- Fichte and Schilling: the Jena period
- Fichte and Schilling: the Jena period Daniel Breazeale FROM KANT TO FICHTE An observer of the German philosophical landscape of the 1790s would have surveyed a complex and confusing scene, in which individuals tended to align themselves with particular factions or “schools,” frequently associated with specific universities or, in some cases, periodicals, and engaged in often bitter public controversies with their opponents. Within this context, Kantianism (or “the Critical philosophy,” as it was styled by both its opponents and its exponents) was simply one party among others. Self-appointed representatives of “Enlightenment,” inspired by English and French examples and pledging their allegiance to the legacy of Lessing, dominated more urbane intellectual circles, such as that of Moses Mendelssohn and his associates in Berlin. A more academic variety of rationalism was defended by the many proponents of the Leibnizian- Wolffian philosophy, which still dominated the philosophy departments of most German universities. At the same time, there was a widespread vogue for what was then called “popular philosophy,” the adherents of which, though they usually shared the liberal assumptions and conclusions of the Aufklärer and Wolffians, based their philosophy not upon a priori reasoning, but upon an appeal to the testimony of “healthy common sense.” In opposition to the dominant spirit of the age, these “popular philosophers” distrusted the systematic impulse and were suspicious of all attempts to turn philosophy into a well-grounded “science.” An even more extreme rejection of philosophy as a systematic science was associated with Friedrich Jacobi and J.G.Hamann, two idiosyncratic but influential thinkers who employed skeptical arguments in order to reveal the fragility of human reason and hence the necessity and superiority of “faith.” Another eccentric but influential figure was J.G.Herder, a philosophical naturalist who challenged the prevailing mechanistic models of the mind and of society and sought to replace them with more organic or vitalistic ones. Herder’s ground-breaking work on the origin of languages and the role of history in the formation of human consciousness eventually led him to call for a “meta-critique” of philosophy’s alleged neglect of the influence of language, culture, and history upon thought itself. Finally, there were also a few straightforward representatives of philosophical skepticism, such as G.E.Schulze and Ernst Planner. All of these contending parties were united, however, in their opposition to the new Kantian philosophy, which was steadily gaining in prominence. Not only were several new journals dedicated to the promulgation of Kantianism, but a university chair was established for this purpose as well (at Jena in 1787). It is noteworthy, however, that the single work which played the greatest role in calling public attention to the Critical philosophy was not a book by Kant himself, but rather a series of popular “Letters on the Kantian Philosophy” published in 1786–7 in the widely circulated Allgemeine Literatar-Zeitung. These “Letters” were the work of K.L.Reinhold (1756–1823), an ex-Jesuit and enthusiastic convert to the new Critical philosophy. The most striking feature of Reinhold’s “Letters” is their strong emphasis upon the practical or moral consequences of Kant’s thought. Consequently, it was not as a new theory of knowledge or even as a critique of metaphysics that Kant’s philosophy first attracted widespread attention, but instead, as an ingenious defense of freedom, morality, and religion: a doctrine of “practical belief” which was simultaneously able to acknowledge the (limited) legitimacy of the modern scientific worldview. On the strength of his fame as author of the “Letters,” Reinhold was named as the first occupant of the new chair in Critical philosophy established at Jena in 1787. To the consternation of many of Kant’s more literal-minded followers, Reinhold proved to be a rather unorthodox adherent of the new transcendental philosophy and immediately embarked upon an ambitious project of reformulating and revising Kant’s philosophy. Though Reinhold was quite prepared to endorse all of Kant’s conclusions, he found Kant’s specific arguments and “derivations” to be somewhat lacking in inner coherence and systematic rigor. According to Reinhold, transcendental philosophy could become genuinely “scientific” only by being recast in the form of a deductive system based upon a single, self-evidently certain, “absolutely first principle,” from which, in turn, everything else (e.g. the famous distinction between “thought” and “intuition,” with which Kant’s theoretical philosophy begins) could be “derived.” Reinhold gave the name “Elementary Philosophy” (or “Philosophy of the Elements”) to his revised version of Kantianism, and argued that the latter alone was able to provide Kant’s writings with the systematic form and scientific foundation which they themselves lacked. By analyzing the bare concept of “representation,” Reinhold obtained the first principle of his system, the “principle of consciousness,” and from this first principle he then proposed to derive the distinction between intuition and thought, along with all of familiar Kantian faculties and categories. Reinhold’s Elementary Philosophy is historically significant for two reasons: First of all, Reinhold’s explicit criticism of the “letter” of Kant’s own presentation of his philosophy, and especially his criticism of the duality of Kant’s starting point and the ad hoc character of some of his arguments, promoted a general demand for a more coherent and systematic exposition of Kant’s philosophy. Second, Reinhold’s specific program for accomplishing this task—viz., by deriving the entire Critical philosophy from a single first principle—stimulated others (above all, Fichte) to seek an even more “fundamental” first principle upon which philosophy in its entirety could be “grounded.” Another prominent feature of Kant’s philosophy which was subjected to early criticism (though in this case not by Reinhold) concerned the problematic status of “things in themselves” within the Critical philosophy. The most influential early critic of Kant on this point was F.H.Jacobi (1743–1819), who was a well-known author of sentimental novels, as well as of several influential philosophical (or rather, antiphilosophical) works. In 1787 Jacobi devoted the Appendix to his David Hume on Belief, or Idealism and Realism to an examination of transcendental philosophy, and he focused his criticism upon Kant’s apparently conflicting remarks concerning the status of “things in themselves.” Jacobi concluded that the entire doctrine was incoherent, since, as he put it, one had to assume the existence of things in themselves in order to obtain entry in Kant’s philosophy, only to discover upon entry into the same that such a doctrine is incompatible with the transcendental account of “objectivity” made possible by that same philosophy. For followers of Kant, therefore, the challenge was clear: to defend transcendental idealism from Jacobi’s criticism without following Jacobi himself into a wholesale rejection of philosophical speculation and embrace of a fideistic celebration of “not-knowing.” Similar objections to treating the thing in itself as the transcendent ground of sensations were advanced by Salomon Maimon (c. 1752–1800), a largely self-educated Polish-Russian Jew and the author of the extraordinarily original Examination of Transcendental Philosophy (1790). For Maimon, however, the lesson to be drawn from the untenability of Kant’s doctrine of things in themselves was not the need to abandon reason for immediate feeling and faith, but rather, the desirability of constructing a more “skeptical” variety of Kantianism, one shorn of all transcendent remnants and aware of its own limitations. To this end, Maimon attempted to rehabilitate the Leibnizian notion of an “infinite understanding,” from the perspective of which the distinction between sensibility and thought, content and form, would disappear. Another influential critic of the new transcendental philosophy was G.E.Schulze, self-styled “Humean skeptic” and author of the anonymously published Aenesidemus, or concerning the Foundations of the Elementary Philosophy Propounded at Jena by Prof. Reinhold, Including a Defense of Skepticism against the Pretensions of the Critique of Reason (1792). In attacking the Critical philosophy, Schulze not only repeated many of Jacobi’s and Maimon’s specific criticisms but added some new ones of his own, including an objection to the very idea of “the primacy of practical reason.” In addition to the various internal difficulties within Kant’s writings, Kant’s first generation of readers also had to grapple with what might be thought of as the external problem of the relationship between the various Critiques, a problem which, of course, ultimately concerns nothing less than the systematic unity of the Critical philosophy. How is the worldview of the first Critique to be squared with that of the second? Despite Kant’s own attempt to address this problem, first in the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason, and then in the Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, many readers remained uncertain about how the deterministic worldview of Kant’s theoretical philosophy could be reconciled with the account of freedom and self-determination presented in his practical philosophy. There was also widespread confusion regarding the relationship between the various “subjects” (or “I’s”) encountered in the various Critiques. Is the pure subjective spontaneity that accounts for the transcendental unity of apperception (i.e. “the transcendental I”) identical with the freely acting and self-legislating practical agent (“the practical I”)? And how are these “I’s” related, in turn, to empirical self-consciousness and to embodied persons? Finally, many sympathetic readers expressed serious reservations concerning the overall “architectonic” of the Critical philosophy. How, precisely, are the claims of theoretical philosophy related to those of practical philosophy? Indeed, what is the epistemic status of philosophical claims themselves? What kind of “knowledge” does philosophy convey, and how is such knowledge established? Such was the philosophical context within which the achievements of Fichte and Schelling must be understood and evaluated. Everyone agreed that, for better or for worse, philosophy was in a period of extraordinary crisis and ferment. Even as the magnitude of Kant’s accomplishment was becoming increasingly apparent, it was also becoming obvious—to Kant’s more perspicacious defenders as well as to his critics—that any successful defense of the Critical philosophy would have to be more than a mere restatement of the same. Instead, what would be required would be a further advance down the road first opened by Reinhold’s Elementary Philosophy; only by abandoning the “letter” of Kantianism, or so it seemed, could its “spirit” be preserved. J.G.FICHTE’S JENA WISSENSCHAFTSLEHRE Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), son of a Saxon ribbon weaver, university dropout, and itinerant tutor, first encountered Kant’s writings in 1790, and the effect was immediately galvanizing. “I have been living in a new world ever since reading the Critique of Practical Reason,” he reported to a friend. Propositions I thought could never be overturned have been overturned for me. Things have been proven to me which I thought could never be proven—e.g. the concept of absolute freedom, the concept of duty, etc.—I feel all the happier for it…. Please forgive me for saying so, but I cannot convince myself that prior to the Kantian critique anyone able to think for himself thought any differently than I did, and I do not recall ever having met anyone who had any fundamental objections to make against my [previous, deterministic] system. I encountered plenty of sincere persons who had different— not thoughts (for they were not at all capable of thinking) but different—feelings. (III, 1:167)1 As this passage poignantly testifies, what attracted Fichte to transcendental idealism was his conviction that it alone was able to reconcile human freedom and natural necessity, moral sentiments and rational judgments, “feelings” and “thoughts.” It is no exaggeration to say that Fichte devoted the rest of his life to the task of explaining and expounding the philosophy which, he believed, makes such a reconciliation possible. Though he soon confessed to nagging doubts concerning certain details of Kant’s own presentations of his philosophy, Fichte never entertained any doubts concerning the fundamental truth of the latter, at least insofar as its “spirit” was concerned—a spirit which Fichte was convinced was even better expressed in his own philosophy, which he succinctly characterized in 1795 as “the first system of human freedom” (III, 2:298). Barely two years after his first encounter with Kant’s writings, Fichte was unexpectedly propelled to fame with the publication of his first book, Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation (1792). Through circumstances which have never been adequately explained, the book in question, issued by Kant’s own publisher and dealing with an important topic (viz., revelation, considered as the “appearance” of noumenal reality within the phenomenal world) raised by the Critical philosophy but not yet explicitly dealt with by Kant himself, was originally published anonymously. Not surprisingly, it was immediately and widely hailed as the latest publication by Kant himself. Thus, as soon as the author’s true identity became known, Fichte’s fame as a philosophical author was assured, since it was now too late to retract all of the extravagant praise the book had already received. The young author’s notoriety was only increased by his next two publications, A Discourse on the Reclamation of the Freedom of Thought from the Princes of Europe, who have hitherto Suppressed it and the first installment of A Contribution toward Correcting the Public’s Judgment of the French Revolution. Though both works were published anonymously in 1793 in Danzig (where Fichte was once again employed as a private tutor), the author’s identity was widely known. Thus, in addition to his growing renown as the “third sun in the philosophical heaven,” Fichte also acquired an early reputation as a fiery Jacobin, a reputation which guaranteed him political as well as philosophical enemies during his career at Jena. When Reinhold unexpectedly resigned his chair at Jena in the spring of 1794 it was immediately offered to Fichte, who at this point was living in Zurich in the home of his new father-in-law and was completely engrossed in a vast project of