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  1. 1. FICHTE’S DETERMINISMBY NATURE EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY TERM PAPER ALLEN, BRANDONJ WINONA STATE UNIVERSITY BJAllen13@winona.edu NOVEMBER 28, 2014
  2. 2. 1 Doing this paper has to be the hardest paper that I have done so far. This is because I am doing my paper on Fichte’s Determinism. Fichte is a philosopher during the end of the Early Modern Philosophy era whom was right after Kant. A lot of people associate Fichte with Kant due to being a Transcendental Idealist. Fichte is well known for his Political Philosophy and Ethical Philosophy. Due to this, people have focused on his work on Wissenschaftslehre. However, due to Kant being an intellectual powerhouse in the field of Transcendental Idealism, it seems as if not many Americans focus on Fichte’s philosophy. Even Fichte has claimed that only one person could truly understand his whole system of Philosophy and this is Kant. What I hope to do in the best of my analyzation skills is to go over Fichte’s text The Vocation of Man and to look at the differences that have resulted since his work compared to his Early Modern era counterparts (i.e. Descartes, Leibnitz, Hume, etc.). Sadly, I have not even reached the brink of understanding fully Fichte’s Philosophical system even after dedicating my time and efforts into reading the Vocation of Man twice over plus supplementary texts totaling over 250 pages of philosophical text. However, I have grown to at least understand some of Fichte’s concepts with the self-identity of individuals by doing what Fichte says to put themselves as the character of the person going through the text. In the first book of Fichte’s Vocation of Man we see that he holds the Cartesian system by labeling his book calling it Doubt. According to Beardsley, the shortest summary that one can give of this book is that “Fichte holds a contrast between the individual’s inward conviction of his own freedom of will and the ridged determinism that intellect finds in Nature”. (490) I have received a very high sense of determinism while reading Fichte’s first book Doubt. This is because Fichte purposes that all of our attributes that a man has is bestowed upon us from Nature. Fichte states, “The time at which my existence commenced and the attributes with which
  3. 3. 2 I came into being, were determined by this universal power of Nature ” (Fichte 6) Since individuals are determined by Nature, Fichte claims the following: “ Everything that actually exists has a determinate number of all possible attributes of actual existence. And each of these in a determinate measure, as surely as it exists, although I may admit my inability thoroughly to exhaust all the properties of any one object or to apply them to any standard of measurement.” (3) As we see from this line of text, Fichte believes that Nature bestows upon every object a finite amount of attributes at a specific point in time and location in space. On page 3, we also see the importance of once again refuting Barkley from the very get-go. This is due to the fact that our consciousness (which Fichte gets to way later about consciousness being the main function of our being which is way later, in book 2 called Knowledge.) imagines objects, such as a general tree. However, this tree does not exist outside of our thought because the general tree does not have a definite number of leaves, and humans cannot define the number of branches. As Fichte puts in his Foundations of the Entire Science of Knowledge, “People should be able to say that an object as itself should exist as itself and not some other different representational form of its pure existence.” (Fichte 99) Thus, we have to reject that the idea of a general tree should exist. However, in putting this in respect to Barkley, we see that God can perceive of the idea of a general tree because whomever can perceive of that specific object, in our case a general tree, then one can conceive of the idea of a general tree. (Slowik 8) We now see the dividing line between Barkley and Fichte where everything just does not resort down to Barkley’s Idealism with Fichte. Now that I have gone over on the creation of people through determinism of Nature I will now move onto Fichte’s definition of substance. Fichte defines substance as the following: “I find their substance to be this—that in every stage of progress an antecedent is necessarily supposed, from which and through which alone the present has arisen; in every condition a previous condition, in every existence another existence and that from nothing, nothing whatever can proceed.” (Fichte 4)
  4. 4. 3 Substance, according to Fichte, is ever changing in which has a connection with the history of itself throughout time. However, these properties are not in us, but Nature itself, because humans are a derivation of Nature. However, when comparing this against Descartes and Spinoza’s version of substance, we see that the definition of what a substance is has radically changed over the course of time. According to Descartes, substance is just the body (objects that have extension out in the universe) and mind which perceives of objects. Spinoza on the other hand just puts that there is one substance and this is God. (Slowik) When reading Fichte’s work I thought he would be more concerned with Barkley since Kant was as well and Fichte idolized Kant’s works. However, it comes apparent time and time again that Fichte puts forward that he is not like Spinoza because God could just be the fundamental root of the transformation of substances whom is disguised