Reading Fichte
-by Günter Zöller-

Spanish by Gabriel Rivero
translated by D. Ohmans
© copyright 2017

Text imprint Barcelona, Herder, ©2013 (2015)

Reading Fichte TOC


		2.1. Years of apprenticeship and pilgrimage (1774-1794)
		2.2. Professor in Jena (1794-1799)
		2.3. The so-called dispute concerning atheism (1798-1799)
		2.4. Docent without an academic job (1799-1809)
		2.5. Professor in Berlin (1809-1814)


                3.1. Determination of the limit of pure reason (Immanuel Kant)
                3.2. The opposition between faith and knowledge (Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi)
                3.3. Philosophy starting from a single principle (Karl Leonhard Reinhold)
                3.4. The skeptical theme of Kantianism (Salomon Maimon and Schulze's Aenesidemus)


		4.1. The discovery of the I
                4.2. From the infinite I to the finite one
                4.3. The unity of knowing and caring
                4.4. From the I to the me, to you and to us
                4.5. The primacy of the practical


                5.1. The Doctrine of Science and its later representations
                5.2. From the absolute I to the Absolute
                5.3. The Absolute and its phenomena
                5.4. From the Doctrine of Science to the Doctrine of Wisdom


                6.1. Science and art
                6.2. Reason and history
                6.3. Nation and education
                6.4. Law and religion

                              I. Reading Fichte

OF ALL THE modern philosophers, Fichte is the least appropriate for
solitary reading.   His texts are, in general, conceived for public exposition. In
their majority, they should have been thought and heard in the realm of teaching and
academic learning. Therefore, its linguistic and intellectual design are essentially
ready for oral communication. The later and additional exposure through the printed
publication is extrinsic to it - and this also applies where Fichte himself previewed
or proposed their publication. These texts absolutely lack the establishment of fixed
terms and theorems. In place of that, Fichte's texts carefully effect an evolved and
highly complex movement of thought, by means of which the public should be instructed
and motivated for an autonomous intellectual co-realization of such thought.
     In a deliberate analysis of written culture in the philosophic field, Fichte de-
emphasizes the work in favor of the effect, and in place of the progressive
development of multiple contents he prioritizes varied repetition of a few subjects
and fundamental theses; and this always with new attempts in the direction of a
procedure chosen in a premeditated manner, by means of which one should challenge,
undo and replace the established modes of thinking. With his typical connection
between a thematic focus and volatility, philosophizing for Fichte is less extensive
than intensive, less expansive than repetitive, less instructive than insistent.
Fichte takes his listeners and his readers seriously, and he takes them to the
extremes of superimposition. Thus, despite being developed and designed for public
exposition, the Fichtean hermetic texts become comprehensible, typically, after
repeated reading. To read Fichte requires the immersion in a pathway of thought that
profoundly challenges thought itself, yet with which, justly, one's freedom with
respect to external rules is presupposed and deliberately intensified. Fichte counts
upon a public that thinks like him, and with readers who reflect. For Fichte, the
subject with which he deals is things, although his insistent tone and the energetic
sound of his philosophic voice can appear highly subjective. From Fichte's texts--and
from his life--one can learn how philosophical investigation should occur in
intellectual freedom, that is, with complete deliverance to the search for knowledge
and wisdom, without consideration of losses or personal advantages.
     Therefore, to be fair to the biographical-philosophical character of Fichte's
thought, it does not suffice either to take under consideration only some of his
works or a good part of them through an artificial separation of everything vital
from his thought. Fichte is a philosopher who always and everywhere concerns himself
with everything, and his work essentially eliminates selective reception. In the same
fashion, the restriction to one or another phase of his thought cannot satisfy the
continuous character of the movement of Fichtean thought either. An adequate
confrontation with his philosophy should result from a background of familiarity with
his complete works and influence, as in a framework of knowledge of his total
Oeuvre. The present introduction to the philosophy of Fichte attempts to make
available such a preliminary orientation for a proper and deep study of the Fichtean

