FICHTE'S AENESIDEMUS REVIEW AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF GERMAN IDEALISM

DANIEL BREAZEALE

In 1792 there appeared anonymously a book entitled, Aenesidemus, or Concerning the Foundations of the Elementary Philosophy Pro pounded in Jena by Professor Reinhold, including a Defense of This Skepticism against the Pretensions of the Critique of Reason.1
curious tween which work, an enthusiastic takes the form of series of letter exchanged be champion of the new transcendental philosophy

("Hermias") and a skeptical critic of this same philosophy
demus"),2 created something of a sensation, appearing

("Aenesi

as it did at the

height of the first wave of general enthusiasm for the Critical Philoso phy. Though by no means the first published attack on Kantianism, Aenesidemus was distinguished from most of the other early criti

1 Aenesidemus oder ?ber die Fundamente der von dem Herrn Profes sor Reinhold in Jena Nebst einer gelieferten Elementar-Philosophie. des Skeptizismus der Vernunftkri gegen die Anmassungen Vertheidiguna in 1792, with no indication of publisher or place tik, published anonymously of publication. Some indication of the importance of this neglected work is that when, at the beginning of the present century, the Kantgesellschaft in a program of republishing "rare philosophical works" the first augurated work selected for inclusion in this series was Schulze's Aenesidemus ("Neu drucke seltener vol. 1 [Berlin: Reuther & Rei Werke," philosophischer chard, 1911]). are to volume and page number of Jo to Fichte's writings References hann Gottlieb Fichtes s?mmtliche Werke (Berlin: [=SW], ed. I. H. Fichte Veit & Comp., Fichte's letters are referred to by date and recip 1845-46). in J.G. Fichtes Briefwechsel. Kritische ient, as published Gesamtausgabe, ed. Hans Schulze, 2d ed. (Leipzig: Haessel, 1930). All translations in this essay are by the author. In the case of both Fichte's and letters, the translated texts have been checked writings the versions of the same texts published in the still uncompleted against J.G. Fichte-Gesamtausgabe der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften ed. Reinhard Lauth and Hans Jacob Cannstatt: [=AA], (Stuttgart-Bad Friedrich 1964 to date). Frommann, The text of Fichte's review of Aenesidemus may be found in SW, 1: 3-25 and inAA, 1. 2: 41-67. 2 The name is derived from that of Aenesidemus a neo of Knossus, Pyrrhonean skeptic who taught at Alexandria during the first century B.C. Review ofMetaphysics 34 (March 1981): 545-568 Copyright ? 1981 by theReview ofMetaphysics

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DANIEL BREAZEALE

cisms by the detailed character of its scrutiny as well as by its willing ness to examine the Critical Philosophy not only in its original form,
but also in the more "advanced" version represented by K. L. Rein

claimed to be nothing hold's Elementary Philosophy. Aenesidemus less than a demonstration of the untenability of the new philosophy, specifically, of its failure to refute what the anonymous author called
"Humean skepticism."

For a young and enthusiastic Kantian like Fichte the challenge presented by Aenesidemus was simply too great to ignore; indeed, it was the first book which he undertook to review after being invited to
become a contributor to the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, where,

after considerable delay, Fichte's lengthy review was finally pub review turned out to lished in February of 1794.3 The Aenesidemus It be much more than a defense of Kantianism against skepticism. implies a fundamental reassessment of both Kant's and Reinhold's
work and?in tentative but unmistakable and of a new terms?announces foundation for transcen the discovery of a new standpoint

Fichte's review of Aenesidemus thus not only dental philosophy. signals a revolution in his own philosophical development but marks a in the history of German Idealism. genuine watershed Though Aenesidemus was published anonymously, itwas widely known to be the work of Gottlob Ernst Schulze (1761-1833), who at the time of its publication was professor of philosophy at Helmst?dt. The two had been fellow stu Schulze was not unknown to Fichte.
dents at Pforta and then again, briefly, at Wittenburg. Fichte's atti

tude toward Aenesidemus

was further complicated by his belief that

3 which was published At the time the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, at Jena, was perhaps the leading literary journal in the German-speaking on the basis of his sudden fame as author of the Attempt at world. Largely

in the fall of 1792 to be and coeditor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung) come a regular contributor. Fichte's letter to Sch?tz of 25 May 1793 ac "I have undertaken of Aenesidemus and will be the review knowledges, a short time." More than half a year it to you from Zurich within sending In this the promised review. to Sch?tz concerning later he again wrote unfinished the review remains letter he reports that, despite his efforts, labor by Aenesidemus's "since I have been thrown into an unforeseen skep In fact, it was not until mid-January of 1794 that Sch?tz received ticism." was the first review Fichte's manuscript. Thus, although Aenesidemus it was the for the Allgemeine which Fichte undertook Literatur-Zeitung, to Like all contributions to appear in that journal. last of his three reviews reviews were published this journal, Fichte's unsigned.

a Critique of All Revelation, Fichte was invited by C. G. Sch?tz (founder

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
Schulze was the anonymous author of a very harsh and sarcastic

547
re

view of Fichte's Attempt
by with the unconcealed

at a Critique of All Revelation.4
of this review, as events Fichte

Wounded
re

hostility resolution

nevertheless was

solved to keep his feelings to himself and to avoid any public quarrel
Schulze?a which, developed, honored

primarily in the breach. Despite his determination "to treat the book gently and considerately precisely because I consider its author to be the same person who reviewed my Critique of All Revelation," included some sharp per Fichte's published review o?Aenesidemus sonal attacks which he later declared to have crept in "quite contrary
to my demus ous intentions."5 review Good intentions to the proved feuds which literary feature of Fichte's public to be another were career.6 such chapter an unfortunately the Aenesi contrary, in one of those acrimoni characteristic

The explanation for Fichte's long delay in completing his review is not to be found in any change in his private circum ofAenesidemus stances (in the spring of 1793 he moved from Danzig to Zurich, where
he was married in October of the same year) nor in any personal quar

rel with Schulze.
passage November in a letter of 1793.

The true reason for the delay is apparent from a
which After Fichte wrote mentioning to an old acquaintance in mid his recent marriage and the ac

cumulated work which has occupied his time, he adds: "In addition to this I immediately thereafter began a book by a resolute skeptic, which led me to the clear conviction that philosophy is still very far
in 1793 in the Neue in question The review appeared allgemeine 2. 1. other deutsche Bibliothek (Kiel), things, this review charges Among omitted his own name from the first edition Fichte with having deliberately and of aping the Kantian manner All Revelation of the Critique simply in of reaction to this review is ap Fichte's order to play a joke on the public. "It causes me parent from his letter of 28 March 1793 to Gottlieb Hufeland: I should be the innocent cause of a literary feud car pain?great pain?that ried on in such a tone." 5 In the same letter Fichte states to Hufeland, 8 March 1794. Letter over with who hounded Reinhold to win love those is especially "my plan by to none of the attacks on my Critique fear. By replying of All Revelation and by refusing to write a sharp preface [to the second edition] I have shown I would be very sorry if these that I am no literary squabbler. Therefore, re and an earlier published two reviews [viz., the review o? Aenesidemus should cast such an unwanted view of a book by A. L. Creuzer] suspicion
upon me."

