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1. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
David W. Wood

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2. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49

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fichte’s earliest reflections on first principles

3. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Jason M. Yonover

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The idea of a “first principle” looms large in Fichte’s thought, and its first real appearance is in his “Aphorisms on Religion and Deism” (1790), which has received little attention. I begin this paper by providing some context on that piece, and then developing a reconstruction of the position presented within it. Next, I establish that Fichte’s views at the time of writing, and for some years prior, are those of the “deist,” and clarify why he sensed he had to leave this stance represented in the “Aphorisms” behind. I conclude that understanding Fichte’s shift away from “deism,” a species of what he would eventually call “dogmatism,” can also help us understand Fichte’s critique of the latter kind of thinking and so shed light on Fichte’s better-known views; and I emphasize that Fichte’s transition from a strict rationalism to a form of Kantianism may be of interest not only to scholarship on Fichte and the period, but likewise to work on rationalism in contemporary metaphysics. Finally, in an appendix I supplement the paper with a first English translation of the entire text of the “Aphorisms,” complete with annotations.
4. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
David Sommer

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In this paper I inquire into the role of general logic in Fichte’s early formulations of his first principle. This inquiry contains three main parts. First, I summarize the role of general logic in Kant’s theoretical philosophy, as well as Gottlob Schulze’s critical claims regarding their relation in Reinhold’s Elementarphilosophie. Second, I examine the first three sections of Fichte’s private notes on the Elementarphilosophie, called the Eigene Meditationen, and closely follow his early attempts to provide a basic principle that is systematically prior both to Reinhold’s principle of consciousness, as well as the logical principle of contradiction. I examine Fichte’s struggles with relating the principles of a foundational transcendental philosophy to those of general logic, in order to emphasize his own doubts in systematically motivating the use of logical rules in the exhibition of his first principle. In the third section, I examine the manner in which these principles are introduced in the 1794 Wissenschaftslehre via the logical principles of identity and contradiction, and argue that Fichte’s procedure is problematic given the programmatic constraints on general logic put forward in the meditations on the philosophy of the elements. I conclude by briefly relating Fichte’s doubts in such a procedure, as well as an alternative procedure he already proposed in his private notes, to the method that he would later adopt in the Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo.
5. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Elise Frketich

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In Aenesidemus, G.E. Schulze adopts the skeptical voice of Aenesidemus and engages in critical dialogue with Hermias, a Kantian, in the hopes of laying bare what he views as the fundamental issues of K.L. Reinhold’s version of critical philosophy. While some attacks reveal a deep misunderstanding of Reinhold’s Elementarphilosophie on Schulze’s part, others hit their mark. In the Aenesidemus Review (1794), J.G. Fichte at times agrees with criticisms raised by Aenesidemus and at times defends Reinhold against them. On Fichte’s view, Schulze succeeds in proving that the first principle of Reinhold’s Elementarphilosophie, the principle of consciousness (Satz des Bewußtseins), is neither self-evident nor self-determining. Therefore, it cannot be the first principle of philosophy. However, Schulze fails to dissuade Fichte from viewing Reinhold’s principle of consciousness as the pithiest expression of human consciousness of the time. For these reasons, Fichte holds that Reinhold’s principle of consciousness must be deduced from an even higher principle. The goal of this paper is to assess whether Fichte puts forth his own candidate for the first principle of philosophy in his Aenesidemus Review.

the first principles of the wissenschaftslehre

6. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Alexander Schnell

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This article aims at a new interpretation of paragraph §1 of Fichte’s main work of 1794/95, the Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre. This well-known text of the early Jena period explicitly introduces a number of thought motifs that will prove to be valuable for the later versions of the Wissenschaftslehre – including the second version of 1804 – and these motifs will furthermore illuminate the significance of the first principle for Fichte’s entire Wissenschaftslehre.
7. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Philipp Schwab

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The aim of the article is to discuss a reevaluation of the first principle in §5 of Fichte’s Foundation of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre. The article makes the case that this reevaluation takes place in an attempt to resolve the key systematic issue of a transition from identity to difference, which can be traced back to the very first draft of Fichte’s system in the Own Meditations on Elementary Philosophy. Especially as Fichte, in §1 of the Foundation, conceptualizes the principle of the I as pure identical self-positing, it proves deeply questionable how any proper transition can take place from this immanent self-relation to any other element of the system. While the first sections of the Foundation do not address this issue directly, it is in §5 that Fichte truly approaches the problem. In this light, §5 of the Foundation shall be interpreted as Fichte’s quite dramatic struggle with the absolute I, and as a complex back and forth movement: On the one hand, even more clearly than in §1, Fichte repeatedly stresses that the absolute I must have the structure of absolute identity. Yet on the other hand, he thereby realizes that it is indeed impossible to construct a plausible transition from pure identity to difference, and that he thus has to modify his first principle. Ultimately, Fichte outright sacrifices the idea of a first principle of identity, and rather inserts difference into the identity principle, unfolding a much more complex structure of I-hood than before.
8. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Gesa Wellmann

