Freedom and Reason in Kant, Schelling, and Kierkegaard

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Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract The explicit topic of Fear and Trembling 's third Problema the longest single section, accounting for a third of the book's total length , the theme of Abraham's silence stands not far in the background in every other section, and its importance is flagged by the pseudonym—Johannes de silentio —under which Kierkegaard had the book published. Citing Literature.

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Freedom and Reason in Kant, Schelling, and Kierkegaard - Semantic Scholar

Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Obviously, it was not a source for Kierkegaard. This article gives us an independent, contemporaneous pulse-taking to use as a comparison. Fichte was J. I will discuss those other sources at the end of this section. He was also very influential in the academic philosophy of the time. Although no one reads him anymore, Kierkegaard certainly did read him. Fichte, Hegel, and Schleiermacher.

The diagnosis of the situation in philosophical ethics in is as follows below. Kant gave us a model of ethics based on the autonomy of the individual and derived from it a doctrine of duty what actions are required, permitted, forbidden and an account of virtue what makes the good character good. The highest good was the union of virtue and happiness, but these aims were fundamentally heterogeneous, for Kant, and the result was that there was no way to believe this good could be achieved in this world.

The younger Fichte argues that J. In so doing he brought to perfection what I. Fichte argues that J. Fichte was the last representative of that approach. This is a large claim: that J. Fichte was the last practitioner of what we would call normative philosophical ethics in Germany, before How did J. Fichte solve the Kantian problem of the division of the rational will against itself?

According to I. So for J. Fichte there was no antinomy of practical reason to solve. Not believing, as Kant had, that the ends of virtue and happiness were fundamentally heterogeneous, he did not believe that any special arrangement this-worldly or other-worldly was required for human beings to be reconciled to the moral demands placed upon them. He did not require belief in the postulates of God and immortality.

But neither did he require belief in the divinity of the political state and social institutions: his solution to the antinomy was not a political one. That is why according to I. And J.

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Fichte defends a general duty to take on some form of social concreteness, to submit oneself to some sort of division of social labor either to find a place in an existing one, or to create one where none exists. Fichte is correct in his description here: the social roles that ground associative duties in J.

What is necessary is that there be some way of dividing up the moral labor and solving coordination problems, consistent with the requirements of a state of right. But the nuclear family, the free market and the constitutional monarchy are only contingent and historically local ways of doing that, justified by their aptness for those ends, but not unique in their ability to fulfill them.


But the criticism he raises — that this leaves the roles themselves something accidental, as though the ethical subject could exercise its disposition even without these particular ones [12] — must seem unmotivated unless we bring to the topic the Hegelian assumption that the necessity of these forms themselves must be accounted for.

The purpose of practical philosophy for Hegel is to show what world spirit has brought about, the objective formation of the ethical universe. There is nothing an individual could or should do to attain the good life; the only thing acting in the process of Versittlichung is the universal power of reason.

The concept of the highest good in Kierkegaard and Kant

What contemporary ethics needs, I. Fichte argues, is an ethical principle that: 1 grounds an account of duty, virtue, and the good life; and that 2 is normative rather than descriptive that is, proceeds from the standpoint of the deliberating agent and is action-guiding. A unified account of virtue, duty and the good life is required to show how it is possible that the individual be able to see his ethical disposition reconciled with every form of life available to him because he is able to understand the objective forms of the ethical world as the ones that are the best means for the self-realization of each individual personality.

Ethics becomes a part of physics. Fichte this elimination of the deliberative perspective with its presupposition of free choice means Schleiermacher has made no more progress beyond the Kantian project than has Hegel. That, then, is a short synopsis of I. This article is a fairly interesting document all on its own; but, importantly, its main conclusions are by no means idiosyncratic.

Many other sources spelling out the state of philosophical ethics in the early s do not diverge on the main points. This was owned by Kierkegaard and is focused to a very substantial extent on practical philosophy; its first volume contains a page [20] exposition of J. Fichte, more than half of which is devoted to his practical philosophy, which is highly accurate and covers every relevant text.

This is an often-cited history that went through several German editions and was translated into English as well as Danish. Hegel made no contribution to the project of normative ethics as a philosophical discipline; his philosophy, even in its practical parts, offered no interesting guidance to the deliberating agent. The tendency in recent decades since the s to assimilate ethics to philosophy of history has been somewhere between puzzling and deplorable depending on the source. Did things look any different in Denmark?

Martensen, for example, in both his lectures on the history of philosophy from Kant to Hegel of [21] and his Grundrids til Moralphilosophiens System of , [22] treats Kant and J. Fichte as the last significant proponents of systematic normative ethics. No other effort in that direction he mentions Schleiermacher, Daub, Michelet and Rosenkranz even approaches the standard set by Kant and Fichte, and the latter in particular.

Wilhelm and Fichte on practical reasoning. Still, some commitments can be drawn fairly straightforwardly from the text, and others can be assumed as the only way of accounting for some conjunction of textual clues. Here are six basic commitments:. The Judge is an ethical rationalist in one familiar sense of that term : what one, all things considered, ought has reason to do is what one ethically ought has reason to do. Other sorts of reasons are either subordinate to ethical reasons or in the end only apparently different from ethical reasons.

