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The Role of organic life in Hegel’s Critique to Fichte

Zaida Olvera


In the Differenzschrift, Hegel not only compares Fichte’s with Schelling’s philosophical system. He is also putting forward philosophical insights of his own, such as a concern on Life as a methodological and metaphysical key concept. Thus, more than a mere rejection, Hegel criticism to Fichte’s philosophy means a reevaluation of the task of philosophy and of its method. In Hegel’s view, Fichte’s genetic method (as he presents it in the Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre) is problematic. I contend that the organic understanding of the concept of Life influenced Hegel’s own reading of the Fichtean philosophy and that the Hegelian ‘speculation’ echoes Fichte’s methodological terms but implies what Hegel would consider truly organic determinations. The comprehension of what is an organized being constitute one key aspect to understand how Hegel drifts apart from the Fichtean method.

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  • 1 See Baum 1986: 83-87.

To be sure, Schellings Identitätsphilosophie is the cornerstone that builds Hegel’s main argument against Fichte in the Differenzschrift. For both young philosophers, Fichte considers only a one-sided identity between subject and object in the I. The same identity has not yet been developed on the side of the different, opposed, non-I, or the side of what Schelling, according to Spinoza, will call “Nature”. Nonetheless, although Schelling’s philosophy is important to determine the Hegelian reception of Fichte’s Jena philosophy, it would be misleading to believe that it is the only criterium. By the time he wrote this text, Hegel has already a problem of his own: to consider the role of the organic structure of Life as a valuable ontological model to understand the first principle.1 It is also through this problem that Hegel evaluates Fichte’s method.

1Hegel acknowledged an intellectual debt towards Fichte in many respects: in Fichte’s philosophy, he perceives a good example of how to accomplish the new philosophical demand to surpass the view of the unproductive identity of Kant’s transcendental apperception. By doing so, Fichte also accomplishes a modern rehabilitation of the classical metaphysical problem of the identity between thinking and being. This accomplishment entails the implementation of an original deductive, dialectical-genetic method by means of which the philosopher will not only witness the re-construction of such a source of identity but will also show that knowledge of reality can be deduced from this active and productive source of identity.

  • 2 See Steinberg 2018: 6.
  • 3 Steinberg 2018: 9.

2Fichte believed that the I can be philosophically conceived of as the organizing ground of all its “parts” or as an organic totality. Furthermore, he also suggested that the Wissenschaftslehre was a lively system.2 Some commentators have even suggested that epigenetics can be a discursive tool to describe the concept of Thathandlung3 inasmuch both an organism (as described by the epigenetic theory) and the I are synthetical activities.

  • 4 See for example Westphal 2000, Breazeale 2018, García 2018.

3However, just as several commentators have revealed the difficulties that arise from the polysemic term ‘intellectual intuition’ in Kant’s philosophy and its different meanings in Fichte (and Schelling and Hegel),4 it is also necessary to develop an analysis of the different uses of the concept of organism and its complex semantic field for the understating of its (not always equivalent) use in the frame of classical German philosophy.

4Said task cannot be accomplished in this text; here, I have to restraint myself to a brief indication of the difference between Fichte’s conception of a lively, self-organized reason in contrast to Kant, in order to, in turn, understand what Hegel’s main criticisms to Fichte are according to his own understanding of organic life.

I. The nature of organic reason in dispute

  • 5 Kant KrV A833/B861.
  • 6 According to Acosta, both Kant and Fichte agreed in one constitutive aspect of the definition of th (...)

First of all, although Kant also suggested that reason is an organic system or a self-organized totality, it must be acknowledged that Kant’s and Fichte’s views on the organism are not equivalent. Although Kant famously stated that reason is a sort of organism insofar as it grows by its own means by intussuception (per intussusceptionem)5 —that is, as a lively system capable of gathering together its own components— and although he also considered the need of a physiological understanding of reason’s processes of self-constitution, there are no convincing explanations of how this processes actuality constitutes an activity of self-organization. Fichte and Schelling saw in the famous deduction of categories the very moment where Kant misses the opportunity of showing how reason is able to produce and develop from its own contents. If the main idea that Kant sought to highlight was the self-organizing power of reason and the immanent space that reason builds in itself, the deduction should have been a (epi)genetical explanation of how reason itself engenders its own epistemological tools.6

  • 7 See Acosta 2019.

