From being to acting: Kant and Fichte on intellectual intuition

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (4):762-783 (2022)
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Fichte assigns ‘intellectual intuition’ a new meaning after Kant. But in 1799, his doctrine of intellectual intuition is publicly deemed indefensible by Kant and nihilistic by Jacobi. I propose to defend Fichte’s doctrine against these charges, leaving aside whether it captures what he calls the ‘spirit’ of transcendental idealism. I do so by articulating three problems that motivate Fichte’s redirection of intellectual intuition from being to acting: (1) the regress problem, which states that reflecting on empirical facts of consciousness leads only to further facts and so cannot yield a first principle; (2) the rhapsody problem, which states that the categories form a haphazard set and so lack necessity unless they derive from a first principle; and (3) the nihilism problem, which states that a first principle cannot lie outside our cognition of it, lest it be the cause of our cognition and, being first, the cause of all our actions, reducing us to machines. Crucially, Fichte’s three motivating problems are in fact aspects of a single problem. Leaving any aspect unsolved spoils putative solutions to the other two. Consequently, Fichte requires a single unified solution to all three, which his doctrine of intellectual intuition provides.

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G. Anthony Bruno
Royal Holloway University of London


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