Nevertheless, Aristotle said that by nature the human-being pursues knowledge and truth. What did he mean "by nature?" He perhaps means that what makes the human-being human is that predisposition to pursue knowledge also for its own sake. This reduces the level of the question to that of our natural constitution. In this sense, Aristotle's viewpoint is often characterized as naturalistic. However, this at least helps us to avoid falling into a certain kind of reductionism, in which an explanation is attempted to explicate the pursuit of knowledge by means of something else than knowledge for its own sake, i. e., by means of the elements of practical human existence such as "pleasure," "happiness," "desire," "practical use," "the well-being of society," "power or the ability to dominate others," "control over nature," and "progress for its matter," etc.
However, we should not and could not leave the question of the pursuit of knowledge in this manner. Aristotle was not completely satisfied with it at that. Aristotle further elaborates, although he was necessarily naturalistic, that, in our pursuit of knowledge and possessing knowledge itself, we experience pure, intrinsic joy. This joy is to be distinguished from mere sensuous pleasure, though according to Aristotle, sensuous pleasure is one of the joys and perhaps 'joy" immediate, the easiest, the lowest one. However, that joy or pleasure which "accompanies" the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is not the aim and goal of our pursuit of knowledge, but is a "side effects," if you will, on our body and sometimes on consciousness; it cannot be the reverse (here we deviate from Aristotle's position, which holds that the human-being by nature desires happiness (pleasure). Of course, here we are not asking for the cause or the ground for the pursuit of knowledge.
We simply ask ourself how (phenomenologically in particular) the pursuit of knowledge begins, how is it given to us as a concrete phenomenon and what difference the pursuit of knowledge brings about in us in the process.
Let us start describing a most concrete, particular situation of the human-being where one does not pursue knowledge and is quite content with such situation (with a kind of self-conceit in already possessing knowledge) and compare this with the human situation in which we feel the urge to desire, pursue and discover, and possibly even acquire knowledge. As Plato beautifully described this situation in his Symposium, Socrates in the dialogue calls this urge to search for knowledge the "love of wisdom." On the one hand, this urge in us is driven by the clear awareness that indeed we possess no knowledge. On the other hand, we are led to the search for knowledge that the explicit consciousness of the absence of knowledge directs us to. Intrinsic joy is found in our own pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, in itself as its "value."
Due to the overwhelming control of natural sciences and knowledge of them, we are very accustomed to the instrumental value of knowledge, which we find useful. However, it is indispensable to note that even in the natural sciences, the search for and discovery of knowledge for its own sake (and not motivated by any particular purpose) is always accompanied by pure joy as an intrinsic value. In this sense, therefore, h fisosophia (philosophy-=love of wisdom and its pursuit) is not for something else, but is pursued for its own sake. Thus, knowledge is to be pursued primarily for its own sake and not for something else (denial of the instrumental nature of philosophical pursuit).
Our next question is then: Why do we study philosophy in a historical perspective? We may perhaps read well the works of Hegel or Schelling or Nietzsche. That is not sufficient to understand the historical development of philosophical inquiry in 19th century philosophy in Europe. This is why we study the history of philosophy. Otherwise, we could leisurely read, say, Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind in isolation for a couple of semesters.
Then what is history? Until the 19th century, intellectuals, scholars and philosophers were not interested in history as the domain of investigation, nor did they recognize history as the legitimate domain of reality. Why? For one reason, it is because our intellectual curiosity is directed to nature and its understanding (since the Renaissance in particular) and not to the human-being and its domain of activities (there are always exceptions such as Machiavelli, Pascal, Locke, Hegel and others in philosophy).The other reason is because two mutually inconsistent concepts of time were taken for granted. Thus, the domain of reality called "history" was totally covered up by the self-evidentness (being-taken-for-grantedness) in our understanding. Time is understood in Western "religious culture" (except the Indian and Asian cultures--Zorasterism included--- where time was viewed not as linear, but circular) as a linear, uninterrupted development which is supposedly begins with God and Genesis and ends with the Final Judgment. This is called the eschatological concept of time. In this concept of time nothing repeats. The other concept of time taken for granted in the pursuit of natural science when mathematics were applied to the understanding of nature, and pure linear mechanical efficient causality became to be considered the sole principle of reality (=the universe or nature), it is assumed that in time, everything in principle repeats and is repeatable. Nothing new happens, but rather a certain regularity rules among phenomena of nature, thus we are able to discover a law of nature which can and does apply to many phenomena, which are considered essentially the same. (Needless to say, this contention is not consistent with the incompleteness and predictability of scientific law, which also in principle allows change as progress of knowledge.) The celestial bodies repeatedly circle themselves in their own orbits. Four seasons take place one after another. Plant and animal life repeats itself. Only this aspect of Aristotle's observation of nature was revived (the aspects of value in his conception of nature were ignored). An experiment is possible only under the assumption of this repeated time or repeatable time.