Fichte’s project can be seen as a reaction against Kant’s silence, or to his unproductive conception of reason as an inert whole; while Kant’s vision of an organism is static, Fichte’s own organic model is dynamic. This is what Fichte shows in the genetic method: how parts “deduce” in each case from the precedent (thus mixing somehow two concepts of causality: nexus effectivus and reciprocity).7

  • 8 Fichte states:“...ersuche ich auf das Ganze einzugehen, und jeden einzelnen Gedanken aus dem Gesich (...)
  • 9 See Gaudio 2014: 7.
  • 10 Acosta has convincingly shown that Wechselwirkung or causal reciprocity is Fichte’s core organic ca (...)

The I is for Fichte self-organizing, for it is a totality that links together every part of itself.8 Fichte explains this view through the image of a reciprocal relation of the totality of parts of consciousness.9 But in contrast to Kant, the I here is also a self-productive activity. This way, a deduction will be for Fichte not only a derivation of categories but also an explanation of the activity of the I as an epigenetic production of categories through causal reciprocity.10

  • 11 A proper critique of this causality will appear some 30 years later in the Science of Logic where H (...)
  • 12 See Baum 1986: 83.

Having assumed that Fichte accomplished a remarkable reappropriation of the true Kantian project, Hegel considered that Fichte’s alleged “organicism” fails to show how the opposites and the products of the producing activities of the I link to the I in a relation beyond mere reciprocal causality, which is not what Hegel conceives of as an organic activity.11 According to Hegel, Fichte saw the I as a causal source (deduction) of knowledge and reality (think of Fichtes new “deduction of categories”), but was not able to show how this principle is in itself the result of its own deductive activity. In other words, Fichte has not yet demonstrated the true self-producing aspect of reason, or what Hegel will call, its infinity.12

  • 13 Hegel 1977: 132.
  • 14 Hegel 1977: 132.

5He will describe Fichte’s method as a dead system, incapable of really grasping the Absolute, incapable of getting rid of the finite point of view of an empirical consciousness.13 He will blame Fichte for having abandoned reason to the powers of the understanding, for making it an antinomic result in a chain of finitudes.14 In short, Hegel thinks, as Novalis did, that he is looking for the Unbedingt (non-conditioned), but finds only Dings (things, conditioned objects in a world understood as a whole of causal determinations). He searches for the ultimate identity between mind and world, freedom and necessity, in order to guarantee freedom as a metaphysical, theoretical and practical ground; yet, precisely because he is not thinking organically, he stablishes causal, reciprocal, relations (Wechselwirkung) that in the end lead to the subjugation of the objective world to self-consciousness and determining freedom as mere striving. Hegel states:

  • 15 Hegel 1977: 132.

It is impossible for the Ego to reconstruct itself out of the opposition between subjectivity and the X that originates for it in a nonconscious producing, and so becomes one with its appearance. This impossibility is what is expressed in the fact that the highest synthesis revealed in the system is an ought. Ego equals Ego turns into Ego ought to equal Ego. The result of the system does not return to its beginning.15

  • 16 See GWL, GA I/2: 413.

6Furthermore, if the task of philosophy is to suspend the apparent opposition between transcendental and empirical consciousness, philosophy must not only considerer identity idealiter, as a mere concept or idea, but rather explain (erklären) how is the empirical consciousness identical to the non-empirical consciousness realiter. Although Fichte explains this in what he understands to be a succession of elements, or “progression” (Fortsteigen),16 philosophy is still practiced by a finite consciousness. In other words, it can be said that even though this consciousness has attained a “position”, a special perspective in order to observe this identity, this identity is only depicted, but not enacted. The explanandum is external to the explanans. In this respect Fichte’s method lacks true immanence and thus the organic structure of the I fall short.

In the following sections I will describe some key aspects of Fichte’s method in order to understand Hegel’s objections and the importance of the Hegelian organic view.

II. Position, Self-positing and the Genetic Method

  • 17 GWL, GA I/2: 255.

