Volume 49, 2021

The Enigma of Fichte’s First Principles (Das Rätsel von Fichtes Grundsätzen)

Kienhow Goh
Pages 267-287

I-Hood as the Speculative Ground of Fichte’s Real Ethics

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.