectual intuition [. then. of the law of gravity takes over. without obliterating their distinctness.. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. both with respect to space and time and with respect to the categories — without also. 9. Thus Fichte believed that one could not solve the theoretical problem of the representation of the external world — at the heart of which lies the problem of synthetic a priori judgment. however. the key to systematization. 10.. and the establishment of the unity of that freedom with the freedom underlying practice. for Fichte. actually mine and not someone else's. the necessity. Seidel misconceives the nature of the Kantian doctrine of two worlds and therefore the significance of Fichte's response. in Seidel's view. the determining and conditioning causality.] in performing a moral action. the self must be aware. Also."9 The problem to which Fichte responds is.10 But (1) Kant's view is not. that it is the self that is the one performing it. or were. the practical ego. that I am free to act as I choose but that I cannot (alas!) control the consequences of my action. regarding just how my freely posited actions may work out in the sensible world would be more than helpful. actions and consequences: [. I think. the problem of achieving the proper alignment between agents. Seidel is correct. then there would really be no way of knowing whether the actions posited in the world of sense are. For one of Kant's greatest insights was that the natural laws governing the empirical world.36. to relate Fichte's project to the Kantian problem of the actuality of freedom. Seidel. must know. were expressions — albeit necessary expressions — of human freedom or spontaneity. I am free to determine myself to act autonomously by adopting maxims in accordance 9 10 Seidel.3. and in a single system. I]f I am to act in an ethically responsible fashion in the sensible world. in virtue of the 'intelligible order of things.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . Nevertheless. as Seidel thinks.314 Zur Diskussion quite knowing what he was doing and without knowing how to transpose his ideas from the piecemeal order of discovery to the systematic order of justification. once I jump.. some level of knowledge on the part of the moral agent. solving the practical problem of the freedom of the will. this is. if there were not some genuine knowledge of the two selves. and the problem of freedom was. and in Fichte's view the systematic grounding of Kant's philosophy demanded the deduction of the actuality of the freedom underlying theoretical knowledge. Fichte does not spell out the problems associated with Kant's two critiques in precisely these terms. including the law of causality.
whether any actions are mine to claim. and in part from the complex relationship between Kant's thought and Fichte's ambition to deduce space. so that I cannot be certain whether a given action is to be imputed to my noumenal self or to yours or to some other's.our very existence . What is at stake in Kant's division of the two worlds is not. and he neglects entirely to analyze Fichte's strategies for attaining those aims. section 3. for deliberate action depends not only on rational deliberation but also on my ability to harness my empirical desires and inclinations. The difficulty arises in part from the fact that Fichte uses key terms differently from Kant.Zur Diskussion 315 with the procedural constraints of the moral law . that he does not think Kant has shown that there is . at the height of the atheism controversy. Here Seidel is of little help.but this freedom does not entail that I will be able to act in accordance with my maxim on any given occasion. so that I do not know whether I have the right to say "I".a self at all and therefore whether there are any genuine actions in the world. Fichte's problem is. having read him . Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. Hence the moral fervour of Fichte's philosophizing: until the reality of freedom is established. therefore. 4 (Seidel. Orthodox Kantians have always accused Fichte of chasing a chimaera and of pursuing a line of questioning that can only lead to the dissolution of Kant's most important ideas.11 he makes no attempt to characterize the aims of Fichte's reasoning.remains in question. if they are to appreciate the philosophical seriousness of Fichte's endeavour. rather.36. who repudiated Fichte — without. for there are no judgments of difference without the possibility of judgments of similarity.at all.) makes it clear that his usage differs from Kant: since Fichte takes analytic judgments to specify differences. time. to juxtapose the 1794-95 and 1796-99 versions of the Wissenschaftslehre. But Seidel's gloss (76) assimilates Fichte's usage to Kant's distinction between explicative and ampliative judgments and refers the reader to the Critique of Pure Reason. It is instructive. 74 f. Their very existence .164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . (2) Fichte's problem with Kant's resolution of the problem of freedom is not that Kant has shown that there are noumenal selves and that there are genuine actions. to determine where he departs from Kant.that 7 am . and synthetic judgments to mark comparisons. but whether I am capable of genuine action . the categories and the moral law within a single account of human freedom. But it can be surprisingly difficult. His commentary succeeds in obscuring a passage in which Fichte indicates his terminological departure from Kant. Relatedly. merely the efficacy of my actions. however.in August 1799. One might do worse than to think of the 1794-95 thesisantithesis-synthesis method as an attempt to recast all philosophy in the form of 11 Fichte's account of his use of the terms "analytic" and "synthetic" in Grundlage. but that he has left these selves and actions without establishing the proper correspondence between them. it seems. when one penetrates into the depths of Fichte's thinking. Yet it is exactly with respect to such matters that students — Seidel's intended audience — are most in need of help. there are no purely analytic judgments.as opposed to mere behaviour . an ability that can only be developed through long and arduous habituation. both our philosophy in the classroom and our actions in our everyday lives remain ungrounded.3.