constructing his own version of transcendental idealism, one which would heed Reinhold’s call for a system based upon “a single first principle,” but would do so in a manner which would avoid the published criticisms of Jacobi, Maimon, and Schulze. It was during this period that Fichte decided that his new philosophy deserved a new name. Accordingly, since he wished to emphasize that his new, “rigorously scientific,” philosophy would represent something more than mere “love of wisdom” (or “philosophy”), he baptized it “Wissenschaftslehre” (that is, “theory of science” or “doctrine of scientific knowledge”—not “science of knowledge”). Fichte, who more than anything else wished for his own philosophical efforts to make a positive contribution to the improvement of human life, could hardly afford to decline the offer from Jena, which would guarantee the maximum amount of exposure for his new system. Accordingly, he began lecturing on his new philosophy in the summer of 1794, though not before publishing a brief and “hypothetical” introduction to the same in the form of a meta-philosophical treatise entitled Concerning the Concept of the Wissenschaftslehre, or of so-called “Philosophy” (1794). Even though Fichte had not yet completed the task of thinking through even the rudiments of his new system at the time of his arrival at Jena, he nevertheless immediately began lecturing on the “Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre.” These lectures, which continued through the winter semester of 1794–5, represent Fichte’s first attempt at a full-scale public presentation of his philosophy. For the convenience of his students, he had the text of his lectures printed and distributed (in fascicles) over the course of the two semesters. However, he soon agreed to have these printed fascicles bound together and issued as a book, or rather, as several books: Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre, Parts I and II (1794) and Part III (1795), and Outline of the Distinctive Character of the Wissenschaftslehre with respect to the Theoretical Power (1795)—though the title page of each of these volumes still included the words “published as a manuscript for the use of his students.” There is considerable historical irony in the fact that this “book,” the first parts of which appeared in print well before the later portions had even been drafted, became (and to this day remains) Fichte’s best-known and most influential philosophical work. It is intriguing to wonder what the “history of German Idealism” would have been like if the call to Jena had not come in 1794 and if, instead, Fichte had been allowed the leisure to develop and to publish his philosophy at a somewhat less frantic pace. But, of course, such speculation is as idle as it is intriguing, for the fact is that the full text of the Foundations, along with that of the Outlines, was fatefully set before the reading public in the summer of 1795. Fichte himself was, from the first, deeply dissatisfied with the Foundations, which he wished his auditors and readers to treat as no more than a provisional presentation of the basic principles of his system. Accordingly, when he next returned to this topic, that is, in the lectures on the “Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo” which he first delivered in 1796–7, he offered his students a completely revised and very different presentation of the basic principles and outlines of his philosophy. Apparently, he was relatively satisfied with this new presentation (the socalled “Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo”), for he repeated these lectures twice more during his career at Jena. Indeed, he fully intended to revise them for publication and, in 1797–8, succeeded in publishing two “introductions” to, as well as the first chapter of, this new version, under the title An Attempt at a New Presentation of the Wissenschaftslehre in the Philosophisches Journal einer Gesellschaft Teutscher Gelehrten, of which he was then co-editor. However, Fichte did not confine himself to refining his presentation of the foundations of his philosophy; he also devoted a great deal of effort to fleshing out the systematic scheme merely alluded to in his programmatic writings. He did this in his lectures on Naturrecht (or “natural right”) and ethics, subsequently published as Foundations of Natural Right according to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre (1796–7) and The System of Ethical Theory according to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre (1798). Though he announced that he would lecture on a third systematic subdivision of the Wissenschaftslehre, viz., philosophy of religion, during the summer semester of 1799, the lectures in question were never delivered. Fichte was embroiled in one controversy or another (often involving his political views) from the moment of his arrival in Jena, but the final one, the so-called “atheism controversy,” proved to be his undoing. In 1798 he had published a brief article entitled “Concerning the Basis of our Belief in a Divine Governance of the Universe,” in which he bluntly criticized all attempts by philosophers to infer the existence of God from the fact of the moral law—or from anything else. His many local enemies seized upon this article to incite broader opposition. He was officially charged by the Saxon authorities with atheism, which provoked a very public controversy between Fichte’s opponents and defenders. Eventually, and largely as a result of his own tactical miscalculations, he was dismissed from his academic post. In the summer of 1799 he moved to Berlin. For Fichte, 1799 was a year filled with disappointment. Not only did he lose his job, but he also began to lose many of his most prominent philosophical allies, including Reinhold, who had briefly become an enthusiastic exponent of the Wissenschaftslehre. Schelling, the most conspicuous and prolific of the young “Fichteans,” continued, despite Fichte’s disapproval, to pursue his interest in “the philosophy of nature,” while Jacobi, whom, for all their philosophical differences, Fichte greatly admired, published a long Open Letter to Fichte, in which he devastatingly characterized the Wissenschaftslehre as “nihilism.” Finally, in August 1799, Kant himself issued a public “declaration” in which he repudiated Fichte’s system and disavowed any relationship between his own philosophy and the Wissenschaftslehre. “One star sets, another one rises,” shrugged Goethe, when informed of Fichte’s departure from Jena. When Fichte arrived in Berlin (where there was, as yet, no university) he was forced to earn his living from his writings and from occasional, privately subscribed lessons and lectures. His first project was a “popular” presentation of his philosophy, one specifically designed to rebut the charge of atheism and to reply to Jacobi’s more general criticisms of transcendental philosophy. The resulting book, The Vocation of Man, was published in 1800, closely followed by a rather bold foray into political economy (The Self-Contained Commercial State). Still attempting to defend himself against what he viewed as widespread misperceptions of his position, Fichte then published the pathetically titled Crystal-Clear Report to the General Public concerning the Actual Essence of the Newest Philosophy: an Attempt to Force the Reader to Understand (1801), in which he emphasized the philosophical differences between the Wissenschaftslehre and rival systems of thought. At the same time, he continued to revise and recast his “scientific” presentation of the first principles of his system; indeed, he himself accurately characterized the period 1800–4 as one of “ceaseless work on the Wissenschaftslehre.” Finally abandoning his efforts to revise for publication his 1796–9 lectures on Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo, he once again drafted an entirely new version of the foundations of his philosophy, which he presented in a course of private lectures delivered in Berlin in 1801–2. Once again, however, dissatisfaction with the results prevented him from publishing this new version and impelled him to embark upon yet another, even more thoroughgoing systematic overhaul of his presentation. These efforts culminated in the year 1804, in the course of which Fichte delivered three separate sets of lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre. Though he expressed complete satisfaction with this latest version and readied it for publication, he appears finally to have concluded that he himself was simply incapable of producing a written exposition of his own philosophy which could stand on its own and avert the sorts of misunderstanding to which his Jena writings had been subjected. For the rest of his life he vowed “to confine himself to oral communication, so that misunderstanding can thereby be detected and eliminated on the spot” (III, 5:223). In 1804 he also delivered a wellreceived series of more popular lectures On the Characteristics of the Present Age (subsequently published in 1806), in which he dealt, for the first time, with the philosophy of history. Fichte spent the summer semester of 1805 at the Prussian University at Erlangen, where he prepared and lectured upon yet another presentation of the first principles of his philosophy. Upon his return to Berlin in 1806 he delivered yet another set of “popular” lectures, Directions for a Blessed Life, which were published later that same year. These lectures reveal the strong influence of the Gospel of St John on Fichte’s thinking at this point and contain what is perhaps the most accessible presentation of the new, more religiously oriented, and “mystical” tendency of his thought during his final years. With the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon’s armies in 1806 and the occupation of Berlin, Fichte took refuge in Königsberg, where he served briefly as a professor, producing for his lectures yet another version of the Wissenschaftslehre. After the Peace of Tilsit, however, he returned to Berlin, where he delivered his celebrated Addresses to the German Nation under the noses of the occupying forces. These lectures, in which Fichte attempted to kindle a sense of distinctively “German” patriotism and outlined a program of national education for this purpose, were published in 1808 and subsequently exercised a wide influence upon the development of German nationalist sentiment. Fichte was also instrumental during this period in establishing the new University of Berlin. When the university was finally opened in 1810, he served as head of the philosophical faculty and, briefly, as rector of the university. He remained a professor at the new university until his death in 1814. During these years he lectured on a variety of subjects, including the first principles of his Wissenschaftslehre (of which he produced at least four more versions after 1810), political philosophy (or “doctrine of the state”), philosophy of right, and a popular introduction to philosophy under the title “the facts of consciousness.” None of these new lectures were published by Fichte, though in 1810 he did publish a cryptic overview of the latest version of his system, The Wissenschaftslehre in its General Outline. Fichte died unexpectedly at the age of 51, of typhus, which he contracted from his wife, who had been infected by wounded soldiers she was nursing. Let us now turn to a consideration of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre, limiting ourselves to the version which exercised the greatest influence upon his contemporaries, that is, the “Jena Wissenschaftslehre” of 1794– 9. In doing so, it is vital to recall that the term “Wissenschaftslehre” does not refer to any particular book or even any specific presentation of Fichte’s system. In its broadest sense, “Wissenschaftslehre” is simply Fichte’s proposed new name for “philosophy” itself, understood not as a form of “practical wisdom,” but rather as a rigorous, systematic “science.” Thus, in Concerning the Concept of Wissenschaftslehre, Fichte identifies Wissenschaftslehre with “the science of science itself,” with knowledge about the very conditions, foundations, and limits of knowledge. (To be sure, this means that philosophy, qua “science of science” or “knowledge of knowledge,” involves a certain, unavoidable degree of circularity. But, as Fichte argues persuasively in Concerning the Concept, such circularity—once it has been clearly grasped—is not an objection to philosophy, but is, instead, one of its most distinctive and unavoidable features.) Somewhat more narrowly construed, “Wissenschaftslehre” is Fichte’s new name for “transcendental idealism” or “Critical philosophy” —in contrast to the previously prevailing systems, which Fichte lumped together under the name “dogmatism” and believed was best represented by Spinoza. The essential features of a Wissenschaftslehre in this narrower sense are, first of all, that it follows Kant in insisting that genuinely philosophical questions are those of justification or warrant (quid juris) rather than questions of “fact” (quid facti). Consequently, the actual arguments and deductions which constitute philosophy as Wissenschaftslehre cannot be based upon an appeal to the so-called “facts of consciousness,” since the task of such a science is to “explain” or account for these very “facts.” More specifically, the particular set of facts which a Wissenschaftslehre has to account for in the first instance are those associated with our experience of an external world of objects. Or rather, limiting ourselves to the standpoint of consciousness, what philosophy has to explain is the presence within human consciousness of “representations accompanied by a feeling of necessity.” Hence the question posed by the Wissenschaftslehre is as follows: “What is the connection between our representations and their objects? To what extent can we say that something independent of our representations, something altogether independent of and external to us, corresponds to our representations?” (I, 3:247). What has to be explained, in short, is “how representing becomes knowing.” Second, the “explanation” of cognition provided by the Wissenschaftslehre must be rigorously “transcendental” in character, in the sense that it must begin with something it regards as certain or beyond controversy (e.g. in Kant’s case, the continuous self-identity of the knowing subject over time) and then enquire into the necessary conditions for the possibility thereof. Third, a Wissenschaftslehre takes very much to heart the Kantian insistence upon “the primacy of practical reason.” This does not mean simply that it recognizes the integrity and autonomy of the moral or “practical” sphere and resolutely refuses to countenance any standpoint that treats our consciousness of our own freedom as