Personal Meditations as the Foundation of the Foundation: The Proper Beginning of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre

In Christoph Asmuth Jesper Lundsfryd Rasmussen (ed.), Das Problem des Anfangs (forthcoming)

Chiu Tse
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Chiu Yui Plato Tse
National Chengchi University
It is the aim of this article to establish the conceptual continuity between Fichte's early manuscript Personal Meditations on Elementary Philosophy/ Practical Philosophy (1793/94) and his Foundation of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre (1794/95) and thereby draw implications for understanding the proper foundation of the Wissenschaftslehre. The second section will begin with a remark on Fichte’s term “setzen” (to posit), a term that Fichte appropriated from his predecessors to designate a fundamental activity which is central to rational agency and prior to the Kantian distinction of sensibility and understanding. I suggest that the positing act underlies the act of judging as well as representing. The third section points out that there is a common task in Personal Meditations and the Foundation. On that score, their continuity is prominent, and it justifies taking them together as one project in which the third element takes up the unique synthetic role in the system. The fourth section acknowledges some significant nuances that differentiate the two phases. In the fifth section, I attempt to give a modern reading of the fundamental principles of the Foundation under the assumption that Fichte’s account of the positing acts gives us an idealist account of the transcendental conditions of judgments. The final section traces the foundational conception of limitation in Personal Meditations, where representation was given greater prominence, and draws out the theoretical implications that were largely preserved in the Jena phase.
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