but rather a step back. Fichte seems to be taking. 85f.. Both these principles must be accomodated if theory and practice are to be possible. But it is nevertheless imposed upon us as our highest practical goal. which locates the ground of consciousness in the autonomous pure will that is capable of overcoming our transgressive desires. like a bump in an ill-fitted carpet. as an attempt to recast all philosophy in the form of the Analytic of Kant's Critique of Practical Reason.develops in turn into the antinomy between the principle governing theoretical philosophy (the I posits the not-I as determining the I. in our very lives. but Fichte gives us a preliminary indication of his final destination when he writes in Part One of the Grundlage that the Idea of the human being as free — as an absolute subject — "is itself unthinkable. 118f. given the demands of theoretical reason. as the terms of an antinomy which threatens to dissolve our conviction in our freedom. 1968). in our reason. attain"13. but that we ought. in practice. not a step beyond Kant. 381 f. Hegel. For. cannot be absolutely free. And if Fichte's conclusion is that we ought to deceive ourselves into believing in freedom. Indeed. This has suggested to readers since Hegel that Fichte's 1794—95 system succumbs to a "bad infinity" — "an endless sequence of finitudes"14 — in which the antinomy of theory and practice. ad infmitum. further forms of the original antinomy which.36. in which the fundamental antinomy and initial synthesis are given. IV: 44. For Fichte's solution would appear to be that the I is not and indeed. trans. Seidel has commented only upon Part One of the Grundlage. but they appear to be unavoidably opposed.3. 181-186. since for us it contains a contradiction. Man must approximate. 1977). to aim our actions at the goal of an absolute freedom which we know is impossible. H.316 Zur Diskussion Kant's Third Antinomy. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. 134-138. and his reflections upon Parts Two and Three are of little help to anyone interested in understanding Fichte's goals and method. developed in Part Three of the Grundlage). Fichte's own remarks in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo about the continuities and discontinuities between his two presentations are extremely helpful.. Gesammelte Werke (Hamburg: Meiner. to a freedom that he can never. only reappears elsewhere whenever it is suppressed.12 The overarching antinomy which Fichte seeks to resolve in the Grundlage is between the I posited by itself as absolute (which expresses itself in theory as the transcendental unity of apperception and in practice as the autonomous moral law) and the not-I posited as absolute by the I (which expresses itself in theory as the external cause of representation and in practice as the heteronomy that morality ought to overcome). The Difference Between Fichte's and Schellings System of Philosophy. Attempted reconciliations of the antithetical principles what Fichte calls syntheses — turn out to conceal hidden oppositions. then this seems to be no solution at all. Thus the first synthesis — the reciprocal limitation of the I and the not-I . and to think of the 1796-99 "new method". in principle. Harris and W. developed in Part Two of the Grundlage) and the principle governing practical philosophy (the I posits the I as determining the not-I. 131. is never overcome. Seidel. Cerf (Albany: SUNY Press. 248f. and therefore the fundamental antinomy of I and not-I.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . 85 f.. Foundations. S. by 12 13 14 See Breazeale.
Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. Even if Fichte is correct in thinking that formal logic is an abstraction from the acts of the absolute subject articulated in transcendental logic.although we who. is what he calls intellectual intuition . will not in fact understand the sense 15 Breazeale. but that the derivation proceeds in the opposite direction only.which Fichte now described as "the most difficult method of all"15 . Foundations. Whatever the merits of his 1794-95 presentation. and he sought to remedy these shortcomings in 1796-99. are making this journey for the first time. Kant at least preserved the non-contradictoriness and therefore the logical possibility of freedom.an intelligible activity that Fichte calls the Tathandlung. and so he should not have expected anyone to gain access to his system by means of such principles. to arrive at the spontaneous subject ("I = I") by inviting his audience to reflect upon the logical principle of identity ("A = A"). Fichte's own views commit him to think that one cannot derive transcendental logic from formal logic. then to think the I thinking that thought. unlike Fichte. There Fichte seeks to show that the transcendental imagination is a faculty through which human spontaneity unconsciously constitutes the very content of the sensible given. is (in some sense) unconsciously achieved in the theoretical. so that autonomy is the actual but hidden principle of the empirical world.he instead invited his audience to think any thought whatsoever. He hoped in this manner to secure the spiritual participation of his audience that he considered necessary for the proper comprehension of the letter of the Wissenschaftslehre. not least because it would require an investigation of Parts Two and Three (not included by Seidel). Instead of formulating the system of freedom as a series of successive syntheses intended to overcome an original antinomy . This view of the imagination (so important to the Romantics) enables Fichte to argue that the autonomy which ought to be consciously pursued in the practical sphere.Zur Diskussion 317 insulating practice from theory. then. 248.with the explicit addition of the "I think" to some thought. in Part One of the Grundlage. even if he also had to refuse freedom any theoretical actuality. Whether such a reading of the Grundlage is justified is a larger question than I can examine here.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM .36. so he should not have expected anyone who did not already understand his system to see its relation to formal principles.3. not with an antinomy but rather with a free act of conscious self-positing as a subject . The Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo begins. which in fact made incomprehension all but inevitable. Thus Fichte sought to ensure the active participation of his audience in the production of the "I think" which. as Kant had argued. Fichte did at any rate recognize shortcomings in the method of his presentation. Fichte thinks of this act as the making explicit for consciousness of the spontaneous activity of the I that implicitly constitutes consciousness . And he entirely bypassed the confusing attempt. and then to accompany Fichte himself in the investigation of the ingredients and transcendental conditions of that freely performed act of thinking oneself. must be capable of accompanying any representation whatsoever. And the philosophical awareness of our spontaneity to which Fichte hopes thereby to bring us.
Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. Foundations.. in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo} we began with the Tathandlung and arrived at the Tatsache. although he could easily remember a time when it was in nobody's mouth. e.21 A Tathandlung. "Tatsache" was a philosophical term introduced in 1756 by J. Instead. I]n his new presentation.. XVII: 451. Breazeale. Spalding to translate one of the central terms of Bishop Butler's Analogy: "matter of fact". (2) Breazeale adds in a footnote an error which he has repeated in each of his — otherwise excellent — Fichte translations and which has unfortunately made its way into the Englishlanguage literature on his authority: "Tatsache is the ordinary German word for "fact". 291— 299. see also Breazeale. although it has become one since. although already somewhat archaic. Foundations. (1) He writes: [. the Grundlage] is just the reverse.. The appeal to Tatsachen — in this case.e. the discussion of the pure will and our resistance to it in section 13. Lessing.16 In two respects I find myself in disagreement with Breazeale about the method and starting point of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. J. Tathandlung is a word Fichte invented to designate the (self-)productive deed of the I [.318 Zur Diskussion in which we have attained intellectual intuition of the Tathandlung that constitutes consciousness until we have reached the mid-point of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. Breazeale. 1970). but the method of the book [i. 48 f. A Tatsache was a deed or occurrence whose actuality was not inductively or deductively demonstrable but was nevertheless well-established on the basis of reliable testimony. was still being used in the eighteenth century by as exemplary a stylist as Lessing. XIX: 135 and XXI: 54. 13. Indeed.]·"19 "Tatsache" was not an ordinary German word in the late eighteenth century." one that reversed the direction of the previous presentation and proceeded from empirical experience to intelligible conditions — from Tatsache to Tathandlung rather than vice versa. 118. Foundations.20 In contrast.17 I can see no way to reconcile this statement with Fichte's own description of the difference between the two starting-points: "Here [i. Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. the neologism was so unusually successful that one could scarcely turn a page of certain books without stumbling across a Tatsache."18 Furthermore. "Tathandlung" is an old German word whose usage can be traced back several centuries before Fichte and which.3. as Lessing remarked at that time. xiv and Introductions to the Wissenschaft slehre.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . 1758). Foundations 13 n. Werke. the miraculous events of Christian history — played a major role in the controversy about Lessing's publication of the Reimarus fragments in the 1770's. See "Über das Wörtlein Tatsache" in Lessing's Werke (Hildesheim and New York: Georg Olms Verlag. Breazeale. is a violent action 16 17 18 19 20 21 See especially Breazeale. 1988).36... as we are informed by Christian Gottlob Haltaus in his Glossarium Germanicum Medii Aevi (Leipzig. [Fichte] chose to follow what he himself described as a "much more natural path. This term carried with it a legal background and entered German in the context of Enlightenment theology.