illusory. Instead, the Wissenschaftslehre insists that “the practical power is the innermost root of the I” (I, 3:332); and, basing itself upon this insight, it attempts to demonstrate that “our freedom itself [is] a theoretical determining principle of our world” (I, 5:77). What a transcendental idealism of this sort has to demonstrate is that only a free and practically striving I can have any experience of a world of spatio-temporal, material objects, and the overall deductive strategy of the Wissenschaftslehre is to demonstrate this by showing that the latter is a condition for the former. This is the sense in which “theoretical reason” is based upon “practical reason.” (Of course, there is also an important sense in which the converse is true: since, according to Fichte anyway, practical striving presupposes theoretical awareness of a goal.) Finally, there is a third, even narrower sense of “Wissenschaftslehre,” in which the term is synonymous neither with philosophy in general nor with transcendental idealism as such, but refers instead to Fichte’s own, distinctive version of the latter. Although Fichte himself never relinquished his long-standing claim that “the Wissenschaftslehre is nothing other than the Kantian philosophy properly understood” and consequently always sought to minimize the differences between his own system and Kant’s, it must nevertheless be conceded that there are many striking differences between the “letter” of his philosophy and that of Kant’s. For example, Fichte’s version of transcendental idealism follows Reinhold in claiming to base everything upon a single, absolutely certain “first principle.” By proceeding in this rigorously “deductive” manner, Fichte believed, the Wissenschaftslehre would be able to produce a more elegant and successful derivation of the a priori categories of possible experience—including space and time. (The deductive strategy of the Wissenschaftslehre makes it possible to dispense with the Kantian distinction between “transcendental aesthetics” and “transcendental logic,” and thus tends to identify “forms of intuition” and “categories of thought.”) By deriving everything from a single starting point the Wissenschaftslehre could also hope to avoid the problems of systematic unity which plagued Kant’s writings. Not only would it be able to exhibit the “common root” of intuition and thinking, but, even more significantly, it would be able to demonstrate, in a systematic manner, the intimate link between theoretical and practical reason, the realm of nature and that of freedom. (This last point marks a major advance beyond Reinhold’s Elementary Philosophy, which confined itself almost entirely to an account of theoretical reason.) Or, to cite another example of the manner in which Fichte’s philosophy advanced beyond the letter of Kant’s, there is no room within the Wissenschaftslehre for any reference, however minimal or tangential, to “things in themselves.” Having absorbed the arguments of Kant’s critics, Fichte firmly rejected any appeal—within the context of a philosophical account of experience, though not, of course, within the context of everyday life, where such appeals are not only appropriate but unavoidable—to what he characterized as the “non-thought of things in themselves.” In contrast to philosophical “dogmatism,” which vainly attempts to explain representations as “produced” within the mind by external objects, and which thus pretends to derive consciousness from things, a genuine transcendental idealism or Wissenschaftslehre adopts the opposite strategy; that is, it tries to show how our experience of “things” is a consequence of the character of consciousness itself. If philosophy is to remain transcendental and is not to become transcendent, then the undeniable “objectivity” of the world of ordinary experience will have to be accounted for purely in terms of consciousness and its acts. This means that transcendental philosophy must demonstrate that “the representation and the object that is supposed to correspond to it are one and the same thing—merely regarded from two different points of view” (I, 3:252). It accomplishes this by showing that consciousness must operate in certain ways if selfconsciousness (which, for Fichte as for Kant, is the starting point of the entire deduction) is to be possible at all. It is the “necessity” of these modes of acting which accounts for the “feeling of necessity” which accompanies certain representations, and thereby accounts for the experienced “objectivity” of the world. (The sort of idealism which merely asserts that mind “constructs” reality but does not offer a rigorous deduction of the necessity with which it acts in doing so is dismissed by Fichte as “transcendent idealism.”) Turning now to the Jena Wissensckaftslehre, let us begin with an examination of its first principle or starting point. Obviously, it is not sufficient that the “first principle” of all philosophy be a proposition from which all of the other propositions of the system can be derived; in addition, the principle in question must also be true. But how can the truth of this highest principle be established? Its truth cannot be derived from some higher principle or set of principles, for then the principle in question would not be “first.” Hence the first principle, if it is to be true at all, must be immediately true; it must express something that is self-evidently certain. (To be sure, that this self-evident certainty is also the “first principle” of all philosophy is by no means self-evident; instead, this can be established only by actually erecting a system upon the certainty in question.) What then is the first principle of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre? Though casual readers of the Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre sometimes assume that Fichte begins with the logical principle “A=A,” a closer reading of the famous § I of this text reveals that the first principle in question is not the abstract logical principle of identity, which is employed purely as a preliminary “clue” for the discovery of the actual first principle of the system: viz., the material proposition which states that “the I simply posits itself.” This principle expresses what Fichte believes to be the supreme act of the mind, an act in which the I is simultaneously subject and object. (Such an act is “supreme” in precisely the same, transcendental sense in which Kant considered the transcendental unity of apperception to be “supreme.”) Though there is certainly a sense in which the Wissenschaftslehre may be construed as a continuation of the Cartesian project of basing philosophy as a whole upon the alleged self-evidence of the cogito, there is also a crucial difference concerning the status of “self-consciousness.” For Fichte, self-consciousness (and hence all consciousness, since the underlying strategy of the entire enterprise is to show that the latter is but a special instance of the former) cannot be understood as a “fact,” no matter how privileged; nor can it be comprehended as an accident of some substance or a modification of some “being.” Instead, it must be understood as an activity, albeit of a most extraordinary, self-productive type. To employ Fichte’s own terminology, the self-positing of the I, which alone makes possible every act of empirical self-consciousness, and indeed, object-consciousness, is a “fact/act” or Tathandlung. It presupposes no prior “subject” which acts; it constitutes itself, qua self-consciousness, in the very act of becoming conscious of itself. From this it follows that the “being” of the I is, so to speak, a consequence of its self-positing. Indeed, this, according to Fichte, is precisely what it means to be a “free being.” A similar thought has been expressed in our own century in the formula that, where human beings are concerned, “existence precedes essence.” Thus, in order to “explain representations” Fichte invokes an original act of consciousness which is not an act of mere “representing” at all, but is equally and at the same time an act of production, indeed autoproduction. Thus the starting point of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre is equally “practical” and “theoretical,” for the act described in its first principle (“the I simply posits itself”) is a “doing” as well as a “knowing.” Indeed, it is precisely because Fichte’s system commences with and proceeds from “that supreme point from which the practical and the speculative appear as one” (III, 2:395) that it can hope to succeed in its overall goal of reconciling freedom and necessity, morality and nature. This choice of a starting point has equally dramatic implications for the narrower field of theoretical philosophy proper (that is, for that portion of philosophy which accounts for our experience of an external world of spatio-temporal objects), for it establishes, from the very start, the essential identity of ideality (being for consciousness) and reality (being in itself). An I is an I only insofar as it posits itself—i.e. is aware of itself as an I. Since the unity of being and thinking is explicitly present in our original starting point, it follows that it will be (implicitly) present in everything derived therefrom. Everything that “is” is only insofar as it is “for the I”; i.e. “being” is not an original category within the Wissenschaftslehre, but is only a subsidiary or “derived” one. The nature of this starting point is further clarified in Fichte’s second attempt at a presentation of the outlines and first principles of his system (viz., in the Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo and the fragmentary Attempt at a New Presentation). It is here, in the presentation of 1796–9, that the initial act of self-positing with which the Wissenschaftslehre begins is described as an “intellectual intuition.” Though Fichte’s use of this term has produced a great deal of confusion (and though his remarks on the topic are not always as clear or as consistent as one might wish), the term “intellectual intuition” simply designates the previously described “act” (Tathandlang) of pure self-consciousness, within which the I is supposed to be immediately present to itself, thereby constituting itself as an I, at the same time that it distinguishes itself as an object of consciousness from itself as the subject thereof. Such an act deserves to be called an “intuition” (in the Kantian sense) because the object of consciousness is in this case immediately present. But since the object in question (the I itself) is not “given” to consciousness in this case, but is produced thereby, the intuition is “intellectual” rather than sensory. One should note that it is not Fichte’s claim that such an original intellectual intuition can ever occur within empirical self-consciousness. On the contrary, he frequently reminds his readers that “this absolute identity of subject and object within the I can only be inferred and cannot be immediately evinced as a ‘fact of consciousness’ ” (I, 5:21). However, philosophical reflection upon our own, necessarily divided selfconsciousness can lead us to the inference that such an original unity must necessarily underlie and condition every empirical act of consciousness (within which the reflecting subject is in fact never discovered to be identical with the object of reflection). Only if there is an original unity of self-consciousness can we account for our abiding sense of our own identity, despite the fact that within every moment of empirical consciousness we find our identity divided between that of the subject and that of the object. Thus, whereas the formal presentation of the “foundations” of the system begins with a description of the ungrounded Tathandlung or selfpositing of the I, actual philosophizing, i.e. recapitulating for oneself the series of deductions which constitute the Wissenschaftslehre, begins instead with a free act of reflective abstraction on the part of the would-be philosopher. This act of turning one’s attentions away from all objects and toward the operations of one’s own consciousness is not an act of “intellectual intuition” of the sort attributed to the pure I which the philosopher is trying to study. (If Fichte sometimes uses the term “intellectual intuition” to designate the act of introspection or selfobservation engaged in by the philosopher, then one must carefully distinguish this use of the term from its other, more fundamental employment to designate the I’s original act of self-positing.) The philosopher, meanwhile, after having abstracted from the “facts of consciousness,” then seeks (within the artificial context of their philosophical account) to re-establish that same realm of facts, and they accomplish this by showing why and how the I must posit such a realm if it is to posit itself at all. This is how transcendental philosophy answers the quid juris. But why should a philosopher begin with precisely this abstraction? Why should we commence with the bare thought of what Fichte calls variously “the absolute I,” “I-hood,” “the intellect,” or simply “reason” (rather than beginning, for example, with the abstraction of a “thing in itself”)? What is it that makes this mere idea of an original self-positing subject certain? Fichte’s reply is instructive: The initial certainty of his proposed starting point is not theoretical at all, but is, instead, practical. The autonomy of the I, which is, after all, what is asserted in the formula that “the I simply posits itself,” is something one must confirm for oneself within one’s own moral experience. To the extent that one is aware of oneself as a free agent, to this extent one is actually aware of oneself as a self-positing I. To be sure, theoretical/philosophical doubts concerning such an awareness always remain possible. This is why skepticism cannot be avoided by purely theoretical means. Instead, what keeps us from doubting the proposed starting point is our sense of moral obligation to determine our own actions, that is to say, our indefeasible awareness of our own freedom. The reason, therefore, why the transcendental idealist comes to a stop with the proposition “the I freely posits itself” is not because they are unable to entertain theoretical doubts on this point or because they cannot continue the process of reflective abstraction. Instead, as Fichte puts it: I cannot go beyond this standpoint because I am not permitted to do so… I ought to begin my thinking with the thought of the pure I, and I ought to think of this pure I as acting with absolute spontaneity— not as determined by things, but rather, as determining them. (I, 4:220–1) Thus the “categorical imperative” is invoked to secure the first principles of the entire Wissenschaftslehre (not merely of ethics), which illuminates Fichte’s striking claim that the “Wissenschaftslehre is the only kind of philosophical thinking that accords with duty” (I, 4:219). This also may help explain the notoriously ad horninem character of Fichte’s polemic against those (the “dogmatists”) who are unable or unwilling to accept the Wissenschaftslehre. What ultimately prevents them from doing so, according to Fichte, is not any deficiency of their intellect or any lack of philosophical acumen. Instead, the reason some people persist in attempting to understand consciousness in terms of things (rather than vice versa) is because they lack a lively sense of their own freedom. The defect in question is thus one which concerns their moral character. As Fichte put it in a sardonic footnote: “most men could more easily be convinced to consider themselves a piece of lava on the moon than an I” (I, 2:326 n.). The Wissenschaftslehre, however, is a philosophy for those who can and do conceive of themselves as free agents, and it is in precisely this sense that Fichte could describe it as “from first to last, nothing more than an analysis of the concept of freedom” (III, 4:182). After one has established for oneself via abstract reflection the first principle of the Wissenschaftslehre and has confirmed the truth of this starting point by appealing directly to one’s own practical experience, one is then in a position to discover—again, by reflection and selfobservation— all of the other acts which must necessarily occur as well if the postulated original act is to occur. Of course, just as we are never directly aware of the original act of self-positing which constitutes subjectivity as such, so we are not usually aware of these other, “necessary but unconscious” acts which are derived as conditions necessary for the possibility of this first act (though, of course, the transcendental philosopher becomes aware of them in the course of their enquiry). The Wissenschaftslehre is therefore described by Fichte as both (a) a process of raising to consciousness those unconscious acts by means of which the I “constitutes” the world of its experience and (b) nothing more than a complete (and often exceedingly complex) analysis of its own first principle. The results of such an analysis, however, are sometimes surprising. For example, one of the more striking conclusions of the “analysis” of freedom carried out in the “foundational” portion of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre is that, although “the I simply posits itself,” freedom is never “absolute” or “unlimited”; instead, Fichte unequivocally demonstrates that freedom is conceivable only as limited. Only finite freedom is actual, just as the only sort of consciousness which is actual is finite, empirical, and embodied. Only “limited” subjects exist as subject. The conclusion of the Foundations and the nova methodo is the same: an I must posit itself in order to be an I at all; but it can posit itself only insofar as it posits itself as limited (and hence divided against itself). The limitation in question is first posited as a “feeling,” then as a “sensation,” then as an “intuition” of a thing, and finally as a “concept.” All that we can say, from a transcendental perspective, concerning the original character of the “limitation” in question is to describe it in terms of the I’s practical striving. This limitation is first described (in the 1794–5 presentation) as a “check” or Anstoß to the I’s striving, a “check” which manifests itself within consciousness as “feeling.” Though Fichte certainly demonstrates that such an Anstoß must in fact occur if self-consciousness is to be actual, he never claims that such a limitation is produced by the self-positing I, though he does, of course, observe that a limitation cannot exist (as a limitation of the I) unless it is “posited” as such (i.e. taken up into consciousness) by the I. On the other hand, Fichte steadfastly opposes all attempts to “explain” the Anstoß as an “effect” produced by the Not- I. The point is simply this: like the I itself, even the most rigorously “scientific” and a priori philosophy finally must admit that there are limits to what can be explained. Philosophy can explain, for example, why the world has a spatio-temporal character and a causal structure, but it cannot explain why objects have the particular sensible properties they happen to have. This is simply what the I discovers—albeit “within itself” and not “out there”—when it reflects upon its own original limitations. To be sure, philosophy can show that the I cannot posit its own freedom, i.e. cannot posit itself, unless it finds itself to be limited (and then, in turn, posits a world of objects as the ground of its own limited state—thereby, as it were, “explaining” to itself its own limitation). However, that the I, in fact, finds itself to be limited—and limited in a specific manner (=“feeling”)—is something that cannot be demonstrated a priori; instead, this is something “that everyone can prove to oneself only through one’s own experience” (I, 2:390). This first account of the original limitation of the I is supplemented (in the Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo) by an account of how the practically striving I is originally called upon to limit itself freely in response to a “summons” (Aufforderung) received from what it takes to be another free being similar to itself. To this degree, the 1796–9 presentation goes well beyond the 1794–5 version in demonstrating that self-consciousness also presupposes a recognition of and by others; for one can be conscious of oneself only as an individual, which in turn requires consciousness of a realm of rational beings of which one is but a single member. This important argument, which demonstrates that recognition of and by others is a condition for self-recognition, was first elaborated by Fichte in his Foundations of Natural Right and was subsequently incorporated into his presentation of the very “foundations” of the Wissenschaftslehre—though it must be admitted that the precise, relative roles of Anstoß and Aufforderung in the constitution of self-consciousness remain somewhat unclear. Let us now turn from a consideration of the starting point and deductive strategy of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre to an examination of the overall, systematic structure of the same (as explained in the concluding section of the Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo). The presentation of a complete, transcendental system of philosophy should begin with a discussion and demonstration of the “basic principles” or “foundations” of such a system, and this is precisely what Fichte himself attempted to do, first in the Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre and Concerning the Distinctive Character of the Wissenschaftslehre with Respect to the Theoretical Power, and then, in a revised form, in his lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo. The “foundational” portion of the system begins by calling upon the reader to isolate for him- or herself the concept of the freely self-positing I (“think the I!”). Once this initial starting point has been established, it is followed by an elaborate, transcendental account of subjectivity as such, an account which includes step-by-step analysis (which Fichte calls “genetic explanation”) of the various unconscious acts of the mind which are required for the possibility of self-positing and which are involved in the constitution of everyday experience. This analysis includes an extended account of the creative activity of the “productive imagination,” understood by Fichte as that power of the I which mediates between free self-positing (Tathandlung) and limited self-feeling (Anstoß). This first, “foundational” portion of the Wissenschaftslehre demonstrates how the “entire mechanism of consciousness is based upon various ways of viewing the separation of the subjective and the objective within consciousness, and, in turn, the union of both” (I, 5:21): hence the explicitly “dialectical” structure of the argument, which constantly oscillates between moments of relative identity and moments of relative difference. Next come what Fichte terms the various “real” philosophical sciences which make up the further subdivisions of the entire Wissenschaftslehre. There are three such systematic subdivisions: “theoretical philosophy,” “practical philosophy,” and “philosophy of the postulates,” within each of which the mind’s general principles, laws, and modes of acting (all of which.have previously been derived within the “Foundations”) are applied and extended within a specific and limited field. A “specifically theoretical Wissenschaftslehre” or “Wissenschaftslehre of cognition” (not to be confused with the “theoretical” portion of the Foundations) concerns itself with the general features of what consciousness “discovers” in the course of its experience. Accordingly, this portion of transcendental philosophy presents us with a complete “theory of the world.” It deals with what is given to consciousness, and it explains—to the severely limited extent that this can be explained philosophically—the necessary features of such a world. Hence, theoretical philosophy is limited to a consideration of cognition, that is, to an analysis of the specific type of consciousness within which the conscious subject considers itself to be “determined” by its objects. Theoretical philosophy shows what objects must be like for such consciousness to be possible, and in this sense it constitutes an a priori account of empirical reality as a whole, or of “nature.” It thus determines the content of experience, but only to the extent that this content reflects the form of consciousness. This sort of theoretical philosophy of nature can indeed circumscribe experience, but it is in no way intended to supplant or to rival the empirical, natural sciences. Though clearly Fichte envisioned such a “distinctively theoretical Wissenschaftslehre” (modeled, no doubt, upon Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science), he himself never completed such a science. The closest he came was in his Concerning the Distinctive Character of the Wissenschaftslehre with Respect to the Theoretical Power, which barely proceeds beyond the transcendental deduction of space, time, and causality. In contrast with the purely “theoretical” portion of the system, the specifically “practical” Wissenschaftslehre views the object of consciousness as freely determined by the subject. Thus it treats objects (or “being”) not as given to consciousness, but rather, as produced, and produced by a freely acting and conscious subject attempting to accomplish its own goals: hence Fichte’s assertion that the practical Wissenschaftslehre views “being as a product of concepts.” The usual name for such a science is “ethics” or “ethical theory” (Sittenlehre). Ethics, or the distinctively practical portion of the overall system of the Wissenschaftslehre, examines not what is, but what ought to be. The “world” with which it is concerned is the world as it ought to be constructed by rational beings. Thus, in this portion of his system (though not elsewhere) Fichte really does interpret the world purely as an arena for moral striving—for this is how the world is actually viewed by the practically striving I (just as the theoretical or “knowing” I views it as something given to consciousness). Fichte’s System of Ethical Theory begins with a recapitulation of certain conclusions established in the “Foundations”: e.g. (a) an awareness of one’s own efficacy (i.e. of one’s capacity to realize one’s goal concepts) is a condition for the very possibility of self-consciousness, and (b) the I finds itself called upon (or “summoned”) to limit itself freely in relation to other free beings. The specific task of The System of Ethical Theory is to indicate the particular duties and practicial corollaries which follow from the general obligation to limit oneself freely. Accordingly, this portion of the system can be described as a detailed analysis of conscience as such, or as an expanded enquiry into the form and content of the “categorical imperative.” The result is a systematic account of duty as such, that is, of those duties which apply to all rational beings, without taking into account any of the individual differences between persons. Here again, the argument by means of which Fichte purports to establish this system of duties is strictly transcendental in character: the various “oughts” it establishes are presented as so many conditions for the possibility of the original “ought,” i.e. as conditions for the possibility of autonomous selfdetermination. The third and in many respects most original systematic subdivision of the Wissenschaftslehre is called by Fichte “philosophy of the postulates.” This portion of the system is concerned with the relationship between the theoretical and the practical realms and examines the specific demands (or “postulates”) which each realm addresses to the other. Those postulates that theory addresses to the practical realm are the subject of the portion of the system entitled “theory of right” (Rechtslehre) or “natural right” (Naturrecht), whereas those postulates that practical philosophy addresses to the theoretical realm are the subject of the philosophy of religion. Unlike ethics, which deals with rational (i.e. free) beings as such, the “theory of right” considers these same practical agents in their individuality, that is, as individual members of a community of free individuals. Such a philosophical science poses the question: How must the freedom of each individual be externally limited in order to permit every individual to pursue their individual goals to the fullest extent possible? The Foundations of Natural Right begins with a general deduction of “intersubjectivity,” that is, with a transcendental demonstration that a free individual can recognize itself as such only insofar as it recognizes the freedom of others, while simultaneously distinguishing itself from all of these other freely acting individuals. The next step is to stipulate the conditions for the possibility of such “mutual recognition” among free beings, the chief one of which is free acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the general rule of “right” or “justice,” namely: “limit your own freedom in accordance with the concept of the freedom of all other persons with whom you come into contact” (I, 3:320). Since the mutual recognition in question, that is, the sway of the “rule of right,” can be shown to be possible only within a free society, Fichte’s examination of “natural right” quickly turns into a consideration, deeply indebted to Rousseau, of the nature of a just social order, the sources of political legitimacy, and some of the specific features of a “just state.” Indeed, the