Since the Renaissance, when linear, mechanical causality was accepted as the self-evident principle of reality, this notion of repeatable time (together with linear, mechanical causality) has become overwhelmingly accepted "as self-evident" among the intellectual pursuits in the West. Thus, the eschatological concept of time is pushed aside and perhaps an effort was made to even overlook and forget this eschatological time in the understanding of the universe. When time is understood to be repeatable, there is no way for us to conceive of the portion of reality which flowed in the past as history. History in its principle is supposed to consist in the uniqueness of an event and the nonrepeatability of time, as Neo-Kantians such as Heinrich Rickert made clear. Such understanding came not only from the Judeo-Christian tradition as mentioned above and generally assumed, but also,we must emphasize it has been up to now long ignored that understanding the nonrepeatability and linearity of time is unmistakably rooted in and derived from the "teleological causal" understanding of reality.
History in the primary sense is the history of human activities and incidents resulted from such human activities. Of course, one may say "the history of nature" or "the history of the galaxies." In this case the concept of history is used in the derivative sense. Therefore, we do not worry about such use.
In the sense of "Geschichte" (history in the sense of what has happened in the past), events which can be called "historical" must involve human actions and activities, whereby the meaning and the purpose or intention of such human actions are crucial to describing the historical "events." Without taking into consideration these elements of meaning and purpose or intention, any so called "historical events" are in toto indistinguishable from events which merely happen (as natural phenomena). For example, the French revolution occurred in 1789. As a mere event, a mob stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Here we do not know the following: Why they went, their intention, how they got together, or the meaning this event had in the flow of history of French politics and civilization. Amazingly, upon closer examination, the event was described merely as somewhat "violent" movements of people in Paris from the city to Bastille alone and nothing else.
In order to understand the meaning and value of this event we must presuppose in order to describe and narrate it as a historical phenomenon. We neither "create" nor "construct" for our convenience such meaning and value for the purpose of historical narration (history in the sense of "Historie" in German). On the contrary, the historical event, as long as it is historical, hides its meaning and its value behind the superficial phenomenon of a certain event. The genuine task of the true historian is to interpret, take the meaning and value of such an event from the darkness into the light by putting it into the context of historical development. This work of the historian signifies literally what the German word "auslegen" (bring out) primarily denotes.
To "interpret" (auslegen) a phenomenon as historical in this way is to see a certain phenomenon in the relational context of the final causality or the teleological causality.
In the history of Western philosophy, it was Hegel that drew our attention to unrepeatable time and history itself.
What did Hegel attempt to accomplish? Instead of linear, mechanical, efficient causality (causa efficiens), Hegel saw the meaning, the purposefulness and the telos in the understanding of reality. In other words, in reality Hegel rediscovered teleological causality (causa finalis or value) as the principle of reality.
Any entity, any being which exists or existed in reality, according to Hegel, does not happen to be merely by chance. In this case, chance is to be understood not against linear, mechanical causality (which is the basis for mechanical causal determinism), but as chance which is only understood from the meaning and purpose, and signifies ungovernable, ungoverned, unintelligible not by linear, mechanical causality, but by teleological causality. Namely such chance is specifically against the meaning and purpose of reality, teleological causality. On the contrary, any entity, any event which existed, exists or will exist must have some meaning or purpose for it to be. Now the cause is not efficient and mechanical, but teleological cause for an entity to be. Hegel has been misunderstood for too long. From this point of view, too, Hegel's philosophy must be reinterpreted. Only rediscovering the teleological causality in reality, Hegel was able to deal with history as a portion of reality.
According to Hegel, history is indeed the most important portion of reality which determines whatever happens in the present and possibly in the future (this "determination" should not be understood as by mechanical causality--as Marx understood--, but rather with the emphasis on teleological causality). The concepts of potency and actuality by Aristotle are no longer applied to the repeatable cycle of a biological organism, but now they obtain a totally new significance and role in understanding an unrepeatable and unrepeated portion of reality. Hegel understood that there must be something like the essence or nature of humankind or humanity.
It belongs to the nature of history that history is not synonymous with the experience of past, nor something which has simply passed into the past. In one sense, history can not subsist as a part of reality unless we the moral human beings, understand those events which happened in the past.
It is wrong to assume that history is exhausted by such "Erzählungen" (story-telling) of what happened in the past. In this respect, the so-called postmodern contention of history which intends to reduce all historical phenomena to story-telling shall be found in error. This question must be dealt with in another context (see Phenomenology of the Other and its Priority). Brief as it may be, let us point out that Hegel was absolutely right in shedding light on the historical fact that our understanding of history is not comprehensive and always brings something other with itself. This other cannot be reduced to oneself.
Thus, in the other sense, history is indeed something independent of our story-telling and something which is to be investigated and by means of which we are able to newly discover and understand what really happened historically. History, therefore, can and must be investigated. Therefore, often discovery is made in history. Take for example, for a long time, I was brain washed by the traditional interpretation of Hegel and overlooked this genuine, authentic motivation of Hegel's attempt. Quite recently, I am more convinced that linear, mechanical causality (causa efficiens), if it should be a principle of reality, must be very limited. Besides causa efficiens, there must be causa finalis, mutual determination, intentionality and even synchronicity in reality. I am more and more convinced with the Humean interpretation of causation and have quite recently come to the conclusion that Hegel tried to discover and understand reality in terms of causa finalis instead of causa efficiens. This would have been totally impossible when history is nothing but a possible totality of story-telling.
