Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Idealism

By Dieter Henrich; David S. Pacini | Go to book overview

2
Internal Experience and
Philosophical Theory

In order to see the basic differences as well as the continuity between Kantian and other idealistic thinking, one needs to know something about the intentions underlying these modes of thought. Although they all are ultimately based on the concept of freedom, their systematic structures differ significantly. Accordingly, I propose to begin with a few observations on the intentions of idealistic systems, using Fichte's Science of Knowledge for illustrative purposes. Thereafter, I will begin my account of the systematic structure of Kant's philosophy. I shall try to explain why the systematic structure of his philosophy differs so widely from those of the idealistic philosophies. At the same time, I want to keep before our eyes the idealists' conviction that they were Kant's true successors, who completed the task he had only begun.

In its origin, idealistic thinking was not metaphysically oriented, even though late in their lives Fichte and Hegel developed metaphysical conceptions of reality. But when he started to lecture at Jena, Fichte had a different agenda. He promised that his philosophy would overcome the distance between the thoughts, beliefs, and experiences ordinary people have and the (Greek) conceptual tradition of philosophy. Ordinary people found philosophical theories about the essence of human nature and of the human mind alienating. In part this was due to the orientation of traditional philosophical discourses to nature and its harmonious movement and order. In this tradition, the term "ousia" or "substance" was fundamental. Plato himself had struggled with the apparent irreconcilable differences between his own motivations for doing philosophy and the commitments to nature in the philosophies he studied. He apparently was deeply disap-

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