Foundations of Natural Right could be described as a systematic effort to re-establish the Social Contract on purely transcendental foundations. It is the most important early presentation of Fichte’s political philosophy. From a purely systematic perspective, the most distinctive feature of Fichte’s Rechtslehre is his clear awareness of the distinctively “mixed” character of such a discipline. It is “theoretical,” because it speaks of a “world” (viz., the juridical or political order which is designed to constrain the activities of freely self-positing individuals in such a way that each can pursue their own goals); yet it is also “practical,” because such a world is never simply “given” to us, but must be produced by free action. The just state is a human product, not something “natural”; but at the same time it is something external, something which, unlike purely ethical ends, cannot be achieved merely by internal self-limitation—though, to be sure, the “external limitations” required by the concept of “right” must be freely self-imposed (i.e. must be expressions of the “general will”). This is precisely what distinguishes the “science of right” from the “theory of ethics” (and distinguishes Fichte’s treatment of the former from that of Kant, for whom the “theory of right” constitutes a subdivision of ethics): whereas ethics deals with the sphere of our duties, and thus with what is demanded of us as free individuals, the theory of natural right deals with those limitations of freedom which are required by the concept of a community of free individuals; i.e. it deals with what is permitted. Whereas ethics is concerned with the inner world of conscience, the theory of right is concerned only with the external, public realm—though only insofar as the latter can be viewed as an embodiment of freedom. Hence the concept of right obtains its binding force, not from the ethical law, but rather from the general laws of thinking and from enlightened selfinterest. Such a force is hypothetical rather than categorical. If one is to posit one’s own freedom, then one must posit the freedom of others and limit one’s own freedom accordingly. It follows that a just political order is a demand of reason itself, since “the concept of justice or right is a condition of self-consciousness” (I, 3:358). The other subdivision of the theory of the postulates, that is, the philosophy of religion, is described as that philosophical science which concerns itself with the postulates which morality addresses to nature. As such, the philosophy of religion considers the manner in which the sensible realm of nature is supposed somehow to accommodate itself to the goal of morality, and thus it deals primarily with what is sometimes called the problem of “divine providence.” Fichte himself, as we have noted, was prevented from fully developing this portion of his system while at Jena by, ironically enough, the outbreak of the atheism controversy. Nevertheless, one can gain some idea of his thoughts on this subject from the short essay, “On the Foundation of Our Belief in a Divine Government of the Universe,” which precipitated the controversy in question. What one finds in this essay is, first of all, an attempt to draw a sharp distinction between religion and philosophy (corresponding to the all-important distinction between the “ordinary” and “transcendental” standpoints), and second, a defense of our right to postulate something like a “moral world order.” But whereas Fichte argues that we are justified in believing that our conscientious actions will in fact “make a difference” in the real world, he resolutely insists (against the Kantians) that such a postulate does not require the postulate of a personal deity, a.k.a., “moral lawgiver.” Thus the argument of the essay in question is primarily negative. It does not deny the existence of God, but it does deny that such a postulate is morally required or justified. Finally, a word is perhaps in order concerning the general tenor or “spirit” of Fichte’s Jena Wissenschaftslehre. Before finally settling upon a distinctive name for his new philosophy, Fichte considered various possibilities, one of which was Strebungsphilosophie, or “philosophy of striving” (II, 3:265). As a description of “the first system of human freedom” this discarded appellation is particularly apt, for the general conclusion of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre is as follows: Freedom is possible and actual only within the context of natural necessity, where it is never “absolute,” but always limited and finite. Though it must posit its freedom “absolutely”—that is to say, “purely and simply” (schlechthin) or “for no reason”—a genuinely free agent can actually exist only as a finite individual striving to overcome its own limitations and to transform the natural world in accordance with its own goal concepts. To be an “I” is thus to be involved in an endless process of self-overcoming, a process which necessarily takes place in reciprocal interaction with other selfovercoming agents and in the context of a spatio-temporal, material world. Without such limits, there can be neither freedom nor selfconsciousness. Such is the philosophical “vision” which presides over and gives direction to the often bewildering complexities of Fichte’s Jena writings. The Wissenschaftslehre is a philosophy of projects, a “philosophy of the future.” The famous “absolute I” with which the system begins is a mere abstraction, just as the final unity of the I with itself toward which it aspires is a sheer ideal. Between the abstraction and the ideal lies the entire realm of actual consciousness and experience, which, as we have seen, is necessarily a realm of finite, constrained freedom and of real, empirical nature, which exists only “for consciousness”—even though the specific determinacy of this natural world remains philosophically inexplicable. What we can grasp is that the world is not now as it ought to be and that it is up to us to change it. Hence Fichte’s parting injunction to the students who flocked to his lectures during his first semester at Jena: “Act! Act! That is what we are here for” (I, 3:67). SCHELLING’S NATURPHILOSOPHIE AND SYSTEM OF IDENTITY Even in a period when observers were in the habit of keeping a weather eye on the philosophical horizon for the emergence of the newest star, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling was a phenomenon: a philosophical Wunderkind who lived a long life, marked by what at least appeared to be dramatic and frequent shifts of philosophical orientation. Accordingly, it is customary to divide Schelling’s philosophical career into a number of more or less distinct phases or periods, though scholars disagree among themselves over the precise number of periods and the degree of underlying continuity in Schelling’s development. Here, in any case, we will confine our attention to the period prior to his departure from Jena in 1803. Born near Stuttgart in 1775, Schelling was the son of a Schwabian pastor and duly attended the seminary at Tübingen, where he became close friends with Hölderlin and Hegel. His first philosophical publication, an essay on “the philosophy of mythology,” appeared in 1793, when its author was barely 18 years old. With the publication of Fichte’s first systematic writings, Schelling immediately became an enthusiastic exponent of the same and devoted his next two publications, On the Possibility of a Form for All Philosophy (1794) and On the I as the Principle of Philosophy (1795), to expounding and defending this latest version of transcendental idealism. After leaving Tübingen in 1795, Schelling spent three years as a tutor to the children of a wealthy nobleman, a post which provided him ample opportunity for travel and independent study (including an extended period during which he studied physics, medicine, and mathematics at the University of Leipzig). During these years he became a regular contributor to the Philosophical Journal, where he published his Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism (1795), as well as his New Deduction of Natural Right (1796) A growing enthusiasm for Spinoza began to become increasingly evident in Schelling’s writings of this period, along with mounting reservations concerning the Wissenschaftslehre. Above all, Schelling was dissatisfied with the status assigned to “nature” by Fichte’s system. Indeed, one could characterize Schelling’s philosophical project at this point as an attempt to replace Fichte’s “lifeless” conception of nature with a more adequate one modeled on Spinoza’s notion of natura naturans, but to do so without overstepping the bounds of transcendental idealism (e.g. by assimilating Spinoza’s “infinite substance” or God to the idealists’ “transcendental I”). Stimulated both by his enthusiasm for Spinoza and by his own scientific studies, Schelling gradually became preoccupied by efforts to construct a systematic Naturphilosophie or “philosophy of nature.” To be sure, he was not alone. Others, for example Goethe, were also vocal in their dissatisfaction with what they regarded as the unnecessarily mechanistic and reductive character of the Newtonian worldview. Nevertheless, Schelling gave a distinctive twist to this project, inasmuch as he attempted to develop a more holistic view of nature which would at the same time be at least compatible with (if not actually a systematic subdivision of) the new transcendental philosophy of Kant and Fichte. Of his many publications on this topic, the more important include Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797) and On the World-Soul (1798), as well as the Journal of Speculative Physics (1800–3). In 1798 Schelling received an academic appointment at Jena, where he remained until 1803. Though he had frequent contact with Fichte during his first year in Jena, he was even more intimately associated with a younger and more artistically inclined circle, which included the Schlegel brothers, Tieck, and Novalis. Indeed, his philosophy of this period exercised a seminal influence upon the birth of “German romanticism,” just as the latter, in turn, deeply influenced the subsequent development of Schelling’s own thinking. Even as he was exploring “speculative physics” and attempting to supplement transcendental idealism with Naturphilosophie, Schelling was also engaged in an attempt to construct a revised and improved presentation of transcendental idealism itself. His lectures on this subject resulted, in 1800, in the publication of what is perhaps, from both a literary and a philosophical point of view, his most successful single publication, The System of Transcendental Idealism. Because of the quite privileged status assigned to an at the conclusion of the latter work, this phase of Schelling’s thought is sometimes characterized as “aesthetic idealism.” But Schelling’s interest in an was not a merely passing phase, nor was it purely theoretical in character. Just as he had previously supplemented his efforts to construct a Naturphilosophie by studying the empirical sciences, so too, under the tutelage of Friedrich Schlegel, he attempted to cultivate himself aesthetically by making a systematic, empirical study of the history of an. The fruits of this intensive effort are apparent in the richly detailed lectures on the philosophy of art he delivered first at Jena (1801–3) and then at Würzburg (1803–4). Schelling’s Jena philosophy culminates in his efforts, in the years immediately following the publication of his System of Transcendental Idealism, to make explicit the implicit harmony between the philosophy of nature and transcendental idealism. In order to accomplish this goal, he incorporated both of these “sciences” within a larger, more encompassing system, which he dubbed the “System of Identity” or “Absolute Idealism” and expounded in a series of publications, including the Presentation of my System of Philosophy (1801), Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things (1802), and what is unquestionably the most accessible and “popular” presentation of this phase of his thought, On University Studies. This was also the period of close and regular collaboration between Scheliing and Hegel, who arrived in Jena in 1801. For the next two years the two were allied in a collaborative effort to explicate and to defend the new System of Identity. In pursuit of this goal, they founded and co-wrote the entire contents of a short-lived new Critical Journal of Philosophy. During this same period the rift between Schelling and Fichte—a rift which originally arose over Fichte’s misgivings at Schelling’s efforts to “supplement” transcendental philosophy with Naturphilosophie and then turned into a more general disagreement concerning the nature and limits of philosophy itself—became permanent and public. In 1803 Schelling, accompanied by his new wife Caroline (ex-wife of A.W.Schlegel), left Jena for a chair at the University of Würzburg, which had only recently come under the protection of the Bavarian Crown. In 1806 Schelling moved to Munich, where he served as general secretary of the Academy of Fine Art and delivered occasional public lectures as a member of the Bavarian Academy of Science. Later, following the establishment of the University of Munich, Schelling was appointed to a professorship. As a Protestant in a Catholic state increasingly dominated by ultramontane forces, Schelling found himself under growing pressure, but he nevertheless remained in Munich until his move to Berlin in 1841 (except for the period from 1820 to 1827, which he spent as a professor at the Protestant University of Erlangen). For the next several years Schelling continued to develop and to defend his System of Identity (see e.g. his System of Philosophy as a Whole and of the Philosophy of Nature in Particular, 1804), while continuing to cultivate his interests in the philosophy of art (see e.g. Concerning the Relationship of the Plastic Arts to Nature, 1807) and Naturphilosophie (establishing yet another new journal, the Yearbook for Medicine as Science, 1805–8). However, the most distinctive feature of Schelling’s thought during this period was a growing concern with religious issues and a particular fascination with the Gnostic tradition, as embodied, for example, in the theosophical writing of Jakob Boehme. This new interest is reflected in all of Schelling’s post-Jena writings, and is especially prominent in his well-known Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809). Eventually, Schelling’s public forays into religious issues embroiled him in a bitter public controversy with Jacobi. At roughly the same time he also broke with his erstwhile ally Hegel, who, without mentioning Schelling by name, had mercilessly lampooned the System of Identity in the Preface to his Phenomenology of Spirit. Following