as Nature. Spinoza presents a system in which separates the pure and empirical consciousness. The first is reserved in God whom has no conscious of himself, because pure consciousness can never obtain true consciousness according to Fichte, not even God. The second are in the modifications of the deity in which bestows upon life to objects in our universe. With the two parts of consciousness unified, Fichte states that Spinoza’s definition of substance is wrong, because it just pertains to and ideal that can never be obtained even by the most ultimate God that humans can imagine because God cannot achieve having true consciousness as a whole in Spinoza’s system. (Fichte 101) Now that we have gone over how Fichte’s system of substance is different from the Spinozism and Cartesian systems we shall move onto a point which must be examined and that is how can a substance change from one state to another. We see Fichte in a massive struggle with determinism that is accruing next from his definition of substance. It may not be the case that our world is preordained even though the
  5. 5. 4 result of who I was initially was a chain of events from Nature itself. However, Nature instills in me, according to Fichte, what he calls an active power. This active power is a part of me and constitutes myself and no other beings that exist outside of myself. The active power inside myself sets itself in motion as it sees fit and will unite with the outward circumstances that are outside of myself to produce a change to my consciousness and being. When an action is not being done in respect to the exterior world of my consciousness it is considered to be an inactive power because I know the effect that proceeds from it. Fichte gives an example of both active and inactive power in respects to a flower. When I water and give a certain amount of sunlight to a flower that I perceive it’s being to be a flower there I have an innate power within myself in which can say that that flower with a certain properties as I have experienced before will result in growth of the flower. There are certain capabilities in my mind in respect to innate power in which one can reflect on. Fichte goes over this as well with his stances on limitation on page 111 of Foundations of Scientific Knowledge. However, the active power is within the flower itself and unites itself with the water and sunlight in order for its growth to happen because there are certain laws that are preordained by Nature or has been transmographied throughout the process of its being. As a result of the unity of the exterior world and the flower’s active power, we perceive a change in the flowers being according to its perceived extension. Now that I have gone over this in respect to flower’s being we can see this in accordance with the human being. When reflecting upon the above argument further, we are phased by the continuity of Fichte’s idea of active and innate power with Locke’s concept of personal identity. However, there arises yet again a difference between Fichte and Locke in retrospect that the soul just doesn’t exist in Fichte’s system, at least for what I have read over my course of studying Fichte. (Locke, 372) For Fichte the consciousness does not have a soul attached to it. However, there
  6. 6. 5 does resonate the feeling that human individuals and things around us are composed out of a continuum of time which constitutes who a person is in respect to their character. Now we shall move onto what Fichte calls the man-forming power. Man-forming power is a bit easier to understand than the powers that I have stated before. Because man is a creation given by Nature with a finite amount of attributes, including thought. Fichte puts that Nature has instilled in human beings the function of thought-power. Thought- power is as follows: “Its existence is absolute and independent: as the formative power of Nature exists absolutely and independently. It is in Nature for the thinking being arises and develops himself according the laws of Nature; therefore thought exists through Nature I am not what I am because I think so, or will so, nor do I think and will it, because I am so; but I am, and I think, both absolutely; -- both harmonize with each other by virtue of a higher cause” (Fichte 7) So now we see that thought is something that is independent of Nature even though created by it with Fichte because Nature somehow lets go of it even though it installs information about the what the consciousness can have. We think what we think due to our inner laws being the way that they are, not because I will my thoughts to think of something. Even if we try to will our thoughts to think of something that is also part of our being in which are part of the laws that we follow. When thought happens, we see in ourselves a restructure of our whole entire essence and the laws that we following in accordance to the self. My man-forming power of thought, active and inactive powers are seen as independent of Nature then I seem to be free as long as I’m not restrained and limited by Nature. (Fichte 8) However, Fichte gives an example of a tree that is banded against the wall and still performs its law which is intrinsic to itself, which is growing. The tree is still free in the sense that it still gets to perform all of its functions such as growing and producing fruit like other trees. However, it doesn’t have true freedom in which the tree is not constrained by anything else. However, everything is constrained by the laws that they hold which constitute their personal identity, and thus nothing can really have true freedom.
