Secretary: Herr Doktor, there's a ding an sich in the waiting room.
Urologist: Another ding an sich! If I see one more today, I think I'll scream! Who is it?
Secretary: How would I know?
Urologist: Describe him.
Secretary: You must be kidding!
In the most charming region of Veltelin, a stone’s throw from the frontier toWith its cognitive rigor and unmistakable political subtext, we are mystified as to why German scholars have drawn parallels with Lucinde – Friedrich Schlegel’s outrage aux bonnes moeurs. In conclusion, we also recall Novalis’s nocturnal wanderings to Sophie’s grave – and his cry of anguish on failing to find “the idea of infinite love” in Fichte. Star-crossed conjunctions indeed for the
, lies a tiny valley – called ‘the valley of the lovers’. Its groves are crammed with berries, oranges and lemons, all of which flourish without being tended, infusing summer and winter with the most exquisite smells. A tiny myrtle forest is nestled in its centre, and within this tiny myrtle forest lies a large grave-mound, encircled by roses permanently in bloom. Over-arched by towering wooded mountains and fenced in by crags, a mortal eye seldom catches sight of it, and the erring foot of a hiker rarely wanders here. All but a handful have penetrated this far. They experienced something like a spiritual breath – the kisses of an angel, wafting against their cheeks; a tender longing filled their souls; and unbeknown, tears streamed from their eyes – it was altogether delicious for them! Images of departed friends or loved ones passed before their souls, and they were overcome with inklings of reunion, with premonitions of eternal life, as they glimpsed the five small flames on the grave-mound in the tiny myrtle forest, symbols of reunited faithfulness after death. …. Italy
Shepherds relate how centuries earlier a young knight had strayed into these parts. Lost at night in the dense thickets, exhausted and famished, he spied afar a fire through the scrub. It belonged to some shepherds guarding their flock. The shepherds willingly shared their meagre meal with him as he warmed himself by the fire. “It’s howling again in those bushes”, said one, as he suddenly approached the group. “The ghost of the poor hermit is whimpering and wailing again! God knows, how my skin crawls whenever I pass by there.” And another replied, “Me too, I’d much prefer to make the one-hour detour. And yet, he was such a good and pious man, the hermit… (GA II/1: 267ff.)
If we had M. Proudhon's intrepidity in the matter of Hegelianism we should say: it is distinguished in itself from itself. What does this mean? Impersonal reason, having outside itself neither a base on which it can pose itself, nor an object to which it can oppose itself, nor a subject with which it can compose itself, is forced to turn head over heels, in posing itself, opposing itself and composing itself — position, opposition, composition. Or, to speak Greek — we have thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. For those who do not know the Hegelian formula: affirmation, negation and negation of the negation. That is what language means. It is certainly not Hebrew (with due apologies M. Proudhon); but it is the language of this pure reason, separate from the individual. Instead of the ordinary individual with his ordinary manner of speaking and thinking we have nothing but this ordinary manner in itself — without the individual....That this characterization of Hegel was to become so popular makes some sense when we realize its source is in Marx's at times unfair take on Hegel. Unfortunately, this schema played a prominent role in the film Half Nelson, where it was beaten into the heads of school children and unsuspecting filmgoers, though I don't remember it being credited to Hegel or Marx in the film.
All things being reduced to a logical category, and every movement, every act of production, to method, it follows naturally that every aggregate of products and production, of objects and of movement, can be reduced to a form of applied metaphysics. What Hegel has done for religion, law, etc., M. Proudhon seeks to do for political economy.
So what is this absolute method? The abstraction of movement. What is the abstraction of movement? Movement in abstract condition. What is movement in abstract condition? The purely logical formula of movement or the movement of pure reason. Wherein does the movement of pure reason consist? In posing itself, opposing itself, composing itself; in formulating itself as thesis, antithesis, synthesis; or, yet, in affirming itself, negating itself, and negating its negation. (Chapter 2)
Update: The dates of Robert Brandom's Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia have changed:
Robert Brandom, University
Lecture One: "Norms, Selves, and Concepts"
Lecture Two: "Autonomy, Community, and Freedom"
Lecture Three: "History, Reason, and Reality"
Fichte uses the term systematic form a number of times in his essay Concerning the Concept of the Wissenschaftslehre. It is almost certain that Fichte’s concept of systematic form is rooted in Reinhold's writings, since it was Reinhold who impressed upon the age the idea that all philosophy must be systematic. I think Fichte's comments on systematic form are important because they help us understand how he conceived the logic of transcendental arguments to run. With that in mind, I want to share a few reflections on systematic form.