In the position in which history may be reducible to story-telling of history, it is implicitly assumed, after the Leibnizian model, that a historical event is not a fact which indeed happened in the past, but is only known to us as a phenomenon dependent on the perspective in which the history is viewed. This is a strange combination of Leibniz's notion of all possible worlds and the sophists' relativism. This position also reminds us of Hume's point of view, in which a universal such as a substance is useless, because we can understand phenomena without assuming any such a thing as substance. According to Hume, it makes perfect sense and is quite sufficient to understand a bundle of impressions or ideas for a substance.
On the basis of the above described, now we may be able to discern what actually was historical and what is told as a story of what historically occurred.
Relationships among so-called historical events have been also misconceived for a long time. In order to discern what belongs to history and what does not, we talk about the significance or importance. And yet, this cause finalis of such a historical event in itself has been completely overlooked in our historical understanding. Instead, we have exerted ourselves in applying causa efficiens to the understanding and explanation of a historical phenomenon. Of course, I do not deny some usefulness of causa efficiens, but this alone will never be able to help us understand what history is all about.
In this context, we must praise Hegel and his insight into this causa finalis (the final or teleological causality) as the principle of historical reality. In short, it may be said that it is Hegel who discovered the genuine principle of reality, that is, of what history is.
Hegel has been criticized in that he tried to see the History of Humankind as a whole. He was also criticized on his view that such a possibility only consists in the influence of Judeo Christian eschatology.
Considering the perspective in which Hegel saw history, we are easily led to the same conclusion as Hegel, that reality must be integrated and unified rather than separate and unconnected. The meaning or purpose always presupposes the whole and its relation to its parts, just as linear, mechanical causality presupposes the relation between cause and effect. Causality (or causation when applied as the logical inference) is a relationship, as Kant correctly considered. In order to establish a certain relationship, it is necessary to have a certain unity. In this sense, Hegel, instead of viewing reality as meaningless, unrelated sequences of bunches of bundles of ideas (like Hume's view), saw a process of self-actualization of the absolute Spirit which has its own purpose, its goal and its meaning.
Thus, history ,when viewed by one or a group of people as the part of reality which is past, must not be a bunch of insignificant, scattered and unrelated bundles of ideas. On the contrary, there is a unity, there are relationships among them, there is hierarchy of significance and the process of a series of event to tell. ¢Istorein (to tell a story) was indeed the center of history.
History of philosophy, therefore, is the story of the sequence of philosophers who actually accepted the question of the teacher and either elaborated on it, or rejected it or advanced it further. The history of Western philosophy in the 19th century must be understood as an organic whole.
It is not easy for us to comprehend and evaluate the significance of 19th century European philosophy in its proper perspective because we are temporally so little distant from the 19th century. Nevertheless, we may safely say in general that 19th century European philosophy constitutes the peak in the historical development of Western philosophy since the Ancient Greek philosophy. For on the one hand, German Idealism, Hegel's philosophy in particular, is the ultimate culmination and unification of European Reason.
It is a philosophical culmination of the ultimate principle such that European Reason is so comprehensible and accommodating the principles including that of nonreason that Reason appears no longer merely the principle of two valued logic.
By making the principle of contradiction as the principle of reality, Hegel came so close to the point where European Reason reflects upon itself such that it makes a breakthrough in its own limitation and results in grasping reality in its totality through its historical development. I would like to even contend that Hegel's philosophy went far beyond the limits of European Reason and discovered a possible direction to what I call the Philosophy of the Other and its Priority.
In this sense, Hegel accomplished not only the total inventory and completion of Western philosophical thoughts, but also opened up a new road to the possibility of choosing and employing principles other than reason more extensively in post-postmodern philosophy. It is Fichte who had already discovered completely anew not reason in the sense of cognitive principle of philosophy, but will and the principle of his philosophical pursuit, although it is also called reason. In Schelling, however, reason was abandoned and replaced by such principles of philosophy as intuition, creative imagination and aesthetic feeling. Schopenhauer thought very highly of Kant's philosophy and yet he chose the non-rational, to be more precise, the anti rational, "blind" "will" (= World Will which totally alienates itself from cognition of a thing) as the principle of reality and that of its philosophical comprehension rather than reason. Thus, as already evident in the case of Herder, Schleiermacher earlier, in development of the German idealism of Fichte, Schilling and Hegel as well as Schopenhauer who was in opposition to Hegel and his philosophy, several trials in search of a principle other than reason are already evidenced.
Then we must ask ourselves: What is the essential character of 19th century Western philosophy? In order to understand this question, it is necessary to ask the following questions: What happened culturally in Western Europe in the 19th century? Was ist die geistige Situation der Zeit (der Neunzehnten Jahrhundert , to borrow Karl Jaspers' formulation? How was it related to the preceding century of the Enlightenment movement and what kind of influences did it exercise on the 20th century Western world? What were other domains of cultural phenomena in relation to philosophical ones, which are our main concern.