                              II. Compendium of Life and Work

2.1. Years of apprenticeship and pilgrimage (1774-1794)

Fichte's family origin is humble and his philosophic beginnings are rather obscure.
Born the 19th of May in 1762 in Rammenau--in Upper Lusatia, an old principality of
Saxony--as the first of ten children of a family of laborers, only by luck
undergoes the  joy of noble incentives and high level training. After decisive years
in the state school of Pforta (Schulpforta)--where before Fichte, Klopstock and later
Nietzsche would receive their pre-university education with specialization in ancient
languages--he enrolls, practically without resources, in the University of Jena in
1780; later, the following year, he transfers to the University of Leipzig, where he
studies Protestant theology without obtaining an academic title. In 1788 an
occasion arises as a tutor in Zurich, which he prolongs for two years. Returning
to Leipzig, a casual encounter with the philosophy of Kant will be the revolutionary
intellectual experience of his early years, whose Critique of Pure Reason
(1788) opens for him the intelligible world of morally responsible freedom, as
opposed to the order of nature. By means of study of the Critique of Pure
Reason (first edition in 1781, the second modified edition in 1787) and of the
Critique of Judgment (1790), Fichte manages to consolidate the conviction,
intellectually based, of the natural determinabity of all events by personal
certainty, motivated by affect, concerning the freedom of human action.
     Following Warsaw, where the expectation of employment as a tutor was to be
promptly frustrated, Fichte goes in 1791 to Kant in Königsberg. In place of
financial support, which Fichte sought from him, Kant facilitates the printing of his
first writing, conceived there under pressure, to wit, Attempt at a Critique of
all Revelation (1792, an expanded 2d edition in 1793). The writing, that
initially appeared anonymously, was woven primarily from a work of Kant's; after
clarifying the relation that united them, the writing makes famous, all of a sudden,
the until then unknown author and lifts him to the rank of authorized successor to

2.2. Professor in Jena (1794-1799)

After a renewed stay of several months in Zurich, where he marries Klopstock's niece,
Johanna Rahn, and where publications are presented regarding his critical position
about the character and meaning of the French Revolution and upon the state of post-
Kantian philosophy (Reclamation of the Freedom of Thought, anonymous, 1793;
Contribution to the Rectification of the Public's Judgment of the French
Revolution, anonymous, 1793-1794; Aenesidemus Review, 1794), Fichte
receives an offer of a chair in the University of Jena, the principal center for
Kantian philosophy, which he incorporates during the semester of summer, 1794, amidst
great public expectation.
     In the framework of his much appreciated and influential academic activity
teaching in Jena, there emerge in the four coming years and in rapid succession a
coordinated series of publications, in which Fichte proposes the methodological and
programmatic grounding, the same being executed in various parts, of his systematic
philosophy. Fichte expresses the epistemological pretension of the philosophy, that
is, to create the fundamental science or metascience of all the others, through the
neologism, "Doctrine of Science." First Fichte provides a programmatic writing
(On the Concept of the Doctrine of Science, 1794), later the first of the
numerous presentations of the Doctrine of Science in a strict sense (Fundamentals
of the complete Doctrine of Science, 1794-1795) together with a partial
complement (Outline of the characteristics of the Doctrine of Science in
relation to the theoretic faculty, 1795), followed by the Doctrine of Science
applied in its double form as the doctrine of right and the doctrine of the moral
(Foundations of Natural Right, 1796-1797; The System of Ethics,
     The innovative character of Fichte's philosophy, to which also belongs the
academic exposition following his own manuscripts instead of doing so in accord with
the existing manuals, meets with an enthusiastic reception. In little time Fichte's
reputation exceeds the renown of the aged Kant. With his teaching activity and his
publications, Fichte becomes a fundamental figure of German idealism, from which the
young Schelling would soon emerge and later too the early Hegel, yet who also will
become a reference point for the individual intellectual and poetic efforts of
Hölderlin and Hardenberg-Novalis. Finally, Fichte ascends to be a spiritus
rector of the Romantic circle in Jena around the brothers August Wilhelm and
Friedrich Schlegel.

