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Johann Gottlieb Fichte developed a system of philosophy known in German as the Wissenschaftslehre. The proper translation of this technical term has always been disputed, but Fichte scholars have usually settled on “Science of Knowledge”, “Doctrine of Science”, or “Theory of Scientific Knowledge”. None of these translations has ever been very informative, and they are even less helpful now that modern English tends to associate that which is scientific with the natural sciences and, to a lesser degree, the social sciences. Given the burden that the German term must bear, contemporary scholars routinely leave it untranslated in their discussions of Fichte's thought. Therefore, throughout this chapter Fichte's system will simply be called the Wissenschaftslehre.
German philosophers in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries had a more expansive concept of science than we have today. Consequently, although the Wissenschaftslehre is not a science in our sense of the term, Fichte felt no discomfort in regarding his system as a scientific one. In so far as he considers the Wissenschaftslehre a science, Fichte argues not only that (i) it possesses a systematic form, but also that (ii) it possesses a systematic form in virtue of its being derived from a single first principle that is known with certainty. Moreover, he argues that (iii) the Wissenschaftslehre is the foundational discipline that grounds all theoretical and practical knowledge and demonstrates their fundamental unity; therefore, he sometimes refers to the Wissenschaftslehre as “the science of science”. Fichte's Foundations of the Entire Science of Knowledge attempts to demonstrate these three aspects of the Wissenschaftslehre.
This volume provides an extensive translation of the notes and fragments that survived Kant's death in 1804. These include marginalia, lecture notes, and sketches and drafts for his published works. They are important as an indispensable resource for understanding Kant's intellectual development and published works, casting fresh light on Kant's conception of his own philosophical methods and his relations to his predecessors, as well as on central doctrines of his work such as the theory of space, time and categories, the refutations of scepticism and metaphysical dogmatism, the theory of the value of freedom and the possibility of free will, the conception of God, the theory of beauty, and much more.