7Fichte’s goal in the Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre (1794-95) is to look for the unconditioned ground (unbedingte Grundsatz) for all human knowledge.17 Assuming Kant’s objections to the possibility of grasping this ground, Fichte considers that, insofar as it is indeed unconditioned, and that consequently it cannot be an object determined by any judgement (it cannot either be demonstrated, as demonstration implies that what we reach is a result and not the condition of knowledge), the Absolute must be searched for and expressed, (ausgedruckt) or presented (Darstellung) as a Thathandlung, or as genesis.

  • 18 See Breazeale 2015: 87.
  • 19 See Breazeale 2015: 80-85.

For Fichte, philosophy becomes the way to get to know or to grasp this first principle as it deduces and organizes the products of an active I. As a method, philosophy is thus the description of a transcendental activity. The philosophical procedure18 implies several steps: first of all, Fichte invites us to take a “position” in order to practice philosophy and, this way, accomplish our philosophical task. This standpoint is more than a mere perspective, among others. “Position”, rather than ‘standpoint’, is a concept that echoes the more technical and differentiated term of “self-positing” of the I but is not exactly the same.19 The slight but important difference lies in the fact that, while the position is a vantage point (Fichte will also call it: inner intuition), the self-positing of the I is intellectual or transcendental intuition. I take this to be a problematic distinction that justifies Hegel’s criticism, as we will see.

  • 20 See Zöller 1997: 79-80. I believe this is one aspect of Fichte’s problem in Hegel’s view. The I lac (...)
  • 21 GWL, GA I/2: 253.
  • 22 Juan Cruz Cruz made a very interesting remark concerning the true meaning and the best translation (...)

For Fichte, transcendental intuition seems to lack of its own self-perception organ. It lacks an eye.20 Inner, philosophical, intuition supplies this eye and allows us to see21 something that is not precisely a thing nor an object, or a “thing in itself”, but the I in itself. Once we attaint this position, we are able to observe a genesis, this over-act of an I that Fichte calls Thathandlung.22

  • 23 Take the famous example of the wall- (in the example: me watching the activity of me watching the w (...)
  • 24 Acosta 2019: 117-118.

8Once we attain this absolute space of reason by abstraction of empirical consciousness23 we are “in the position” to deduce this first principle, successfully. To deduce this first principle means to proof de jure the identity between transcendental (formal identity) and empirical consciousness (difference).24 For Fichte, this proof is dialectical: he attempted to identify A=A and A=B (empirical consciousness), and the result is the important concept of Wechselwirkung or mutual determination. The two sides of this reciprocal causation are synthetized by means of the waiving (schweben) of imagination, the synthetic faculty par excellence.

  • 25 Breazeale 2015: 83.
  • 26 GWL, GA I/2: 364.
  • 27 GWL, GA I/2: 420, Breazeale 2013: 81-84.
  • 28 Breazeale 2013: 81.

9This methodological aspect is what has been called apagogic.25 With this strategy, philosophy shows a priori how the I relates to the non- I, to the empirical consciousness or to the world, and how it is necessary that this synthesis exists. However, Fichte himself admits that the theoretical proof is not enough in itself to grasp how transcendental and empirical consciousness identify to each other realiter in the world. We must be also in the position to describe genetically how this I “raises itself to empirical consciousness”.26 The genetic method is the “practical” complementary side of the “theoretical” approach. Fichte defines it as: “a passive description of the “theater of our mind”27 or as a “pragmatic history of human mind”, which produces a genetic knowledge. 28

  • 29 Take the example of the concept “natural history” which meaning was attached to the description of (...)

10Although nowadays the term “history” is attached to the succession of events in time, history in Fichte’s terms seems to lack the now usual temporal sense. He seems to understand history in the light of its ancient meaning, which implies mere description without a temporal order.29 In this context, history is equivalent to the enunciation of the constitutive elements or parts that together build a unity. A condition for the description of these elements is that they can be displayed before our eyes. The task of a pragmatic history of human mind insists in the role of philosophy as pure witnessing.

  • 30 Breazeale 2013: 75. See also Acosta 2019: 150.

11We can suggest that the genetic knowledge or pragmatic history is tantamount to know that there is a process of construction of the I. But since it is not a temporal process,30 this knowledge does not indicate how the self-constitution comes to be, from the perspective of the same I.

  • 31 According to Breazeale: “ […] the pragmatic history means only a description [Fiction, Erdichtung] (...)