2.3. The so-called dispute concerning atheism (1798-1799)

Fichte's years in Jena, however, were also marked by university complaints, cultural
wars and scientific polemics. He quarrels with student secret societies, provokes the
local ecclesiastical authorities with academic courses that coincide with the
Dominican masses, and reacts with vehemence and sarcasm before the collegial critique
concerning the evolution of Kantian transcendental philosophy towards a Doctrine of
Science. Meanwhile, scandal arrives with the publication of an article by Fichte
about religion in a journal, of which Fichte himself was co-editor. In that article
Fichte reduces the concept of God to the totality of the universal moral order ("On
the basis of our belief in a divine governance of the world" 1798). In the state-
political and ecclesiastical scandal that is produced, Fichte provokes his dismissal
from the teaching activity through his pronouncements and extreme demands - he
reprimands Church atheism and calls for a public redress of the authorities. This
leaves him practically like a family head without resources, so that in the coming
decade he must find their scarce sustenance through extra-university teaching and
literary activities.
     Fichte seems particularly affected by the fact that the distinguished
intellectuals of the age--among them Kant--distance themselves from him and his
supposed atheism, as much in private as publicly. On the immediate occasion of the
dispute concerning  atheism apologetic writings appear (Appeal to the Public
1799; Responsibility for the Accusation of Atheism 1799). In Berlin, where
Fichte relocates, he immediately writes his most read text, to wit, a popular
presentation of the fundamental positions in the Doctrine of Science, written in a
form compatible with the religious opinions of the era (The Vocation of Man
1800). Similarly, from the years in Berlin there emerges as the result of his
political-juridical thought an economic text about the fusion of the riches of the
people with the state economy (The Closed Commercial State 1800). A little
later there appears a deliberately simplified and modified presentation in didactic
form of the fundamental features of the Doctrine of Science ( A Crystal Clear
Report to the General Public Concerning the Actual Essence of the Newest
Philosophy 1801).

2.4. Docent without an academic job (1799-1809)

With the move from the university city in the provincial principality of Thuringia to
the capital of the kingdom of Prussia, which even up to 1809 did not have its own
university, the academic docent Fichte, who develops his best work in the ambiance of
professorial exposition, he is converted into the privatized intellectual
occasionally present at cycles of scientific and popular conferences in front of an
educated public from the upper classes - from public servants to the clergy and from
the educated bourgeoisie to the local nobility.
     Due to the impression of extensive error in the comprehension of his written
philosophy and, in particular, the misunderstood atheism in his theory of religion,
Fichte effects two radical changes in his public appearances. In what follows, he
desists in a practically absolute manner from the publication of his scientific works
in the form of books and, with regard to the oral exposition, he gives a new form
every time--or let us say an externally modified form--to the scientific presentation
of his philosophy. With that, the middle and late Fichte protects, certainly, the
essence of his philosophy against false or abbreviated interpretations, yet he also
limits his influence to the relatively small group of his listeners and only reaches
more readers with his scant publications presented in popular form.
     For this reason, in the perception of his contemporaries Fichte becomes
scientifically mute after 1800 and continues to be active and present solely in a
popular or pseudo-scientific fashion. It is thus that the efforts of Schelling and
Hegel to displace Fichte from his leadership within post-Kantian philosophy and
present his still influential Doctrine of Science from Jena as a mere historical
footnote, objectively surpassed by their original contributions and philosophical
developments, became an easy matter. For Fichte's posthumous readers, for whom the
editorial efforts of the mid-19th century and of the last 70 years have made
accessible the dimensions of his work on the Doctrine of Science that continued over
more than two decades, Fichte is seen, on the contrary, as a thinker oriented to the
problem of systematic philosophy, who never tires of showing and demonstrating the
original as well as the experimental, new foci and intentions, and his central
preoccupation with grounding all knowledge - including the knowledge which guides
      After Fichte would expound, already during the second half of his teaching
activity in Jena, a completely new presentation of the Doctrine of Science
(Doctrine of Science "novo methodo" 1796-1799) of which he himself published
only a part (Attempt at a New Presentation of the Doctrine of Science 1797-
1798) yet which is preserved in various Kollegnachschriften. In the 14 years
of life that remain to him beginning in 1800 Fichte every year offers a new
presentation of the Doctrine of Science, each respectively oriented in a different
way. After an interrupted focus in 1800 and a presentation completed during the years
1801 and 1802 there arrives, as the result of intensive preparation, the monumental
series of five presentations of the Doctrine of Science from the years 1804 and 1805,
among which one highlights particularly the second exposition of 1804 as a
speculative apex.
     Along with the serial work on the Doctrine of Science there appears in Fichte's
middle period, 1804-1806, a cycle in various parts of popular lectures about the
philosophy of history, of religion and of education, whose parts Fichte publishes by
1806 (Fundamental Characteristics of the Present Age 1804-1805; On the
Essence of the Scholar 1805; Instructions for a Blessed Life 1806).
     In the summer semester of 1805, Fichte briefly teaches for the first time at the
University of Erlangen, which in the past had belonged to Prussia. During the summer
of 1807 he expounds the Doctrine of Science in the University of Königsberg.
When after the catastrophic defeat of Prussia before Napoleon in the battles of Jena
and Auerstedt (1806) the French occupation of Berlin arrives, in the winter of 1807-
1808 Fichte offers 14 activist conferences ("Discourses") about the history and the
reality of the European peoples and States; this in a continuation derived from his
old lectures on the philosophy of history. This consideration of history and
actuality causes him to keep in mind the situation of the Germans that hinges between
the political impotence of the moment, the traditional and cultural spiritual
particularity, and the potential function of leadership in a post-Napoleonic Europe
of free nations, as much internally as externally in a political sense
(Addresses to the German Nation 1807-1808).

