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Reciprocity, Elicitation, Recognition: The Thematics of Intersubjectivity in the Early Fichte*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 April 2010

Douglas Moggach
University of Ottawa


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1 Fichte, J. G., Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I/2, (Stuttgart: Fromann, 1965)Google Scholar; hereafter, following traditional usage, WL. (The concluding portion of the text was first published in 1795.) All bracketed references in the form (1, …) are to this edition. This text must be distinguished from later versions, unpublished during Fichte's lifetime. On the relation of the versions of 1794, 1801, and 1804, see Martial, Gueroull, L'evolution et la structure de la doctrine de la science chez Fichte (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1930Google Scholar; reprinted by Hildesheim: Olms, 1982), and Vetö, Michael, “Les trois images de l'Absolu. Contribution à l'étude de la dernière philosophie de Fichte,” Revue philosophique de France et de l'étranger, 182, 1 (1992): 3164.Google Scholar

2 Gueroult, L'évolution et la structure, p. 273; Hahn, Karl, “Die kommunikativpraktische Transformation der Philosophie Fichtes als Bedingung ihrer Vergegenwärtigung,” in Selbstbehauptung und Anerkennung, edited by Girndt, Helmut (Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 1990), pp. 135–38.Google Scholar

3 Hammacher, Klaus, “Fichte, Maimon, Jacobi; Transzendentaler Idealismus und Realismus,” in Transzendentalphilosophie als System. Die Auseinandersetzung zwischen 1794 und 1806, edited by Mues, A. (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1989), pp. 243–63.Google Scholar

4 Fichte, J. G., Grundlage des Naturrechts, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I/3 and I/4 (Stuttgart, 1970)Google Scholar; subsequently referred to as the GNR. The latter part of the text, less relevant for our purposes, was originally published in 1797.

5 Janke, Wolfgang, “Anerkennung. Fichtes Grundlegung des Rechtsgrundes,” in Selbstbehauptung und Anerkennung, pp. 95117Google Scholar, indicates problems in the transition from the WL to the GNR, including the transition from the absolute to the empirical subject, and from the pure a priori to facts of consciousness. He differentiates in the later text the maieutic function of Aufforderung from the juridical function of Anerkennung.

6 Verweyen, Hans-Jürgen, Recht und Sittlichkeit in J. G. Fichtes Gesellschaftslehre (Freiburg and München: Alber, 1975), pp. 9092, 123.Google Scholar

7 Pippin, Robert, Hegel's Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 51Google Scholar; Düsing, Edith, “Sittliche Aufforderung. Fichtes Theorie der Interpersonalität in der WL nova methodo und in der Bestimmung des Menschen,” in Transzendentalphilosophie als System, pp. 174–97.Google Scholar

8 Lauth, Reinhard, “Der systematische Ort von Fichtes Geschichtskonzeption in seinem System,” Hegel-Annalen (1983): 100105.Google Scholar

9 Pippin, Hegel's Idealism, pp. 28ff, 50–51, 55.

10 Note that at 1, 426–28 (First Introduction), Fichte equates dogmatism with realism. He defines dogmatic idealism at 1, 172.

11 Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Smith, Norman K. (London: Macmillan, 1933)Google Scholar. All bracketed references in the text in the form (A … or B …) are to this edition.

12 Fichte, J. G., Grundriß des Eigentümlichen der Wissenschaftslehre, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I/3, p. 189Google Scholar, cited in Lauth, Reinhard, Die transzendentale Naturlehre Fichtes nach den Prinzipien der Wissenschaftslehre (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1984), p. 8.Google Scholar

13 Pippin, Hegel's Idealism, p. 30.

14 de Vleeschauwer, H. J., “Immanuel Kant,” in La révolution kantienne, 2e édition, edited by Belaval, Yvon (Paris: Gallimard, 1978), pp. 6163Google Scholar. This apparent change of position becomes yet more pronounced in Kant's Opus posthumum, where, in the idea of self-positing, the conceptual constitution of the object assumes a still greater priority (Kant, Immanuel, Opus posthumum, translated by Förster, Eckhart and Rosen, Michael [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993], pp. 170–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and see Tuschling, Burkhard, “Apperception and Ether: On the Idea of a Transcendental Deduction of Matter in Kant's Opus posthumum” in Kant's Transcendental Deductions, edited by Förster, Eckart [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989], pp. 193216Google Scholar; and also Eckart Förster, “Kant's Selbstsetzungslehre,” in ibid., pp. 217–38).

