Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fichte's Critique of Reinhold

In his book All or Nothing, Paul Franks makes a very strong claim about how many Anglo-American scholars have misunderstood and wrongly interpreted Schulze and Fichte's understanding of Reinhold's 'Principle of Consciousness' [1]. The Principle of Consciousness says: “[I]n consciousness representation is distinguished through the subject from both object and subject and is related to both” [2]. The problem many scholars like F. Neuhouser, T. Pinkard and W. Martin note is that this appears to lead into an infinite regress of subjects. Franks convincingly argues that this was never claimed by Fichte or Schulze. I have been thinking about this a good bit, and have wondered why so many scholars seem to have made this so-called mistake. I wonder if there is in Fichte's "Aenesidemus Review" a claim that appears to resemble the idea that Reinhold's principle leads to a regress. Here is one point Fichte makes in his "Aenesidemus Review":
What kind of principle is [the Principle of Consciousness]? Aenesidemus answers: ‘It is (1) a synthetic proposition, one in which to a subject there is added a predicate (viz., consciousness) which is not already included in the concept of the subject, but rather, is first annexed to it in experience.’ It is well know that Reinhold claims that this principle is merely analytic. We will here overlook the fact that Aenesidemus denies the universal validity of the Principle of Consciousness, thereby assuming that there is a type of consciousness for which this principle does not hold. But there is a deeper reason for Aenesidemus’s and Reinhold’s differing assertions regarding this question, one which lies in the difference between two ways of regarding the Principle of Consciousness. If no consciousness is conceivable apart from these three elements, then they are of course all included in the concept of consciousness, and of course the proposition which asserts this is, with respect to its logical validity a proposition based upon reflection, an analytic proposition. Yet since it involves distinguishing and relating, this very action of representing, the act of consciousness itself, is obviously a synthesis, and indeed, the highest synthesis and the foundation of all other possible syntheses. This raises the very natural question: How is it possible to trace all the action of the mind back to an act of connecting? How is synthesis conceivable without presupposing thesis and antithesis? [3]
There is a good bit to say about this quotation. I am wondering how others might read this. It is important to remember that the Principle of Consciousness is meant to be a foundational principle that expresses the necessary conditions or analytic marks that constitute the genus representation found in Kant’s Stufenleiter. Furthermore, the principle is meant to be a principle that expresses the structure of transcendental apperception, the form of apperception that enables self-conscious thought and empirical apperception or empirical self-conscious thought. That being said, if there is something outside the structure of the principle, something conditional for it, then the principle cannot be foundational. Schulze’s critique of the principle is based on his belief that the principle is a synthetic principle. Schulze’s (or Aenesidemus’s) claim is that ‘consciousness’, ‘consciousness of’ ‘a representation being related to a subject’ is not an analytic mark found in the concept ‘subject’ but is added to the subject when there is some experiential data to be synthesized. A subject, it would follow, need not have consciousness. Being consciousness might be a contingent fact about some subjects.

But this point about analytic and synthetic principles does not seem related to how the quotation ends: "
Yet since it involves distinguishing and relating, this very action of representing, the act of consciousness itself, is obviously a synthesis, and indeed, the highest synthesis and the foundation of all other possible syntheses." At this point, it appears Fichte has moved on to an issue that concerns a distinction Kant makes in his B-deduction between the synthetic unity of apperception and the analytic unity of apperception. With this distinction, Kant argues that an analytic unity requires a synthesis, which entails that the synthetic unity conditions the analytic unity of apperception. The claim Fichte would appear to be making, and I recognize I am being incredibly quick here, is that what Reinhold's principle does not account for is how consciousness requires the kind of activity involved in the synthetic unity of consciousness.

[1] Paul Franks,
All or Nothing: Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 221ff.

[2] Karl Reinhold, "The Foundation of Philosophical Knowledge" in
Between Kant and Hegel, (trans.) George di Giovanni and H. S. Harris (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1985), p. 70.