2.5. Professor in Berlin (1809-1814)

Physically and intellectually exhausted by his philosophic labor and from publication
in previous years, starting in 1809-1810 Fichte finds energy for his philosophical
occupation; this time as an academic docent in the new University of Berlin, to which
he brings a political writing on university reform in a preparatory state (Deduced
Scheme for an Academy to be Established in Berlin 1807; published posthumously in
1817) and where he officiates as its first elected rector, until a dispute concerning
a Jewish student, whom Fichte attempts to defend from hostilities on the part of the
students and the professors, obliges him to quit.
     As a professor in Berlin, Fichte integrates the presentation of the Doctrine of
Science--still always diversely pursued and constructed--in a preparatory and
continued series of lectures, as previously he did in Jena. From this series there
exist some drafts--in part fragmentary--from the years 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, and
1814, among which he particularly highlight Instruction for philosophizing
(1809),  On the Study of Philosophy in General (1812), Introduction to the
Doctrine of Science (1813), The Facts of Consciousness (1810-1813),
Concerning the Vocation of the Scholar (1811), On the Relation of Logic
and Philosophy (1812-1813), System of the Doctrine of Right (1812), and
System of Ethical Theory (1812). The traditional image of Fichte's life and
work is completed and rounded out with two texts from his last year of life: on one
side, a philosophical diary in three parts (Diarium I, Diarium II, Diarium
III) which permits a fascinating glance at the experimental work of Fichte's
thought and, on the other, his later political and historical-philosophic lectures on
the evolution of law and etchics in ancient, modern and contemporary history
(Doctrine of the state: the relation of the original State with the kingdom of
reason, 1813; published posthumously in 1820).
     Since his intellectual beginnings in the milieu of the French Revolution,
passing to the republican dispute about the German political misery and the universal
reign of Napoleon, as well as about the strategic resource of Machiavelli
(Machiavelli as Author 1807) in the confrontation with Napoleon, even to
philosophical support for wars of liberation--in which he, as their indirect victim,
dies infected with the hospital fever in the midst of the uprising against Napoleon--
Fichte's philosophic thought  is designed to be effective, especially with an effect
of a public and political nature. In accordance with his comprehension of philosophy,
strict speculation should not exclude historical action, but instead guide, orient
and motivate it. As a philosophical theorist of political praxis, Fichte is
the practical politician of philosophical theory - of a praxis that attempts to make
thought effective with deliberate consideration of the given historical relations.
Despite all doubt that one might have, seen from a distance of two centuries, as much
in the determination of the goal as in the selection of the means of Fichtean
philosophical praxis and in his practical philosophy--especially there where Fichte
conceives freedom unilaterally and too rapidly sacrifices liberality for
rationality--the intellectual output of Fichte seduces with its fundamental trait: a
philosophically determined and politically oriented thought, which elevates the
forecourt as well as the grandstand and knows how to deal with the persistent word
and the profound concept.

