Monthly Archives: December 2014

Fichte’s Science of Knowing, 1804, Lecture 1:

1) the only way to understand the Wissenschaftslehre (WL)is through first-person insight

2) in order for this insight to produce itself in us we must first produce the conditions necessary and sufficient for this insight to occur. –> though the conditions must be taken up in the first-person if the insight is to occur, Fichte has not further committed himself to saying that the same insight is needed in order to produce the conditions necessary for its own self-production to arise. On the contrary, Fichte as lecturer can, in addressing the student in the second-person, contribute to catalyzing the student’s own self-producing insight. Thus self-knowledge is partially a social achievement.

3) WL is a species of philosophy.

4) Philosophy is the “presentation of the absolute”.

5) the absolute must be a totality; or else it would cease to be absolute. Hence, the absolute is characterized by a ‘Oneness’ or unity.

6) Any presentation of the absolute, that is, any philosophy worth of the name of truth, must admit no contrary or alternative. In other words, if a philosophy is based on a fundamental principle whose opposite can be asserted or entertained with equal ease and inherent justification then we know automatically that such a philosophy fails as a philosophy because it has not ‘captured’ or adequately ‘represented’ the absolute in its totality.

7) Insofar as the WL’s absolute contains and thematizes its own opposite the WL is the only true philosophy.

8) Contrary to all other philosophies prior to it, the WL posits neither being nor thinking as the absolute but the principle of their unity, namely, that the two terms arise mutually and mutually entail one another. –> Consider the fact that any attempt to think being in its totality that excludes thought from being fails not only to account for thought but also for being, since thought is an aspect of being, or to put it simply, because thought is one of the things that is.

9) The absolute principle of the WL is, therefore, neither the thing nor the knowing but the “oneness of both”.

10) Fichte calls this unity between being and thinking “pure knowing”.

    My comments:

– in order for the WL to succeed as the one true philosophy Fichte must show that it is impossible that the absolute could be either only being or only thought and contradictory for one to posit the absolute as such. Thus, for the WL to be vindicated Fichte must show that both subjective idealism and materialism are impossible.


How do you know what you are talking about?

Famously, as part of his indeterminancy of translation thesis, W.V.O. Quine opined that there could be no surefire way of discerning what the words of someone else are precisely referring to since two or more mutually exclusive though internally consistent interpretations could be constructed for any utterance or ostentation. One man’s “Lo! A rabbit!” could be another man’s “Lo! An undetached rabbit-part!” or “Lo! There goes a time-slice a-rabbiting!” According to Quine, there could be no way of distinguishing assent to one of these sentences from assent to another and thus, no way of clarifying which of these was meant when one’s foreign interlocutor shouts “Gavagai!” pointing at what you take to be a rabbit, scampering through the bush.

Fair enough. But what about words whose referent about which there can be no ambiguity? “I” or “me” for example. How do I know that when I say to myself “I’m thirsty” that it is not an undetached human part that is being referred to or a me time-slice? How do I know that when I say “I” I mean “me”? And “me” here need not even be opposed to another person but to any other possible individuating concept coextensive spatiotemporally with the entity that I mean when I say “I”. Clearly, “I” is a natural kind if there ever was one. Consciousness, subjectivity is such as to have its form innately, that is as a given. Perhaps the butcher or anatomist looks upon the rabbit and sees a collection of undetached rabbit-parts. Perhaps the physicist sees a time-slice a-rabbiting. But the butcher and the physicist cannot see themselves this way. For only as a unity of consciousness can one begin to divide the objects of perception into parts and carve nature at its endless web of joints. That is to say, the structure of consciousness is foundational; all reasoning, both practical and theoretical, is done in terms of the mind’s innate structure, it’s unity that is a self-constituting unity. When I say “I” there is no gap between the sense and the reference.

Is this structure conceptual or non-conceptual? It is both. To feel hunger is non-conceptual. To know the feeling as hunger is conceptual. To say “I” is to represent the concept as a concept. But to say (or better, to conceive) anything at all is to produce the very dimension of the conceptual itself in the mode of the ‘non-conceptual’, that is to say, in the mode of the actual, the factual, the thinking that is the case and must be the case in order for anything else to be the case at all.