23 generally considered to be the first public document of his systematic period. Deutsches Wörterbuch (Leipzig: S.that we must be free to obey the law and therefore that we must be free to act without the influence of any empirically causal. instead the facts of consciousness were precisely what philosophy was supposed to explain. 25 / G. 1854-1971). 22 Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. Breazeale. but he denied vociferously that these facts could do any philosophical work. Fichte did not deny that there were facts of consciousness. Fichte's colleague . 1902). V: 468. Hence the suggestion of violence and the rejection of external authority. V: 31. sensuous motivation. Breazeale.no normativity . which.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . When Kant sought in the second Critique to deduce the actuality of freedom by means of this Faktum™ — which he called a Tatsache in the third Critique21 — he was understood to be appealing to what Reinhold called a fact of consciousness (Tatsache des Bewusstseins) — a state of affairs whose actuality.22 Why does this matter? And why did Fichte insist — first in his 1794 review of Aenesidemus.24 and finally in the 1797 Second Introduction to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo25 . Fichtes sämmtliche Werke. 328. is nothing less than the justifiCompare Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. 23 J< G. 48. Fichtes sämmtliche Werke.36.is that Fichte was attempting to correct a philosophical tendency that arose from a misinterpretation of Kant's Faktum of reason. And the starting point of philosophy had therefore to be the ultimate ground of consciousness itself. What is at stake in Fichte's attempted deduction of freedom.465. had to be the spontaneous activity of the subject: not a Tatsache or reified act.that philosophy must begin with a Tathandlung and not with a Tatsache! And why insist now on preserving Fichte's reference to an originary violence of reason? My view . 2 ? Kants Werke. 1. 64.v. Thathandlung. Hirzel.Zur Diskussion 319 or an illegal use of force: "via et culpa facti: actio violenta. Breazeale. although undemonstrable. then it followed . If the freedom of the will could be proven in this way. could be established through the "testimony" of the immediate awareness of morally impeccable people.which I can only mention here and will develop more fully elsewhere . I: 8. therefore. 1845-46). 24 / G. 2 * Kants Werke (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.and therefore no objective consciousness whatsoever.3. then why not solve a whole host of hoary metaphysical problems by appealing to one's immediate consciousness and one's reliability as a witness? Thus the facts of consciousness were multiplied in the philosophy of Schmid. If the actuality of our obligation to obey the moral law could be established in this way. Fichtes sämmtliche Werke (Berlin: Veit. Without the Tathandlung of the subject. : 448. again in the 1796 culmination of an ugly controversy with his Kantian colleague at Jena. nempe contra leges iudiciariamque autoritatem admissa". there could be no necessary laws of consciousness . Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings. vis iniusta. Schmid. but a Tathandlung or pure activity that recognized no law but its own. Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings. as Fichte took Kant to have shown. s.since "ought" implies "can" . Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre.and enemy — at Jena.
