Fichte’s ethics changed in many ways between 1794 and 1812: in the first place spiritual life replaced the transformation of nature; individual supersession was radicalized; and ethics was linked with first philosophy. In 1812 it was no longer a matter of inflecting natural necessity by means of the model image of an ideal world (Vorbild). The theme of image reappears as an externalizing of absolute life. Ethical action becomes a moment of this manifestation: a return to unity, following the process of fragmentation of the originary phenomenon (the I or the I-one), into an infinity of individual I’s. This fragmentation is fondamental: life is self-consciousness only in this individual form. The ethical act manifests the concept or image of God with the self-annihilation of individuality. Fichte had already written, in part XI of the Second Introduction, that the I, “only reasonnable”, “is no longer an individual”, and in the first Sittenlehre, § 18 : “We are all supposed to act identically”. Fichte’s final Ethics thus does not radicalize the supersession of the individual. It defines the rational individual by this supersession of himself [or herself], making ethics into a moment [stage] of the absolute life. The matter is not to merge the individual into the whole, but to partake in a living order, in the activity of the whole, which reaches out to each of its members, only to return to the first unity, by forming the whole as such.
In the later Fichte the reflection splits the world into a fivefoldness of its possible view. To get through all the a priori arranged levels from sensuality to the Doctrine of Science means to use up all the possibilities of the views of the world. I will examine whether Fichte can offer us a direct proof of completeness of the standpoints or at least show indirectly that there must be exactly five of them. Which answer would he give us if we argued that history, skepticism and nonentity could complement the array?
According to the early Fichte, designation of mental concepts and highly abstract concepts happens by means of ‘schemata’. Through an unconscious mechanism, we transfer the name of a sensible thing into a supersensible object. Fichte looked upon this process as a source of mistakes. In Addresses to the German Nation, he changes his conception and puts symbols or actual images in the place of schemata. These images don’t unify sensible and supersensible notions as schemata do, rather they draw an analogy between these notions. This analogy guides the subject in creating a notion. The word initiates and inspires the process for creating a notion. Furthermore, the word shows through the image, in what way we should set in motion our capacity of representation. So the word does not offer abstract rules for the reason but gives an image which contains the rules of procedure.
From my point of view, Fichte modified his theory of language not only to
deal with problems immanent to the philosophy of language. He aimed to
construct a philosophy of language which was much more consistent with the
view of the human being and the conception of intersubjectivity according to
the Wissenschaftslehre. The modified philosophy of language
proves more convincingly that basically when we understand speeches of
others we neither apprehend perfect meanings nor receives ideas of others
more or less passively but we re-create or re-produce thoughts of the
In this paper I develop an account of Fichte’s conception of philosophical construction. Following the latter’s definition of philosophy as the ‘science of science’, philosophy is to be understood as a normative theory of what should qualify as science. In order to ground scientific knowledge-production as such, philosophy itself has to acquire a scientific method, through the application of which the constitution of scientific knowledge is secured. In systematic continuity to Kant’s account of geometrical construction, Fichte develops a philosophical method that exploits the special epistemic conditions of performativity. Construction is then defined as an experimental, self-reflexive performance that exemplifies consciousness. Throughout its acts of exemplification this reflexive kind of self-observation yields a particular type of experience, which ultimately satisfies the Science of Knowledge’s demand for certainty, that is intellectual intuition.
In Germany at the turn of the 20th century the interest in Fichte’s philosophy was growing remarkably. This phenomenon has to be considered as a part of a broader “German movement”, i. e. a collective cultural trend aiming at pinpointing what had been properly “German” in the last two centuries. This need became even more acute by the outbreak of the Great War. In that context Fichte’s work was used as a benchmark for creating and elaborating on the myth of “the German character.” Many intellectuals of that time interpreted Fichte’s personality and thought as representing ideas, ethical values, spiritual positions, cultural attitudes and political stances which accounted for the specificity of “Germanness”. Since these ideas and values were believed to be particular to the German culture, Fichte was celebrated all across the nation as an exemplary German.Harkening back to contemporary sources the following paper aims to illustrate how Fichte’s image was moulded in order to meet needs and issues emerging from the War and its philosophical-ideological interpretations. At the same time it suggests that the “Fichte case” from the beginning of the 20th century can be interpreted as a paradigmatic example of how philosophical and cultural issues can be ideologically (mis-)interpreted and used to give support to a particular political view.
In his late writings Fichte resorts to a formal notion of image that appears very modern. Probably for the first time in modern philosophy the world is being so consequently reinterpreted as a continuity of projected images, which are themselves „images of images”. Other than in the post-metaphysical philosophy the object of critique is here not the truth-relation of images, but rather their empirical interpretation. Knowledge is not understood as a copy of external objects, but, to the contrary, the external objects are held for representations. This ‚discovery‘ of the image-character of the world is for Fichte the first step towards the disavowal of images as only images. Enlightenment is hence being understood as the increasing transparency of images. The article depicts the following steps of the process of making-transparent of the world. Afterwards the role of the subject in this process is presented. The I, as the scheme of scheme of scheme, is the very image which makes it possible for the images to become conscious of their image-nature. Out of it there result certain principles of ethical action, as well for the individual, as for the state. At the same time the coercion of state proves to be justifiable only as an education towards the correct insight of citizens, so that under the aspired final conditions the action out of insight (and not on the basis of coercion) becomes possible. In this way the proper functioning state strives for its own abolishment.
The power of imagination fulfills a special function with respect to particular intuition and to the forms of intuition of space and time a function that exceeds Kant’s deliberations on imagination. Not just the forms themselves, but also their manifold are orignally generated by that capability. While Kant’s theory of experience starts with a given mannifold and shows how the rule-making role of reason provides productive imagination with a way of assimilating that manifold into a unified perspective, Fichte’s philosophy has the productivity of the imagination reaching further as a novel, revealing inheritance. As a fully autonomously proceeding entity, it further devises not only space and time and their constituent diversity, but also simultaneously generates categories without being dependent on the reason that in the B-version of the Critique is necessary for understanding the composition of time and space. When Kant speaks for example in the Opus Postumum under the heading cogitabile ut dabile about the constitution of the manifold, that form of constitutive act is not to be interpreted as an original genesis. Hence the act of constitutive and determinative synthesis has a different meaning in the two systems.
In this paper, my aim is to offer an approach to the practical meaning of the concept of image in Fichte’s Doctrine of the State of 1813. The word “image” (Bild) plays an important role within Fichte’s philosophical terminology, especially during the last period of his intellectual production and his academic life, after leaving the University of Jena. Even a superficial reading of the several different versions of the Doctrine of Science allows one to recognize that the above-mentioned term is used by Fichte more frequently during his years in Berlin (1800–1814). Despite this, the determination of the concrete meaning of the term “image” represents a difficult interpretative challenge for readers of Fichte’s philosophy. From my point of view, Fichte uses the term “image” not only at the level of theoretical or methodological reflection, but also at that of praxis. For this reason, Fichte’s transcendental reflection in the Doctrine of the State contains not only an analysis of the negative relationship between image and being, but also, necessarily, an analysis of the positive relationship between image and freedom (Freiheit). Although his Doctrine of the State is based on a theological-religious conception, which could be questioned from the perspective of a secularized rationality, Fichte maintains a consistent conception of knowledge as an image of a world ordered by the moral law. Definitively, this image plays a central role as an original model for the action of every rational being in the sensible world.