A Left of the Thing-in-Itself

This is not a reading for any upcoming meeting; we discussed it a year ago and I did not get around to posting it until now.

The editor’s introduction to The Science of Logic draws a line from Kant through Fichte to Hegel.  The guiding issue is the constraint placed on mental activity; does it arise from the thing-in-itself, or from the freedom of the cogito?  Fichte pushed Kant in the direction of an absolute freedom, but did so at the cause of grounding that freedom in a fundamental mystery.  Hegel’s project, as this editor has it, was to make that freedom non-mysterious and fully conceptualized.  I have also tacked on a political side note.

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Terry Pinkard on Normativity in Fichte

This was the reading for October 2nd’s meeting.

In Terry Pinkard’s German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism, he initially situates Fichte’s as a response to a specific issue in Kant: the paradox that we are only subject to those norms for which we can regard ourselves as the author.  This paradox arises arises out of two elements in Kant.  First, there is the subject/object dichotomy: we encounter ourselves as subjects making judgments about objects (i.e. substances interacting in space and time) and those judgments, if true, answer to the objects.  Second, there is the Kantian turn away from the question of what hold does the world have on us? to the question of what reasons do we impose on ourselves?

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The Science of Knowledge Part 2: Foundation of Theoretical Knowledge (A-D)

This is the final draft of the reading for September 12’s meeting.  You can find a copy here.

We will meet at Cafe Boiling Pot at 4:30.  Directions are here.

In the previous chapter, three logical principles were established.  The first was the absolute identity of the self; this absolute self is not the self we experience in our heads, but rather the ground of all experience.  Fichte then went on to deduce the principle of opposition, or the not-self, from this identity.  Finally, he established the grounding principle: in order for two things to either be compared or contrasted, they must have some sort of common ground and some kind of difference.  In short, it was the standard dialectical story of thesis – antithesis – synthesis.

In Part 2, Fichte goes on to derive a new set of concepts.  First, he describes interdetermination: opposites, like the self and not-self, reciprocally determine one another.  If the not-self contains a certain quantity of reality, say 3 parts, then it must negate 3 parts of reality in the self.  Interdetermination is a general, non-specific relation between opposites; the specific forms of relation are efficacy (aka causality) and self-limitation.  

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The Science of Knowledge: Part One

This is the reading for August 29’s meeting.  You can download a copy here.

Two important announcements:

  1. The club is moving to an RSVP system on Meetup.com.  A link to the club’s Meetup site is in the previous entry. 
  2. We are returning to Cafe Boiling Pot.  Directions are here or on the Meetup site.

In the Second Introduction, Fichte described the idea of intellectual intuition, the manner in which the absolute self is both known (via abstraction) and created (via an act).  The book proper begins with a fuller, more technical description of exactly what intellectual intuition entails.  There are three principles introduced here.  The first is is the positing of the I as I, and this is absolute and unconditioned; it is the ground of all judgments and the other two principles.  The second principle is the act of opposition: saying that A does not equal ~A.  It is “conditioned as to content” because its content is determined by what A is.  The third principle is the synthesis of the first two; the contradiction is resolved by saying that self and not-self partially negate each other and are unified in a higher concept.

In short: the first principle is the self as thesis, the second principle is the not-self as antithesis, and the third principle is the combination of the two in a synthesis.

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The Science of Knowledge: Second Introduction

This is the reading for August 15’s meeting.  You can download a copy here.

Two important announcements:

  1. The club is moving to an RSVP system on Meetup.com.  A link to the club’s Meetup site is in the previous entry. 
  2. The location is changing.  We will now be meeting at Meeple, a study cafe beside Sinchon station.  Directions are here or on the Meetup site.

On with the show. . .

In the first introduction, Fichte gave a broad overview of his transcendental idealism.  We can divide our thoughts about the world—which he calls presentations—into two categories.  First, there are the free presentations that depend wholly on our imaginations, like when we think of a fictional character.  Second, there are necessary presentations that do not depend on our imagination; these are the thoughts of things that really exist outside us.  He calls them necessary because these presentations are constrained by the world outside us; I am constrained against saying the Earth is flat (so basically, anything you might want to call an “objective fact” is a necessary presentation).  The complete set, or system, of necessary facts is what Fichte calls experience.

He thinks of himself as following in Kant’s footsteps, so he says there are only two possible explanations for where the feeling of necessity comes from: from the intellect, or from the objects themselves.  The first option is idealism: the mind structures experience on its own initiative, out of its own freedom.  The second option is dogmatism, in which experience is structured by the world (dogmatism is basically synonymous with realism).  He favours idealism, partly because an object abstracted from our experience of it makes no sense, and partly because dogmatism simply cannot explain freedom or even thought.  Since experience is generated by the intellect, the intellect is the primary object of idealism.

This second introduction is about intellectual intuition, the act by which the self is both known and created.  Intellectual intuition accompanies all of our experiences of the world, and he argues it is the basis of all experience.

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The Science of Knowledge: First Introduction

This will be the reading for Saturday, August 1’s meeting.  We will meet at 4:30 at Cafe Boiling Pot.  Directions are in the sidebar.

If you are interested in joining the group, I suggest looking up Seoul Contemporary Philosophy Club on Meetup.com.  We have many new members and will be moving to an RSVP system. 

In this introduction, Fichte explains his goal and offers initial arguments for it.  The goal is to explain why we experience a stable world of objects in space and time, or it what comes to the same thing, why we find ourselves constrained to describe the world in such and such a way.  Explaining this kind of experience involves finding the ground of experience, which can be done in one of two ways: either experience is grounded in our cognitive faculties, which is the idealist option, or it is grounded in the objects of experience themselves, which he calls the dogmatic option.  Fichte favours idealism for two reasons: first, it is only under idealism that we can consider ourselves free agents, and second, only idealism can explain the existence of consciousness.

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