Let us look at the end of the 18th century in Europe and see what kind of cultural events were taking place first: In philosophy, one year after his death (1779), Hume's Dialogues of Natural Religion appeared. Immanuel Kant was still active (Critique of Pure Reason in 1781,Critique of Practical Reason-1788 and Critique of Judgment-1790) and Fichte's anonymously published An Attempt of Critique on all Revelations in 1792 which was first taken as being written by Kant and made Fichte instantaneously famous. Jeremy Bentham published in 1789 Introduction to the Principles for Morals and Legislation. This was the same year in which the French Revolution took place. In 1791, Herder published The Ideas for Philosophy of the History of Humanity and Thomas Paine published his magna opera, The Rights of Man. and The Age of Reason (1794). Not only Herder (by seeing the unity of nature and history with causa finalis), but also Schleiermacher (with his religious philosophy) made a great impression on the contemporary intellectuals.
Politically speaking, Europe was under Napoleon Bonaparte's reign, in the U.S. Texas and other states joined the Union and in 1781, The first ten Amendments to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights) were ratified. At the end of the 18th century, India and the Far East were threatened by Europeans with colonization for their opium.
In the domain of music, Haydn (his later chamber music and 12 London symphonies as well as his oratorio "Creation") and Mozart (the last three Symphonies and Six Haydn String Quartets (1785) The Marriage of Figarro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) and Cosi Fan Tutte (1790)The Magic Flute ) were still active. Against this, Beethoven started studying under Haydn in 1792 and completed his opus 1 Piano Trio in 1795 and Symphony No. 1 in 1799. The great Romantic composer Franz Schubert was born in 1797.
In the field of literature, the period of Skeptical Enlightenment (Voltaire Irene in 1778, Lessing Nethan The Wise) quickly ended, and first the so-called "Strum und Drang," then Romanticism and Neo-Classicism arose and overwhelmed European literature. In 1761, Rousseau published Julie, our Nouvelle Eloise, while in 1762 Dedrot wrote Le Nouveau de Rameau and Rousseau wrote "Du Contrat Social." The next year Voltaire wrote Treatise on Tolerance. and Philosophical Dictionary in 1764. In 1765, M. J. Sedaine wrote the play, "Philosophe sans le savoir." In 1767 Lessing wrote Minna von Barnheim. and yet already Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg had formulated the movement "Strum und Drang" for the first time in 1766. In 1770 Friedrich Hölderlin, the great classic poet, was born in Germany. So too William Wordsworth in the same year in England. Indeed Goethe was contemporary to Kant and was requested by one of his friends to read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, so Goethe (Stella-1776, Italian Journeys-1786, Iphigenie auf Tauris-1787, Don Carlos-1787, Egmond-1788) was active with Schiller (The Thieves-1782, Fiesco-1783, Kabale and Love-1784). Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figarro appeared in 1784 (Mozart's opera based on it premiered in 1796). In 1789, William Blake's Songs of Innocence appeared. In the same year, Goethe's Torquarto and Tasso also performed. It is also interesting to note that in 1793, Marquis de Sade published his La philosophie dans le boudoir. In 1794, Blake published Songs of Experience. In 1796, Wordsworth's The Borderers appeared. Goethe wrote his poem, "Hermann and Dorothea" in 1797, Heinrich Heine was born, and Hölderlin's "Hyperion" appeared. August Wilhelm von Schlegel started his translation of Shakespeare in the same year. In 1799, Balzac was born, Novalis' Heinrich von Otterdingen appeared, Schiller' trilogy, Waldstein and Schegel's Lucinde also published.
In the field of fine arts, Gérard, David, and Ingresthe most representative classic painters were active, while in the UK Gainsbourgh, Reynolds and other portrait painters painted their works. In Venice, the so-called post-card painters, Cannaletto and Guardi were active. In the U.S., major government buildings including the White House began to be built. At the end of the 18th century, Goya was painting his masterpieces in Spain.
In the field of sciences and technologies, an enormous number of discoveries and inventions took place from 1780-1800. First of all, we must point out James Watt's invention of the double-acting rotary steam engine in 1782. Together with Matthew Boulton, Watt installed the steam engine in the cotton mill, at Pappelewick, Nottinghamshire. In 1785. Two years later, John Fitch, an American inventor, launched a steamboat! It was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Louis Daguerre pioneered photography in 1789. Lavoisier, who was executed in 1794, discovered the Table of 31 Chemical Elements in 1790. In America, Ei Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793 and mass produced the Musket rifle in 1800. In 1797, J. L. Lagrange published Théorie des fonctions analytiques.
