Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Idealism

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

18
The Turn to
Speculative Theology

Analyzing systematically the three paradoxes that recur in the usual interpretation of self-consciousness has opened a path for me to interpret the various stages of Fichte's theory of self-consciousness. I am proposing that it is possible to construe the three stages of the development of Fichte's Sci ence of Knowledge as attempts to escape each of these paradoxes in turn.

Fichte effectively resolves the first paradox—the paradox of the theory of self-consciousness as a reflective act—through his introduction of the notion of the self as positing, which is simultaneously act and determinate result. Fichte's complicated analysis of the elements of self-consciousness that appears in the 1798 Science of Knowledge aims at resolving the second paradox—the paradox of the theory of self-consciousness as original immediate self-acquaintance.

Fichte's analysis of self-consciousness in the 1798 Science of Knowledge is prolix, so I shall briefly recapitulate my reconstruction of his argument. The important point is that the self not only posits itself, but also posits itself as positing. This way of putting the matter yields at least two elements: (1) the positing act, with an accompanying immediate awareness that is not yet self-referential; and (2) the conceptual knowledge of what the act is. This formulation represents a significant change from the 1794-1795 Science of Knowledge: now the knowledge of the act is no longer the determinate product of the activity; instead, the act and the knowledge of it occur simultaneously from the outset. Fichte attempts to show that the reciprocal interdependence between them proves their inseparability. He argues that the concept that provides knowledge of the act refers to the act as basic, yet the concept itself is also basic, insofar as it directs the act. If we were to pursue the analysis of this concept that directs the act, we would find

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