This paper addresses some of the figurative properties of Fichte’s philosophical discourse. In many texts from the so-called Spätphilosophie the WL is depicted as an »image of knowing«. In keeping with this idea, the author examines how figure and discourse are inextricably bound up in the space of Fichtean philosophy. The 1794 lectures Concerning the Difference Between the Sprit and the Letter Within Philosophy are particularly telling in this respect, for they foreground metaphor as the necessary vehicle for philosophical expression. Thus, Fichtean philosophy, understood both as discourse (in the sense of pragmatic linguistics) and as »material image«, openly embraces figural modes of knowing, for knowing itself is fundamentally an imagistic activity. In the final analysis, Fichte’s discourse does not separate concept and figure, philosophy and metaphor; instead, it opens up philosophy to the space of the figural – a space from which it ultimately stems and which constitutes the medium of the Wissenschaftslehre as such. In closing, the author reconsiders one of Fichte’s most striking metaphors, i.e., philosophy as Eucharist, in order to shed new light on a famous portrait of Fichte from 1812. He argues that the latter sustains in painterly form a meditation on the place of the figurative in philosophical discourse.
The question whether Fichte was or not Platonist is not to be considered harmless. This is first and foremost a question that Fichte asks himself in front of his students during his Lecture on Ethics at the University of Berlin (SL-1812 GA II /13, 318). In this way Fichte pretended to clarify a point that he considered decisive for characterizing his conception of ethics. Thus, the question of his Platonism no longer concerns his knowledge nor his interpretation of Plato, but rather his manner and reasons for referring to him. In the following pages I try to identify the features and stakes of Plato’s image in Fichte’s texts. In this way, my aim is at identifying the function that the reference to Plato deploys in Fichte’s arguments. That means to elaborate an ethic to be thought over the formalism that Fichte imputed to Kant. From this angle, ,Plato‘ becomes to all effects a ,conceptual person‘ allowing Fichte to forge a singular concept, that of ,Vorbild’. My thesis is finally that Fichte’s Platonism enigma – or the deepest meaning that we can attach to this question – is recovered by that concept. The Vorbild is the keystone for a new conception of ethics, which Fichte elaborated under the name of ,superior morality‘.
This essay argues for the applicability and importance of the notion of the unconscious (in the limited sense of any form of mental activity of which one is not or cannot be aware) in Fichte’s Jena period, with a focus on the ,second’ Wissenschaftslehre (1796–99). The essay begins by arguing for the existence of a fundamental tension in Fichte’s philosophy: namely, between a ,transcendence’ principle – that the conditions for consciousness cannot themselves be present within experience, since they ground that experience – and an ,immanence’ principle that there is no genuine reality outside of consciousness. It is shown that this tension is particularly evident if one observes some of the conflicting ways in which Fichte employs the notions of ,intellektuelle Anschauung’ and ,unmittelbares Bewusstsein.’ Fichte seems to violate the immanence principle especially insofar as he characterizes the conditions of the possibility of consciousness as a series of ,actions,’ which, qua actions, must be ,real’ in some sense: insofar as they are both real and not present to consciousness, it is argued, they must be unconscious. Although Fichte does not wholly embrace the notion of unconscious mental activity due to his adherence to the immanence principle, his conception of the ,two series’ of the Wissenschaftslehre as well as some of his uses of the notion of ,unmittelbares Bewusstsein’ in particular allow the recognition that Fichte has a rich but inchoate conception of the unconscious.
Concluding the deduction of imagination in § 4 of the Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, Fichte remarks that one lesson of the Wissenschaftslehre is that all reality is a product of imagination. One of the greatest thinkers of the age, Fichte writes, is teaching the same, but calls it a deception of imagination. Fichte’s remark is aimed at Salomon Maimon, and it shows that his deduction shouldn’t be read only as part of the systematic development of the theoretical Wissenschaftslehre, but should also be considered as an argument against a specific kind of scepticism. In order to examine this overlooked anti-sceptical aim in the first Wissenschaftslehre, an overview of the deduction of § 4 with a focus on the systematic role of imagination will first be given. Second, Maimon’s sceptical argument against transcendental philosophy will be explained. In the centre again will stand Maimon’s Humean concept of imagination. Finally, it will be shown in which sense Fichte’s deduction of imagination has to be taken in order to be an adequate response to Maimonian scepticism.
The paper deals with Fichte’s concept of education in his popular Jena Lectures Concerning the Scholar’s Vocation. There, Fichte thinks the scholar as the educator of mankind. The aim is to show that the concept of being human, as interpreted by practical philosophy, can, in Fichte’s viewpoint, only find its realization in a society based on division of labour, as a place of reciprocal perfection. His social theory is markedly contrary to Schiller’s critical evaluation of this division of labour as fragmentation and one-sidedness of humanity in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind published in 1795. Starting from the Kantian premise of human being as a project, that is as an object of practical philosophy and education, Fichte and Schiller both articulate its consequences in opposite directions: Fichte in the form of the scholar as the expression of a specialized education, Schiller in the form of the artist as the expression of an all-round and harmonic education.
At the end of the “Foundations of theoretical Knowledge”, in the second part of the first exposition of the Doctrine of Science (1794/5), Fichte says: imagination “does not delude, but gives truth and the only possible truth”. Although the expression – “only possible truth” – appears in the text only once, it seems to play a key role in structuring the doctrine of science, insofar it defines Fichte’s own point of view, whether in relation to pre-Kantian metaphysics, or in relation to Kantianism. The aim of this paper is to understand the notion of the “only possible truth” and its internal relation to imagination. In order to do that we need to revisit the background discussion that leads Fichte to establish imagination as the fundamental activity of human spirit and the ground of the only possible truth. Such discussion takes place as a confrontation with the skepticism of Salomon Maimon, precisely the philosopher who (as a result of his critique of Kant’s philosophy) says, as Fichte said, that reality is produced by the imagination, but who regards such reality to be an illusion.
Fichte’s philosophy is known as a science of freedom since his first Wissenschaftslehre. But since the ego is interpreted as a mere picture in his late moral philosophy, we wonder how the passive image of a truly existing original (the Absolute) can be free. The answer suggested here is that the ego can be understood as a free being, if it is understood as being pure of every Non-I, as pure dynamic being, which cannot be bound to any substantial version of itself, and not even the form of the present.
In the framework of his religion and social criticism, Fichte expounds noteworthy approaches to ideological criticism. When it apparently comes to the belief in the autonomous content of consciousness, he calls into question the truth of it (revelation, miracle), he deciphers the social practices which are connected with it in their function as the rules in terms of social caste. Thereby, based on a subject producing law and order, he works against any duality of a divine and an earthly world. For him there exists only the earthly world in which man has to prove himself. The different forms of consciousness connected with it are understood as moments of reason which come into themselves, as “material for the imagining of one’s life of convenience”. They are manifested in a process of awareness of the imagination which constructs the world. However, they are not unfamiliar, passive reflections streaming into the subject, but are formed through an effect resulting from inseparable interweaving of these actions in malleable images. While Fichte tries to give reasons for social-emancipatorial hopes in faith or knowledge of transcendental reason, they become evidence of a dimension looking beyond the religious form; in the process of forming an image, the subjectivity passes beyond it’s inward nature, bringing knowledge and life into communion.