I think. by which reason proclaims itself as originating law.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . the most important difference between the two presentations to which Fichte draws our attention concerns precisely that relationship between theory and practice which.28 Thus.36. Only in the course of his investigation of this act does it become clear that. XXI: 23. as I said earlier.320 Zur Diskussion cation of normativity as such. There may seem to be an inconsistency between Fichte's rejection of philosophizing on the basis of Tatsachen and his statement. by insisting that philosophy begin not with a Tatsache but with a Tathandlung. many readers find to be the most unsatisfactory aspect of the earlier presentation. and Fichte proceeded from theoretical philosophy to the practical philosophy in which he sought its ground. as opposed to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. which I quoted earlier. since consciousness is always discursive and must involve concepts as well as intuitions. it cannot help but resemble the revolutionary establishment of a legal system in the absence of any pre-existing authority. by encouraging his audience to become conscious of the Tathandlung in the only way possible: by actively making explicit the thinking I. 28 See Critique of Practical Reason in Kants Werke. In the 1794—95 version. is also associated with willfulness and violence. when the contrary is supposed to be the case. a principle which is indeed a Tatsache des Bewusstseins. even when one does this. V. Fichte intends.3. sit pro ratione voluntas". that in the Grundlage. Since Fichte's project can assume no pre-established norms whatsoever. there were distinct treatments of theoretical and practical philosophy. Fichte took himself — as I believe but cannot prove here — to be restoring the true meaning of Kant's appeal to a Faktum or act of reason in order to deduce the actuality of freedom. For Kant characterizes the originary power of reason with the help of a quotation from Juvenal's Satire VI 223. in his absence. sic iubeo. to refer to the expository difficulty to which I referred earlier: Part One of the Grundlage tries to get one to see that the Tathandlung of the absolute I is the ground of all consciousness through reflection on the formal principle of identity. But. 31 and Opus Postumum in Kants Werke. it is also likely to obscure the significance of Fichte's philosophical manoeuvre and his relation to Kant's Faktum of reason. It is worth noting that Kant's Faktum of reason. she has sentenced a slave to death: "hoc volo. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. he began with a Tatsache. who is used to the procedure of Fichte's contemporaries and who may therefore think that the Tathandlung is based on the Tatsache. But the inconsistency is only apparent. Besides the fact that the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo begins differently from the Grundlage. a remarkable speech made by a tyrannical woman who is asked by her husband to explain why. and it cannot help but carry those suggestions of violence and illegality that inevitably accompany what is sometimes called revolutionary justice. Breazeale's note on the history of "Tatsache'9 and "Tathandlung" is therefore not only incorrect. But this is likely to confuse the reader. In the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo Fichte begins quite differently. the I must be understood as an intuition which is never present to consciousness as an isolable state or Tatsache.
That advance. We should be careful. Fichte argues that I could not have become conscious of myself . absolute freedom — the spontaneous Tathandlung made explicit in each reader's "I think" . the hitherto familiar division between theoretical and practical philosophy is not to be found.as a way of solving two problems at once: (1) the need for an a priori derivation of the idea of right or justice that was independent of the moral law. on some occasion. about how to read Fichte's claim that this change is a result of his growing "self-confidence". it seems to me. discovered myself to be summoned to free activity by another self who recognizes me as a self and whom I recognize as 29 30 Breazeale. and (2) the need for a justification of the assumption of finite rational beings other than oneself. I believe. whenever it would contribute to the clarity of the exposition to do so. in order to explain the latter in terms of the former: a liberty for which the author was not yet sufficiently self-confident at the time that he published his [1794-95] Wissenschaftslehre.Zur Diskussion 321 In the present [1796-99] lectures. nor do I doubt that he attempted to show just that by means of his account of the imagination. But he surely made a significant advance which enabled him to achieve a new synthesis of theory and practice in 1796-99. The idea seems first to have occurred to Fichte in the summer of 1795 while he was living in self-imposed exile at Osmannstädt . This presentation follows a much more natural path. whose first published discussion appeared in his Naturrecht in 1796. a justification which he had criticized Kant for not providing.29 Breazeale rightly emphasizes this passage30 which.unless I had. In the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. however. Foundations. at the end of which it seems that absolute freedom determines practice but not theory. For Fichte is one of those philosophers who is apt to exaggerate the continuity of his thinking. these lectures present philosophy as a whole. or. I believe that the concept of the summons allowed Fichte not only to solve these two problems but also to achieve a more thoroughgoing synthesis of theory and practice than he had achieved in the Grundlage. the 1797 First and Second Introductions.3. 12. Instead.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . the 1798 System der Sittenlehre and the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo) and may be characterized as follows. See Breazeale. I do not doubt that Fichte already wanted to show that absolute freedom was the determining principle of experience in the Grundlage. 85 f. however. unlike the derivation in his 1793 book on the French revolution.that I could not have become capable of explicitly adding the "I think" to my thoughts . as well as the moral law. I believe. provides the key to Fichte's "new method" and hints at his solution to the antinomy between theory and practice that seems to have been left unresolved by the Grundlage. The concept of the summons is the central concept of the 1796-99 works (the 1796 Grundlage des Naturrechts. within a single development. was the concept of the summons [Aufforderung]. beginning with the practical sphere. Foundations.is clearly the principle determining the necessary structure of the empirical world.36. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. in the exposition of which theoretical and practical philosophy are united. inserting the practical into the theoretical.