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In the wake of the massive criticism of Kant’s deduction of the categories in the first Critique, Fichte starts providing what he takes an improved version of such a deduction to be. This article aims at investigating the transformation he thereby introduces into the Kantian thought. I will do so mainly with respect to the deduction’s architectonical dimension, i.e. by investigating the role of the deduction for the Wissenschaftslehre as a whole. Concretely, I will defend the following theses: (1) By identifying the deduction of the categories and the metaphysical system, Fichte moves away both from Kant’s conception of a system and from that of a deduction. (2) It is the unique character of Fichte’s conception of a first principle of a system that allows for an identification between system and deduction.
9. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Stefan Schick

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This paper defends Fichte’s conception of the absolute I by interpreting it as a modification of the reflection theory. It firstly provides a short outline of Dieter Henrich’s idea of Fichte’s “original insight,” before delineating the problems of Fichte’s “original insight” as they are presented by Henrich. It then analyzes Fichte’s concept of the absolute I by reconstructing its deduction in the Foundations of the Science of Knowledge (1794). With the concept of the absolute I delineated in this manner, it then argues against Henrich’s objections. It concludes that Fichte’s conception of the absolute I is not a rejection of the reflection theory, but rather a radical re-interpretation of it.
10. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Esma Kayar

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The first principle of Fichte’s philosophy, the Wissenschaftslehre, is “I am,” whereas the logical principle of identity is “A is A.” The relationship of Fichte’s philosophy to logic helps us understand the relation between the principles of these two disciplines. The first principle of the Wissenschaftslehre as an Act (Thathandlung) is the ground of consciousness and therefore renders logic possible as a science. Even though logic is grounded on the Wissenschaftslehre, the form of logic is used by the latter to comprehend itself. The difference between logic and the Wissenschaftslehre consists in the fact that the former merely supplies a form and the latter contains both the form and the content. Logic arises from the Wissenschaftslehre through the free acts termed “abstraction” and “reflection.” In the Wissenschaftslehre, the form of logical propositions as equality, affirmation and substitution, are derived from the primordial act of the self-positing of the I.
11. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
G. Anthony Bruno

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The concept of facticity denotes conditions of experience whose necessity is not logical yet whose contingency is not empirical. Although often associated with Heidegger, Fichte coins ‘facticity’ in his Berlin period to refer to the conclusion of Kant’s metaphysical deduction of the categories, which he argues leaves it a contingent matter that we have the conditions of experience that we do. Such rhapsodic or factical conditions, he argues, must follow necessarily, independent of empirical givenness, from the I through a process of ‘genesis.’ I reconstruct Fichte’s argument by (1) tracing the origin of his neologism, (2) presenting his Jena critique of Kant’s rhapsodic appeal to the forms of judgment, and (3) illustrating the Jena period’s continuity with the Berlin period’s genetic method, while noting a methodological shift whereby Fichte directs his critique against his own doctrine of intellectual intuition in order to eliminate its ‘factical terms.’
12. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Robert G. Seymour

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Whereas in the Wl1794 the transition from the facts of empirical consciousness to the absolutely unconditioned and self-evident Grundsatz is undertaken briskly, Fichte begins the wl1805 by stating the Grundsatz with the proviso that it cannot immediately be recognised as such. Instead of proceeding from a self-evident starting point to derive the specific a priori determinations of knowledge, there follows a long process of “ascent” to clarify the Grundsatz, in what Fichte calls the Existenzlehre. This “ascent” does not correlate to any component of the Jena Wl, yet it constitutes the bulk of the 1805 presentation. In order to explain this, I will argue that the “ascent” can be reconstructed as meta-level discourse on possible candidates for first principles. Such a reconstruction can make sense of the highly abstract and paradoxical form of argument to which Fichte resorts. I will consider why Fichte comes to believe this meta-discourse is necessary and will analyse the form of argument Fichte employs in the Existenzlehre. I argue that this involves an attempt to resolve an antinomy between ‘idealist’ and ‘realist’ interpretations of the idea of an absolute presupposition of all knowledge. This resolution takes place by showing how each interpretation gives rise to a dilemma which demonstrates its inadequacy as an explanation of the absolute.

the first principles of the sub-disciplines of the wissenschaftslehre

13. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Laure Cahen-Maurel

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This article presents a new reading of Fichte’s aesthetics that differs from a primarily functionalist interpretation of the imagination and art. It demonstrates that the “hovering” (Schweben) of the creative imagination should be viewed as the first principle of Fichte’s aesthetics, in which the latter consists of a triad of the pleasant, the beautiful and the sublime. Moreover, it argues that in the text Ueber Geist und Buchstab in der Philosophie (1795/1800) Fichte created a real and original monogram of the hovering creative imagination, a monogram whose theoretical basis stems from Kant’s concept of the monogram in the 1st Critique as a “wavering sketch”. It contends that this overlooked but key artistic and practical example of a monogram opens up new perspectives for Fichtean aesthetics, further confirming that its first principle should be explicitly identified with the theory of the hovering imagination in the Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre of 1794/95.
14. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Michael Nance