the death of Caroline in 1809, Schelling’s activity as a philosophical author virtually ceased. He began to associate more and more with conservative social and religious elements, defended the reactionary alliance of “throne and altar” represented by the Karlsbad decrees, and proudly identified himself as an opponent of “old-Jacobin views and of shallow Enlightenment.” From 1811 to 1813 Schelling worked on an ambitious speculative interpretation of human history, The Ages of the World. He went so far as to have text set in type, but withdrew it from publication at the last moment. He also began to lecture on the history of philosophy, and his lectures on this subject reveal an extraordinary animus against his erstwhile philosophical allies and a special resentment toward the growing success of Hegel’s dialectical idealism. More and more, however, his lectures and writings focused upon the same three subjects: art, mythology, and religion. In 1841 Schelling relocated to Berlin, where he was appointed Privy Councilor to the court as well as Professor of Philosophy, charged with the task of stamping out the “dragon’s seed of Hegelianism.” To the disappointment of the civil authorities, as well as that of his auditors (whose ranks included Kierkegaard, Bakunin, and Engels), Schelling barely touched upon political and social philosophy in his lectures at Berlin. Instead, he devoted them almost entirely to the development of his new philosophy of revelation and methodology. By this point he had begun to characterize his new standpoint as “positive philosophy,” in contradistinction to the purely “negative” philosophy of Kant, Fichte, and Hegel—as well as of his own Jena period. Increasingly isolated from his students and contemporaries, Schelling finally died in 1854 in Bad Ragaz in Switzerland, where he had gone to recover from a cold. It is difficult to comment briefly upon the thought of a philosopher whose intellectual development went through as many apparent “shifts” and phases as Schelling’s. Nevertheless, some brief description of Schelling’s philosophical itinerary prior to 1804 is called for, beginning with his first, self-consciously “Fichtean” phase. First of all, there is some question concerning the extent to which Schelling was ever an orthodox follower of Fichte, since important differences between his views and Fichte’s are apparent even in his earlier writings. In hindsight, anyway, most scholars would agree with Schelling’s own judgment of 1807, that “there was certainly a time when I sought to find something higher and deeper in [Fichte’s] philosophy than I could in fact find there” (7:23).2 Still, the differences are hardly overwhelming, and it is hard to blame the young Schelling’s contemporaries for initially classifying him as little more than “the town-crier of the I.” In retrospect, of course, one can detect the seeds of future development in Schelling’s reluctance to endorse Fichte’s view of the I as a pure activity and in his insistence, already apparent in On the I, on talking about the “being” of the I, and the various “spiritual properties” of the same. As has already been mentioned, however, the most striking difference between Schelling and Fichte at this point concerned the status of “nature”—both within transcendental philosophy itself and as an object of a special philosophical science. The growing differences between Schelling and Fichte are even more apparent in the former’s Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism, in which the system of Spinoza (“dogmatism”) is compared to that of Fichte (“criticism”), ostensibly to the advantage of the latter. Even here, however, it is apparent that Schelling’s deeper interest is not so much to demonstrate the incommensurability of these rival systems as it is to find some way of combining Spinoza’s superior grasp of objective reality with Fichte’s transcendental analysis of subjective freedom. Another significant difference between Schelling and Fichte, even at this early date, is hinted at in the former’s casual reference to an “intellectual intuition of the world” (I:285). Whereas for Fichte, “intellectual intuition” designated the abstractly conceived “self-positing” of the I, Schelling was prepared to employ this same term in a much broader sense to designate an allegedly “higher,” non-sensible type of “direct perception” of objective reality, so that one could speak of an intellectual intuition of the Not-I as well as of the I. Understood in this manner, “intellectual intuition” was transformed into a special “faculty of truth” possessed by at least some individual human beings. It is this sense of “intellectual intuition” which attracted the attention of Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel and finally led Schelling himself to assert that “art is the organ of philosophy.” Schelling’s dissatisfaction with the purely formal or “negative” concept of nature defended by Fichte, together with his admiration for Spinoza’s interpretation of nature as a self-developing whole (natura naturans) soon led Schelling to make his first truly independent contributions to philosophy. Initially, this took the form of an effort to supplement transcendental idealism, which attempts to derive our knowledge of objects from an initial act of self-positing, with a “philosophy of nature” or Naturphilosophie that attempts just the opposite: i.e. the derivation of consciousness from objects. Naturphilosophie begins with nature as “pure objectivity” and then shows how nature undergoes a process of unconscious self-development, culminating in the production of the conditions for its own self-representation, that is, in the, emergence of mind of spirit. Naturphilosophie thus shows how subjectivity emerges from pure objectivity. As precedents for this way of viewing nature, Schelling could refer, not only to Spinoza and Goethe, but also to Kant. Not only are features of Schelling’s view of nature anticipated in Kant’s discussion (in the Critique of Judgment) of natural teleology, but Kant had also attempted (in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science) to develop a “metaphysico-dynamical” theory of matter as an equilibrium of opposed forces. Indeed, Schelling called explicit attention to the parallels between Kant’s theory of matter and his own, though he noted that the “positive elements” in Kant’s theory “remained too subordinate” (5:332). Rather than viewing nature merely as the “other” of consciousness, Schelling’s Naturphilosophie seeks to interpret it as an analogon of the same: to treat nature as “visible spirit” and spirit as “invisible nature” (2:56). So viewed, nature no longer appears to be the mechanically ordered, lifeless realm of the Not-I; instead, it becomes a living, selforganizing system in its own right, one not of mechanical relations between material “things,” but of dynamic relations between forces, a self-developing, organic whole, containing within itself its own end or purpose: viz., the production of ever higher natural forms, culminating in mind itself. In contrast with the approach of the experimental sciences, the method of Naturphilosophie is fundamentally a priori. It begins with the concept of the unity of nature (natura naturans) and then deals with the diversity of the same (natura naturata) by interpreting nature as a system of opposed forces or “polarities.” The task of Naturpbilosophie or “speculative physics” is to describe this system, from its highest, selforganizing principle (“the world soul”) to the various specific oppositions or “polarities” (e.g. attraction and repulsion, positive and negative forces, light and darkness), which manifest themselves in ever more complex levels of organization, referred to by Schelling as “powers” or “potencies” (Potenzen). At the first level or “power,” nature appears as a system of independent physical bodies; at the second, it is a realm of dynamic processes; whereas at the third and highest level it appears as a completely organic realm, indeed, as a single “organism.” This hierarchical scheme reflects the teleological character of nature itself, inasmuch as the lower levels of organization can be adequately “explained” only in terms of the higher. Whereas Schelling, in the first edition of his Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, still sought to provide something resembling a ‘transcendental deduction” of the “idea of nature,” he dispensed entirely with such a derivation in the second edition (1803). In the new System of Identity the duality between nature and spirit proceeds directly from the point of “absolute indifference” with which the system begins; and thus the requisite concept of nature is immediately available for philosophical analysis. In fact, the very idea of a Naturphilosophie was based from the start upon the idea of the “Absolute” (not to be confused with the “absolute I” of transcendental philosophy), an idea which can be warranted neither on empirical nor on transcendental grounds. Instead, as in Spinoza and in Schelling’s own System of Identity, the idea of the Absolute must simply be asserted as the philosophical starting point. Hence, by 1801 at the latest, Schelling had come to the clear recognition that the philosophy of nature is not an autonomous, self-grounded science, but “can proceed from nothing but a system of identity” (5:116). As has been emphasized, Schellmg never considered his interest in the philosophy of nature to be in any way incompatible with his commitment to transcendental idealism. Instead, he viewed the two as complementary, as two sides of the same coin and two branches of a single, more comprehensive system, which he eventually names the “System of Identity.” Before commenting upon the latter, however, let us consider a few of the more distinctive features of Schelling’s own essay into transcendental philosophy in his System of Transcendental Idealism. Whereas Naturphilosophie traverses the path from sheer objectivity to subjectivity, transcendental idealism proceeds in the diametrically opposed direction: pure subjectivity (self-consciousness) to objectivity (the necessary positing of the Not-I, or nature). This latter path, of course, was already blazed by the Wissenschaftslehre, and Schelling’s description of it resembles Fichte’s in many of its details. Adapting Fichte’s characterization of transcendental philosophy as a “pragmatic history” of the human mind, Schelling’s presentation of transcendental idealism takes the form of an analysis of successive “epochs” of consciousness; hence it moves from “sensation” to “sensible intuition,” from “intuition” to “reflection,” and from “reflection” to “willing.” At the same time, Schelling also attempts to indicate how each of these stages in the transcendental “history” of selfconsciousness is correlated with a specific Potenz of nature itself. After having derived “willing,” Schelling turns to what is (at least in comparison with Fichte’s treatments of these topics) a rather perfunctory account of the “practical” portion of transcendental idealism, that is, to a deduction of intersubjectivity, the categorical imperative, the system of moral duties, and finally, the system of rights or laws. An innovation in Schelling’s account of “natural right” and the just state is his explicit attention to the temporal, that is to say, historical, evolution of a just social order. Thus the System of Transcendental Idealism presents us, almost in passing, with an interpretation of human history as a process of endless progress toward the full realization of freedom, and thus as a “continual and gradual self-revelation of the absolute” (3:603). Schelling’s remarkable suggestion that history bears the same relation to practical philosophy that nature bears to theoretical philosophy implies that Fichte overlooked one of the “real sciences” which should constitute a separate subdivision of any complete transcendental system, viz., philosophy of history. By far the most innovative and influential portion of Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism, however, is its concluding section, “Deduction of the Universal Organ of Philosophy, or, Essentials of the Philosophy of Art according to Transcendental Idealism.” Here Schelling treats art, not merely as capable of providing us with an “as if” glimpse of noumenal reality (Kant), nor as capable of assisting in the transition from the ordinary to the transcendental standpoint (Fichte), but rather as accomplishing—albeit in a concrete rather than in an abstract form—the very task of transcendental idealism. It is precisely within aesthetic experience, according to Schelling, that the identity between the subjective and the objective, what is conscious (freedom) and what is unconscious (nature), becomes an object to the experiencing I itself. This unity is present in the art product, the “beauty” of which is explicable only as a finite display of the infinite. The art product, in turn, can achieve this synthesis only because of the distinctive character of the activity which produces it. Artistic production, unlike all other human activities, is simultaneously free and unfree, conscious and unconscious. Rather than attempting to explicate further the distinctive character of artistic production, Schelling simply invokes at this point “the obscure concept of ‘genius’,” (3:616). Thus he was led by the force of his own argument to the conclusion that it is here and only here—in the productive activity of the artistic genius, in the “art product” which results from this activity, and finally, in the secondary type of “genius” required for genuine aesthetic appreciation—that the fundamental insight of transcendental idealism (viz., the identity of the ideal and the real) becomes apparent within empirical consciousness. This, therefore, is the meaning of the oftquoted claim that art is “the only true and eternal organ and document of philosophy” (3:627), for it is within aesthetic experience—and there alone—that the philosopher encounters in an objective form that intuition which allegedly grounds their entire transcendental system. By appealing to (objective) aesthetic intuition, the transcendental philosopher can defend him- or herself from the charge that the “intellectual intuition” with which they begin is nothing but a subjective illusion. With this typically bold move, Schelling elevated the philosophy of art or aesthetics into a central position within his overall system. In fact, it could be argued that the “philosophy of art” outlined by Schelling during this period (1800–4) should really be viewed as constituting a third, coequal branch of his overall System of Identity, one which should take its rightful place alongside Naturphilosophie and transcendental idealism. If, as Schelling maintains, art is “a necessary appearance which flows directly