4

on for and Fichte went between Schulze public controversy in of Fichte's 1797 the essay, years, hysterical polemics finally culminating Tons. Annalen des philosophischen

6 The

548
from being a science. Thus Iwas forced

DANIEL BREAZEALE
to abandon my own previous

system and think of a tenable one."7 The identity of this "resolute skeptic" is made explicit in a letter which Fichte wrote during this same period to J. F. Flatt, professor of philosophy at T?bingen.
which I consider to be one of the most remarkable Aenesidemus, prod ucts of our decade, has convinced me of something which I admittedly that even after the labors of Kant and Reinhold, already suspected: a science. not Aenesidemus has shaken my system is still philosophy to its very foundations, and, since one cannot very well live under the a new system.8 open sky, I have been forced to construct To about be sure, Fichte Kantianism had already begun prior to residing to entertain Aenesidemus,9 in any recent some but doubts it was

orthodox

not until he tried to answer Schulze's
forced to confront his own misgivings

specific objections his general
enthusiasm

that he was
way.

fundamental

Aenesidemus
Kantian

forced Fichte
as well

to reconsider
as his more

allegiance
for the

to
spe

philosophy

cific version of that philosophy embodied in Reinhold's Elementary For the fact of the matter is that Fichte found himself in Philosophy.
substantial jections with agreement to both Reinhold's some of Schulze's most fundamental of transcenden ob and Kant's presentations

tal philosophy. Despite this agreement, however, Fichte by no means wished to award victory to the skeptic in his quarrel with the In order to defend the latter while at the same Critical Philosophy.
time accepting some of the skeptic's objections he was forced to make

a distinction between

the true "spirit" of the Critical Philosophy

and

is open to The degree to which Fichte was ever an orthodox Kantian with Kant's Dissatisfaction (as well as the familiar philosophy as early as 20 its spirit and letter) is already evident between rele additional to F. V. Reinhard. letter in Fichte's 1793 Though February have since come to light, the best study of this materials vant manuscript der zur Entwicklungsgeschichte Studien remains Willy Kabitz, question aus der Kantischen (Berlin: Fichteschen Philosophie Wissenschaftslehre recent dis and well-informed For a valuable & Reichard, Reuther 1902). see Peter Baumanns, Fichtes Wissenschaftslehre. cussion of this question, ihres Anfangs Probleme (Bonn: Bouvier, 1974), pp. 56-69. question. distinction

December 1793 (to Stephani), and 15 January 1794 (to Reinhard). 9

7 1793. Only a draft of this November To Ludwig Wilhelm Wloemar, letter survives. 8 or December 1793. Again, To J. F. Flatt, November only a draft of in Fichte's other be found similar this letter survives. may passages Very those of 6 December 1793 (to Niethammer), letters of this period, especially

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
the particular the writings in a somewhat form of Kant or "letter" of the same, With On the as found respect one hand, for example to these two he had

549
in au

and Reinhold.10

thors (both of whom were of course still living) Fichte
delicate position.

found himself
to agree

that Aenesidemus had exposed crucial weaknesses in both Reinhold's and Kant's systems; on the other, he felt himself genuinely indebted to both Kant and Reinhold and considered himself their most staunch ally in any battle against the critics of transcendental idealism. This
explains the way one of the most in which Fichte curious features of the Aenesidemus of Schulze's review: objections concedes so many

without ceasing for a moment to present himself a defender of the Critical Philosophy against the attacks of the skeptic. the "spirit" of Kantianism from its "letter" By distinguishing
Fichte ting was able that Aenesidemus to accept many of Schulze's without admit objections was a successful of the Critical refutation Phi

losophy. But to make this strategy plausible Fichte had to incorpo rate the skeptic's valid observations into the Critical Philosophy itself. That is to say, the strategy of the Aenesidemus review de manded a thorough revision of the very system which was ostensibly defended. The new system would have to be immune to Schulze's

?o there is no room left for inquiry. I "Beyond the spirit of Kantianism am fully convinced that those first principles I wish which to establish were clearly and distinctly already?though obscurely?placed by Kant himself at the basis of all of his inquiries. I do, however, hope to go beyond the letter of Kant." This passage is from Fichte's letter of 2 April 1794 to on the obscure nature of Kant's genius, Karl B?ttiger. Similar comments which gave him the correct results without the correct reasons, may be found in the previously letters which Fichte wrote mentioned during the winter of 1793/4 (see above, n. 8). The same theme recurs frequently in Fichte's for example, in the following passage early published writings, from the preface to the first edition (1794) o? Concerning the Concept of the Theory of Scientific Knowledge: can ad "The author remains convinced that no human understanding vance further than that boundary on which Kant, especially in the Cri stood, and which he declared to be the final bound tique ofJudament, ever telling us specifically where without it ary of finite knowing?but I realize that I will never be able to say anything which has not lies. or indirectly and with more or less clarity?been already?directly I leave to future ages the task of fathoming indicated by Kant. the man as on of if this from often drove who, genius philo inspired high, it toward its final goal" (SW, 1: 30-31).

sophical judgment so decisively from the standpoint at which he found

550

DANIEL BREAZEALE

objections while remaining at least compatible with the systems of Kant and Reinhold.11 This was the imposing task which faced Fichte in the winter of Before the skeptic could 1973/4 as he struggled with Aenesidemus. be rebutted and the review submitted, Fichte's own view of his rela tion to his predecessors would be transformed and the foundations would be laid for a work which would absorb a lifetime of effort, the

11 in Fichte's comments There is an element of undeniable ambiguity of his new system with that the compatibility during this period concerning that he derived the of Reinhold. On the one hand it was from Reinhold most of Kantianism (viz., important formal clue for his own reconstruction on the other, his the need for deriving philosophy from a single principle); more than with Reinhold much his disagree is made disagreement explicit are ment with Kant. This is partly because Schulze's strongest objections in out his new system aimed at Reinhold, and also because Fichte worked the specific context of a detailed re-examination of Reinhold's Elementary own attitude anxious?Fichte's toward ex complicated?and with Reinhold his differences actually was may be inferred from pressing the following two passages, the first from his letter of 2 April 1794 to Karl the second from his letter of 1 March 1794 to Reinhold himself: B?ttiger, "I am pleased that the review o? Aenesidemus has aroused attention in which I speak about Reinhold. and that you approve of the manner I confess that for a long time I felt myself in a predicament concerning I would in which the manner have to treat this great independent man. For I had to contradict him straightfor thinker and worthy I to his system." and had demonstrate the of untenability wardly, "The which . . . will have two things indicated of Aenesidemus to you: first, how highly I value to be equally obvious I owe to you; and second, where along your inquiries and how much I have to go I believe the path which you have so laudably followed of that at least the major portions I have already sketched further. from it still far but is in I the to which referred being review, system we are already in such clear enough to communicate. Nevertheless, that I am almost certain that one day we will reach close agreement review I wish complete agreement." Philosophy. How

tone of the above pas the circumspect to compare It is interesting in a letter which contained sage with the much more blunt declaration one "I later: sent to Reinhold Fichte however," year myself, barely ... I be of your system. "am a declared Fichte writes, opponent From my lieve that I have justified my opinion of Aenesidemus. review of it, it should at least be clear that I have acted in good faith.

than I did even then; yet it does seem to me that it has Aenesidemus of a letter, March refuted your Elementary Philosophy" (Fragment

It is true that I now think much less highly of the literary merits of

April 1795).

