Post-Kantian Idealism and Self-Transformation

In G. Anthony Bruno & Justin Vlasits (eds.), Transformation and the History of Philosophy. New York, NY: Routledge (2023)
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Abstract

While the idea that philosophy requires self-transformation is historically pervasive, it exerts considerable influence on the post-Kantians who first aim to systematize Kant’s idealism by grounding it on a first principle. In the 1790s, Fichte and Schelling offer competing accounts of the self-transformation that they regard as essential to positing a first principle. Their accounts raise two central questions. First, what makes this kind of self-transformation possible? Second, are there different possible expressions of philosophical self-transformation? In what follows, I will articulate the Fichtean and Schellingian answers to these central questions. For Fichte, the one who summons me to posit a first principle makes possible my philosophical self-transformation, although the latter has an exclusively idealist expression in that I can only genuinely posit the I as first principle, which is to say that philosophical self-transformation depends on mutual recognition and vindicates precisely one philosophical system (Section 1). For Schelling, a brute act of will makes possible my philosophical self-transformation, although the latter has either an idealist or a realist expression in that I can genuinely posit either the I or the not-I as first principle, which is to say that philosophical self-transformation does not depend on mutual recognition and vindicates one of two possible philosophical systems (Section 2). Thus, whereas Fichtean self-transformation is recognitive and non-pluralistic, Schellingian self-transformation is pluralistic and non-recognitive. I conclude with a discussion of how Jacobi poses a challenge to Fichte’s and Schelling’s answers to the two central questions (Section 3).

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G. Anthony Bruno
Royal Holloway University of London

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