Monday, November 07, 2005

Altman - Fitche's 'The Science of Knowing: J. G. Fichte's 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre'

"Traditionally, Fichte has been interpreted philosophically as a wayward Kantian and historically as a mere stepping stone in the development of speculative idealism. But Fichte has recently begun to emerge from the long shadows of Kant and Hegel, and he is now considered by many to be a figure worthy of attention in his own right. Over the last thirty years, English-language scholarship on Fichte has significantly increased. Fichte's conception of philosophical thinking as an activity that validates idealism, his insistence on the need for systematicity and an absolutely certain foundation for transcendental philosophy, his understanding of how theoretical and practical reasoning are related, and especially his sophisticated approach to consciousness, which recognizes both rational and irrational elements in the formation of the subject, all provide important contributions to epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics, among other areas. Fichte is also thought to have anticipated a number of prominent themes in post-Nietzschean Continental philosophy, especially the idea that the "summons" (Aufforderung) of the other makes possible my existence as a subject.

Although Fichte's philosophy has begun to get the close attention it deserves, most scholars have focused on his early writings, before the so-called "Atheism Controversy" and his dismissal from the University of Jena in 1799. After his subsequent move to Berlin, Fichte taught privately and republished earlier works in order to make a living. But he also continued to reformulate his philosophy in a way that would answer his many critics and more effectively communicate it to an uncomprehending public. Fichte eventually devised what he considered a clearer and more convincing expression of the views that had been so widely misunderstood, and in 1804 he advertised a series of lectures that, for a fee, members of the public could attend. The second of three sets of lectures given during that year is viewed by many Fichte scholars as the first definitive account of the later Wissenschaftslehre." - NDPR.

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