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.


Anonymous said...

Another of Fichte's students, Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote the following in his lecture notes. He was listening to Fichte's eleventh lecture On the Facts of Consciousness in 1811 on the topic of intellectual intuition as unconscious schematization. "In this lecture, in addition to what is here written down, he has said things which have wrung from me the wish to be allowed to put a pistol to his chest and then to say: Now you must die without mercy, but for the sake of your poor soul say whether with this jumble of words you have a clear conception of anything or have merely made fools of us." (vide "Manuscript Remains," Vol. 2)

Anonymous said...

Anyone who is interested in Fichte might want to see Schopenhauer's Manuscript Remains, Volume 2, ISBN 0 85496 539 4. In it, we have Schopenhauer's extensive lecture notes which cover Fichte's lectures on "On the Facts of Consciousness" and "The Doctrine of Science" (Wissenschaftslehre) which were given 1811 and 1812 at the University of Berlin. Schopenhauer gives Fichte's own words, as recalled by Schopenhauer, as well as his own comments. There are 217 pages of these lecture notes. Also included are 9 pages from another student's (Reinert) notebook on Fichte's 1812 lectures on Jurisprudence. Among other things, Fichte explains why his lectures are on a doctrine of science (not science of knowledge). An example of the notes is:

Fichte: Morality … is concerned with the certainty of something in the future and with the certainty that everything is developed only for the future.

Schopenhauer: We are only manure for future melons.

Gabriel Gottlieb said...

Thanks for the Schopenhauer comments and references. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Since you asked, in "What the Fi@#te (part 1)," for examples of Fichte's words that might amuse or entertain, I am submitting two examples from Schopenhauer's lecture notes. In the first, Fichte demands that student not take notes at his lecture. "I object to the taking down of the lecture during its delivery, for this must necessarily distract attention by directing it to the writing down of what has just been heard; moreover, what has been said is written down without undergoing those modifications that are required by the individual nature of each hearer. …the student should turn his whole attention to the lecture, and when he has grasped it, he should think it over and then compile into an organic whole what he has understood in a way suitable to his individual nature; this he should put down in writing. During the lecture he may write down short sentences to aid his memory." In the second example, Fichte asserts that it is unnecessary to read Kant's work if careful attention has been paid to Fichte's lecture: "Whoever has grasped what has been said so far, can dispense with Kant's transcendental aesthetic, and whoever understands what is to be said in the next lecture on that being of things or on substance, will be able to dispense with his transcendental logic."

Anonymous said...

In a section titled "What the Fi@#te?," it may be fitting to mention Fichte's denial of Kant's thing-in-itself. Schopenhauer claimed that Kant was correct in assuming a thing-in-itself. He thought that Kant was wrong, however, in the method that he used to deduce the thing-in-itself. Kant confused the thing-in-itself with an object-in-itself that is the cause of our mental ideas or representations. Fichte, Schopenhauer claimed, did not understand this. Schopenhauer wrote that "…this was possible only because he was concerned not with truth, but with making a sensation for the furtherance of his personal ends. Accordingly, he was foolhardy and thoughtless enough altogether to deny the thing-in-itself, and to set up a system in which not the merely formal part of the representation, as with Kant, but also the material, namely its whole content, was ostensibly deduced a priori from the subject. He quite correctly reckoned here on the public's lack of judgment and stupidity, for they accepted wretched sophisms, mere hocus-pocus, and senseless twaddle as proofs, so that he succeeded in turning the public's attention from Kant to himself, and in giving German philosophy the direction in which it was afterwards carried farther by Schelling, finally reaching its goal in the senseless sham wisdom of Hegel." ("Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy," Appendix to Volume I of The World as Will and Representation)