from the Absolute” (5:345), then art, nature, and spirit are merely three different expressions or manifestations of the underlying reality. In the years following the publication of the System of Transcendental Idealism the philosophy of art sketched at the conclusion of that work was elaborated by Schelling along Platonic (or Neo-platonic) lines. Thus, in his Bruno, as in his lectures on The Philosophy of Art, he interprets individual works of art as participating in or reflecting the various divine “Ideas.” No aspect of Schelling’s philosophy exercised a greater influence upon his contemporaries than his remarks on art, which fell on fertile ground and were further developed into what amounted to a religion of art by the early German romantics. Schelling himself, however, was never guilty of trying to supplant philosophy with art (even though he may have come perilously close to this at the conclusion of his System of Transcendental Idealism, where he calls for a “new mythology” which will represent the triumphant return of science to poetry and the synthesis of both). Instead, he insisted that art and philosophy should be viewed as correlative: art as the real and philosophy as the ideal reflection of one and the same absolute reality. What is present to the philosopher as a “subjective reflection” is present to the artist as an “objective reality”; but for this very reason the artist, who is inspired by a “genius” he himself does not clearly comprehend, remains unconscious of the true and “absolute” nature of his or her object, whereas the philosopher can acquire genuine “knowledge” of the identity in question. “This is why philosophy, despite its inner identity with art, remains always and necessarily science—i.e. ideal—and art remains always and necessarily art—i.e. real” (5:349). If transcendental idealism traces the path from “the ideal” to “the real” and Naturphilosophie the path from “the real” to “the ideal,” and if it is also true that the basic presupposition underlying all true science is “the essential unity of the unconditionally real and the unconditionally ideal,” a unity which is identical to “the idea of the Absolute” (5:216), then surely it behooves the systematic philosopher to make this underlying unity as explicit as possible. This is precisely the task of Schelling’s “System of Identity”: to give philosophical substance to his frequently repeated assurance that transcendental idealism and Naturphilosophie are mutually complementary. Since this new system recognizes the total interpenetration of the real and the ideal at every level, Schelling called it “objective” or “absolute idealism” (5:112). Since it asserts the underlying identity of mind and nature, as well as of all other experienced differences (including the philosophical differences between the systems of Spinoza and Fichte), he also called it the “System of Identity.” The most distinctive feature of this new system is that it begins with a bald assertion of the unity of thought and being, that is, with the idea of the “Absolute” or “reason.” As Schelling explains, “this is the idea of the Absolute: viz., that in relation to the absolute, the idea is also being, and thus the absolute is also the first presupposition of knowing and is itself the first knowledge” (5:216). Consequently, it is futile to demand any sort of philosophical deduction of or justification for the idea of Absolute Identity. Instead, the unity expressed by this idea must simply be presupposed. The System of Identity commences not with the transcendental idealist’s principle of self-identity, but with the still broader principle of identity as such, an identity which transcends and comprises every conceivable difference (hence Schelling’s description of his own starting point as the “point of indifference”). To express this bare logical idea of an identity underlying every difference, Schelling utilized the abstract formula “A=A,” which he consequently characterized as expressing “the supreme law of reason.” From this undifferentiated or “indifferent” starting point, he then proceeded to a description (albeit a remarkably abstract one) of reality as a whole, considered as a differentiated system within which unity is maintained by various synthetic relationships, such as substance and attribute, cause and effect, attraction and repulsion, etc. As in his philosophy of nature, Schelling’s System of Identity utilizes the notion of various hierarchically related Potenzen as its basic organizing principle. For since, as Schelling notes, there is only one absolute and identical reality, it follows that “diversity among things is possible only to the extent that the undivided whole is posited under various determinations [or ‘powers’]” (5:366). It must be confessed that, for all of Schelling’s dialectical ingenuity, the details of his exposition of this system remain extraordinarily obscure. Though this is especially true of his attempts at a systematic presentation modeled on Spinoza’s Ethics (e.g. in the Presentation of my System of Philosophy), it is also true of the “conversational” presentation contained in the dialogue Bruno, as well as of the informal exposition contained in the first of his lectures On University Studies. However, few critics of Schelling’s System of Identity even bother to examine the details of his exposition and most limit themselves to pointing out the alleged emptiness or incoherence of the first principle of the same. Generations of students and scholars have been content to echo Hegel’s famous characterization of Schelling’s Absolute as “the night in which all cows are black.” However, even if one overlooks the difficulty of grasping its abstract starting point, the System of Identity still suffers from an even more serious problem, viz., its inability to give an adequate explanation of the why and the how of the initial movement from the point of indifference or identity to a (real) system of differentiated elements. The difficulty in question concerns the relationship between the “indifferent absolute” and everything else (and indeed, the very intelligibility of positing anything “else” beyond or outside of the “Absolute”). How, precisely, is one to understand the transition, demanded by this philosophy, from unity to difference, from the one to the many, from the eternal to the temporal, from the infinite to the finite, from the abstract to the concrete, from form to content, etc.? Schelling himself was clearly dissatisfied with his own solution to these questions, though not with the questions themselves; indeed, they may be said to have set the agenda for his entire subsequent philosophical development. The more one reflects upon the problem of the transition from the Absolute to its finite manifestations, the easier it is to see why, in the period immediately after his departure from Jena, Schelling was increasingly attracted to various forms of Platonism and Neo-platonism and was particularly fascinated by the works of Bruno and Boehme; for all of these preceding philosophies explicitly address the question of how the finite can be said to “proceed from” the infinite. Furthermore, all of them tend to interpret the former merely as an “appearance of” or “way of looking at” the latter—albeit a necessary one. Ultimately, Schelling seems to have acknowledged the intractability of this problem, at least within the framework of his earlier philosophy. Indeed, beginning with his Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, all of his later works may be seen as attempts to resolve this very problem, and to do so by moving from a purely abstract or formal philosophy of logical relations—a “negative” philosophy incapable of addressing questions of “existence”—to a “positive” philosophy, better able to open itself to the mystery of existence. If Fichte’s philosophy may be called a “philosophy of striving,” Schelling’s may be characterized as a philosophy of speculative salvation, inspired, above all, by a deep longing to restore a presumably lost unity or harmony. This longing is expressed in the profoundly “metaphysical” character of all of Schelling’s writings, including his earliest ones. As early as 1795, he characterized philosophy’s task as “solving the problem of the existence of the world” (I:314), a formulation which certainly betrays a radically different spirit from that expressed in Fichte’s description of philosophy’s task as “explaining the origin of representations accompanied by a feeling of necessity,” though not inconsistent with it. It is quite in keeping with this difference that Schelling should have soon discarded the strictly transcendental approach to philosophy and should have transformed his system into a doctrine of the Absolute, for only such a doctrine is capable of addressing the “riddle of existence.” A genuinely Critical or transcendental philosophy, in contrast, while not denying the presence of such a “riddle” within human life, also acknowledges philosophy’s utter inability to solve it. But the differences between Schelling and Fichte extend beyond their disagreement concerning the limits of philosophy, and include—if indeed they are not based upon—a disagreement concerning the very aim of human life. In Fichte’s view, consciousness is necessarily divided against itself and the world; freedom is expressed through practical striving; and harmonious self-identity remains an unobtainable ideal. For Schelling, on the other hand, unity is always present, however obscured by appearances; all that prevents us from acknowledging this, and thereby obtaining a kind of salvation, is our lack of knowledge. Moreover, according to Schelling, philosophy itself—that is, a misguided philosophy of “mere reflection”—is largely responsible for our present, torn condition, our separation from nature and from our own true selves. We suffer from a “spiritual sickness”; we long for restoration of a “lost unity.” But the way to recover our health and restore this unity is not to reject philosophy, but to replace a shallow and false philosophy with a profound and true one: “to abolish the split at a higher power by means of speculation” (5:121). In the end, there is no better way to characterize the “presiding spirit” of Schelling’s thought than to contrast it with that of Fichte’s, and this contrast is nowhere better expressed than by Schelling himself, in his first lecture On University Studies, where he wrote, in a transparent allusion to Fichte: “‘Action! Action!’ is the call that resounds from many quarters, most loudly however from those who do not wish to proceed with knowledge” (5:452) Though Schelling undoubtedly included himself among the ranks of the latter, he never considered knowledge to be an end in itself, but only a means: a means for overcoming our divided selves, a means toward salvation. It is no accident that, whereas Fichte’s most original philosophical contributions were to ethics and social philosophy, Schelling’s were to the philosophy of art and philosophy of religion. THE LATER PHILOSOPHIES OF FICHTE AND SCHELLING Even the most casual reader must be struck by the obvious superficial differences between the many versions of the Wissenschaftslehre Fichte wrote after 1800 and the two presentations of the “foundations” of the same he produced while in Jena. Experts continue to differ among themselves, however, concerning the depth and significance of the differences in question, with some arguing for a radical break in Fichte’s intellectual development after the move to Berlin and others emphasizing the continuity of his writings and the similarities between the systems of his Jena and Berlin periods. (Fichte himself never renounced his earlier writings nor did he emphasize the differences between the various versions of the Wissenschaftslehre; on the contrary, he tended to describe them simply as so many different expressions or presentations of one and the same “spirit.”) So too in the case of Schelling, though here the differences are, if anything, even more striking (and of course Schelling himself called explicit attention to the differences between his earlier, “negative” philosophy and the “positive” philosophy of his Berlin years). Nevertheless, there are distinguished scholars who attempt to emphasize the continuity of Schelling’s intellectual development and scorn the traditional division of his works into a series of separate “periods.” Still, no reader of the Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom or the posthumously published Berlin lectures on Philosophy of Mythology and Philosophy of Revelations can fail to note the tremen-dous difference between these works and the writings of Schelling’s Jena period. Moreover, even those scholars who acknowledge the fundamental differences between Fichte’s earlier and later works, or between Schelling’s earlier and later writings, disagree concerning the causes or reasons for these differences. Whereas some emphasize the role of “external” factors (such as, in the case of Fichte, the atheism controversy, the dispute with Jacobi, and the French occupation of Prussia, or, in the case of Schelling, the influence of figures such as Franz von Baader, Schelling’s resentment at the successes of his contemporaries, and the general reactionary mood which engulfed Europe in the wake of the Congress of Vienna), others point to internal, philosophical reasons for the specific changes they purport to find in Fichte’s and Schelling’s post-Jena writings. It has been said of Fichte that whereas his earlier thought and writings belong to the history of philosophy, his later work—with the exception of such “popular” efforts as The Way toward the Blessed Life and the Addresses to the German Nation—are of purely biographical interest, and the same could be said of the works of Schelling’s final period. The point of such observations, presumably, is to call attention to the greater influence the early writings of each man had upon the subsequent history of “German Idealism.” This, of course, is hardly surprising, given the fact that the most important theoretical writings of both Fichte’s and Schelling’s later years were not published until years after their deaths. However, this fact alone should not be allowed to suggest that the later writings of either are somehow lacking in intrinsic, philosophical merit. On the contrary, it is precisely the later, posthumously published writings of both Fichte and Schelling which have received the most concentrated attention from recent and contemporary scholars. Large claims have been made on behalf of the later versions of Fichte’s philosophy, and especially concerning the 1804 Wissenschaftslehre (which replaces the first principle of the Jena versions—viz., “the I simply posits itself”—with the lapidary proposition, “there is truth”). So too, far more attention has been paid in recent decades to Schelling’s post-1803 writings than to his earlier works. In particular, his 1809 Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom has been the subject of studies by such eminent thinkers as Karl Jaspers, Paul Tillich, and Martin Heidegger, all of whom agree in interpreting this text as a harbinger of twentieth-century existentialism. Other scholars have pointed to the lectures Schelling delivered during his final Berlin years as representing, not merely the logical conclusion of his own protracted philosophical development, but the culmination of German Idealism as a whole. Consequently, no well174 informed contemporary student of either Fichte or Schelling would be likely to dismiss the later writings of either as lacking in interest or value. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of a “history of German Idealism” it remains true that the Jena writings of Fichte and Schelling are the ones that matter most. They are the ones upon which their contemporary reputations were largely based, just as they are the writings which most influenced the immediately subsequent history of philosophy (unlike the later works, which exercised a negligible influence upon the “history of German Idealism”). To take a particular case in point, Hegel’s philosophy, at least in the form in which we are familiar with it, is quite inconceivable apart from Fichte’s Jena Wissenschaftslehre and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie and System of Identity. Hence there is some justification in the present context for ignoring the later published and unpublished writings of Fichte and Schelling. This, however, should not be taken as an implicit judgment upon the relative philosophical worth of the earlier and later writings of either Fichte or Schelling, nor is it meant as an endorsement of Hegel’s self-serving interpretation of the philosophical merits of Fichte and Schelling, whom he tended to treat as little more than stepping stones toward his own version of speculative idealism. On the contrary, one must strenuously guard against such an interpretation, even if limited to the Jena writings of Fichte and Schelling. To interpret these solely in the light of their reception and critique by Hegel and others is to distort and to misunderstand them, a misunderstanding not unlike the one which would be involved if one were to read Plato merely as forerunner of Aristotle, or Descartes simply as a step along the path to Spinoza. Quite apart from its historical influence, Fichte’s Jena Wissenschaftslehre stands on its own as a unique and enduring, albeit widely misunderstood, contribution to philosophy, and the same can be said of Schilling’s System of Transcendental Idealism, as well as of his various attempts to construct a “philosophy of nature” and to articulate his “System of Identity.” Nobody today interprets Kant’s Critiques merely as an “influence” upon the development of Hegelianism, even though they manifestly were such. So too, it is high time that the early writings of Fichte and Schelling be accorded the same intellectual courtesy—that is, the courtesy of being allowed to stand or to fall on their own merits. NOTES 1 Fichte’s writings and letters are cited, by series, volume, and page number, according to the text of the (still incomplete) new critical edition: J.G.Fichte: Gesamtausgabe der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 24 vols (to date) ed. R.Lauth et al. (Stuggart and Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1964–. All English translations are by the author (though Fichte’s italics have not always been retained). 2 Schelling’s writings are cited, by volume and page number, according to the first collected edition, edited by his son, F.K.A.Schelling: Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schellings sämmtliche Werke, 14 vols (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856–61). Translations are by the author. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Fichte Original language editions 5.1 J.G.Fichte: Gesamtausgabe der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 24 vols (to date), ed. R.Lauth, H.Jacobs, and H.Gliwitzky, Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1964–. 5.2 Johann Gottlieb Fichtes nachgelassene Werke, 3 vols, ed. I.H.Fichte, Bonn: Adolph-Marcus, 1834–5. 5.3 Johann Gottlieb Fichtes sämmtliche Werke, 8 vols, ed. I.H.Fichte, Berlin: Veit, 1845–6. English translations 5.4 Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation (1792, 1793), trans. G.Green, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978. 5.5 Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings, trans. and ed. D.Breazeale, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. 5.6 Fichte: Science of Knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre),trans. P.Heath and J.Lachs, New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970; 2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. 5.7 Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo (1796–9), trans. and ed. D.Breazeale, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992. 5.8 “On the Foundation of our Belief in a Divine Government of the Universe” (1798), trans. P.Edwards, in P.L.Gardiner (ed.) Nineteenth Century Philosophy, New York: Free Press, 1969. 5.9 The Vocation of Man (1800), trans. P.Preuss, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. 5.10 “A Crystal Clear Report to the General Public Concerning the Actual Essence of the Newest Philosophy: An Attempt to Force the Reader to Understand” (1801), trans. J.Botterman and W.Rash, in E.Behler (ed.) Philosophy of German Idealism, New York: Continuum, 1987. 5.11 The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, trans. W.Smith, 2 vols, London: Chapman, 1848–9; 4th edn, 1889. 5.12 Addresses to the German Nation (1808), trans. R.F.Jones and G.H.Turnbull, ed. G.A.Kelly, New York: Harper & Row, 1968. 5.13 “The Science of Knowledge in its General Outline” (1810), trans. W.E.Wright, Idealistic Studies, 6 (1976): 106–17. Bibliography 5.14 Baumgartner, H.M. and Jacobs, W.G. J.G.Fichte: Bibliographie, Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1968. 5.15 Breazeale, D. “Fichte in English: A Complete Bibliography,” in D.Breazeale and T.Rockmore (eds) Fichte: Historical Context and Contemporary Controversies, Atlantic City: Humanities Press, 1993. 5.16 Doré, S. et al. “J.G.Fichte—Bibliographie (1968–1991),” Fichte-Studien, 4 (1992). Influences and development 5.17 Baumanns, P. Fichtes ursprüngliches System. Sein Standort zwischen Kant und Hegel, Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1972. 5.18 Gueroult, M. L’Evolution et la structure de la doctrine de la science chez Fichte, 2 vols, Paris: Société de l’édition, 1930. 5.19 Wundt, M. Fichte-Forschungen, Stuttgart: Frommann, 1929. General surveys 5.20 Adamson, R. Fichte, Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1881. 5.21 Baumanns, P. Fichte, Freiburg: Alber, 1990. 5.22 Jacobs, W.G. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1984. 5.23 Léon, X. Fichte et son temps, 3 vols, Paris: Armand Colin, 1922–7. 5.24 Philonenko, A. L’Oeuvre de Fichte, Paris: Vrin, 1984. 5.25 Rohs, P. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Munich: Beck, 1991. 5.26 Widmann, J. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982. Interpretations of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre 5.27 Everett, C.C. Fichte’s Science of Knowledge: A Critical Exposition, Chicago: Griggs, 1884. 5.28 Hohler, T.P. Imagination and Reflection: Intersubjectivity. Fichte’s Grundlage of 1794, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982. 5.29 Pareyson, L. Fichte: Il sistema della libertà, 2nd edn, Milan: Mursia, 1976. 5.30 Philonenko, A. La Liberté humaine dans la philosophie de Fichte, 2nd edn, Paris: Vrin, 1980. 5.31 Talbot, E.B. The Fundamental Principle of Fichte’s Philosophy, New York: Macmillan, 1906. Studies of the post-Jena Wissenschaftslehre 5.32 Brüggen, M. Fichtes Wissenschaftslehre. Das System in den seit 1801/02 enstandenen Fassungen,Hamburg: Meiner, 1979. 5.33 Widmann, J. Der Grundstrukture des transzendentalen Wissens nach J.G.Fichtes Wissenschaftslehre 18042, Hamburg: Meiner, 1977. Specific topics 5.34 Engelbrecht, H.C. Johann Gottlieb Fichte: A Study of his Political Writings, with Special Reference to his Nationalism, New York: Columbia University Press, 1933. 5.35 Henrich, D. Fichtes ursprüngliche Einsicht, Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1967; trans. D. Lachterman, “Fichte’s Original Insight,” Contemporary German Philosophy, 1 (1982): 15–52. 5.36 Lauth, R. Die transzendentale Naturlehre Fichtes nach den Prinztpien der Wissenschaftslehre, Hamburg: Meiner, 1984. 5.37 Neuhouser, F. Fichte’s Theory of Subjectivity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 5.38 Renaut, A. Le Système du droit: Philosophie et droit dans la pensée de Fichte, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1986. 5.39 Rockmore, T. Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980. 5.40 Stolzenberg, J. Fichtes Begriff der intellektuellen Anschauung, Stuttgart: KlettCotta, 1986. 5.41 Williams, R.R. Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. Recent collections and special issues of journals 5.42 Breazeale, D., and Rockmore, T. (eds) Fichte: Historical Context and Contemporary Controversies, Atlantic City: Humanities Press, 1993. 5.43 Hammacher, K. (ed.) Der transcendentale Gedanke. Die gegenwärtige Darstellung der Philosophie Fichtes: Hamburg, Meiner, 1981. 5.44 Idealistic Studies, 6, 2 (1979). 5.45 Philosophical Forum, 19, 2 and 3 (1988). Schelling Original language editions 5.46 Schellings Werke, 12 vols, ed. M.Schröter, Munich: Beck/Oldenbourg, 1927–54. 5.47 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schellings sämmtliche Werke, 14 vols, ed. F.K.A.Schelling, Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856–61. English translations 5.48 The Unconditional in Human Knowledge: Four Early Essays (1794–1796), trans. F.Marti, Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 1980. 5.49 Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797), trans. E.E.Harris and P.Heath, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. 5.50 System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), trans. P.Heath, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978. 5.51 Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things (1802), trans. and ed. M.G.Vater, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984. 5.52 On University Studies (1803), trans. E.S.Morgan and N.Guterman, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1966. 5.53 “Of the Relationship of the Philosophy of Nature to Philosophy in General” (1802), trans. and ed. G.di Giovanni and H.S.Harris, in Between Kant and Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985. 5.54 The Philosophy of Art (1801, 1804), trans. and ed. D.W.Stott, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. 5.55 “Concerning the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature” (1807), trans. M.Bullock, in H.Read The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry, New York: Pantheon, 1953. 5.56`Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809), trans. J.Gutmann, Chicago: Open Court, 1936. 5.57 Ages of the World (1813), trans. F.D.Bolmon, New York: AMS Press, 1942. 5.58 Schellings Treatise on the Deities of Samothrace (1815), trans. R.F.Brown, Missoula, Mont.: Scholars’ Press, 1976. 5.59 “On the Source of Eternal Truths” (1850), trans. E.A.Beach, Owl of Minerva, 22 (1990): 55–67. Bibliographies 5.60 Sandkühler, H.J. Friedrich Joseph Schelling, Stuttgart: Metzler, 1970. 5.61 Schneeberger, G. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. Eine Bibliographie, Bern: Francke, 1954. Influences and development 5.62 Benz, E. Schelling: Werden und Wirken seines Denken, Zurich: Rein, 1955. 5.63 Frank, M., and Kurz, G. (eds) Materialen zu Schellings philosophischen Anfangen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1975. 5.64 Görland, I. Die Entwicklung der Frühphilosophie Schellings in der Auseinandersetzung mit Fichte, Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1973. 5.65 Lauth, R. Die Entstehung von Schellings Identitätsphilosophie in der Auseinandersetzung mit Fichtes Wissenschaftslehre, 1795–1801, Freiburg: Alber, General surveys 5.66 Jaspers, K. Schelling: Grösse und Verängnis, Munich: Piper, 1955. 5.67 Marquet, J.-F. Liberté et existence: étude sur la formation de la philosophie de Schelling, Paris: Gallimard, 1973. 5.68 Tielette, X. Schelling: Une philosophie en deviner, 2 vols, Paris: Vrin, 1970. 5.69 White, A. Schelling: An Introduction to the System of Human Freedom, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. 5.70 Zeltner, H. Schelling, Stuttgart: Frommann, 1954. Schelling’s earlier philosophy (1794–1808) 5.71 Esposito, J.L. Schelling’s Idealism and Philosophy of Nature, Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 1977. 5.72 Meier, F. Die Idee der Transzendentalphliosophie beim jungen Schelling, Winterthur: Keller, 1961. 5.73 Watson, J. Schelling’s Transcendental Idealism: A Critical Exposition, Chicago: Griggs, 1882. Schelling’s later philosophy (1809–54) 5.74 Brown, R.F. The Later Philosophy of Schelling: The Influence of Boehme on the Works of 1809–1815, Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 1977. 5.75 Fuhrmans, H. Schellings letzte Philosophie: Die negative und positive Philosophie im Einsatz des Spätidealismus, Berlin: Junker und Dünnhaupt, 1940. 5.76 Heidegger, M. Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Han Freedom, trans J.Stambaugh, Athens: Ohio Univesity Press, 1985. 5.77 Holz, H. Spekulation und Faktizität. Zum Freiheitsbegriff des mittleren und späten Schelling, Bonn: Bouvier, 1970. 5.78 Schulz, W. Die Vollendung des deutschen Idealismus in der Spätphilosophie Schellings, 2nd edn, Pfullingen: Neske, 1975. Specific topics 5.79 Gibelin, J. L’Esthetique de Schelling, Paris: Vrin, 1934. 5.80 Haynes, P.C. Reason and Existence: Schelling’s Philosophy of History, Leiden: Brill, 1967. 5.81 Knittermeyer, H. Schelling und die romantische Schule, Munich: Reinhardt, 1929. 5.82 Tillich, P. The Construction of the History of Religion in Schelling’s Positive Philosophy: Its Presuppositions and Principles, trans. V.Nuovo, Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 1974. Recent collections and special issues of journals 5.83 Archives de philosophie, 38, 3 (1975). 5.84 Baumgartner, H.M. (ed.) Schelling: Einführung in seine Philosophie, Freiburg: Alber, 1975. 5.85 Les Etudes philosophiques, 2 (1974). 5.86 Idealistic Studies, 19, 3 (1989). 5.87 Koktanek, A.M. (ed.) Schelling-Studien, Munich: Oldenbourg, 1965. 5.88 Studia Philosophica, 14 (1954).
Routledge History of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis e-Library. 2005.