Volume 55, Issue 2, June 2015
Fichte’s Deduction of the External World
The essay provides a new interpretation of Fichte’s deduction of the external world that considers the argument to be motivated not by epistemic concerns but by concerns about the possibility of freedom. In defending this view, I critically examine Frederick Beiser’s reconstruction of Fichte’s deduction, which characterizes the argument as refuting external world skepticism, exactly the threat by which (I argue) Fichte is not troubled. I claim that Fichte is troubled by ethical skepticism, the view that the freedom required for self-consciousness is not possible. Establishing the possibility of the freedom involved in self-consciousness requires an external world suitable for such a form of freedom. An implication of this claim is that the world that Fichte deduces is an intersubjective or social world.