It seems to me that Fichte uses systematic form in two ways, one that is descriptive and one that is logical (normative). Systematic form is a descriptive property that holds for certain presentations of scientific propositions, but it is neither necessary or common to science itself. Fichte considers systematic form as only incidental to the activity of science, not its actual essence (EPW, 104). A necessary condition for a science is that the collection of propositions constituting the science are sound. Without soundness at the ground, no matter however systematic or coherent the other propositions might be, there is a failure to reach the level of science. Obviously, a coherent collection of propositions that are false or fail to touch the world, is not, simply because it is systematic, a science.
Systematic form, as Fichte uses the concept, is not meant merely to describe the structure the totality of propositions take, it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a rule or normative condition about how those propositions should be ordered. As a normative condition governing inferences, systematic form is what provides reason to accept one inference over another seemingly valid inference. In other words, the validity of an inference is checked against whether or not the inference is systematic or not.
When it comes to checking the validity of an inference or whether it is systematic, Fichte thinks we must examine how the two propositions are 1) connected to each other and 2) connected to a first principle that is self-justifying and certain. In both cases we are ultimately worried about how one proposition is connected with another proposition, and according to what reasons or principles the rule connecting them is a valid rule. Fichte defines "the form of the science" as the manner or way [die Art] in which we pass on the certainty from the first principle to other propositions. Given these remarks, systematic form is not meant as a descriptive property that characterizes a totality of propositions; it rather refers to a "specific kind of inference by which we infer the certainty of other propositions from the certainty of the first principle" (p. 105). In making this point, Fichte asks what our "warrant" [Befugnis] is for such inferences. First, I want to suggest, somewhat schematically, what the rule of connection might be, and in a separate post I hope to suggest why Fichte thinks it is a good rule. To understand this rule, I think, is to further illuminate what Fichte means by systematic form a logical stance, not descriptive one.
One option I think Fichte provides is what I will call, for the sake of ease, the equivalency criterion. The equivalency criterion says that proposition P is equivalent to proposition P1 iff there is some content in P1 that is also in P. The equivalency criterion does not guarantee that P and P1 are consistent. If a proposition P consists of R and S and is equivalent in respect R to proposition P1 then they seem to meet the equivalency criterion. However, proposition P1 might conceivably consist of R and ~S, which means that though they are equivalent in a certain respect, they are also inconsistent in another respect. For this reason, the equivalency criterion must be supplemented by a consistency criterion. The consistency criterion says that proposition P is consistent with proposition P1 iff there is not some content in P1 that contradicts P.
I take it that the equivalency criterion and the consistency criterion are what Fichte is after when he writes:
[The] sole means for expanding…knowledge and making it more certain would be by comparing what is uncertain with what is certain and then inferring the certainty or uncertainty of the former from its equivalence [Gleichheit] or inequivalence [Ungleichheit] (if I may make provisional use of these terms until I have time to explain them) to the latter. If an uncertain proposition were the equivalent of one that is certain, then it could be safely assumed that it would be certain too. If the uncertain proposition were opposed [entgegengesetzt] by one that is certain, then we would know that the uncertain proposition would be false. The mind would thus be insured against being deceived any further by the false proposition. It would be freed from error, but it would not have gained truth (Fichte, Early Philosophical Writings, p. 102).
Fichte’s terms here could be more exact. The passage articulates a version of the equivalency criterion, but what does it say about the consistency criterion? The consistency criterion I think is what is meant when Fichte says that P and P1 cannot be opposed. The rule for inference making is that the proposition inferred must be equivalent and consistent with some other proposition. This still seem quite vague. In a future post I will attempt to address this issue further.
Fichte, Early Philosophical Writings, (trans.) Daniel Breazeale (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988).
Good news on the Hölderlin front. A new translation of Hölderlin’s novel Hyperion is currently in preparation by Ross Benjamin for Archipelago Books. A new translation, I think, should illuminate aspects of Hölderlin’s German not available to English readers, without obscuring the original or perverting English syntax. From what Ross has told me, it sounds like his translation will do just that. With Hölderlin’s German, Ross is working to bring out its musicality. Hölderlin’s poetry is well known for its musical character, and in my experience, translations have not sufficiently recognized its pervasiveness, so I’m excited to see what Ross has in store for us.
We can expect the translation sometime in the Spring of 2008. If you are not familiar with Archipelago Books, you should seek out their somewhat recent publication of Novalis' The Novices Of Sais (Archipleago, 2005). The Novalis book is a beautiful edition that is accompanied by the drawings of Paul Klee. They have also published books by Musil, Buchner, and Rilke.
Agriculture? I'd rather kill myself than study agriculture. But after three years in Berlin I'd be qualified for a professorship. I am prepared for it. I was on the wrong track with Fichte, I admit it--Fiche was trying to get rid of objective reality, but Hegel shows that reality can't be ignored, on the contrary, reality is the interacion of the inner and outer worlds.Ok, so Stoppard is no Dieter Henrich (more of an Isaiah Berlin), but his attempts to connect the development of German Idealism from Kant to Hegel (and its shift toward the materialism of Marx) with the Bildung of the Russian petty bourgeoisie is fun to watch on stage. You can also read the play. I should mention that the play itself is an achievement--in fact it is really three plays, Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage that make up The Coast of Utopia
3. Novalis, The Birth of Novalis: Friedrich Von Hardenberg's Journal of 1797, With Selected Letters and Documents, ed., Bruce donehower (SUNY, 2007).