  7. 7. 6 (Fichte 9) Due to laws having cause and effect relationships it is important to go over Fichte’s view on the principle of causation. According to Fichte, there is a way to look at the principle of causation. The principle of causation according to Fichte shows what a person’s consciousness can understand the outside world around myself. The principle of causality was first inferred by Hume in which put forward that sometimes a cause does not really produce an effect out there in world. We just conjoin both the cause and effect together in order to describe two events in our world. However, for Fichte, everything is mostly considered internal because information is processed in the self. The principle of causality also holds that it subjects the transition between the self to a universal particular which lies beyond myself. The two different ways that the principle of causality is obtained in an individual is by immediate perception of what is happening where my consciousness immediately picks up on the relation between the two objects, or through inference where my mind will have to make logical deductions to arrive to the cause effect relationship that has just occurred. The principle of causality also holds that it subjects the transition between the self to a universal particular which lies beyond myself. However, there is one way that the individual may have freedom in respect to themselves and that is their will. (Fichte 10) The will, according to Fichte, is what takes into effect contending issues in which we are filtering through our own consciousness to decide which one is more right to believe in. When reflecting back onto what Fichte has said about the telos of man we see that we want to become the most fully conscious and to be as free as possible. However, isn’t this just the laws which govern our being which our law can just be determined from Nature by the get-go? It must be, unless we have some processing power in our thought in which can change our being gradually
  8. 8. 7 or dramatically. And once again we are stuck at ground zero with trying to get out of the free- will determinism problem of Fichte. Since we see that Determinism is a problem let’s look over the accusation of Fichte’s philosophy being considered to be just deterministic solipsism. There have been people whom have argued that Fichte philosophy is just Solipsism all over again. This is due to people seeing Fichte’s work to be very focused on the self and how the self perceives of the world through themselves. We may see Solipsism from his quote stating: “Thus far I remain within myself and upon my own territory; everything that has an existence for me unfolds itself purely and solely from myself; I see everywhere only myself and no true existence outside of myself. But in this my world I admit, also, the operations of other beings, separate and independent of me, as much as I of other beings, separate and independent of me, as much as I do of them. How these beings can themselves know of the influences that proceed from them may easily be conceived; they know them the same way I know my own. But how I can know of them is absolutely inconceivable, just as it is inconceivable how they can possess that knowledge of my existence, and it’s manifestations, which never the less I ascribe to them.”(Fichte 529) However, Fichte does believe that there does exist other individuals in the world and that they are each different from one another. To understand Nature fully there would have to be an infinite amount of individuals in the universe. With what has been stated we see the school of thought of Perspectivism of Aguste Comte is blooming out of Fichte’s philosophy. (Fichte 10) Perspectivism is the school of thought where we gain a better insight onto on object based on how many people perceive that object and the position we are in determines our perception of an object. We see Fichte stating more importantly that people may think in a different manner than any other individual does in accordance to understanding certain aspects about the world. But there can be other individual consciousness’s that are out there that do think and contrive of concepts out there in the world. To note here I have been using the self, me, and I as individual statements of stating what Fichte calls the ego. Also, according to Unity of Fichte’s Doctrine of Knowledge by Thompson, states that “Fichte’s Ego is universal consciousness in its fullest
