Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
I should forget only her song, only these notes of the soul should never return in my unending dreams.
The proudly sailing swan remains unknown, when it sits on the bank slumbering.
Only when she sang could you recognize the loving, silent one, who so reluctantly made herself understood in words.– Hölderlin, Hyperion
In the early Idealist accounts of self-consciousness explored in the previous chapter, the subject generally recognizes its existence by defining itself against various kinds of object. However, theoretical explanations of subjectivity do not themselves generate self-conscious entities; the actual, practical experience of the self remains elusive. In Kant's version of subjectivity, self-consciousness emerges from intellectual intuition, a prereflective sense of the self's existence as the subject of different experiences over time; the construction of the subject is therefore a synthetic act, realized through transcendental deduction. However, this formulation contains a surprisingly unmotivated version of the self, with no clear account of its origin.
In Fichte's answer to this dilemma, the self posits itself through its opposition to a material object, a nonself he calls the Nicht-ich, and becomes self-conscious by differentiating the Ich from the Nicht-ich and declaring “I am I.” Still, Fichte's explanation of self-consciousness relies on a potentially solipsistic moment and does not sufficiently address the ultimate cause of the process.