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17 | 2018
Verano/Verão 2018

Bajo la dirección de Tom Rockmore
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Fichte and Kant (II)

The preliminary versions of the papers that are now being published in this volume of REsF were all presented at a meeting of the North American Fichte Society in Seoul, South Korea in June 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to fill a gap in Fichte research. The increased attention to German idealism in recent years is a by-product of factors in the discussion, including the change in the debate as Heidegger recedes, the Frankfurt School and Marxism in general, but not Marx, attract increasingly less attention, and phenomenology matures. These and other changes create “space” so to speak for a qualified return to German idealism, including Fichte.

Though it is well known that Fichte is a Kantian, what that means, what that means to Kant, what that means to Fichte and what that means to the different themes that both bring them together and keep them apart is only rarely studied in depth, rarely discussed beyond reference to Fichte’s claim, perhaps less extreme than it seems, to understand the critical philosophy better than its author.

Fichte belongs chronologically and conceptually to German idealism, one of the two great moments in the history of Western philosophy. Though German idealism is slowly now in the process of coming back into fashion, we cannot say that idealism in all its forms, including German idealism, is at present either well or widely known. There are few philosophers active today who are willing to describe themselves as idealists. German idealism begins with Leibniz, if he is an idealist, or at least no later than Kant. This tendency includes Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. When Hegel died a light went out on one of the most interesting, richest but also most difficult philosophical tendencies. Few philosophers active today are knowledgeable about, much less able to discuss in detail either German idealism or idealism. 

We live in a time when Fichte is an extremely influential author, according to some observers even the most influential thinker in the last two centuries. He is, to begin with, influential in the early reception of the critical philosophy. When the Critique of Pure Reason appeared, Kant’s early readers were confronted with a massive and very difficult text that numerous observers implausibly each claimed to be the only person to understand. Jacobi, Kant’s contemporary, famously thought that Kant’s position was inconsistent, notably with respect to the key notion of the thing in itself. It should not be overlooked that the young Schelling and the young Hegel read Kant through Fichte’s eyes. According to Hegel, Kant, who rejects dogmatism, is himself as dogmatist since he merely asserts but fails to deduce the categories initially deduced by Fichte.  Though Reinhold is the first contemporary to attempt to reconstruct the critical philosophy, Hegel describes him as the leading non-philosopher of the age.

The papers you are about to read all throw light, in different ways, on Fichte’s relation to Kant, hence on both thinkers as well as German idealism and some of the basic problems of philosophy itself. In “Biology and ontology: Kant, Fichte, and the uses of natural history”, Michael Steinberg explores the similarities and differences between Kant and Fichte’s views on biology, paying special attention to the function and interpretation of the Bildungstrieb in both philosophers. Halla Kim’s “Kant and Fichte on Belief and Knowledge” offers a very interesting analysis of the practical and ontological nuances that the (originally Kantian) concept of belief acquires in Fichte’s philosophy. In his “The Problem of können”, Michihito Yoshime examines the difficulties in translating the well-known first sentence of KrV §16 and the differences between Kant’s “I think” and Fichte’s I. Kienhow Goh’s “The Hidden Moral Teleology in Fichte’s System of Ethics” is an investigation on the function of moral law as a cosmic principle in Fichte’s System of Ethics (SE). In “The Imagination in Kant and Fichte”, Virginia López-Domínguez focusses on the radical change that Kant produces in modern philosophy with his new conception of imagination as well as on the differences and similarities between Kant and Fichte’s concept of imagination.

Tom Rockmore
Peking University

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