[3] Fichte,
"Aenesidemus Review" in Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings, (trans.) Daniel Breazeale (Ithaca: Cornell, 1998), pp. 62-63.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hölderlin's Hyperion

Ross Benjamin's new translation of Hölderlin's Hyperion is set to come out in Spring 2008, but if you can't wait that long you should get a copy of New England Review where some excerpts of the his translation have appeared. Here you can order the current issue for pretty cheap. The translation is noticeably different, and while improving on the poetry found in the William Trask translation (Continuum), Benjamin's translation is clearer and easier to read. Readers might remember that I posted about this new translation here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Old Comentary on Hegel's Logic

At Now-Times, Alexei has added some links worth checking out. I want to add a link to a commentary by William Torey Harris, editor of The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, on Hegel's Logic.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thom Brooks on Publishing

Thom Brooks (Newcastle) of The Brooks Blog just posted here a revised paper that gives what appears to be sound and very helpful advice on publishing essays, replies, book reviews and book manuscripts for graduate students. I take it that his advice will also be quite helpful for recent graduates and young scholars. You might also want to check out this conversation on publishing book manuscripts at Leiter Reports and this one about graduate students and publishing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Journal of Speculative Philosophy

The other day I was searching for something in Google Books and came across the important 19th Century journal The Journal of Speculative Philosophy. I knew that there were some hard to find translations of Fichte in there as well as some early translations of Hegel, but I did not realize what a goldmine they are, and I certainly did not think to look for them online. Check out some of the journals here. You can actually down load the entire volumes as PDFs. There is another journal called The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, and from what I can tell it was started in 1987 and is unrelated.

The first volume of The Journal of Speculative Philosophy is from 1867, and it contains what were at the time new, and I suspect original translations of Goethe, Schelling, and Hegel. Each volume has many translations of German Idealist texts as well as translations of Schlegel, Herder, and articles by Anglo-American philosophers. Anyone interested in the reception of German Idealism in America will find these journals indispensable.

The editor, William Torey Harris, notes in his "Preface" to the first volume that to some the journal's contents might be perceived as "Un-American" in character. It is interesting that there is an apparent distinction between Speculative philosophy and Anglo-American philosophy being made by Harris that resembles the putative divide between analytic and Continental philosophy. It appears that Harris wants to overcome this divide between American philosophy, whatever that may be, and Un-American so-called Speculative philosophy. In doing so, the aim is to achieve universal knowledge, which if objective could not be claimed either American or Un-American. By bringing American scholars in contact with German philosophy, it appears he thinks such a goal can be obtained.

There are too many volumes of the journal online to mention what is worth looking at so I leave it up to you. It's worth mentioning that for some volumes you cannot preview them in Google Books, so if you want to see the contents, you have to download the PDF.

Idealism Texts Online

Recently, I posted about some Hegel material that is online. At the same site there is a good bit of material from other figures:






Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Reviews

There are some new book reviews up at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:

1. Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint (Darwall's book has an important chapter on Fichte's Foundations of Natural Right, where Fichte takes up an analysis of the role the second-person standpoint plays in a theory of rationality and self-consciousness, though this is not mentioned in the review.)

2. Kyriaki Goudeli, Pavlos Kontos, and Ioli Patellis (eds.), Kant: Making Reason Intuitive

3. James Phillips, The Equivocation of Reason: Kleist Reading Kant

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hegel's Science of Logic

There is an online reading group reading Hegel's Science of Logic. Various blogs appear to be taking part. You can find a link to all the posts here at Rough Theory.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A New Year!

Not much to post about these days. I'm still getting back into the swing of things, and preparing for the Spring semester. I hope to start posting on Fichte again soon, and in the next few weeks a couple posts from guest bloggers will appear.

My New Year's Resolution, I've just decided, is to devote more time to philosophical posts on the blog. We'll see how that goes. With teaching and attempting to write a dissertation it seems unlikely. I might just start posting bits of the dissertation here and there.

If you have any German Idealism news please forward it my way.

Here is a CFP for the Young Philosopher's Lecture Series (Deadline January 20). Sounds like an interesting program.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Allen Wood to Indiana

Allen Wood is moving from Stanford to Indiana University, Bloomington. You can read more about it at Leiter Reports. Should he stay at Indiana, this would make it a desirable place for students working on German Idealism. I last posted on this move here.