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
Wissenschaftslehre, or "Theory he understood of Scientific Knowledge."12 of what was

551
Again,

Fichte's
just how

letters from this period are especially
clearly the significance

interesting and show
happen

ing:
in my eyes, has made me has overthrown Reinhold [Aenesidemus] of Kant, and has overturned my whole system from the suspicious It cannot be helped; ground up. One cannot live under the open sky. I have been faithfully the system must be rebuilt. And this is what or so. Come celebrate the harvest with doing for the past six weeks a new foundation, I have discovered me! out of which it will be easy to develop the whole of philosophy. as such, is cor Kant's philosophy, rect?but only in its results and not in its reasons.13

Though there is some doubt concerning the alleged suddenness of Fichte's discovery during the winter of 1793/414 there can be no doubt that the discovery was of the highest importance for Fichte's self-im posed task. As he wrote to Flatt in the previously quoted letter, Aenesidemus had not only convinced him that philosophy was not yet a secure science, but it also reinforced his conviction that it could be come such "only if it is generated from one single first principle." To this he added the boast: "I believe that I have found this first princi ple and I have found it to hold good, to the extent that I have ad
vanced cember have so far." This was written or De in November inquiries next "I of 1793. of he the could write: year By mid-January erected the framework and have upon my first principle, already inmy

12 his t? describe first use of the term "Wissenschaftslehre" Fichte's occurs in his letter of 1 March 1794 to B?ttiger. new standpoint 13 To Heinrich December 1793. Stephani, 14 In his Johann aus seinen Werken Gottlieb Fichte. Lichtstrahlen und Briefen nebst einen Lebenabriss 1863), p. 46, (Leipzig: Brockhaus, Fichte's nephew, Edward Fichte, recounts the following: "Let us here men tion something which he later told his friends?how, before a warm winter stove and after he had been meditating upon the high long and continuously est philosophical he was suddenly self seized, as if by something principle, evident, by the thought that only the /, the concept of the pure subject-ob of philosophy." (Henrich Steffans' ject, could serve as the highest principle more elaborate version of the same story is quoted below, n. 42.) On the other hand, Fichte himself affirmed?most in 1797 in notably in certain passages in his correspondence?that the idea of his philosophy of the pure I had already upon the foundation constructing to him in 1792. Willy Kabitz occurred this claim, long ago substantiated which has been more recently defended by Reinhard Lauth and criticized by Peter Baumanns. See Kabitz, pp. 32-55; Baumanns, n.; and pp. 69-70 de toute la doctrine de la science' de Fichte ? Lauth, "Gen?se du 'Fondement sur l'?lementarphilosophie,'" Ar partir de ses 'M?ditations personelles 473) but also

the "Second Introduction" to the Theory of Scientific Knowledge (SW, 1:

chives de Philosophie 35 (1971): 51-79.

552
already discovered
to the practical

DANIEL BREAZEALE how to make the transition [from the theoretical]

part."15

Especially gratifying to Fichte was the way in which this new system appeared to complement those of Kant and Reinhold.
Whereas these earlier systems first were in many respects correct, sort they of sys

were

at the same time incomplete.
in a self-evident

Specifically,
as well

they
as the

lacked solid

foundation

principle

tematic structure which would ground the certainty of the whole in the certainty of this first principle. Fichte's discovery was meant to remedy precisely these defects, to supply what was missing in?and yet clearly presupposed by?the writings of Kant and Reinhold. Once this was accomplished, itwould (or so Fichte hoped) become ob
vious that his new system was only another and more tenable version

of the system. It is in this sense that Fichte understood his own ad vance beyond Kant and Reinhold as at the same time a defense of the Critical Philosophy. What precisely was the "discovery" which Fichte made during the winter of 1793/4? What was the "new principle" upon which he proposed to base his reconstruction of transcendental idealism? To
answer these questions, describes let us look more closely at the content of

Schulze's criticisms and at Fichte's
Aenesidemus himself

reply to these in his review.
as a "Humean skeptic," and ex

plains that by "skepticism" he means the view "that in philosophy nothing can be decided on the basis of incontestably certain and uni
valid versally tence of things limits of man's first principles in themselves or nonexis the existence concerning nor concerning the and their properties for knowledge."16 Thus Aenesidemus's skep representations) nor of logical laws; what it

capacity (mental

ticism is not one which
ate consciousness

involves the denial of the certainty of immedi of going beyond these to obtain "objective

denies

is the possibility

1793. That this claim was no idle boast is ?ber this period entitled Eigne Meditationen utilized by some Though Philosophic ElementarPhilosophie/Practische text was only pub this important scholars (most notably Kabitz) previous shows is how this manuscript 2. 3: 19-266. What lished in 1971 in AA, in the context of a de the outlines of his own philosophy Fichte developed the of Reinhold's tailed re-examination Though Elementary Philosophy. to be term Wissenschaftslehre does not occur, this text really deserves of and unpublished called the first of Fichte's many published presentations o?Eigne of the content and importance For further discussion his system. in the pre see the texts by Baumanns and Lauth mentioned Meditationen, vious note. 16 Aenesidemus (1911 ed.), p. 18. made

15 December To Stephani, clear in a document from

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW

553

knowledge." His basic objection to the Critical Philosophy is that it violates these skeptical strictures on the limits of knowledge and of philosophy and is thus a new form of philosophical dogmatism. The aim o?Aenesidemus is to substantiate this charge by examining the Critical Philosophy, both in its original form and in the more ad vanced version represented by Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy? to a detailed analysis of which most of Schulze's book is devoted.17 As Aenesidemus presents it, the basic deductive strategy of the Critical Philosophy is to move from the fact of representation to the reality of the thing in itself and the subject in itself as conditions nec
essary for explaining this primal "fact." But such a move from

illicit, for it does not thought to being is, according to Aenesidemus, follow from the fact that we must think of things in a certain way that they must exist in conformity with the way inwhich we must think them. Aenesidemus argues that the Critical Philosophy violates this principle insofar as it requires the doctrine of (unknowable) things in themselves and an (equally unknowable) subject in itself or transcen
dental I. Furthermore, he finds completely unconvincing Kant's at

tempt to get around this difficulty by introducing a distinction be tween "knowability" and "thinkability." At the transcendental level no such distinction is permissible. With respect to Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy Aenesidemus
has many additional specific objections to raise. He launches a with

ering attack on the ambiguity of Reinhold's technical vocabulary, on the arbitrariness of some of his fundamental propositions (such as the
correlation of multiplicity with "content" and of unity with "form"),

and on his illicit use of causal inferences. Singled out for special criti cism is Reinhold's proposed highest principle of philosophy, the so
called "principle of consciousness,"18 which, according to Schulze, nei