Thus viewed, it becomes obvious that 18th century Western civilization is the period of transition, that of change, that of reform, perhaps the first revolt against the overwhelming rationalism since the Renaissance. It was not reform in the sense that the structure of government or the economic system or the corporate structure was transformed. On the contrary, the principle of reality was radically transformed. A new view of reality (particularly in our society) was opened by removing and bracketting the narrow way of comprehending reality in terms of reason and mechanical causality. Through such a liberation of the narrow interest of human search for knowledge, suddenly the emphasis of philosophical and literary interests shifted from nature to the human-being and society. The metamorphosis from the 18th to the 19th century in Western culture is, limited though it may be, a liberalization of culture from the aristocratic limited few to the more people and expansion of civil society to the bourgeoisie, which the French Revolution ideologically symbolized.
It may be of some interest to point out that the so-called le fin de ciecle (the end of the century) movement at the end of the 19th century. It was the feeling of the end of the real Christian era and even such people as Hegel and Goethe felt that they could not understand what was going to happen in the immediate future, although they felt that something different was coming (cf.my article, "The Crisis of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Crisis").
Because of the impact of ideology on 20th century politics, Marx and his philosophy seemed to have been overestimated in our era. Considering the nature of his philosophy and paradigm, he is strictly speaking no more than a left Hegelian, although his concept of self alienation of the human-being from oneself which came from Feuerbach's radical approach to Christianity had a great impact in the further development of the so-called existential philosophy in 20th century European philosophy. Kierkegaard is another philosopher, a right Hegelian, who was able to reach the depth of human existence to essentially actualize the new meaning of Christianity. To Kierkegaard, not reason, but faith in an entirely different and new sense, was to be the principle of philosophy and of our existence.
On the other hand, our awareness of history and historicity made it possible to reflect upon what we have had as tradition in 19th century philosophy. Of course, prior to this period, that is the period of the Enlightenment, the intellectuals defied tradition and tried to see a new way by means of the so-called narrow sense of Reason. This may be considered as the earlier, quite unsuccessful attempt to critically evaluate our understanding of reality. However, we had to wait the arrival of Friedrich Nietzsche for the comprehensive appraisal of European history and its culture. The explicit self-appraisal of European philosophy and culture in history was attempted for the first time in the history of Western philosophy in Friedreich Nietzsche's thoughts. Nothing cannot be taken for granted, but philosophy makes everything including any presupposition a theme of philosophical inquiry. Asserting the creative power of life, Nietzsche demanded that such concepts as Christian morality and traditional European rational philosophy be exposed to the clear light of truth and reinterpreted as totally meaningless and useless in light of the creative future of humankind.
It is therefore our hope that by this inquiry, we shall learn what was experienced at the end of the 19th century and how such thoughts impact the trends and directions of 20th century philosophical inquiry.
Before, we start investigating Fichte's philosophy of reflection, however, perhaps it is necessary for us to understand how the philosophical questions were conceived and dealt with from philosophers of the Renaissance to Fichte's immediate predecessor in German Idealism, Immanuel Kant.
THE BACKGROUND: Historical Development of Western Philosophy from the Renaissance to Kant
It is generally agreed that Western civilization started anew during the Renaissance. Instead of making an exception (at this time, it is not necessary to do so), we, too, start the Contemporary History of Western philosophy with the Renaissance. Why?
Almost all contemporary histories of Western philosophy begin with Descartes, though the reasons are not sufficient to do so. In fact, should we define the contemporary history of Western philosophy as the philosophy of self and self-consciousness, then at least we must say that it begins with Descartes and will end with Kant.
However, we would like to begin with some of the Renaissance philosophers such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Paraclesus, Nicolo Machiavelli, Nicholas Cusanus as well as Ficino and some Aristotelians in Padva. In fact, in the Renaissance, the change in the way we view the universe, from the geocentric to the heliocentric, was an enormous event in the history of the human spirit. However, the change in the pursuit of knowledge from theo-centric to geo-centric and the homocentric approach was more earthshaking.
As we all know, the Renaissance started with the desire and intention of our intellectual life's change as to its object from God and the church to the secular world of the Ancient cultures and that of their repatriation. In certain areas of our intellectual activities, we had already discovered the Ancient cultures much earlier than the Renaissance. For example, the legal system of Rome was discovered in the 14th century, while mathematics, which was mediated and further developed by the medieval Arabic world, was discovered and introduced via Toledo (Spain) in the 14th century with the help of Jewish intellectuals who spoke both Arabic and Spanish and assisted as translators of these languages.