                              III. Philosophizing for, against and
after Kant

3.1. Determination of the limit of pure reason (Immanuel Kant)

The lasting imprint of the philosophy of Kant in Fichte's thinking is founded in his
novel proof of the fundamental reconciliation between nature and freedom. With the
critical project of determining the limit of pure reason, Kant manages to restrict
the absolute determinability of the events of nature to a mere sphere of magnitudes
and physical relations, as distinct from another, purely intellectual, of desiring
and of rationally based acting. With the limitation of reason to its theoretic use
(grounded in knowledge) of things sensibly given in space and time ("phenomena")
there precisely corresponded the widening of reason in its practical use (grounded in
action) towards and order of things ("things in themselves") that are only given
through thought.
     With the critical foundation of theoretical philosophy in the Critique of
Pure Reason, Kant had only opened a domain of reason in principle, that would be
located outside of nature and its mechanical concatenation of causes, and had
expected future utilization of it. With the critical foundation of practical
philosophy in Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the
Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Kant undertakes the objective
determination of that intellectual domain through the rational concept of freedom -
on one side, negative freedom with respect to the legitimacy of nature and, on the
other, positive freedom as the legitimacy of reason ("autonomy"). The proper
legitimacy of the rational domain is identified with the ethical normativity of
rational willing through the demand for principles universalizable in action
("categorical imperative").
     Nevertheless, Kant not only is determinative for Fichte regarding the moral
philosophic boundedness of his causal determinism. Kant precedes Fichte in the
attempt to place into a complex relationship the spheres, in principle separate, of
nature and freedom; a relation that, furthermore, is characterized as much by mutual
exclusion as by reciprocal interchange. Contrary to and complementary with the
theoretical distinction between thing in itself and phenomenon, and also with respect
to the practical amplification of this distinction as a difference between the
legitimacy of nature and the legitimacy of human desiring and acting, Kant undertakes
the reconciliation of the natural order and the rational order, like that between
theoretical reason and practical reason.
     One of the amplifications of the critical idea of reconciliation is the moral-
philosophical connection between the aspiration for happiness and the morality of a
state of total realization ("summum bonum"). Such a state can be anticipated with
good reasoning, but its realization refers to the human capacity for desiring and
acting, the same as that certainty about reality surpasses all human knowledge. The
complete final realization of human aspiration, which might be assumed as possible,
brings moral philosophical reasoning to the "postulates of pure practical reason."
They are not objects of possible knowledge, but instead objects of a belief, as much
theoretically permitted and practically required, in the existence of God and in the
immortality of the soul. Upon the basis of practical moral reason, that which
theoretical reason can think yet not demonstrate is accepted as sufficient for the
goals of practical reason - the raising of morality.
     The second Kantian characterization of the final reconciliation of nature and
freedom, which previously were separate, is the consideration in the Critique of
Judgment of nature as the arena for the exercise of freedom - a consideration
that does not consider nor treat nature as the contrary of freedom, but which leaves
visible the utility of the sensibly given for the rationally required. For Kant, the
sensory-intellectual unity is aesthetically manifested as the beauty of nature,
while teleologically it is presented as the organic life of the phenomenon.
     Fichte transforms the double Kantian perspective--aesthetic and teleological--of
the unity of determinate nature and free spirit in a descent towards his grounding of
unity in an integral structure of subjectivity and objectivity--of sensibility and
spirituality, of thought and will--that first makes the division possible and at the
same time always transcends it. The final Kantian unity is attributed by Fichte to an
original unity, that Kant himself perhaps took as existent, yet not demonstrable
("...common root").