15 That Fichte's theory is intrinsically incapable of grasping the problem of intersubjectivity has, however, been maintained by a long line of interpreters. See, for example, the ironic references in Heine, Heinrich, Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland, Werke und Briefe, Bd. V, edited by Kaufmann, H. (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1961), pp. 275–76Google Scholar. See also Hösle, Vittorio, “Intersubjektivität und Willensfreiheit in Fichtes ‘Sittenlehre’,” in Fichtes Lehre vom Rechtsverhältnis, edited by Kahlo, Michael et al. (Frankfurt/m: Klostermann, 1992), pp. 2952Google Scholar. In a much more nuanced argument, Gueroult (L'évolution et la structure, pp. 336, 342) speaks of a conflict in Fichte's earliest texts between phenomenalism (which takes other selves as modification of one's own consciousness) and transcendental realism, whereby the other subjects exist independently. Other readings stress the foundational importance of intersubjectivity for Fichte. See Lauth, Reinhard, “Le problème de l'interpersonnalité chez J. G. Fichte,” Archives dephilosophie, 25, 3–4 (1962), pp. 325–44Google Scholar; Philonenko, Alexis, La liberté humaine dans la philosophie de Fichte (Paris: Vrin, 1980)Google Scholar; and Williams, Robert R., Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992), pp. 2770.Google Scholar

16 Stolzenberg, Jürgen, “Neuere Literatur zu Fichte,” Philosophische Rundschau, 36, 1–2(1989); 73Google Scholar. Tugendhat, Ernst, Self-Consciousness and Self-Determination, translated by Stem, Paul (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986)Google Scholar, understands and criticizes self-consciousness, or the immediate epistemic self-relation, as if it were based on a model of reflection. See Brinkmann, Klaus, “Tugendhat on Fichte and Self-Consciousness,” in Fichte: Historical Contexts/Contemporary Controversies, edited by Breazeale, Daniel and Rockmore, Tom (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994), pp. 220–33Google Scholar. See also Henrich, Dieter, “Fichte's Original Insight,” Contemporary German Philosophy, 1 (1982): 1553.Google Scholar

17 Fichte's innovations in this respect are not highlighted in Cesa, Claudio, Introduzione a Fichte (Bari: Laterza, 1994), pp. 8993.Google Scholar

18 Against the view that Fichte borrows the concept of recognition from F. H. Jacobi, see Masullo, Aldo, Fichte. L'intersoggettività e l'originario (Naples: Guida, 1986), p. 72n.Google Scholar

19 Kant, Immanuel, The Metaphysics of Morals, translated by Gregor, Mary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 58.Google Scholar

20 See also Kant's schema of the concept of reciprocity, in relation to time (A 144, B 183–84), and the note on the system of principles (B 292, 293). For a commentary, see Buchdahl, Gerd, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969), p. 618.Google Scholar

21 Masullo, Fichte. L'intersoggettività e l'originario, pp. 37–41.

22 Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science, p. 585.

23 Lauth, “Le problème de l'interpersonnalité,” pp. 325–44; Düsing, “Sittliche Aufforderung,” pp. 174–97, analyzes the doctrine of Aufforderung in the WL nova methodo of 1797, where the circle of purpose and consciousness is solved through a chain of mutual elicitation. Self-consciousness originates out of the originary indeterminate Geisterwelt through concrete choice, whereby individuals also give determinacy to their own original amorphousness or Unbestimmtheit, through their response to Aufforderung. In the Bestimmung des Menschen (1800), however, the relation to God takes priority over the intersubjective relation. See Fichte, J. G., Die Bestimmung des Menschen, Sämmtliche Werke, Bd. 2, edited by Fichte, I. H. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1971).Google Scholar

24 Kant, Immanuel, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, in Werke, Bd. IV (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1968), pp. 465565.Google Scholar

25 Ibid., pp. 496–503.

26 Ibid., p. 502. See also Bloch, Ernst, Die Lehren von der Materie (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1978), pp. 7186.Google Scholar

27 For example, Maimon's contemporary references to infinitesimal limits are discussed in Achim Engstler, Untersuchungen zum Idealismus Salomon Maimons (Stuttgart: Fromann-Holzboog, 1990).

28 Kant, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, p. 498.

29 Boscovich, Rogerius Josephus, Theoria philosophiae naturalis (Venice, 1763)Google Scholar; new edition with English translation by Boscovich, Roger Joseph, A Theory of Natural Philosophy (Chicago: Open Court, 1922), §266–§279 (pp. 204–13), §360–§372 (pp. 266–73), §476 (pp. 334–37)Google Scholar. On limit, §410–412 (pp. 294–97). See also Supplementa §1 (pp. 392–403). I am grateful to Piers Bursill-Hall for referring me to Boscovich.

30 Fichte, J. G., Vorlesung über Logik und Metaphysik (Platner-Vorlesung), Akad, IV 1, 385Google Scholar; cited in Lauth, Die transzendentale Naturlehre Fichtes, pp. 65–66 (my translation).

31 Lauth, Die transzendentale Naturlehre Fichtes, p. 66.

32 We cannot examine here the relation between the 1797 Second Introduction (esp. 1, 491–500) and the account at 1, 278–81 of the 1794 text. In contrast to the position we adopt, Dumont, Louis, Essais sur I'individualisme (Paris: Seuil, 1991), pp. 140–51Google Scholar, contends that Fichte's philosophy is an example of hierarchical thinking, in which the subject posits and reintegrates the object as a subordinate element of itself. In Dumont's reading, the Fichtean not-I is an emanation of the I.

