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12 - Love and recognition in Fichte and the alternative position of de Beauvoir

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Marion Heinz
University of Siegen
Nicholas Boyle
University of Cambridge
Liz Disley
University of Cambridge
John Walker
Birkbeck College, University of London
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The philosophical theories which are generally characterised by the name of ‘German Idealism’ are united in the task of overcoming the dualisms of Kant's critical philosophy – the oppositions of subject and object, theoretical and practical philosophy, mundus sensibilis and mundus intelligibilis – and thus furnishing a complete system of philosophy. These theories also share the idea that the principle underlying the entire system of philosophy must be developed in a way that preserves Kant's insight that the ‘I think’ is the highest point of reference for logic as a whole and indeed for transcendental philosophy itself. But whereas Kant's doctrine of the analytic and synthetic unity of apperception serves to ground theoretical philosophy alone, these Idealist thinkers seek to ground philosophy in its entirety upon a principle – a single principle – that exhibits the character of subjectivity, that is, of self-relating activity. This programme for a monistic philosophy of subjectivity also provides the foundation for the theories of recognition that were developed by the philosophers of German Idealism. Fichte first introduced the notion of ‘recognition’ as the fundamental concept of social philosophy and the philosophy of right in his 1796 text Foundations of Natural Right according to the Principles of the Wissenschaftslehre, and Hegel would present the most prominent and influential conception of recognition in his Phenomenology of Spirit of 1807, but in spite of the different philosophical foundations developed in each case both thinkers agree that it is impossible to realise the true or actual self-consciousness of finite rational beings by starting from the basis of a solus ipse, and that, on the contrary, it is one's consciousness of other individuals, standing in a relationship of mutual recognition, which furnishes the indispensable presupposition for such self-consciousness. This connection between the theory of subjectivity and that of intersubjectivity, so characteristic of the post-Kantian attempts to ground philosophy as system, reframes the field of practical philosophy – at least in Fichte's case – in comparison both to Kant and to the Enlightenment tradition of natural law theory.

The Impact of Idealism
The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought
, pp. 277 - 299
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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