3.2. The opposition between faith and knowledge (Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi)

Practically contemporaneous with Kant's critical philosophy there emerges, against
the Enlightenment thought of the 18th century and its affirmation of scientific
progress, an alternative in the critique of reason with the philosophical
interventions of the Romantic writer and economic theorist Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
(1743-1819). In them, reason is not investigated from within and in itself as with
Kant and with regard to its possibilities and limits, but instead is critiqued
externally and with recourse to external standards and measures, as pre-rational. At
the beginning of Jacobi's attacks on reason and science is found the so-called
dispute about atheism with Moses Mendelssohn concerning the supposed lack of faith of
the recently deceased Enlightenment thinker Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781).
     Jacobi places the well-known confession of Lessing regarding the impersonal
concept of God within the tradition of philosphical pantheism as belonging to the
systematic context of the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), judged as
atheistic and heretical, whom the Jewish community of Amsterdam had excommunicated
early. For Jacobi, the negation of a personal God and of the freedom of the human
will, executed by Spinoza with a strictly rational argument, demonstrates the
atheistic and fatalistic consequences of the Enlightenment confidence in reason and
science, to which Jacobi counterposes, programatically, the culture of sentiment and
of faith.
     As opposed to Kant, who in the Critique of Judgment puts the "sentiment
of pleasure and displeasure" under principles, for Jacobi the sentiment is not
accessible to rational consideration. Faith as well and, especially, religious faith,
that Kant in the Critique of Practical Reason shows to be rationally based, is
not amenable to rational ordering. Rather, sentiment and faith indicate, for Jacobi,
alternative instances of comprehension of self and the world, by means of which
the always limited discernment in scientific consideration of the world can and
should be surpassed in a genuine experience of the reality of God and freedom.
     Despite the continuing link with Enlightenment thought and, especially, with the
Kantian critical philosophy, in Fichte can be seen a profound and lasting influence
of the affective and dogmatic overcoming of Jacobi's reason and knowledge. From
Jacobi derives Fichte's profound mistrust towards mere knowing without the anchor of
that dimension of reality that already Jacobi and, in agreement with him, Fichte
characterizes as "life." Yet, above all, Fichte takes from Jacobi the affective
evidence of freedom in an original sense and the total grounding of knowledge in a
pre- and extra-scientific certainty, which is essentially certainty in itself. Beyond
his similarity with the critique of reason by Jacobi, Fichte does not share his
objective fixation upon a personal concept of God. Here it is not Jacobi, but Spinoza
--newly brought onto the philosophical discussion plane by Jacobi--with his
identification of God and nature (Deus sive natura) who becomes motivating
for Fichte and his contemporaries, above all for Goethe and Schelling.

3.3. Philosophy starting from a single principle (Karl Leonhard Reinhold)

Fichte is not the first who in a productive confrontation with criticism aspire to
take philosophic development beyond the standard attained by Kant. From his influence
and his effect, Fichte's predecessor in the professorship of Philosophy in Jena, Karl
Leonhard Reinhold (1757-1823) is the most important mediator between Kant and the
initial movement of German idealism. Reinhold comes from a Masonic environment of the
late Enlightenment in Vienna and arrived in Weimar escaping from his monkish life
there; in Weimar he was active with his publications. When during the Eighties decade
of the 18th century Kant's Critique of Pure Reason put popular philosophical
thought in the German language under unknown intellectual demands and almost
insuperable difficulties of comprehension, and it is the Enlightenment popularizer
Reinhold who manages to bring to light the strategic meaning and the systematic
significance of Kant's innovative theory of the object and of knowledge
("transcendental philosophy").
     With his Letters on the Kantian Philosophy, which first appeared in a
series of articles and later as a book (1790) Reinhold attempts to bring the critical
philosophy back, beneath an ample renunciation of its arcane methodology and
doctrine, to the traditional preoccupation of philosophy--the existence of God, the
immortality of the soul and the reality of freedom--and highlight especially the
theoretical-speculative guarantee of practical-moral freedom as an essential part of
critical philosophy.
     In the second volume of the Letters on the Kantian Philosophy (1792)
Reinhold takes Kantian underpinning of moral philosophy as a motive for a widened and
deepened presentation of the concepts and the fundamental principles of desiring and
of acting. Here of particular importance for post-Kantian development, and especially
for Fichte, is the amplification of a theory of action through a theory of the
impulses and of freedom, that seeks to integrate the Kantian accord of freedom and
morality in a broader conception of the impulsive basis of all action and of the
fundamental function of freedom as an indifferent selection capacity.
     For the subsequent generation, Reinhold takes the decisive step over Kant since
1789 with the systematic project of a philosophy based upon a single principle, that
tries to deduce the fundamental structure of the spirit, presented in Kant still
separated and of successive form, starting from an original unity ("elemental
philosophy"). With that, Reinhold places the systematic project of post-Kantian
philosophy before a double requirement: on one hand, that of identifying a first
absolute principle, which should be in itself evidently true and immediately
comprehensible; on the other, that of completely deducing the fundamental form and
contents of the spirit in methodically controlled steps starting from that systematic
principle and in accordance with a system of principles.

