Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reading Fichte

Happening to pick up a copy of Science of Knowledge the other day, I noticed early on a paragraph that Fichte concludes with
The dogmatist flies into a passion, distorts, and would persecute if he had the power; the idealist is cool and is in danger of deriding the dogmatist.
Now, for Fichte, the dogmatist is one who begins with being, as opposed to the idealist, who begins with self-consciousness. The dogmatist par excellence for Fichte is Spinoza, who as I recall does not at all fly into passions or distort, who gives no evidence I remember of a persecuting temper. Fichte's own temper does not generally read as "cool"; the danger of deriding seems not to bother him. In fact, the translators say that
Infelicities of expression are by no means the only obstacles to appreciating Fichte's work. His literary persona, alternating between arrogance and mock humility, and always ready for vitriolic personal attacks, is thoroughly unbearable.
Quite. But on this, which is at least my third try at the book, I am starting to follow the arguments; most of the credit, both for motivation and for background, goes to Frederic Beiser's German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism, 1781-1801. Maybe a few more snow days will be what it takes.

1 comment:

  1. Spinoza is majestic. Zero tendency to persecution in his writings. In fact, his moral and political philosophy is aimed at curbing such tendencies through understanding. Read a smattering of Fichte in grad school and always felt like he was trying to filch me.