33 Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, §44. In Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated by Greene, T. M. and Hudson, H. (New York: Harper, 1960)Google Scholar, and elsewhere, Kant also speaks of the moral idea of Achtung, or respect. It remains unclear how this idea relates to his thinking about the sphere of right.

34 Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, pp. 68–90.

35 Gueroult, L'éevolution et la structure, p. 273.

36 Cesa, Introduzione a Fichte, p. 94.

37 Siep, Ludwig, Anerkennung als Prinzip der praktischen Philosophie (Freiburg and München: Karl Alber, 1979), pp. 2236.Google Scholar

38 Cesa, Introduzione a Fichte, pp. 97–98; Hajo Schmidt, Politische Theorie und Realgeschichte. Zu J. G. Fichtes praktischer Philosophie 1793–1800 (Bern: P. Lang, 1983), pp. 168ff.

39 Hunter, C. K., Der Interpersonalitätsbeweis in Fichtes früher angewandter praktischer Philosophie (Meisenheim am Glan: Verlag Anton Hain, 1973).Google Scholar

40 Verweyen, Recht und Sittlichkeit, 91–92 (my translation). See also Hans-Jürgen Verweyen, “New Perspectives on J. G. Fichte,” Idealistic Studies, 6, 2 (1976): 136–37.

41 Verweyen, Recht und Sittlichkeit, p. 102 (my translation).

42 Ibid., pp. 123, 267 (my translation).

43 Ibid., pp. 107–13.

44 Fichte, GNR, I/3, p. 210 (my translation).

45 Verweyen, Recht und Sittlichkeit, pp. 143–50, 168, identifies a conflict in Fichte's 1798 System der Sittenlehre, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I/5 (Stuttgart: Fromann, 1977), between an interpersonal account of morality and an idealistic theory of the unity of reason.

46 Ibid., pp. 102–107.

47 Ibid., pp. 113–23.

48 Fichte, J. G., Der geschloßne Handelsstaat, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I/7 (Stuttgart: Fromann, 1988), pp. 37141.Google Scholar

49 Cesa, Claudio, J. G. Fichte e l'Idealismo trascendentale (Bologna: II Mulino, 1992), pp. 189233.Google Scholar

50 Janke, “Anerkennung,” pp. 103ff.; Düsing, “Sittliche Aufforderung,” pp. 177–81.

51 Siep, Ludwig, “Methodische und Systematische Probleme in Fichtes Grundlage des Naturrechts,” in Der transzendentale Gedanke. Die gegenwartige Darstellung der Philosophie Fichtes, edited by Hammacher, Klaus (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1981), p. 296Google Scholar. Siep stresses the simultaneous genesis of mutuality and individuality, connection and opposition, but fails to show the sense of connection as a structure of mutual restriction, not of collaboration.

52 Ivaldo, Marco, “Transzendentale Interpersonalitätslehre in Grundzügen nach den Prinzipien der Wissenschaftslehre,” in Transzendentalphilosophie als System, pp. 163–73Google Scholar. Ivaldo here does not explore the relation of Aufforderung to Anerkennung in the GNR. See also Ivaldo, Marco, Libertà e ragione. L'etica di Fichte (Milan: Mursia, 1992), esp. pp. 110–30.Google Scholar

53 Siep, Anerkennung, pp. 22–36.

54 Bourgeois, Bernard, Etudes hégéliennes, Raison et décision (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1992), p. 148.Google Scholar

55 Fonnesu, Luca, Antropologia e idealismo. La destinazione dell'uomo nell'etica di Fichte (Bari: Laterza, 1993).Google Scholar

56 Fichte, Die Bestimmung des Menschen, p. 301. Fichte offers this as a selfcritical comment on his System der Sittenlehre.

57 Hegel, G. W. F., Differenz des Fichteschen und des Schellingschen Systems der Philosophie, Werke, Bd. 2 (Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp, 1969), pp. 8287.Google Scholar

58 On Fichte's late system, see Moggach, Douglas, “Fichte's Engagement with Machiavelli,” History of Political Thought, 14, 4 (1993): 573–89.Google Scholar

59 The literature here is extensive. See Ely, John, “The Polis and ‘the Political’: Civic and Territorial Views of Association,” Thesis Eleven, no. 46 (1996): 3365CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Stern, Paul, “Citizenship, Community, and Pluralism: The Current Dispute on Distributive Justice,” Praxis International, 11, 3 (1991): 261–97Google Scholar; Negt, Oskar, Lebendige Arbeit, enteignete Zeit. Politische und kulturelle Dimensionen des Kampfes um die Arbeitszeit, 2nd ed. (Frankfurt/M: Campus Verlag, 1985)Google Scholar. Recently, Honneth, Axel, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, translated by Anderson, Joel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996)Google Scholar, has sought to revivify critical theory through a concept of recognition based on moral worth.