12The genesis that the genetic method allows us to see and to describe as a totality of acts does not identify our view with the process of actual formation of the identity between the two sides of the opposition. Rather, as we adopt the philosophical position, we are situated in a transcendental position. This place can be considered as a sort of transcendental past, but the arrival to this transcendental past only means being in the position, as singular philosophers, of gaining the only visual access to the relation of the acts that leads from pure to empirical consciousness.31

Fichte’s deductive and non-performative descriptions of the I reveal for Hegel a certain lack of immanence in the method and a lack of a truly organic comprehension of the process of emergence of the Absolute. Let us take a look to the reasons that lead Hegel to such a strong criticism.

III. Hegel’s criticism to the mere description of the I

  • 32 This is what Sandkaulen understands as the meta-philosophical import of Hegel’s critical, early wri (...)

13As I suggested earlier in this text, Hegel’s criticism to Fichte can be considered as an assessment occurring under the guiding concept of life as a self-productive movement and a comprehensive, closed, but active unity. To be sure, by the time Hegel addresses all the critiques we referred to in the first section, he has not yet attained the methodological mastery of the Phenomenology of Spirit. But it is possible to read the Differenzschrift as a previous evaluation of the accuracy of a method that intends to be genetic. Moreover, in this text, Hegel is clearly reflecting on the role of philosophy as a vehicle of a particular kind of knowledge.32

  • 33 Baum 1986: 56.
  • 34 Hegel 1977: 113.

14The concept of life related to the concept of organism has already been referred to in Hegel’s Frankfurt period where it became a key concept to understand the “immanent modifications of a Substance”.33 In the Differenzschrift, Hegel assumes his discovery but adds an important element which has to do with the activity of organization. The Absolute is for him not only self-organizing and self-productive, as for Fichte, but also an immanent principle of organization of a totality of intuitions and thoughts. The Absolute is such a totality precisely because it is capable of grounding itself as its own principle of knowledge.34

  • 35 Baum 1986: 84.
  • 36 Baum 1986: 84.

15In order to better understand what Hegel meant by life as the systematic structure of science, Manfred Baum has suggested to look at how Hegel reprises Jacobi’s description of his and Fichte’s own methods. As Jacobi, Hegel thinks that a system consists of a principle of organization by virtue of which elements being organized acquire another epistemological status. As Jacobi explained to Fichte, in a system, every nicht-wissen-seyn, that is, every finite standpoint, will become Wissen for it will be something known through the same principle.35 The Absolute is knowable in a system of sentences insofar as every sentence “reproduces the Form of the absolute”.36 Contrary to Jacobi however, Hegel understands the word “knowledge” as exclusively related to the Absolute, not to us as philosophers.

  • 37 Hegel insisted on this aspect of life in the Frankfurt period, most of all when he referred to love (...)
  • 38 Baum 1986: 96.

16Understanding an organism in the light of vital processes such as reproduction,37 allowed Hegel to think that just as an organism is a totality able to produce and organize every part that constitutes it, without negating its parts, and just as an organism can replicate the universal of the genera in its own singularity without disappearing as such as a consequence, the Absolute can reproduce this vital organic structure of identity38 and also know itself as this self-producing activity. The concept of life present in Hegel’s former texts, and the complementary concept of an organism as a reflexive figure are the basis for the philosophical problem of the self-apprehension of self-producing reason.

  • 39 Hegel 1977: 110.

17Under the light of the guiding principle or organic life, Hegel agrees with Fichte in important methodological aspects. He confirms the necessity of a “position” to be taken and the need to philosophize from a transcendental vantage point. Hegel states: “It is of the profoundest significance that it has been affirmed with so much seriousness that one cannot philosophize without transcendental intuition. For what would this be, philosophizing without intuition? One would disperse oneself endlessly in absolute finitudes.”39

18It seems as if the new vantage point or the new philosophical position was considered a crucial methodological aspect. Hegel, however, is not considering the position as inner intuition (the role of the eye of the philosopher), but directly transcendental intuition as the prime condition for philosophy inasmuch this intuition allows not only to think but, as Hegel expects, to actualize the relation between the finite and the infinite. For Hegel, the method proper to this new philosophy is genetic, but only insofar as it is the (self) exposition of the self-producing activity of reason. In order to explain this, Hegel seems to follow Fichte’s dialectics. He states therefore:

  • 40 Hegel 1977: 114. My emphasis.