3.4. The skeptical theme of Kantianism (Salomon Maimon and Schulze's Aenesidemus)

Together with the Kantian philosophy, its general critique by means of Jacobi and its
sympathetic revision by means of Reinhold, there appears a fourth formative factor in
the development of scientific philosophizing by Fichte: a skeptical reaction to Kant
in the milieu of the Leibnizian and Humean approaches, which Kant had considered
superceded. The object of the metacritique of the critical philosophy is, among the
later rationalists as well as among the neo-empiricists, the Kantian use of the thing
in itself, which Kant himself presents as unknowable, yet at the same time as
     Jacobi had already formulated the dilemma with respect to the theory of the
object and of knowledge in Kant, according to which without the supposition of things
in themself, existing in a fashion independent from human forms of knowing (space,
time, categories - particularly that of causality) Kant's philosophy does not make
sense; yet with the acceptance of the thing in itself he cannot abide with it.
According to Jacobi, an extra-subjective material grounding of knowledge is certainly
needed. However, this supposition serves to annul the integrity of the Kantian
system, and especially the application of the category of causality to the
determination of the relation between the thing in itself and the cognoscent subject
contradicts the restriction, imposed by Kant, of categorical knowledge to objects in
space and time ("phenomena").
     Reverting to the epistemological monism of the Leibnizians, for whom sensory and
intellectual knowledge constitutes a gradual distinction within the generic activity
of representation, a little later Salomon Maimon (1753-1800) in his Essay on
Transcendental Philosophy criticizes the unrecognized assumption of critical
philosophy - a work which in detail is definite, but with regard to the general
situation is completely diffuse, be it pro or contra Kant, be it in
correction or refutation of the Kantian enterprise. The special objective of his
sagacious analysis is the division, argued by Kant, between intuition and thought
with its consequent systematic problems: on one side, respect for the integration of
both capabilities of knowledge, radically separated; on the other side, for the
adequate application of the subjective apparatus of knowing to an objective,
independent and resistant material. Of importance for Fichte will be the re-
signification effected by Maimon of the thing in itself as an unknowable object
towards an infinitely distant ideal of complete knowledge.
     Influenced by ancient skeptical thought (Pyrrhonism) and its continuation in
David Hume, the critique of Kantian philosophy by Gottlob Ernst Schulze (1761-1833)
is directed, in the first place, against Reinhold's elemental philosophy.
Aenesidemus-Schulze, as he is also called in accord with the old voice from his
anonymous writing (Aenesidemus or, On the Fundamentals of the Elemental Philosophy
Offered in Jena by professor Mr. Reinhold) criticizes the elemental philosophy
particularly for its dogmatism represented by the introduction of the thing in itself
and its subjective contrary, the transcendental subject, whose manifestation cannot
be verified with the tools of critical philosophy. From Reinhold's supreme principle
(the principle of consciousness) according to which the representation of the subject
and object are different wherein the former refers to the latter, Schulze's
Aenesidemus criticizes especially the lack of foundation for the fundamental
epistemological concepts such as representation, subject and object.
     With their accurate probe of the weak points, as much methodological as of
content, in the Kantian philosophy, Maimon and the Aenesidemus of Schulze call
Fichte's attention to the defects detected by them and the pending desiderata for
systematic philosophy which return to self-critical reason and begin from a single
first originating principle. The system of Fichte thus emerges as a productive
reaction to the rationalist-dogmatic and empirico-skeptical challenge to critical

                              IV. The System of Freedom

4.1. The discovery of the I

In the origin of Fichte's systematic philosophy, as well as in its configuration as
a complete philosophical system, a cognitive experience is encountered: