Fichte and German Idealism Vl (and last)


Fichte’s “system of thought” (better called transcendental philosophy or metaphysics), which is a developed, nuanced and far-reaching metaphysics, is difficult to summarize. We can only make here a few further points, and very succinctly:

·         Consciousness is the foundation of Being.

·         The ‘I’ is infinite and finite at the same time in man. The finite identifies itself with the infinite.

·         The pure ‘I’ is supra-individual – immanent in individual man.

·         The pure or transcendental ‘I’, as the root of productive activity manifests itself in the finite, human consciousness.

·         The philosopher discovers the productive activity of the Absolute ‘I’ by means of transcendental reflection (a meditation)… (productive) Imagination as decisive in the foundation of empirical consciousness.

·         The self-intuition of the ‘I’ as a living unity (or intellectual intuition) is both the principle of knowledge and an existential act. Through this intuition the ‘I’ is aware of Itself in all its acts.

·         The pure or Absolute ‘I’ posits interior to itself a finite ‘I’ and a finite not-‘I’ – they limit each other and determine each other. The latter is a necessary condition of nature.

·         Imagination becomes in Fichte the basic faculty of man, a link between theory and praxis. The world is the result of our productive Imagination… there is no other truth than that of the s/Subject. Human knowledge reduces itself to s/Self-consciousness. Thus, we only know “external reality” by reference to the pure ‘I’.

·         The power of Imagination produces the limitless space, indefinably divisible, as a form of the intuition. It also produces time. Both are rooted in the spontaneous activity of the Absolute ‘I’.

·         To become what one is, what one should be – that is the way of philosophy, of complete humanization.

Fichte’s Tathandlung, which, as we noted, is constructed rather than discovered, and which serves as an experimental postulate in order to make sense of the conditions for the possibility of our ordinary experience, was interpreted from the beginning along the lines of Berkeley’s Idealism, an Idealism according to which the world as a whole is somehow the product of an infinite mind. Just about all modern commentators are against not only all systems of philosophical Idealism, but the interpretation just mentioned. However, there are (it has been noted) some passages in Fichte’s writings that seem to support that view.  In any case, an idealism is ultimately a non-dual account of reality; if there are any intermediate steps in its doctrine (like the naturalist thesis which was espoused at first by both Kant and Fichte), these belong to a lower level, metaphysically and epistemologically (vyavaharika in Advaita philosophy) which is sublatable to a higher level by means of intellectual intuition or higher reason.

As to the thing-in-itself, or rather its mark or quality of noumenon (both expressions purported to mean unknown and unknowable, in the second case because it cannot be an object for the intellect), there is, interestingly, a turn-around in our understanding of this highest principle after Fichte (and different from Kant) – at least at an intellectual level – once we transpose that quality to the real noumenon, the Absolute ‘I’, which is the One-without-a-second of Hindu metaphysics. A precision, however, is required here: we have seen that logos stands for the Absolute ‘I’, and that in Fichte’s later philosophy it is also another name for Absolute knowing, which is intimately linked with being. Being, however, is not presented by our author as thing-in-itself, but it (quote) continues to be originating action, full dinamism, infinite life, God. In truth, it is very difficult to distinguish between these two aspects: being and knowing, or God and logos, because they are the two sides of one and the same reality. Knowing is not other than being itself, which makes conceivable what in itself is unreachable, inexhaustible and incomprehensible (Virginia Lopez Dominguez, FICHTE, 1994).



About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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