Practical deliberation and ethical deliberation are coextensive. This I take it is the upshot of 1 the claim that aesthetic considerations only really get their due within an ethical context, [26] and of 2 the claim that the closing sermon expresses more clearly than the judge himself what he wanted to convey to A.

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In fact the Judge seems to think that we cannot fail to be moved all the way to action by the all-things-considered reasons we take ourselves to have. Where agents go wrong is not in the transition from concluding practical deliberation to forming an intention, but instead in failing to put sufficient effort into the process of deliberation itself.

The Judge is an autonomist about ethical reasons: the self or the will is the source of the authority ethical reasons have. To be a self is essentially to be an agent and agency is itself the source of universally binding ethical norms. The Judge takes intentions rather than actions or their consequences to be the object of ethical evaluation and the primary locus of moral worth.

But the agent cannot control that outcome, nor even accurately predict it. The Judge believes that sincere individual practical deliberation whatever has the voice of conscience as its outcome is in some sense incorrigible. But there is no place for deference to authority in ethical deliberation. All that anyone can do in the way of assuring herself of the validity of her conclusions is to put all the effort she can muster into reaching them. And there is reason to be optimistic about the outcome of this process: even if the choice turns out to have been mistaken, it will not be so radically mistaken that the mistake remains hidden for long.

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The Judge sees a sort of universality as the hallmark of the ethical. But he denies that this is because practical deliberation consists in the application of an abstract universal law or principle to a concrete situation. The product of practical deliberation is a highly specific imperative. That imperative claims universal validity, but all that means is that it claims to be the only conclusion anyone relevantly similarly situated could be expected to arrive at.

It is universally valid because correct, not correct because universally valid. Now, if we ask with whom, in the historical context, these six commitments are shared, the answer will be: are shared with Kant; and perhaps 6 are shared with Schleiermacher; only 1 is shared with Hegel. And are all shared with J. Let me explain. Wilhelm shares the first four of these commitments, in their most basic form, with both Kant and Fichte. All four have Kantian and Fichtean variations, and in the case of the first three the judge takes the Fichtean variant where these diverge.

So both Kant and Fichte agree 1 that moral reasons trump reasons of other sorts. Fichte — like the Judge — goes farther and asserts that they are always sufficiently motivating. Even imperfectly rational agents like ourselves cannot be moved to do what they clearly see to be unjustified. So the right advice to someone worried about his own virtue is: apply more energy to the process of practical deliberation.

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Fichte — like the Judge — denies the existence of radical evil in the Kantian sense. Kant and Fichte diverge on 5 , and once again Fichte and the Judge are on one side, Kant on the other. Fichte claimed that conscience cannot be said to err because it cannot be verified against any other sort of consciousness; it knows no judge higher than itself.

But people can be wrong about whether something passes the test or not, for all sorts of reasons that are publicly discernible. For Kant ethical deliberation is about the application of the categorical imperative test to maxims, and to the extent that maxims can be inferred from behavior, so can their failure to pass the test. But Fichte does not think of narrowly moral reasoning as the application of a procedural constraint to the results of technically-practical prudential reasoning.

He thinks that all practical reasoning is technical-practical. There is one final end, to which all other ends are subordinate, and that is: self-determination. But that end is not something anyone reasons about whether to adopt, because it is itself partially constitutive of agency. Here again the Judge sides with Fichte. Fichte described the result of the process of practical deliberation as an imperative an ought whose character is universal in that it implicitly claims to be the one any rational agent in exactly this situation with exactly this set of background beliefs would, on sufficient reflection, come to.

The distance between Wilhelm and Hegel on these six points is greater: they agree only 1 that practical reason has no higher court of appeal than the ethical.

More precisely, they agree if here we mean the sittliche -qua-social-morality rather than the Moral abstracted from its socio-historical location and the norms that are peculiar to it. Without that assumption they agree on none of the six points. Hegel denies 3 and 4 explicitly. He denies 5 stridently, taking issue in both the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Philosophy of Right with this Fichtean idea as it had played itself out in Romanticism and the ethical subjectivism of the likes of Fries. Hegel does not explicitly deny 2 , but its negation seems to be entailed by some of his other commitments.

He thought it necessary that a person be brought up in a certain way, be habituated to have the moral sensibility that allows him to pick up on and be moved by the duties that there are where he is. That is externalist talk: ethical reasons move us only insofar as we are disposed to take them as reasons, but that disposition is not itself inevitable. Finally, 6 does not describe anything about the deliberating standpoint for a Hegelian agent though it is an apt description of what ethical life brings about for an individual: that his particularity, which need be all he consciously concerns himself with, is nevertheless suffused with the universal.

A concluding observation. Imagine I do not currently live that sort of life, but I want to: how do I go about it? Well, first I am to take seriously my freedom: what becomes of me is up to me. An ethical life is one of self-conscious self-determination. They steer; others drift. Fair enough: but steer in which direction? In the beginning of the second letter the Judge insists that matters either not at all or only secondarily. The act of steering will itself ensure that the agent is pointed in roughly the right direction, so long as she engages in it with sufficient energy.

Later in the letter he seems to be enjoining a particular direction, that of a socially productive life: I should work in a calling, get married, cultivate friendship, and shoulder the burdens that come with all of those. And, second, this is just an example, or maybe a schema; the Judge has described his own life, but he admits other possibilities. What does the universal human being do in my situation?