Volume 50, Issue 2, Summer 2020
On the Ethical Significance of Fichte’s Theology
This article shows that Fichte’s ethics and theology in the Jena period are conceived in intimate connection with each other. It explores what Fichte’s theology, as it is promulgated in the “Divine Governance” essay of 1798, might tell us about his account of the ethical law’s material content, as it is expounded in the System of Ethics of the same year. It does so with the aim of defending the standard interpretation of Fichte as a staunch advocate of deontology. From the theological vantage point, a plan for the realization of the final end is laid out in and through the moral world-order. The material of our duty is signified by the place we are assigned in and through the order. On account of our lack of insight into the “higher law” through which our place in the order is determined, no abstract, discursive criterion for what we ought to do here and now is forthcoming. While Fichte characterizes ethically right actions in terms of their tendency to produce the final end, he regards them as being so in an ideal, intelligible world rather than the real, empirical one.