Massive shifts of interest, discoveries and changes took place in the visual arts, theatre, music, dance, literature, mythology and philosophy of the Ancient worlds. (The pursuit of knowledge may be the best translation of the philosophy until the post-renaissance period‹in the Medieval universities in the Western world, undergraduate studies were divided into moral philosophy‹ethics, economics and social sciences‹ and natural philosophy‹natural sciences‹. At the graduate level, where one could earn a Doctorate degree, there were theology, jurisprudence, and medicine, the former being the theoretical pursuit of knowledge, while the latter two, practical pursuit of knowledge. This distinction may still be found, for example, at Oxford and Cambridge Universities even today.) Not only the clergy, but also many people outside the church were now taught to read and write classic Latin (no longer Church Latin). The ideal of education (paideia) changed in terms of its object (from potential clergies to general, wealthy intellectuals), in terms of its content (from theology and its understanding to that of the well rounded human-being as human (humanitas is the Latin translation of the Greek paideia, which originally signified the Greek and then the Roman who were educated by the culture of that time) and in terms of the means (ancient Greek and Roman culture). In the Ancient Greek and Roman civilization, the object of inquiry was the universe, nature and the human-being, although Aristotle and Neo-Platonists (e.g. Plotinus) considered The Divinity as the center of their ontological investigation. Prior to and during the Renaissance, the interest of the artists were, for example, more directed to human nature (even though they painted or sculpted the Virgin Mother and Jesus as a Child and saints and angels). The landscape and details of the room, human figures and expressions were the foci of the artists. Besides sacred music, much secular music was composed and performed, translated theatre was performed, secular architecture was built.
What then was the primary and uniquely the object of the pursuit of knowledge (=philosophy) in the Renaissance and thereafter?
It was the universe, it was nature and it was the human-being itself. Suddenly, God was no longer the object of our intellectual pursuit of knowledge, although the interest and influence of the church still persisted, He was no longer the dominant object of intellectual pursuit. The most dominant object of our intellectual curiosity and knowledge was and has been indeed nature even to this day. This nature was conceived as the nature, the principles of which are written in mathematical language and only humans who have the ration and rational understanding can decipher the mystery of nature (Galileo). From philosophy (pursuit of knowledge), many so-called natural sciences were born to investigate and pursue knowledge of nature in specific aspects of nature. Yet in philosophical circles in Europe, Scholastic philosophy had still dominant influence. This philosophy was of course theo-centric and was intended to support our understanding of reality other than God.
Against this, many philosophers of the time felt a strong need to articulate true knowledge from false information transmitted from the past. The natural sciences established themselves firmly on the experience of nature and our mathematical, rational ability to ascertain the laws of nature. Some philosophers (Bacon for example) failed to recognize the significance of mathematics in comprehension of nature. Thus, it was of cardinal importance to critically evaluate everything that was considered true, and clearly and distinctly articulate truth from falsehood.
René Descartes appeared at the right time and in the right place. He was well trained in Scholastic philosophy and in mathematics (the founder of analytic geometry) and was intellectually quite sympathetic to both Galileo and Kepler in understanding of the universe. Descartes was caught by a strong impulse to discern the true from the false and ultimately discover the absolute basis for any intellectual pursuit of knowledge. His device of universal doubt, however, led him to the evident knowledge of self and its consciousness. When he was convinced with the dictum that cogito, ergo sum, Descartes made an inexcusable error in believing that, since the immediate givenness of consciousness to itself is indubitable, it is equally self-evident that the existence of such a self is also self-evident, apodeictic truth. By so doing, Descartes was caught deep in the domain of philosophy of self and its consciousness, which resulted in developing Western philosophy only within this philosophy of self and consciousness. Indeed, his intention was to comprehend nature, too, and he even succeeded in providing the basis for the understanding of nature by means of rational knowledge (extension = mathematical, quantifiable mass), but the actual consequence of his philosophy was to trap all philosophical enterprises coming after him within the scope of this dead end street of the self and self-consciousness, at least until Immanuel Kant.
What do I mean by the philosophy of self and consciousness? It is philosophical inquiry to start with the blind, unquestioned assumption of the evidentness of knowledge of self and consciousness of itself, and it is based on the unexamined assumption that all philosophical inquiry is thus based on inner knowledge of self and self consciousness. Hegel was absolutely right when he said that so long as philosophy after Descartes made its cogito (Denken) the principle of philosophy, Descartes was the father of contemporary philosophy. The main reason Descartes and his followers (Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume) were trapped in this inescapable hole of self and self-knowledge of consciousness is because in their approach, Descartes and his followers chose to attack, and solve the ontological questions by way of their investigations on the epistemological domain.
While the rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz) convinced themselves that nature can and must be known to us by reason alone (mathematically and by means of quantifiable masses), the empiricists (Locke, Berkeley and Hume) insisted that the origin of our knowledge of nature must be from our experience, and not reason. Nevertheless, the empiricists, once they defined knowledge, following Descartes, as the relations of ideas, were to investigate the nature of knowledge once again via "ideas" within the domain of our consciousness. It is obvious that Hume ended up with his skepticism that we could neither say yes, nor no about nature itself, for we only know and can explain all knowledge by means of ideas and their relations within consciousness.