17 The easy manner in which Schulze uses Reinhold's system as the main text case in his examination of Kant's Critical Philosophy is striking confirmation of the truth of Nicolai Hartmann's that "contem observation in the light of Reinhold's, and thus at viewed Kant's poraries philosophy first the differences the two theories Die between could seem to vanish." des deutschen 3d ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, Idealismus, 1974), Philosophie pp. 14-15. 18 was meant to be no more Reinhold's of consciousness" "principle involves the dis than a statement of the alleged fact that all consciousness a subject and an object, as well as representations, and tinction between from the representation that in every act of consciousness is distinguished and related to both the subject and object. From this innocent-appearing to derive for its possibility) (as the condition principle Reinhold proposed the entire Critical Philosophy.

554

DANIEL BREAZEALE

ther is the highest philosophical principle (since it stands under the principle of contradiction) nor can provide the Critical Philosophy
with an adequate foundation.

Most o?Aenesidemus is concerned with the theoretical portion of the Critical Philosophy; it concludes, however, with a brief examina tion of Kant's practical philosophy. The entire theory of the postu lates of practical reason is rejected as going far beyond the demands
of moral reasoning. Furthermore, the postulates, as well as the

moral theology founded upon them, are held to be incompatible with the most basic (theoretical) principles of the Critical Philosophy. Ar guing that before we can know what we ought to do we first have to
know what we concerning texts, can do, the priority Schulze curtly dismisses reason. of practical Kant's famous claim

Though Aenesidemus
his conclusions

directs

his various objections
quite generally

to specific
to transcen

are meant

to apply

dental idealism in all of its possible forms. He does profess a certain admiration for the Critical Philosophy "as a work of philosophical art,"19 but his final verdict is that this philosophy is an abject failure, primarily because of its illegitimate confusion of subjective with ob jective necessity. Stripped of the "thing in itself and the "transcen
dental I," the Kantian system turns out, according to Schulze, to be

indistinguishable from Berkeleyean phenomenalism. That there is no legitimate place within the Critical Philosophy for any doctrine of things in themselves is a point readily granted by
Fichte. Indeed, the point seems to him so obvious that he cannot

quite bring himself to admit that such a doctrine is indeed to be found in the writings of both Kant and Reinhold; instead, he contents him self with the remark "that neither Kant nor Reinhold has by any means declared himself loudly and strongly enough against this mis
chief, which has been the common source of all the objections?skep

tical as well as dogmatic?which
Philosophy."20

have been raised against the Critical

Just as Fichte finds it obvious that the very thought of a thing
apart pipe to representation any relation a nonthought,"21 he also dream, from was sees a of whimsy, "a piece that "the skeptic clearly

will always be victorious
19 "ein Kunstwerk des

so long as one holds on to the thought of a
philosophischen SW, 1: 19. Geistes" (Aenesidemus, p.

305).

20 "Aenesidemus 21 Ibid., p. 18.

Review,"

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW connection between
supposed From this, with such to have

555
and some thing in itself which
apart he concludes: from our knowledge." "Therefore, in previous antici

our knowledge
entirely

is

a reality characteristic

directness, has

one of philosophy's first aims is to demonstrate
a thought."22 If this point

clearly the futility of
clear

not been made of the same.

versions of the Critical Philosophy,
central emphasis in some future

then surely itmust be a feature of
In clear

version

Fichte, in the Aenesidemus pation of his own Wissenschaftslehre some of the describes consequences of clearly dismissing view,
ancient pipe dream concerning knowledge of "things in themselves."

re the

in the future along the way which Rein Suppose that further advances hold, to his credit, has opened up for us should reveal the following: certain thing of all, "I am," is also valid only that the most immediately for the I; that all that is not-I is for the I only; that it [i.e., the not-I] a priori and only through its relation receives all of its determinations to an I; that, however, all of these determinations, insofar as they can be known a priori, become absolutely upon the mere condi necessary a not-I and any I at all. From this it would tion of a relation between follow that the notion of a thing in itself, to the extent that this is sup is not opposed to any I, is self-contradictory, posed to be a not-I which in itself in just that way in and that the thing is actually constituted intelli it must be thought to be constituted which by any conceivable gent I (i.e., by any being which thinks in accordance with the principle is logi It would also follow that what of identity and contradiction). by a finite intellect is at cally true for any intellect which is conceivable the same time true in reality and that there is no other truth but this.23

Yet the construction of a truly consistent idealism would not be without its cost. Even at this early date Fichte showed a remarkably
clear grasp of the elusive a truly relationship scientific between systematic philosophy

and the circularity of thought.
did: one can possess

On this point he is refreshingly
philosophy (i.e., a genuinely

can
sys

tematic transcendental idealism) only if one iswilling to admit the ul timacy of "the circle of understanding within which every finite
understanding, necessarily can conceive, is that we i.e., every understanding to admit this, one will But once one is willing confined."24

22 to R. V. Reinhard, 15 January 1794. Letter 23 1: 20. "Aenesidemus SW, Review," 24 of this Fichte goes on to credit the discovery Ibid., p. 11. Typically, attribution which tells us more about Fichte than circle to Kant himself?an it does about Kant (SW, 1: 19-20): to the contrary, no person has how often one pretends "But no matter ever had or can have Aenesidemus's thought of a thing which has re not merely of the independently, properties ality and distinctive

556

DANIEL BREAZEALE

then discover how little has really been lost. It is true that without things in themselves it is no longer possible to look for some "higher"
or "external" ground for subjective for: necessity ("the unconditional ne

cessity which
no such external

is discovered
ground,

in our minds").

