Volume 49, 2021

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

Roberto Horácio Sá Pereira
Pages 394-415

Fichte’s Original Insight Reviewed

This paper addresses Fichte’s puzzle of self-consciousness. I propose a new reading of “Fichte’s original insight”, inspired by Pareyson’s general reading, which I call here the “Fichtean metaphysical turn in transcendental philosophy”. Against the mainstream view in Fichte’s scholarship, I argue that Fichte’s and Kant’s views do not concur regarding the primary reference of the “I”, namely spontaneous agency in thinking, which Fichte calls “Tathandlung”. Yet, their views do in fact concur when Fichte claims that this spontaneous agency in thinking is the “essence” or the underlying nature of the self, which Kant denies. Regarding this I take the side of Fichte. But how is Fichte’s original insight supposed to solve the puzzle of self-consciousness? At that transcendental level, the puzzle does not arise because there is no need for self-identification in the first place. Transcendental self-knowledge results from the sui generis intellectual Selbstanschauung that everyone has of oneself as sheer spontaneous agency in thinking. But at the empirical level, the puzzle does not arise either and for the same reason. Reference to the embodied self dispenses with any self-identification because it is based on the fundamental metaphysical relation everybody has to their own body, namely identity.