Academic journal article Philosophy Today

One Drive and Two Modes of Acting: Cognition and Volition

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

One Drive and Two Modes of Acting: Cognition and Volition

Article excerpt

There are several philosophical innovations that we generally ascribe to Fichte's Wissenschafislehre. These include his account of the fundamental character and activity of the "I," the oscillation of the power of the imagination (Schweben der Einbildungskraft), and his theories of recognition and interpersonality. Moreover, Fichte introduced and explicitly developed a theory of intentionality as an important supplement to the theory of cognition in post-Kantian philosophy. Kant did not pay attention to this issue of intentionality. In contemporary philosophy, of course, intentionality has established itself as an important topic. Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl are considered to have founded the modern approach to this old question, which has its roots in ancient and medieval philosophy.

Fichte's discussion of our awareness of intentionality is based on a threefold account of striving, tendency, and drive. The first public airing of these ideas can be found in the sections of the Foundation of the Entire Wissenschafislehre of 1794/95 that deal with the practical part of the Wissenschaftslehre, and which Fichte understood to be a systematic preparation and entryway into what Kant discusses in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Ethics and his Critique of Practical Reason.

One reason for Fichte to have introduced this theory of intentionality is that it provides the common source for both theoretical and practical reason. The search for such a common source was a burning philosophical issue among post-Kantians of the time. In their opinion Kant posited these two instances of reason as being wholly unmediated. As is well known, in the Fichtean view, reason is always in a certain sense practical reason. But its domain is not only ethics but also a theory of acting in general (allgemeine Handlungstheorie).1 Fichte, therefore, explores the differenee between practical reason and practical Wissenschaftslehre in general (allgemeine praktische Vernunft), and opposes this to the question of practical reasoning and moral philosophy. His solution to the question of the unity of reason is motivated by the insight that all human activities, including perceiving, feeling, imagining, cognizing, reflecting, and so forth, are determined by conscious or unconscious purposivities (Zwecke). He has shown this in detail in the Wissenschafislehre nova methodo and in his Foundations of the Natural Right.

It should be stressed that the Fichtean theory of intentionality has no equivalent, and certainly no explicit expression in the Kantian Critiques, even if it is true that Fichte was able to locate the common root of practical and theoretical reason by utilizing the Kantian teleology of the third Critique.2

This characterization of all human mental activities as being intentionally directed toward a conscious or unconscious end, be it close or far away, necessitates that one attends first of all to determining its condition of possibility. An activity that in consciousness appears to have a direction is at the same time an inner mental motion (innere mentale Bewegung). To this inner mental motion must be ascribed a moving power. This ascription is gained by an inference from the effect to its cause. This is the systematic reason for the provenance of Fichte's theory of drive in the Foundation of the Entire Wissenschafislehre (1794/95). In the Foundation of Natural Right (1796/97) and in the System of Ethics (1798) the theory of drive is completed by a theory of the human body as a necessary condition of self-consciousness.

Fichte was not the first to have invented a theory of drive within a theory of cognition. It seems to me that he is here the heir to Spinoza's theory of drives. According to the third part of Spinoza's Ethics all utterances of living beings, and so also of man, are grounded in a conatus which is drive without consciousness. If the conatus or drive comes to consciousness, Spinoza calls them cupiditas, or appetitus, that is, desires or affects that are drives accompanied by consciousness. …

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