But philosophy

requires

to the internal or vice versa is pre This passage from the external It is precisely is in question. the task of the Critical Phi cisely what is required, that everything losophy to show that no such passage occurs in our mind can be completely which and compre explained hended on the basis of the mind itself. The Critical Philosophy does con not even dream of trying to answer a question which it considers to reason. This philosophy tradictory points out to us that circle from which we cannot escape. Within this circle, on the other hand, it fur in all of our knowledge.25 nishes us with the greatest coherence

IfKant and Reinhold could not have been guilty of clinging to the self-contradictory demand for knowledge of things in themselves, In fact, it is the skeptic himself. who then is guilty of such hopes? What Aenesidemus really objects to is not the doctrine of things in themselves but the weakness of what he takes to be Kant's and Rein hold's attempt to infer the existence of such things from our mental The skeptic simply takes it for granted that gen representations. uine knowledge must be knowledge of external things in themselves,
and itself, he treats this without as if it were assumption to ask whether such pausing "Thus, with here rooted in human nature can have of this new an assumption at the foundation

any meaning until

whatsoever. was

skepticism, we
Kant,

clearly and distinctly
perpetrated

have that old mischief which,
the thing in itself."26 Conse

quently, insofar as Schulze's objections to Kant's talk about things in themselves have any merit, they do not drive one into skepticism but
rather toward a more consistent idealism.

human faculty of representation, but of any and every intellect. In one always thinks of oneself qua intellect to know addition, striving the thing. This was why the immortal Leibniz, who saw a little fur ther than most of his followers, had to endow his thing in necessarily And if only his itself, or monad, with the power of representation. had not transcended inferences that circle within which the human mind is enclosed the only thing that Leibniz, who saw (which was failed to then would have been incontest else, see), everything they be constituted in itself just as it repre ably correct: the thing would sented itself to itself This circle was discovered by Kant." 25 15. Ibid., p. 26 in his "Second Ibid., p. 19 (also p. 17). See too Fichte's discussion, Introduction" to the Theory of Scientific Knowledge of the dogmatism hid den in the skeptic's demands upon philosophy. (SW, 1: 482.)

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW

557

Regarding Schulze's elaborate criticism of Reinhold's "principle of consciousness" and its claim to be the sought-for "highest principle of philosophy," Fichte again found himself in the delicate position of having to agree with many of the skeptic's specific objections while at the same time defending the fundamental correctness of Reinhold's
project.

The most original and historically influential feature of Rein hold's Elementary Philosophy was its emphasis upon the indispens In book after book Reinhold ability of systematic form in philosophy. in that the which philosophy could become truly "sci argued only way entific" was by becoming rigorously systematic, and that the only way that it could become rigorously systematic was by being derived in its entirety from a single, self-evident first principle.27 The Ele mentary Philosophy is the result of Reinhold's application of this method to the Kantian philosophy. The Elementary Philosophy begins with a principle which is
meant to be no more than the statement of a self-evident fact: "in con

sciousness the subject distinguishes the representation from both the to them subject and the object and relates it [the representation] both."28 This activity of distinguishing and relating is assigned to what Reinhold calls the "faculty of representation" (Vorstellungs of by far the most original?portion verm?gen), and the first?and the Elementary Philosophy is entitled "Theory of the Faculty of Rep resentation," the explicit task of which is to show how Kant's "two roots of knowledge" (viz., thought and intuition) can both be derived
from ophy the single "principle of consciousness." uncover to thus claims that "common which Kant could merely In the second The Philos Elementary root" of all knowledge, and in the absence

concerning orous

speculate,29

of which Kant's presentation
systematic form.

of his philosophy had to fall short of rig
portion of the Elementary Phi

losophy (which Reinhold
27 Reinhold's most

calls "Theory of the Faculty
discussion of the nature

of Knowledge"
of systematic form

succinct

zur Berichtigung der Philosophen, Beytr?ge bisheriger Missverst?ndnisse 2 and 5. vol. 1 (1790). See especially chaps. 28 1: 267. In the space of three years Reinhold Beytr?ge, published three separate expositions of his Elementary The first was en Philosophy. titled Versuch einer neuen Theorie des menschlichen Vor Stellungsverm? in chap. 3 of the previously mentioned gens (1789); the second is contained

and the need for a single first principle in philosophy is to be found in his

Beytr?ge,

1 (1790); the third is in Ueber das Fundament des philosophi
Reason, A15/B29 and A51/B75.

schen Wissens (1791). 29 See Critique of Pure

558
and which is in turn divided into and "Theory Understanding," Kant's Critique of Pure Reason preceding analysis of the faculty
no analogue in Kant's writings).

DANIEL BREAZEALE a "Theory of Sensibility," "Theory of of Reason") the main doctrines of are derived from the results of the of representation (forwhich there is
Finally, in a very sketchy and

unsatisfactory third portion, entitled "Theory of the Faculty of De sire," Reinhold attempts to derive the will as a necessary condition for the possibility of the principle of consciousness, thereby proving
rather than merely asserting the priority of practical reason.

Though frequently lapsing into superficiality, Reinhold's version of the Critical Philosophy (at least in its theoretical portion) possesses
several undeniable own than Kant's admirable courageous to grasp it is far clearer and easier First, an of his it shows Second, presentation philosophy. awareness of the unresolved in Kant's work tensions and a virtues. willingness to do whatever is necessary to resolve them.

Third, it begins with and clings fast to what many consider to be the central insight of Kant's analysis of knowledge: that all consciousness involves both a priori and a posteriori ele (i.e., all representing)
ments.30

Even before his discovery of Reinhold's writings31 Fichte a in showed the problem of the unity of Kant's critical strong interest of the relation of the various Critiques to and writings, especially each other. The great, indeed decisive, contribution which the study of Reinhold's works made to the development of Fichte's own think ing was to convince him of the need for finding a single first principle
to serve as the starting point for a philosophical system, a system

included a new section ("theory of the tempt at a Critique of All Revelation under the obvious influence of his study of Reinhold. will") written By the fall of 1793 he was familiar with the other published of Reinhold's versions as well. Elementary Philosophy

work (probablyBeytr?ge, I) in the fall of 1792, for the second edition ofAt

30 to the development Reinhold's essential of transcen contributions dental idealism have been badly neglected (especially among English speak recent reassessement For an excellent of his ing students of this subject). see aus the edited Reinhard collection Lauth, Philosophie importance, by einem Prinzip. Karl Leonhard Reinhold (Bonn: Bouvier, 1974), especially the two articles contributed by the editor, both of which are concerned with Reinhold's relation to Fichte. By far the most complete study of Reinhold's remains Alfred Klemmt's Karl Leon mammoth, Elementary Philosophy Eine Studie ?ber den Ursprung hard Reinholds Elementarphilosophie. des spekulativen deutschen Idealismus 1958). (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 31 It is certain that Fichte was already with Reinhold's acquainted

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW which then had somehow to be derived
principle in question. Fichte never made

559
in its entirety
any attempt

from the first
to conceal his

debt to Reinhold on this score; indeed, his early published writings contain frequent and prominent acknowledgement of the importance of Reinhold's "immortal service" in "calling the attention of philoso phizing reason to the fact that philosophy in its entirety has to be traced back to one single first principle, and that one will not discover
the has of the human mind's modes system permanent discovered the keystone of this system."32 of acting until one