The method of the system should be called neither synthetic nor analytic. It shows itself at its purest when it appears as a development of Reason itself. Reason does not recall its appearance, which emanates from it as a duplicate, back into itself – for then, it would only nullify it. Rather, Reason constructs itself in its emanation as an identity that is conditioned by this very duplicate; it opposes this relative identity to itself once more, and in this way the system advances until the objective totality is completed. Reason then unites this objective totality with the opposite subjective totality to form the infinite world-intuition, whose expansion has at the same time connected into the richest and simplest identity.40

19The image of an emanating source appearing in this quote is somehow misleading. Although Hegel is not yet ready to develop this question further, the productive movement of the Absolute is clearly linked to an action of self-constitution, not to any sort of kenosis. Moreover, we shall not forget that the concept and method of philosophy as a possible theoretical task also demands a new concept of knowledge that, at the same time, can justify and go beyond the transitive knowledge of understanding (the mere knowing that…). If philosophy is possible at all, Hegel thinks, finitude —concepts or objects— must be known not only in an external way, but from the vantage point of a philosophical position (inner intuition). Knowledge must also be comprehended as constitutively related to the infinite, or the Absolute.

  • 41 Hegel 1977: 122.
  • 42 Hegel 1977: 123.

20Fichte thinks philosophy is possible since the singular I has freedom as its absolute ground. Philosophy as an act of empirical consciousness is a free activity. Although this can be conceded, empirical reason must be, according to Hegel, surpassed. True knowledge is not knowledge of something, knowledge must be its own content. The Absolute must become absolute knowledge capable of self-exposition. Thus, while the transitive kind of knowledge of empirical consciousness is to know something, the knowledge of the Absolute is self-referential. This self-knowledge is not ideal but absolutely real. For Hegel, Fichte’s “position” is a strategy of the understanding to put itself in the place of reason, of supplanting reason’s identity, as it were.41 Reason, in Fichte’s system, is unable to become objective for his own eyes.42 The vicarial activity that understanding is willing to enact by adopting the philosophical standpoint represents a risk for the correct understanding of identity. Accordingly, the problem in Fichte is precisely that there is a constant gap between the philosophical consciousness, empirical consciousness, and the absolute I. With Fichte’s philosophy we are not in the Absolute itself, we are in the idea of the absolute. Therefore, Fichte’s method remains formal. Hegel states that:

  • 43 Hegel 1977:110-111.

Formal philosophizing presupposed destruction of the transcendental intuition, an absolute opposition of being and concept. If it talks of the unconditioned, it converts even that into something formal, say the form of an Idea that is opposed to Being for instance. […] To speculation, [on the contrary,] the finitudes are radii of the infinite focus which irradiates them at the same time that it is formed by them.43

21Again, Hegel expresses himself in a somehow mystical way and also vaguely referring Spinoza. It is important to bear in mind, however, that to know philosophically the realm of finitude means for Hegel to explain that there are no emanations, nor progressive ontological differentiation or unjustified leaps between concepts and objects. Mind and world are not two different realities running apart from each other but rather two aspects of the same encompassing totality.

  • 44 Life is the empirical life of an empirical, embodied consciousness. GWL, GA I/2: 410-411.

Although Fichte himself has stated that life is the true standpoint of the Doctrine of science, life is only related to the empirical life of the I.44 This is precisely what hinders Fichte to describe the Absolute as self-enunciation, self-description and self-manifestation and as temporal, though not chronological, entity.

  • 45 According to Blumenbach’s theory, there is a drive for growth -Bildungstrieb- which presupposition (...)
  • 46 See Ferreiro 2019: 671.

22In relation to Fichte’s first methodologic aspect (dialectics), Hegel suggests that the Wechselwirkung is not a true organic movement. Organicity is not just the admission of the fact that the elements (already existing) contribute to the maintenance of a whole, in a homeostatic unity. It also implies a principle of production and organization, superior but also immanent to the “elements”, and the very important notions of process or growth and reproduction. 45The organic movement Hegel is thinking of is a movement of permanent distribution and actual presence of the activity of the synthetic unity in every conforming element. Wechselwirkung is the interchange of a negative force (Kraft) but only at the formal, logical level. Realiter, however, it is an unfair distributive activity inasmuch the objective side of this movement (nature) lacks agency.46 For Hegel, Fichte is not enacting organicity but only describing (knowing that) a mechanical comprehension of it.