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This paper addresses the following questions: what is Fichte’s first principle of right, how does he argue for it, and how does it function as the first principle of his substantive political theory? To answer these questions, the paper offers an overview of the main steps of Fichte’s derivation of the principle of right, explains its relationship to Fichte’s account of individual personhood, and then specifies some of the senses in which the resulting principle serves as the foundation of the rest of Fichte’s political and economic theory. I focus on the developmental logic of Fichte’s account of the “summons” and the “relation of right.” This developmental logic, I argue, is both recapitulated and completed within Fichte’s political theory and political economy.
15. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Kienhow Goh

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This article considers how the I furnishes a ground for the reality or applicability of the moral principle, or the synthetic unification of the higher and the lower powers of desire, through its originally determined nature. It argues that the nature of I-hood as an immediate unity of seeing and being, an absolute identity of the subjective and objective, is key to establishing the moral principle’s applicability. On its basis, Fichte envisages an originally determined system of drives and feelings on the one side, and of ends on the other, in and through which each of our dutiful actions in each given situation is determined. For Fichte, the question of the moral law’s application has more to do with demonstrating the moral law’s applicability as a principium executionis (or what is the same, the real, practical efficacy of reason) than with employing the law as a discursive criterion for deciding whether actions are dutiful or not. The article clarifies this point by reference to Rehberg’s critique of Kant’s ethics.
16. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Pavel Reichl

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In this article, I explore the role of the first principle in Fichte’s philosophy of history and assess the extent to which its introduction is able to resolve problems in the philosophies of history of his predecessors. Particularly, I focus on Fichte’s response to the question of how history can be grasped in a systematic manner for the purposes of theoretical cognition. I argue that while Fichte is able to resolve the tension between Herder’s pluralism and Kant’s chiliasm in an innovative manner, the deployment of his first principle is ultimately unsuccessful in establishing historiography on a firmer scientific foundation.
17. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Carlos Zorrilla Piña

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Fichte once described the first principle of his philosophical system as a globe or attractor point which rests on nothing else but its own power, and which – as by the inception of a gravitational field – thereby simultaneously sets the conditions for the groundedness of all the components of the edifice of knowledge which follow. This description suggests his philosophical enterprise is articulated in accordance to the linear structure of foundationalism. At the same time, however, Fichte’s enterprise is unequivocally transparent regarding its many circularities, the most interesting of which is described by the relation between the I under philosophical observation and the I of the transcendental philosopher who undertakes the observation. Indeed, such a relation – which Fichte called not only a circle but a circuit – is what explains his assertion that the task of the transcendental philosopher is to be a pragmatic historiographer rather than a legislator of the mind. The philosopher’s task is historical insofar as the I who undertakes the examination is at every move trying to repeat its genesis in a conscious manner. It is circular, in turn, insofar as the activity of the examined I is supposed to culminate in precisely the point where the examining I stands, but not forgetting that it has to account for the possibility of the latter’s very examination. To map the horizon and grounding capacity of such circumvolutions of the mind is what this paper aims to do.

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18. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Elena Ficara

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The article is about the meaning of the word ‘transcendental’ in Kant and Fichte. Its aim is not merely exegetical. It is a common hermeneutical insight (now revitalised by research on conceptual engineering and conceptual genealogy for analytic philosophy) that analysing the use and definitions of concepts in history, and their shifts in the development of the history of philosophy, is a crucial tool we have to understand those concepts and to assess their viability for philosophy today. In this paper, I focus on Kant’s use and definitions of the word ‘transcendental’ and suggest that they are symptomatic of a fundamental question that is not completely answered in Kant’s philosophy. If transcendental philosophy deals not with objects but rather the conditions of possibility of objective knowledge, then important questions emerge: What are these possibility conditions? Do they exist? Are they special objects? What is their nature? I show that the shift in Fichte’s use and understanding of the concept of ‘transcendental’ leads to a possible solution of the problem Kant was struggling with.
19. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Ricardo Barbosa

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The following article is a contribution to the history of Fichte’s Publicum „Moral für Gelehrte“ (Jena – 1794–1795). Its purpose is to elucidate some misunderstandings about the chronology, the thematic articulation, and even the letter and spirit of these wellknown lectures.
20. Fichte-Studien: Volume > 49
Quentin Landenne

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The present paper delivers a reconstruction of the speculative foundation, the polemical implications and the rhetorical effects of the passage from the moral point of view to the religious point of view in the lessons Über das Wesen des Gelehrten (1805). First, it shows how the essence of the scholar and the program of an education of scholars are deduced from the original difference between being and existence, between God and his self-exposition in the world. Next, we establish that the controversy with Schelling still plays an important role in the clarification of some important concepts, like the divine idea, the nature, the world, practical knowledge or religiosity. Finally, we claim that the religious point of view of the lectures of 1805 does not involve a renouncement of strong practical engagement, which was clearly expressed in the lectures of 1794 (Über die Bestimmung des Gelehrten), or even a lack of rhetorical attention, but brings a higher interpretation of human action as the work of the divine idea, as well as a new conception of the religious enthusiasm of the scholar.