It was indeed Leibniz' "monad" which has no window. Namely, we are able to investigate and know everything with such evidence inside of one's own consciousness, but we are not able to go beyond the border of self consciousness and communicate with others. Nor is it possible that such consciousness be influenced from the outside world. All the philosophers, whether rationalist or empiricist, who came after Descartes were methodologically imprisoned in self and consciousness. From this perspective, we will be able to understand why these British Empiricists, who intended to secure our knowledge of nature, could not get out from the realm of self and self consciousness (impressions and ideas) and ended up with Humean skepticism. Aiming, too, at knowledge of nature, philosophical enterprise from Descartes through Kant endeavored to provide philosophy with the absolute, indubitable foundation of our knowledge as its method prescribed to investigate only the realm within self and self consciousness, and knowledge of reality as such (=to know nature itself in this case) was forced to abandon the ultimate goal of knowledge itself, while they attempted to find the absolutely knowable self and self consciousness. Kant was no exception, as long as he maintained that what we know is the phenomenal world and the thing in itself is never known to our human intellect. Indeed, the phenomenal world is in a sense no longer within the self, but is projected as on a movie screen, which is far from nature itself, and allows us to not immediately, but only vicariously know nature. In other words, there was no means given to our way of knowing to compare, say, my "idea" of the moon with the moon itself. As the natural sciences did not bother with such a question of the foundation of their knowledge, they immediately were involved in inquiries into a variety of aspects of nature itself rather than their validity. Thus, the fate of making philosophy a scientific inquiry into the foundation of the sciences was already determined by Descartes and we did not have to wait for the Neo-Kantian contention about the nature of philosophical inquiry. However, before we start talking about the Neo-Kantian movements, we must first of all properly understand how Fichte grasped Kant's philosophy and its problems.
IMMANUEL KANT AND THE END OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT PHILOSOPHY
Let us briefly discuss the philosophy of Kant, which provided Fichte with his starting point. Kant situated himself in confrontation with British Empiricism and Continental Rationalism. In his pre-critical period, Kant was under the influence of Christian Wolff's popularized version of Leibniz' philosophy (without monad) and his standpoint was Speculative Rationalism. In other words, Kant held that genuine knowledge must be rooted in human reason, and experience does not give any appropriate knowledge of nature. Kant firmly believed that knowledgeanything which deserved the name of knowledgemust possess objectivity, i.e., be universally and necessarily valid. Analytic a priori knowledge, whose criterion of truth is contradiction, certainly fulfills this criterion for truth without any qualification. Therefore, he had no problem as long as he lived in the tradition of Continental Rationalism.
However, Kant became well aware of Hume's philosophy and his understanding of reality which was rooted in two elements: the one was the tradition of British Empiricism, that our knowledge must be also knowledge about nature and this must come from experience alone, i.e., knowledge of the universephysics, Newtonian mechanics in particular. The other was the radicalization of philosophical approach, that was the philosophy of self in which the starting point and principle were sought in the evident self reflection on one's own self as the indubitable basis. Hume's method of inquiry was the extreme radicalization of this philosophy of self, which no longer knows what reality (nature) really is, that Hume ended with skepticism. According to Hume, since our philosophical eyethe eye of self-reflection (introspection) as the method of inquirywill never be able to provide so much as Locke believed and was never able to get out of consciousness itself, we cannot say (and do not know as its consequence) whether or not our knowledge of nature (the external world from the viewpoint of consciousness) is indeed reality. In fact, sometimes Hume gives the impression that, although what we can know is limited and far less than previously considered, we do not have to have universals, substance, or mechanical causality in reality, but can make our experience of them quite intelligible and explainable. Instead of affirming or denying the knowledge of the universe (as nature) itself, Hume attempted a psychological explanation of our knowledge of the external world, i.e, the universe, thus including such principles as the law of gravitation and mechanical causality. This makes our knowledge of nature merely highly probable, thus knowledge of the universe can no longer be said to be "objective" in the strict sense of necessity and universal validity. Now the center of philosophical inquiry was shifted from substance and causality in reality to the understanding of them purely in consciousness. Although Hume never seriously (=practically) doubted our knowledge of the universe as true (however limited sense it might be), he attempted to "explain" psychologically everything including mechanical causality and the laws of nature. This consequence of Hume's radicalization of the philosophy of self and Enlightenment philosophy, ending up with universal skepticism was unacceptable to Kant, who was still in the spirit of the Enlightenment and with the faith of reason as the absolute principle of reality. Kant's grandiose, systematic approach called transcendental philosophy was indeed the last attempt of Enlightenment philosophy to re-establish objectitivity, i.e., the universal and necessary validity of the laws of nature as well as mechanical causality as the principles of the universe as such.
Although Kant humbly and seriously accepted Hume's challenge itself in his endeavor to argue that such principles as mechanical causality and the laws of nature are merely explainable as psychologically "subjective," this consequence, of course, Kant could not accept. As mentioned above, Kant must accept the thesis of British Empiricism that knowledge is the knowledge of the universe and he firmly believed that the natural sciences, Newtonian mechanics in particular, are knowledge of nature and possess "objective" validity. Namely, Kant never doubted that such laws of nature must be "objective." They are, according to Kant's conviction, not "subjective" in the sense of "personal and relative," but they must be objective, i.e., they are also universally and necessarily valid.