4. Novalis, Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia: Das Allgemeine Brouillon, ed., David Wood (SUNY, 2007).
5. Katie Terezakis, The Immanent Word: The Turn to Language in German Philosophy, 1759-1801 (Routledge, 2007).
As many readers know, I am currently writing a dissertation on Fichte and self-consciousness. I'm still very much at the beginning stages, although the project has been forming and changing in my mind for more than a year. Today I did some writing on the meaning of self-consciousness and how-possible questions, e.g., 'how is synthetic a priori knowledge possible?' One way I think we can conceive of Fichte's project is as a response to a how-possible question about knowledge, which then brings him to a how-possible question about self-consciousness.
The how-possible question motivating much of Fichte’s writings, I think, is somewhat of an implicit question, although it is most explicitly stated in his Foundations of Natural Right (1796/97) where he says, “Our task was to show how self-consciousness is possible” (p. 30). At the open of The Science of Knowledge (1794/95), Fichte is perfectly clear that his project is meant to provide a foundation to knowledge. The foundation is not merely an epistemic principle, but a principle that expresses the enabling act of subjectivity. What I take Fichte to provide is a principle of subjectivity, what we can call the principle of self-consciousness since without self-consciousness we have no means to speak about subjectivity. The principle of self-consciousness should be defined in two steps, the first of which defines the content of self-consciousness and the second, the nature of its activity: 1) a mode of existing is self-conscious when one takes oneself as oneself; and whereby 2) the activity of taking oneself as oneself necessarily asserts oneself as existing as a self-conscious being capable of having I-thoughts. An important feature of this definition, one that makes it a Fichtean definition, is that the agent and product are one and the same, and even further, the activity of self-consciousness is a self-constituting activity in which the agent produces or constitutes itself as self-conscious. The content of self-consciousness is about oneself which means the activity is reflexive.
One way to parse the distinction between an epistemic principle and the principle of self-consciousness is to render the latter as a principle about the activity of the mind while the former concerns knowledge. Since the principle is a grounding principle of empirical consciousness and its forms of knowledge, what Kant often refers to as simply experience, “Experience is an empirical cognition, i.e., a cognition that determines an object through perceptions” (A176/B218), we should briefly examine how Fichte understands the logic behind grounding. Doing so will clarify why he grounds knowledge and experience according to an act of the mind that falls outside empirical consciousness and knowledge.
We call the states or representations of empirical consciousness empirical, one because they are the result of perceptions and experience, and two because they are not necessary, but contingent. While they result in knowledge, this knowledge is, so it follows, also contingent. That I see a red apple sitting upon my desk and know there is such a red apple is contingent upon there being a red apple and my being at the desk. My knowledge is grounded upon something I can offer up as evidence, reason or justification. Being able to offer up grounds is wholly dependent upon the contingent nature of my knowledge. As Fichte writes:
One can ask for a reason only in the case of something judged to be contingent, viz., where it is assumed that it could have been otherwise…The task of seeking the ground of something contingent means: to exhibit some other thing whose properties reveal why, of all the manifold determinations that the explicandum might have had, it actually has just those that it does. By virtue of its mere notion, the ground falls outside what it grounds. (I, 425; p. 7-8)
If we are after a principle to ground our human knowledge, empirical consciousness or experience, by virtue of the meaning of ground, the principle we are searching for cannot be an empirical fact of consciousness; it must instead fall outside of empirical consciousness while at the same time enabling its possibility. The principle must be expressive of something non-empirical that conditions empirical consciousness. The principle of self-consciousness is meant to be such a principle and its role is to account for a non-empirical activity of consciousness that grounds empirical consciousness and knowledge. Returning to Fichte’s how-possible question, ‘how is self-consciousness possible’ it becomes evident that he is asking about how it is possible to ground empirical consciousness in a non-empirical principle, one that requires no other ground.
What he is not asking about is how it is possible self-consciousness exists. I take the claim is about how we should talk about self-consciousness. A how-possible question about freedom might be in response to a skeptic about the existence of freedom (see Cassam's The Possibility of Knowledge for a discussion of these themes). A hard determinist will take freedom to be something like an illusion. That self-consciousness is illusory would appear absurd to Fichte. But offering an explanation is where the difficulty lies. So, I think one way of framing Fiche's how-possible question is as follows: 'how is an account of self-consciousness possible'. What I think is helpful about such an approach is that it both offers a way to interpret what Fichte is up to, while also developing the constraints he believes ought to be placed upon any theory of self-consciousness.