Where Fichte disagrees with Reinhold is not over the need for a single first principle in philosophy, but rather over Reinhold's insis
tence that his own "principle to of consciousness" constitutes the

sought-for first principle which
system." cerning It is interesting principle Reinhold's

could serve as the "keystone of this
Fichte's reservations compare with of consciousness Schulze's con pub

lished objections to the same principle. Schulze finds Reinhold's with the attendant distinctions be statement of the principle?along
tween the representation, the representing subject, and the repre

sented object?to be filled with ambiguities, ambiguities which are reflected in the arbitrariness of the entire "Theory of the Faculty of Representation" which Reinhold proceeds to erect upon this princi ple. What Schulze does not object to is the underlying claim: that if philosophy is to be systematic itmust begin with some fact. Accord
the principle of consciousness ingly, Schulze interprets universal cal generalization, though not as a genuinely are some to there kinds of consciousness him, cording principle does not as an empiri one (since, ac to which this

Reinhold's insistence to the con Thus, apply). that Schulze concludes the of con trary notwithstanding, principle a must sciousness based upon abstraction from be synthetic principle The however, fundamental concerns between Reinhold and disagreement success the of the Elementary Philoso

experience. Schulze,

32 which

"Aenesidemus Fichte offered

ated: "I am just as sincerely convinced that nothing, following Kant's spirit than Reinhold's of genius, could contribute more to philosophy systematic the honorable that I recognize spirit, and I believe place which Reinhold's will always be accorded, despite the progress which Elementary Philosophy make under the guidance of whomever it may philosophy must necessarily 1: be." 31). (SW,

den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre

In the preface SW, 1: 20. Review," of his new his first public presentation

to the book system

in

(Ueber

[1794]) the same high praise is reiter

560

DANIEL BREAZEALE

phy in "deriving" its various theorems and conclusions from this first
principle.

those concerning With some of Schulze's criticisms?especially the fatal ambiguity of certain of Reinhold's key terms and the equivo
cal character no attempt of some to conceal of his most his basic "derivations"?Fichte He agrees as well makes that the agreement. "is based

of consciousness principle and certainly expresses

upon an abstraction."

self-observation empirical At the same time, Fichte

grants that this principle possesses a certainty which is more than that the principle is ana empirical, but from this he concludes?not rather, "that itmust be lytic (which iswhat Reinhold had held)?but
based upon something other than a mere fact."33 On this all-impor

tant point (all-important, that is, for the subsequent development of German Idealism), Fichte diverges from both Reinhold and Schulze:
are agreed upon the skeptic and the Elementary Philosopher Though is the one of philosophy this point [viz., that the highest principle to it remains questionable which fixes the concept of representation], from this itself whether this reviewer unanimity. profits philosophy can justifiably be that those objections which for instance, Suppose, as the first principle of all raised against the principle of consciousness should lead us in the future to suspect that there must be a philosophy as a whole for theoretical (and not merely concept for all philosophy even which is the of than concept representation.34 philosophy) higher

It is not that Fichte wishes
ness; on the contrary,

to reject the principle of conscious
review suggests that most of

the Aenesidemus

Schulze's objections to this principle can be met, but only ifwe are willing to sacrifice the claim that this principle is indeed the first prin Its certainty can only be defended by deriving it ciple of philosophy.
from says, more something "this reviewer certain.35 anyway Regarding is convinced such that a possibility the principle Fichte of con

sciousness

is a theorem which

is based upon another first principle,

33 Ibid., p. 8. 34 Ibid., p. 5. 35 "If I may risk asserting explained something which can be neither nor proven here: insofar as Aenesidemus must, as was previously indicated, to be a proposi of consciousness] consider this theorem [viz., the principle then one naturally has to admit with him that tion derived from experience, which might contradict this proposition. there are experiences If, how first principles is derived from incontrovertible ever, this same proposition in question involves and if it can be shown that the denial of the proposition a contradiction, which would be incompatible then any alleged experience as inconceiv would have to be dismissed with the principle of consciousness able." (Ibid., p. 8.)

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
from which, however, a derived, priori and the principle of consciousness of all experience."36 can be

561
strictly

independently

But what is the "higher" principle from which the principle of consciousness is now to be derived? With this we come to the most review: "The initial incorrect original aspect of Fichte's Aenesidemus
presupposition, and the one which caused the principle with of conscious cer

ness to be proposed as the first principle of all philosophy was pre
cisely formal. che]; the presupposition But it can such also that one must begin a fact. We

tainly do require a first principle which

is material

and not merely
a/aci With [Thatsa this sur

a principle does not have to express an Act express [Thathandlung]."37

prising suggestion, the pieces begin to fall into place. The highest act of the mind, the supreme Act with which all phi
losophy Since, must begin, on Reinhold's cannot own be the act of representing representation arises the very admission, "Thus or perceiving. involves the ac

tivities of "distinguishing
already involves a synthesis.

and relating," then the act of representing
natural question:

36 are Ibid. See also p. 10: ". . . insofar as Aenesidemus's objections aimed at the principle in itself they are groundless. of consciousness They con to the principle of consciousness are, however, objections appropriate and as a mere sidered as the first principle of all philosophy fact, and they a new foundation to establish make for this principle." it necessary "In the Theory of Scientific Knowledge the I is represented. But it I. Other does not follow that the I is represented merely as & representing features may well be found in this I. Qua philosophizing subject, the I is I, but it might well be more than this qua only a representing indisputably is the highest first and absolutely object of philosophizing. Representing as such. act of the philosopher But the absolutely first act of the human mind might well be something In advance of all experience else. it is al that this is since is something which can so, ready probable representation be completely in a thoroughly exhausted and which operates necessary man ner. Consequently, there must be an ultimate foundation for the necessity a foundation can be of representation, qua ultimate which, foundation, based upon nothing further" der Wissenschaftslehre, (lieber den Begriff SW, 1: 80). 37 is a "Aenesidemus Review," SW, 1: 8. The term "Thathandlung" own coinage technical term of Fichte's (which is here translated simply as ver in his published This is the term which, "Act," but with a capital A). sions of the Wissenschaftslehre, he employs to designate the self-positing of the I. As conceived at all apart from of by Fichte, the I has no existence The Thathandlung this "Act"; the self is its self-activity. is identical to the I recognized I in its full freedom, which is not the same as the theoretical For this latter facts are indeed ultimate, which explains why ("intellect"). was the first principle Fichte held that Reinhold's principle of consciousness of theoretical only. philosophy

562

DANIEL BREAZEALE

how is it possible to trace all the actions of the mind back to an act of connecting? How is synthesis conceivable without presupposing the sis and antithesis?"38 Indeed, Fichte implies that this is not conceiv able, which leads him to the conclusion that "prior to all other percep tion, the intuition can be related to an object originally opposed to the
subject, i.e., it can be related to the not-I, which is not perceived at

all, but which distinguishing
are acts

is originally posited [gesetzt]."39 Thus the activities of and relating are not themselves representations; they
which make representation possible.

of positing

Such an originary Act is not simply an act of positing: it is at the same time one of self-positing. This is the only explanation for the origin ofthat "subject" and "object" which are already presupposed in the principle of consciousness: "The absolute subject, the I, is not given by empirical intuition; it is, instead, posited by intellectual in tuition. And the absolute object, the not-I, is that which is posited in opposition to the I."40 To be sure, this implies the ultimacy of the
previously-discussed The mind idealistic circle: is a noumenon for any insofar as it is the ultimate foundation forms of thought at all. It is a transcendental idea, insofar particular as these forms of thought are considered neces to be unconditionally a But it is which from laws. transcendental idea is sary distinguished all other transcendental ideas by the fact that it is realized through intellectual intuition, through the "/ am," and indeed, through the "/ am. "... I The I is what it is, is because it is, because am, simply and isfor the I.41

review is nothing less What is announced in the Aenesidemus than Fichte's discovery of the winter of 1793/4: philosophy can be
38 Ibid., p. 7. 39 Ibid., p. 9. 40 Ibid., p. 10. at is not a form of consciousness "Intellectual therefore, intuition," I nor the absolute is explicit on this point: "Neither all. Fichte [the absolute is re consciousness not-I] occur in empirical except when a representation In empirical consciousness lated to them. only indirectly, they are present of the as the representor One is never conscious and what is represented. nor of the not be which could absolute (the represented) representor subject as some of all representation) absolute object (a thing in itself, independent of this important point is responsi (Ibid.) Neglect given." thing empirically intui of "intellectual ble for the wide-spread (romantic) misinterpretation actual Fichte's of philosophical tion" as a privileged knowledge. faculty to itself as an absolute of I-hood (the I's presence view is that the structure an This is something intuition. o? intellectual the has form self-positing) it is not and reflection; of abstraction learns by means that the philosopher intuition. intellectual discovered by 41 Ibid., p. 16.

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
come a science only if it can be presented as a system founded

563
upon

nothing but the indubitably certain self-positing Act of the I, which the first principle from which everything must be provides derived.42 Philosophy must begin, not with consciousness, but with
self-consciousness; self-positing sults seemed activity not with any fact, but with of the I?we encounter to presuppose and made an Act. Here?in Kant's the re that which

everywhere

but nowhere

to state

unam

biguously: the point of unity between
has been clearly grasped

thought and being.
into the necessary

Once this

starting-point

of philosophy, then skeptical objections like Aenesidemus's?the heart of which, itmust be remembered, was the charge that the Criti cal Philosophy depends upon an illicit move from subjective to objec
tive necessity, from thought to being?can be laid to rest once and

for all. Understood as an Act of self-positing, the I is no mere idea; it is an idea which is at the same time its own realization. Thus (though without calling any attention to the fact) Fichte has to deny, not only Kant's distinction between appearances and things in themselves, but also his insistence that all of our intuition is sensible. This absolute
42 Readers 1794/5, might mer students, unfamiliar with Fichte's published find helpful the following description, in question: of the discovery Wissenschaftslehre by one of Fichte's of for

I recall how, in a close, intimate circle, Fichte used to tell us about the and how he was suddenly surprised and seized origin of his philosophy idea of this philosophy. For some time he had by the fundamental in the unity of thought and object. that truth consists dimly realized He had realized as well that such unity could never be found within the as in mathematics, realm of the senses and that where, it was to be a and lifeless found it produced alien formalism only rigid completely to life and to action. At this point he was suddenly surprised by the seizes and holds onto thought that the act by which self-consciousness The I recognizes itself is clearly a type of knowing. itself as some its own activity; thinker and thought, through thing produced knowing and its object, are here one and the same. All knowing pro ceeds from this point of union, not from the sort of unfocused contem to yield time, space, and the categories. is supposed plation which "if one were to isolate this first act of self "Now," he asked himself, an act which is presupposed knowing, by every human thought and in the most divergent deed and is contained opinions and actions, and if one were to trace the pure consequences of this act, would this act not reveal and display the same certainty which mathematics pos a in form which is living, active, and productive?" sesses, though This thought seized him with so much clarity, power, and assur the I as the principle ance, that he could not give up trying to establish It was as if he were forced to do so by the spirit which of philosophy. had grown mighty within him. ich erlebte (Henrich Steffens, Was [Breslau: J. Max, 1841], pp. 161-62.)

564 self-positing of the I is intellectual intuition.
nent features of subsequent post-Kantian

DANIEL BREAZEALE One of the most promi
is the attempt

speculation

to rehabilitate the doctrine of intellectual intuition?a project an review. nounced for the first time in Fichte's Aenesidemus
Unsurprisingly, none of these themes are worked out in any

review, and without the benefit of great detail in the Aenesidemus hindsight itwould be easy to overlook entirely the importance of this
essay. true Yet it remains remarkable how much of Fichte's system moral is

already discernable
of his concluding Whereas Fichte

in his review o?Aenesidemus.
comments was on Schulze's criticism

This is especially
of Kant's

philosophy.
forced to acknowledge a certain amount of

agreement with Aenesidemus's criticisms of the theoretical portion of the Critical Philosophy, with the tetter's remarks on the practical portion of the same he betrays no sympathy at all. Especially galling to Fichte is Schulze's rejection of Kant's principle of the priority of
practical reason on the grounds that before we can know what we

ought to do we must first know what we can do. In replying to this (rather ignorant) objection, Fichte points out that the ethical law is not directed first at the physical world, but is instead a law for deter
mining the will, Not and as such, is by no means did Fichte of freedom."44 dependent upon prior emerg of his

theoretical knowledge
pearances.43 ing system Kant's

concerning what

is possible
characterize The

in the world of ap
his own thread

for nothing

as a "philosophy

guiding reason.

own attempt
dictum

to systematize
concerning

the Critical Philosophy
of practical the

was

precisely
Indeed, as

the priority

a letter written
objection

during this period clearly shows, the basis of Fichte's
attempt to make principle of conscious

to Reinhold's

ness

the first principle
43

of philosophy

was

not theoretical

at all

to produce an action at all, "The ethical law is not at first supposed endeavor toward an action, even if this action, hin but only the constant should turn out never to have any efficacy in dered by the force of nature, the material world." ^Aenesidemus SW, 1: 22.) Review," 44 Just as France has freed "My system is the first system of freedom. so my system man from external frees him from the fetters of shackles, influences with which is to say, from those external things in themselves, more or less fet the Kantian?have which all previous systems?including tered man. Indeed, the first principle of my system presents man as an in to Bagggesen, (Draft of a letter from Fichte dependent April or being." 8 January letter to Reinhold, See, too, the remark in Fichte's May 1795.) is nothing but an analysis of the 1800: "From beginning to end my system
concept of freedom. ..."

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW 565
to theoretical he had ample seen, objections Reinhold "It is," he writes, when but practical. offer), "amusing a repre in that human soul into the tries to make happens everything can freedom and know of this who does sentation. Anyone nothing (though, have the practical imperative. fatalist."45 pirical If he is consistent, he must become an em as we

For Fichte, it amounts to one and the same thing to say that phi losophy must begin with the I and to say that itmust begin with free it is the necessary priority of practical reason dom. Furthermore, which furnishes Fichte with the essential clue for constructing a phil In fact, the osophical system upon his proposed new first principle.
Aenesidemus sketch of just review such includes a system. a remarkable, albeit in question The passage very general, is so interest

ing and so significant for our understanding of what Fichte was trying to accomplish in his subsequently published versions of just such a system, that it deserves to be quoted in full:
If, in intellectual intuition, the I is because it is, and is what it is, then it is, to that extent, and autono absolutely independent self-positing, mous. The I in empirical consciousness, the I as intellect, is however, and is, to that extent, depen intelligible, only in relation to something is thereby opposed to itself is supposed to be, But the I which dent. not two, but one?which is impossible, since "dependence" contra the I cannot relinquish dicts "independence." its ab Since, however, a striving solute independence, is engendered: the I strives to make what to bring is intelligible upon itself, in order thereby dependent that I which what into of entertains is representations intelligible I. This is what itmeans to say that reason unity with the self-positing In the pure I reason is not practical, nor is it practical in is practical. the I as intellect. Reason is practical only insofar as it strives to unify these two. This is not the place to show that these are the first princi ples which must underlie Kant's own exposition (granted that he never Nor is it the place to show how a prac establishes them specifically). tical philosophy I (which in arises when the striving of the intelligent one descends itself is hyper-physical) is represented, the i.e., when same steps which one ascended in theoretical philosophy.46 A more succinct summary revision Fichte of the organizational idealism review: strategy has one behind

Fichte's first Wissenschaftslehre
This consequence because the radical which mentions

can hardly be imagined.
further of in his a clarification

of transcendental

the relation between practical belief and theoretical knowledge.
postulates of practical reason are "beliefs," does

Just
not

45 Letter to Stephani, December 46 "Aenesidemus Review," SW,

1793. 1: 22-23.

566
imply that they are "mere beliefs."
merely a probable as the opinion. On the

DANIEL BREAZEALE For "such belief is far from being
contrary, 'I am'?a it is the innermost be

lief of this reviewer
certainty

anyway that this belief has the same degree of
certain certainty which infi

immediately

nitely transcends that objective certainty which only becomes possi ble through the mediation of the intelligent [i.e., knowing] I." Such
certainty may indeed be called "subjective," but to so-called "objective" plies any inferiority am' itself has only subjective and, certainty, im this by no means T since "the certainty, can conceive

so far as we

of the self-consciousness
tive. Far from theoretical

of God, He himself
reason having existence

is for Himself
the

subjec

practical the entire reason,

to recognize of practical The

of superiority reason is founded

on the conflict between
the theoretical-knowing and

the self-determining
element."47

element within us and
of this radical

implications to see

application of the principle of the priority of practical reason are pro
found far-reaching; indeed, in order its ultimate conse

quences we have to look well beyond the history of German Idealism itself, to the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The foregoing discussion of Fichte's review o?Aenesidemus has been intended to call attention to the importance of this interesting
and neglected based upon essay. Fichte's Of course, any serious analysis of Fichte's phi on his is above

losophy, even one which
Wissenschaftslehre. all propaedeutic:

is limited to his early system, will have to be

of and commentaries public presentations review The value of the Aenesidemus it provides us with a unique?and very

instructive

into the specific context within which he developed his life ?glimpse long interpretation of the Critical Philosophy and out of which grew If his own, highly original and influential philosophical system. Fichte later came to regret the degree to which his first published presentation of his sytem was itself a product of the philosophical style and problems of its immediate age,48 that is all the more reason for contemporary readers of his Foundations of the Entire Theory of more to become familiar with the context in Scientific Knowledge question; and for this purpose there is no text better suited than his
Aenesidemus review.

47 Ibid., p. 23. 48 to Friedrich Letter of this letter survives.

Johannsen,

31 January

1801.

Only

a fragment

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW
The ment effect of Schulze's comparable book on Fichte's own intellectual upon Kant,

567
develop though

is perhaps be called

to Hume's

influence

in Fichte's case the slumbers from which the skeptic awoke him might
best "critical-dogmatic."49 At the very least, Aenesidemus

provided Fichte with the occasion to focus his own doubts about the Critical Philosophy and provoked him into a detailed re-examination The effect of this, as we have of Reinhold's Elementary Philosophy.
now seen, was to encourage Fichte made Fichte a series to set about the construction of

own system.
course of which

This is what happened

in the winter
of "discoveries"

of 1793/4, in the
which he spent

the rest of his life trying to digest and articulate and which he an nounced for the first time in his review o?Aenesidemus.
It nisms is no wonder, between Fichte that despite any personal therefore, antago was always willing to ac and Schulze, Fichte

knowledge the special debt he owed to this "sharp-witted skeptic."50 He prominently displayed this debt by beginning his first public pres with the following sentence: entation of the Wissenschaftslehre
in particular the modern and the ex Aenesidemus skeptics, "Reading cellent writings of Maim?n, the author of this treatise has convinced to be most of something which already namely: appeared probable, that despite ence."51 the recent efforts of the most perspicacious the men, philoso

phy has not yet been raised to the level of a clearly evident
More poignant?and?candid?is following

sci

passage

from an unpublished and unfinished essay: "Anyone who has not yet understood Hume, Aenesidemus (where he is right), and Maim?n and
has failed 49 to come to terms with the issues they pose is by no means

is an historical of Kant's re "Fichte's relation to Schulze replication co et la r?volution to Hume." kantian Jules Vuillemin, L'h?ritage de France, (Paris: Presses Universitaires 1954), p. 17. Vuille pernicienne of Fichte deserves mention here as one of the few to call min's interpretation to the role played by Aenesidemus's in the de skepticism explicit attention of Fichte's method." See 17-29. pp. Vuillemin, "genetic velopment 50 "A or Aenesi such as that of Hume, Maim?n, critical skepticism, . . . reveals the of the reasons that have been accepted demus inadequacy so far, and in doing this it indicates where more tenable ones are to be in if it does not benefit from such skeptics; found. Science always benefits it surely does in respect of its form. Anyone who respect of its content, has a poor denies the sharp-witted skeptic the respect which he deserves der gesammten Wis grasp of what is in the interest of science." Grundlage SW, 1: 120 n.) senschaftslehre, 51 Ueber den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre, SW, 1: 29. lation

568

FICHTE'SAENESIDEMUS REVIEW

ready for the Theory of Scientific Knowledge: it answers questions which he has not yet raised and bandages him where he has suffered
no injury."52

University

of Kentucky.

52 to the editors of AA, 2. added. AA, 2. 3: 389; emphasis According in April of 1795. 3, this untitled fragment was probably written in the Federal Republic work on this essay was completed Preliminary von Humboldt Founda of the Alexander under the auspices of Germany for tion. Additional by a grant from the Program support was provided an indepen for the Humanities, Endowment Translations of the National the support The author gratefully dent Federal agency. acknowledges Fichte for his continuing have provided which both of these foundations studies.

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