  • 47 See Oehl 2020.
  • 48 See Oehl 2020: 495.

23A further question concerns self-consciousness as a mere logical principle of identity.47 First, logical representations lack content48 and, in the end, do not solve the problem posed by the Kantian presupposition of an actual and existing ground since they are simply the result of a representational activity, but not actual being. According to Hegel, identity has not only to be thought (the principle of identity and its relation to self-consciousness) but performed beyond a mere deduction, let alone the fictional reconstruction or genetics of the I as ground of all our representations.

24For Hegel, a true suspension of empirical consciousness would be a true suspension of empirical time and the emergence of a new temporal realm. Suspension of empirical consciousness is needed to attain its own grounding principle, as he stated before. Nevertheless, Fichte finds it more suitable to pose the striving towards the Absolute as something that happens in empirical time, thus maintaining the antinomy as such, that is, as an insoluble problem of opposition between two contradictory concepts.

In conclusion, for Hegel, Fichte’s philosophical method lacks philosophical accuracy because the synthesis that it is supposed to “describe” is not organically deduced nor organically synthetized. There is no real synthesis of the practical I with the I, but only an ought, a striving for unity. Real synthesis does not actually exist. In Hegel’s view, the empirical I only stirs nature (the external world or multiplicity of finite objects towards which the I is confronted while actualizing her freedom) but does not manage to infuse life in it. This shows that it has not been really “deduced” from the organic principle of the I. Nature is dead, it is only the passive medium within which empirical consciousness strives freely to the Absolute. The fact that there is no life in the objective side shows that the system is not a living system either.

  • 49 Baum 1986: 88.

25A true philosophy of the Absolute must perform a true history of the constitution of life. 49The real construction Hegel is asking for is an immanent reconstruction, from the point of view of the Absolute itself (not from the point of view of the philosopher’s inner intuition), of the synthetical and organic successions of the manifestations of itself.

  • 50 See above note 32.

26Instead of restraining the I’s activity to the discovery of a limit that it imposes to itself in a free act, and instead of the sublimation of the Absolute in a unified nature only possible but never actual towards which we must tend, Hegel demands a true synthesis. The Hegelian Absolute is expressed in the famous expression: identity of identity and no-identity. The reconstruction of this identity must not be described as a fiction50 of finite understanding. It must rather be enacted. While Fichte’s Absolute is a representation in the theater of our minds, Hegel’s attempt is to create the scene for its self-performance.


Acosta, E., (2019) “La deducción de las categorías en el fundamento de toda la doctrina de la ciencia de J. G. Fichte: ¿radicalización de un motivo kantiano?”, in: J. Solé & M. Gaudio, Fichte en el laberinto del idealismo, Buenos Aires: RAGIF: 111-155.

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Breazeale, D., (2015) “The ‘Synthetic-Genetic Method’ of Transcendental Philosophy: Kantian Questions/Fichtean Answers” in Gardner, S., Matthew, G. (eds), The Transcendental Turn. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 74- 95.

Cheung, T., (2010) “What is an organism? On the Occurrence of a New Term and Its Conceptual Transformations 1680-1850”, in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Vol. 32, No. 2/3: 155-194.

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1 See Baum 1986: 83-87.

2 See Steinberg 2018: 6.

3 Steinberg 2018: 9.

4 See for example Westphal 2000, Breazeale 2018, García 2018.

5 Kant KrV A833/B861.

6 According to Acosta, both Kant and Fichte agreed in one constitutive aspect of the definition of the complex concept of “deduction”: There is a consciousness, and this consciousness uses categories to create knowledge. This is a fact. This fact is precisely what neither Kant nor Fichte would try to “deduce”. See Acosta 2019: 155-156. The presupposition of the categories, and their origin in the I remain perplexing questions.