  9. 9. 8 conceivable extent, that the individual is only a member of the true Ego and subject to its laws, that he does not create but finds a world of fixed fact, and that he is forced to know the multiplicity of egos as a condition of knowing self.” (3) The origin of many individuals stems from the reflection of the Absolute Ego. The Absolute Ego according to Fichte is the opposition of through the subject and object, thus dialectically evolves the universe. (SEP) Thus through this reflection we see that there is a multitude of egos that come into the world with their own individual identity and existence. (Unity of Fichte’s Doctrine of Knowledge 47) We see here that Fichte’s system isn’t Solopstic because the absolute ego differs the subject and the object in respect to their counter parts. So if there exists me who is happy there must have been someone who has existed who was sad, if there was me who couldn’t rationalize about mathematical concepts there exists someone else that does. Now that I have extensively looked over the determinism in Fichte’s work, I will now attempt to evaluate Fichte. One thing that was blatantly obvious when reading his works is that God seems to be non-existent in the first two books. We see that God is very much implemented into the third book of the Vocation of Man however how the world is formed and how objects are formed seems to be nonexistent of a God. Bringing in Leibniz into the picture we saw that God formed the world into the best of all possible worlds even though there was sin in it the outcome would be overall good for the world. It seems for Fichte though that Nature itself is the designator of the being and what laws they do follow. When we talk about laws we are talking about following the laws of gravity and things in our moral consciousness as well. We see a beautiful example of this in Fichte’s third book stating: “I cannot say that in the material world my hand, or any other body which belongs to that world and is subject to the universal law into operation; these bodies themselves stand under this law,
  10. 10. 9 and only in so far as that body, by virtue of this law, partakes in the universal power of Nature.” (Fichte 526) I feel as if though that these laws do though change over the course of time in consciousness of human beings though. This is because humans evolve into a greater and even a smarter society than in the previous chain of time. This can be seen in correlation with Fichte’s view of the personal self in which people are supposed to reach a higher virtue than before with their consciousness and being than in previous states of time. Contrasting Fichte’s view of the telos of the world compared to Leibniz’s world we see that the world is not always perfect but in retrospect to Fichte’s philosophy we see there is a progress of at least the individual trying to become perfect in the universe. However, there is one point that has been bugging me with Fichte. I do have an instance in which I am uncomfortable agreeing with Fichte in respect to his views on death. Fichte states: “The same circumstances can never return unless the whole system of Nature should retrograde and two Natures arise instead of one: hence the same individuals who have once existed, can never again come into actual being.” What happens when someone dies and comes back to life though? There have been many occurrences of this happening but they retain their same being as they did before. Nature does not retrograde when you die and come back alive since your being though. I could see Fichte stating that Nature instils in the person again what attributes they have had before but now they are a different person because they have a different attribute to themselves due to their experience of death that can be added into the individual. However, if we look at the Locke’s way of describing personal identity then we see that the person may have maintained the same ideas that were there before thus a transformed human being in which was greater and contains the past self. However, for Fichte he
  11. 11. 10 is telling the patient who awoke from death that they are now a totally different person with totally different attributes and laws confided in themselves than previously before even though I think of myself as the same person in the past. Therefore, I conclude that Fichte’s arguments are not like his previous counter parts in which we have encountered in class. I have distinguished him from many other philosophers that we have discussed in class and have stated his deterministic philosophy of the world. I have also presented an argument for and also against Fichte’s philosophy based on rigorous reading of his texts and contemplation of Fichte’s philosophy in The Doctrine of Knowledge. This paper is mostly focused on the first third of the book and is already seen as complicated as stated before. Maybe I have not understood Fichte fully, but trying to understand this guy is just a feat in itself to be proud of.
  12. 12. 11 Bibliography Ariew,R.,& Watkins,E.(2009). Modern Philosophy:An Anthology of Primary Sources. Indanapolis: HackettPublishingCompany. Beardsley,M.(1799). The EuropeanPhilosophersFromDescartestoNietzsche.InJ.Fichte, TheVocation of Man:Faith (pp.491-531). New York: RandomHouse Inc.. Fichte.(1799). The Vocationof Man. Sophia Project.Retrievedfromhttp://www.sophia- project.org/uploads/1/3/9/5/13955288/fichte_vocation.pdf Kaufmann,B.&. (n.d.).19th CenturyPhilosophy. Fichte. Thompson,A.B. (1895). The Unity of Fichte's Doctorineof Knowledge. Boston:Ginn& Company.