In other words, for his solution to Hume's challenge Kant indeed sought that our knowledge in the not trivial, but the most profound sense, must consist of two mutually irreducible elements, that is, the "formal "elements which are to provide the objectivity (=necessity and universal validity) of knowledge and the "material" elements which relate our knowledge to the universe. "Knowledge without form is meaningless, while knowledge without matter is empty." These material elements must somehow come from and relate to our senses, while the formal elements come from the rational structure of our mind which by definition guarantees the university and necessity in validity. Instead of asking whether or not such objective knowledge of the universe is possible, Kant tried to elucidate rather how and under what conditions such knowledge is possible at all, assuming as a fact that objective knowledge of nature is indeed possible. This philosophical approach is called "critical," since unlike British Empiricism, Kant did not try to explain the nature of knowledge by means of its origin (tabula rasa and senses), and because unlike Continental Rationalism, he did not attempt to call analytic knowledge the only knowledge with "objectivity" and speculatively develop a philosophical system consisting of this knowledge. On the contrary, Kant was supposed to open the third way independent of British Empiricism and Continental Rationalism and endeavored to elucidate, although his method was logical inference (from the fact that there is objective knowledge of the universe), the conditions of the possibility of objective knowledge of the universe, as long as they are a priori.
Kant's position was defensible and meaningful as long as his metaphysics is kept in dualism both epistemology and metaphysics, namely 1) knowledge is a composite of the rational form and the material elements given in the sensibility. This is epistemological dualism. Furthermore, 2) his position must be metaphysically dualistic in that it was Kant who tried to see the possibility of reality both (mechanically) causally determined (in the world of phenomenon) and ethically and teleologically "determined" (in the world of noumenon), thanks to human freedom. In Kant's philosophy, although a solution to Hume's challenge was found, the so-called dichotomy over (mechanical) causal determinism versus freedom of will became very sharpened. Once again, here too, Kant "distributed" (mechanical) causality to the world of phenomenon (the epistemological world of sciences) and freedom to the world of noumenon teleologically "oriented" or the thing itself which is supposed to be behind the phenomenal world. Thus, Kant also took two mutually inconsistent principles (being and ought) as the basis for this solution of the philosophical a priori. The phenomenon (scientific and cognitive world of nature) and the noumenon (non cognitive, moral reality of the thing in itself) are two realities, which , although they are related, are of two different beings. In this sense, he also may be called dualistic here. Thus, his epistemology is the doctrine of cognitive being (ontologia generalis=metaphysics of nature) and his ethics is dealt with by the doctrine of speculative being--Freedom, Immortality and God-- (ontologia speculativa) are unified in not way, but they were rather sharply articulated and distributed to two totally mutually exclusive domains of reality.
In Kant's philosophy, Fichte saw as irreconcilable those dichotomies between the formal and the material elements of knowledge, between freedom (=teleological causal determination) and mechanical causal determination, and between ethics and epistemology.
Fichte considered these mutually exclusive dichotomies as "faults" of a system of philosophy rather than the strengths of Kant's philosophy. (In fact Kant himself thought that dualism in his philosophy was an excellent means to overcome both the dogmatic consequences of Continental Rationalism and the skeptic results of British Empiricism.) To Fichte, philosophy as a system of knowledge of the absolute must be consistent and in absolute unity, from which everything else must be deduced by the act of the "I."
Thus, it is obvious that Fichte saw the incompleteness and inconsistencies of Kant's system from his own perspective of philosophical problems and attempted to correct those faults in Kant's philosophical system.
Then, how could and did Fichte attempt to overcome those faults of Kant's philosophy? First of all, while Kant's philosophy was more centered around the epistemological questions than the ontological viewpoint, Fichte aimed to reorganize and unify the philosophical system more from the ethical point of view (and yet by "intuition"). That is, Fichte pursued the solving of the problem of accomplishing unity and integrity of the philosophical system by means of the pure, self-reflective, intuitive activities of the I, which obviously may be evidenced first of all in the moral sphere of philosophy.
In other words, in Kant's philosophy, while reason as the cognitive faculty is dominant in his investigation, Fichte focuses his attention to "will" to answer his philosophical questions, although both Kant and Fichte called cognitive faculty and volition "reason."
This is the overture of the new direction of Western philosophy in which the cognitive reason as the principle of philosophy was gradually taken over by something else such as "will" (Fichte and Schopenhauer, although they conceived will in two totally different ways), "creative imagination" (Schelling), "intuition" (Schelling), "faith" (Kierkegaard) and "Life" and "Power" (Nietzsche). This shift of the emphasis from the rational faculty and cognition to the non-rational faculty of will or intuition in the principle in 19th century European philosophy must be elaborated upon later in other contexts as it would result in considerable interesting changes in the development of Western philosophy.
For Fichte, Kant already accomplished the task of establishing the transcendental basis of knowledge, although he failed to unify his system. Thus, Fichte conceived his task to correct this fault of Kant's philosophy.
The birth of German Idealism was motivated to establish the absolute basis of systematical knowledge of philosophy. The boudary of "philosophy of self and consciousness" could not be overstepped, but rather we may say that Fichte attempted to return to the core of such philosophy of self and consciousness not as the source of the epistemological, absolute certainty, but as the source of unity and activity of will. This subtle difference has long been overlooked.