Sunday, May 25, 2008

What the Fi@#te? (Part 2)

From his Foundations of Natural Right:
The character of rationality consists in the fact that that which act and that which is acted upon are one and the same; and with this description, the sphere of reason as such is exhausted. -For those who are capable of grasping it (i.e. for those who are capable of abstracting from their own I), linguistic usage has come to denote this exalted concept by the word: I; thus reason has been characterized as "I-hood" [p. 3].
I keep trying to abstract from my I, but Memorial Day sun and fun is holding me back. When reading and writing about Fichte sometimes I feel like his students who are described by Henrik Steffens, an actual student of Fichte:
[Fichte] made every effort to provide proofs for everything he said; but his speech still seemed commanding, as if he wanted to dispel any possible doubts by means of an unconditional order. 'Gentlemen,' he would say, 'collect your thoughts and enter into yourselves. We are not at all concerned now with anything external, but only with ourselves.' And, just as he requested, his listeners really seemed to be concentrating upon themselves. Some of them shifted their position and sat up straight, while others slumped with downcast eyes. But it was obvious that they were all waiting with great suspense for what was supposed to come next. Then Fichte would continue: 'Gentlemen, think about the wall.' And as I saw, they really did think about the wall, and everyone seemed able to do so with success. 'Have you thought about the wall?' Fichte would ask. 'Now, gentlemen, think about whoever it was that thought about the wall.' The obvious confusion and embarrassment provoked by this request was extraordinary. [Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo, trans. Daniel Breazeale, Ithaca: Cornell, 1992, p. 111, n. 11.]
Such is life.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Free Issue of EJP

DuckRabbit pointed out the European Journal of Philosophy has made available online the April 2008 issue, which includes what looks to be an interesting article by Beatrice Longuenesse titled "Self-Consciousness and Self-Reference: Sartre and Wittgenstein." In addition to articles on Hume and McDowell, there is an article by Wayne Martin titled "Transcendetal Philosophy and Atheism" which discusses Fichte's work surrounding his atheism controversy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fichte and the Not-I

In celebration of Fichte's birthday (May 19, 1762), I thought it might be nice to try to reconstruct some of Fichte's arguments from his Foundations of Natural Right (FNR). In his attempts to develop a theory of self-consciousness by showing what conditions are necessary for its possibility in general and its actualization in finite subjects, Fichte sets down the not-I as a necessary condition of self-consciousness. Below is a reconstruction of two arguments for the not-I. I have developed them from the "First Theorem" of the FNR, and I've attempted to formulate them as transcendental arguments that begin from an accepted premise and argue for conditions necessary for that premise.

(Part 1)
Argument for I/not-I distinction:
AP: I am a self-conscious individual.
NC1: A necessary condition of self-consciousness is that the I is self-active.
NC2: A necessary condition of being a self-conscious individual is finite activity.
NC3: A necessary condition of being a finite being is that one can only know, reflect upon, and be aware of something limited.
NC4: A necessary condition of being finite is that there is something opposed to you.
NC5: A necessary condition of being finite is that what is intuited is something beyond one’s own self-activity.
C1: What is beyond self-activity is not-I.
C2: A necessary condition of self-consciousness is an I (self-activity)/not-I distinction

The pure I is the self-positing I that we assert as involved in all acts of judging or thinking. The pure I is the form of I that Kant does not deduce, but which the Wissenschaftslehre deduces, though it is assumed by Kant. As I see it, the pure I is a description of self-consciousness as an ideal structure. An abstract not-I must oppose the pure I in order doe the pure I to be determined as an I. The I/not-I relation specifies a feature that pertains to the structure of the pure I.

I think it is fair to compare how Fichte conceives of the pure I to how Husserl thinks of the ideal structure of intentionality as an act/object structure. When describing the necessary role of the object in intentionality, we do not need to specify any determinate object. We can say the same thing about the I/not-I structure. When describing the role of the not-I when we are reflecting on the structural components of the pure I, we do not need to specify the not-I as a determinate not-I. That means we are not required to say the not-I is a general object, a determinate object like a table, or a rational being.

If the pure I is a description of self-consciousness then what is it conscious of? As a self-conscious I, the pure I is conscious of its own activity. We might say that its consciousness of its own activity is an empty form of consciousness, since the activity is not instantiated in any particular I. The self-activity is not a determinate self-activity that belongs to an actual subject. Instead, the self-activity at the level of the pure I is merely a necessary structural feature designated in our descriptions. As I understand it, the pure I is an ideal description of the structural features of the I of the individual. We as philosophers gain access to the pure I through reflecting on the necessary actions of the I. Each necessary action of the I (e.g. making the I/not-I distinction and self-reverting) becomes designated, or even posited, in our descriptions. When we show that these features are necessary conditions of the I, we have deduced them. What we are interested in doing in the FNR is deducing the necessary conditions of the finite individual I. In doing so, we are now operating at a different level of analysis. We might say that we are in some way filling in the content of the I. Where at the level of the pure I we need not specify the content of the not-I, at the level of the individual I, the content of the not-I becomes determinate; that is, the not-I is both the sensible world and other self-conscious individual Is or, more simply, rational beings. We are now, as I understand it, licensed to posit a concrete I/not-I distinction as necessary for individual self-consciousness.

(Part 2)
Argument for the concrete I/not-I distinction:

AP: I am a self-conscious individual.
NC1: A necessary condition of self-consciousness is that the I is self-active.

NC2: A necessary condition of self-activity is the I/not-I distinction (C1 of Part 1).

P1: The I/not-I distinction can be either abstract or concrete.

P2: An abstract I/not-I distinction is formal and empty.

P3: One cannot determine individuality with an empty opposition.

C1: The I/not-I distinction must be concrete.

NC3: A necessary condition of the I/not-I distinction being concrete is that the not-I is sensible/material world.
C2: We must posit a sensible and material world.

The argument for the concrete I/not-I distinction does not distinguish between the sensible world qua nature and the sensible world qua rational human subjects. The next step in the argument is to show why the concrete I/not-I distinction involves designating or positing a rational being as a necessary condition of self-consciousness, if what is individuated and determined is individual self-consciousness. I'll try to do that in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New McDowell Books!!!

Ok. Calm down. They're not out yet. I just came across them at the Harvard University Press website. In January 2009, McDowell's Engaged Intellect: Philosophical Esays and Having the World in View: Essays on Kant, Hegel, and Sellars hit the streets. The first book is a collection of essays on assorted topics like Davidson, Wittgenstein, and Ancient Philosophy. Having the World in View extends McDowell's "Woodbridge Lectures" to include a number of essays on Hegel. Many of these essays are available already in various journals, but it will be nice to have them in book form. The table of contents are here and here respectively.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hobbes blog

I just came across this new Hobbes blog. I don't myself work much on Hobbes, but I will be teaching some Hobbes in the Fall, which I'm really looking forward to. This week I plan to start posting more than I have in the recent weeks, and I plan to put up some of Fichte's arguments on individuality and self-consciousness (as found in his Foundations of Natural Right) as well as a version of his argument for other minds. I figure if I mention this "publicly", then I will be more likely to follow through.