It should be clear. So not only is the pure will (which should be compared with what Kant calls Wille) to be found within the situation of the summons. however. but freedom of choice (which should be compared with what Kant calls Willkür) is to be found there as well. given the summons as genetic condition of self-consciousness. expresses itself as the moral law at a much later stage in the development of consciousness.3. but also of the necessary structure of experience. Thus my will is absolutely determined to respond to the summons in some way or other. provided only that I recognize the summons as a summons. there must be an external world which has certain necessary features. he says.36. time and the Kantian categories. of course. (2) Although I am absolutely determined to respond to the summons somehow. sharing the concept of rational being with the other but distinguished by having a particular region of efficacy — individuated. and that he would have done all this precisely by introducing the intersubjective concepts of the summons and of reciprocal recognition into the very heart of post-Kantian philosophy. (1) No matter how I respond to the summons of the other. Even to ignore the summons is a response and is quite different from failing to discover that one is summoned. to think of oneself as interacting with a world of external objects that resist one's will in various ways. This is. that he would have simultaneously laid the foundations for a moral philosophy and for an independent philosophy of right. The existence of at least one other self is therefore a necessary condition of my self-consciousness. theoretical as well as practical. (3) Fichte argues that the reciprocal recognition required by the summons in turn requires that I think of myself as an individual will. not only of moral practice. Nevertheless. which turn out to be space. then he would have succeeded in deducing the actuality of absolute freedom as a determining principle. And like the moral law the principle of the doctrine of right — the principle of reciprocal recognition — is already latent in the very ground of consciousness in general. Fichte argues. I am free to determine myself to respond as I choose. Fichte employs the central concept of the summons in a different way in each of his 1796—99 texts and further discussion would have to both distinguish and relate these different employments. In the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo the pure will is discussed only in its primordial manifestation. Three aspects of this original genesis of self-consciousness merit noting here. the principle of moral philosophy is already latent in the ground of self-consciousness in general and therefore in the ground of theoretical consciousness or experience.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM .322 Zur Diskussion recognizing me. Thus Fichte seeks to show that. I am absolutely determined to respond in some way. an absolute determination which Fichte calls the pure will in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methode and which. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. since the possibility of self-consciousness is conceived (following Kant) as a necessary condition of the possibility of consciousness. Indeed. by my body. And to think of oneself as embodied is. whom I therefore in turn recognize as a self. as a necessary expression of spontaneity that is a genetic condition of the possibility of self-consciousness. no more than a sketch of Fichte's highly complex strategy and it is obvious that there are many extremely challenging steps that would need to be taken before that strategy could be completed. that if Fichte were to succeed in carrying out the program of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo. in other words.
instead of developing a "new method". 31 See his La Liberia dans la philosophic de Fichte (Paris: Vrin. and the privacy of consciousness — as well as issues that are currently discussed in continental philosophy such as intersubjectivity and embodiment. 1966). for example.164 Download Date | 2/7/13 11:44 AM . could his strategy be reconstructed.Zur Diskussion 323 This account of Fichte's program raises an important historical question and an important philosophical question. such as those of Hegel and Gueroult. The historical question is: should we think of intersubjectivity as entirely new to the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo (and to the Grundlage des Naturrechts and System der Sittenlehre that are latent within it) or should we think of intersubjectivity as somehow implicit within the Grundlage! Alexis Philonenko has argued forcefully for the latter claim31 and. at the very least. appreciation of the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo ought to encourage a revision of some traditional readings of the Grundlage. One reason for the current revival of interest in Fichte is surely that his thought provides a terrain on which Anglo-American and continental philosophy may encounter one other. or is there something deeply misguided about the Fichtean project of a deduction of freedom as such? To pursue such questions is to explore issues that are currently being discussed in Anglo-American philosophy .3. might simply have added a further synthesis to the Grundlage: the synthesis of theory and practice by means of the concept of the summons. whether Fichte. as outlined in the various texts of 1796-99.such as the relationship between spontaneity and receptivity. The philosophical question is: did Fichte succeed? And if he did not.36. Brought to you by | Yale University Library New Haven Authenticated | 128. It would be fruitful to ask.