7 See Acosta 2019.

8 Fichte states:“...ersuche ich auf das Ganze einzugehen, und jeden einzelnen Gedanken aus dem Gesichtspunkte des Ganzen einzusehen.” GWL, GA I/2: 253

9 See Gaudio 2014: 7.

10 Acosta has convincingly shown that Wechselwirkung or causal reciprocity is Fichte’s core organic category. It is the guiding principle according to which the deductive relation of categories must be understood. In this context, epi-genetic causality means a reciprocal connection between the precedent category and the next. Acosta: 2019. It is important to note that Fichte’s reciprocal, causal relation goes beyond Kant’s mere causal determination. Kant’s own definition of an organism as a principle of self-causality and self-constitution (Wachstum) implies a reciprocal relation between parts but he does not explain how parts are genetically produced from totality nor from other parts of the organism. See Kant KU §§64-66.

11 A proper critique of this causality will appear some 30 years later in the Science of Logic where Hegel will show how Wechselwirkung is not a truly organic relation.

12 See Baum 1986: 83.

13 Hegel 1977: 132.

14 Hegel 1977: 132.

15 Hegel 1977: 132.

16 See GWL, GA I/2: 413.

17 GWL, GA I/2: 255.

18 See Breazeale 2015: 87.

19 See Breazeale 2015: 80-85.

20 See Zöller 1997: 79-80. I believe this is one aspect of Fichte’s problem in Hegel’s view. The I lacks an immanent self-description as self-construction.

21 GWL, GA I/2: 253.

22 Juan Cruz Cruz made a very interesting remark concerning the true meaning and the best translation of the Fichtean concept of Thathandlung. According to him, it is not only a fact- for facts are what can have an effect- but an activity that Fichte will define as genesis later in 1804. According to the same translator, this genesis or Thathadlung, is best understood when it is translated as “overact”. Overacting means being the producer (Handlung) and the product (Tat) simultaneously. I find these remarks quite illuminating, for they also insist on the theatrical aspect of the Wissenschaftslehre. See Cruz 2011: 41, N 2.

23 Take the famous example of the wall- (in the example: me watching the activity of me watching the wall).

24 Acosta 2019: 117-118.

25 Breazeale 2015: 83.

26 GWL, GA I/2: 364.

27 GWL, GA I/2: 420, Breazeale 2013: 81-84.

28 Breazeale 2013: 81.

29 Take the example of the concept “natural history” which meaning was attached to the description of the parts of a natural being. For the history of the concept of History see Lepenies 1976.

30 Breazeale 2013: 75. See also Acosta 2019: 150.

31 According to Breazeale: “ […] the pragmatic history means only a description [Fiction, Erdichtung], from the point of view of the singular consciousness of the philosopher, of acts that are not temporals, although they are ordered in series […] The acts described earlier in this pragmatic history do not actually temporally precede those described later. Their sequence within a philosophical history is determined purely “pragmatically”; that is to say, it is determined by the particular starting point of such a history (the concept of the I, which is the product of the initial act of free abstraction)”. Breazeale 2013: 87, 88, 90.

32 This is what Sandkaulen understands as the meta-philosophical import of Hegel’s critical, early writings. See Sandkaulen 2017: 6.

33 Baum 1986: 56.

34 Hegel 1977: 113.

35 Baum 1986: 84.

36 Baum 1986: 84.

37 Hegel insisted on this aspect of life in the Frankfurt period, most of all when he referred to love. See Hegel 1907: 374-82, 395.

38 Baum 1986: 96.

39 Hegel 1977: 110.

40 Hegel 1977: 114. My emphasis.

41 Hegel 1977: 122.

42 Hegel 1977: 123.

43 Hegel 1977:110-111.

44 Life is the empirical life of an empirical, embodied consciousness. GWL, GA I/2: 410-411.

45 According to Blumenbach’s theory, there is a drive for growth -Bildungstrieb- which presupposition allows for the explanation of processes like regeneration, embryogenesis, etc. See Blumenbach 1791. See also Cheung 2010: 172-173.

46 See Ferreiro 2019: 671.

47 See Oehl 2020.

48 See Oehl 2020: 495.

49 Baum 1986: 88.

50 See above note 32.

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Zaida Olvera, «The Role of organic life in Hegel’s Critique to Fichte»Revista de Estud(i)os sobre Fichte [En línea], 24 | 2022, Publicado el 30 diciembre 2022, consultado el 13 abril 2024. URL:; DOI:

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