Fichte also has a requirement for intersubjectivity. The I requires recognition of other selves to be conscious of itself. This goes along with my last post on the goal of the artist who wishes to achieve greatness. Self-consciousness is a matter of creating one's own self in the context of intersubjectivity in which one follows the Socratic quest of self-examination. The grasping and articulation of essences is the experience of freedom.
One thing I cannot agree with in Fichte is the notion of pure thing-hood as utter necessity. First, the experience of freedom is also an experience of necessity, of free necessity as opposed to constrained necessity. Second, things are participants in our world, having their own meaning-content for us. When we experience things as full of potential or as having a certain aura (as being aesthetic) this is also an experience of freedom. (See
Breazeale, Dan, "Johann Gottlieb Fichte", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
As an atheist, I find it necessary to do some translation when reading the idealists. When the idealist talks about the Absolute this is usually a thinly disguised notion of God. The idealists consider The Absolute the ground of existence. Some, for example F. H. Jacobi, saw it as a ground that cannot be articulated. A possible translation of this idea into terms that make sense to an atheist is that when we achieve the experience of freedom we sense oneness with the matter at hand, and in a way that cannot be articulated except through metaphor.
In Breazeale's article on Fichte he writes, that for Fichte:
"the systematic unity of the Critical philosophy—specifically, the unity of theoretical and practical reason, of the First and Second Critiques—was insufficiently evident in Kant's own presentation of his philosophy and that the most promising way to display the unity in question would be to provide both theoretical and practical philosophy with a common foundation. The first task for philosophy, Fichte therefore concluded, is to discover a single, self-evident starting point or first principle from which one could then somehow “derive” both theoretical and practical philosophy, which is to say, our experience of ourselves as finite cognizers and as finite agents. Not only would such a strategy guarantee the systematic unity of philosophy itself, but, more importantly, it would also display what Kant hinted at but never demonstrated: viz., the underlying unity of reason itself." (op. cit.)
This seems right to me, but my question to Fichte is: why limit the need to combining theoretical and practical philosophy (only the first two of Kant's three great critiques)? Isn't it necessary to derive theoretical, practical and critical judgment (aesthetic) together: only this would "guarantee the systematic unity of philosophy itself" and also, I suspect, the "underlying unit of reason itself." But this would involve experiencing ourselves not just as finite cognizers and agents but as both finite and infinite: finite, since conditioned by our lives, and infinite insofar as we are able to use our creative imaginations to transcend our lives, inasmuch as we are able to experience creative flow and engage with the world in this way.
Breazeale also says that Fichte believed that what Kant called “intellectual intuition,” "though certainly justified as a denial of the possibility of any non-sensory awareness of external objects, is nevertheless difficult to reconcile with certain other Kantian doctrines regarding the I's immediate presence to itself both as a (theoretically) cognizing subject (the doctrine of the transcendental apperception) and as a (practically) striving moral agent (the doctrine of the categorical imperative)." Yes, there can be no intellectual intuition as non-sensory awareness of external objects, but there can be as awareness of essences that are as much constructed as revealed, that awareness being fundamentally tied to the body, i.e. to ourselves as sensing beings, a being that is not only cognizing and practically striving but also self-expressing through making and through active perception.
I also like Fichte's view, also described by Berazeale, that we need to assume freedom as the starting point of our system of thinking, while at the same time recognizing the legitimacy of skepticism concerning this freedom. (Of course, I understand freedom not in the Kantian way as acting according the the laws of practical reason, but as experiencing creative flow. This can also happen in the realm of practical reason however. It is not limited to art and aesthetic experience. I am thinking specifically right now of the life of Grace Lee Boggs Chinese-American philosopher recently featured on the PBS series P.O.V. "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs" June 30, 2014. Boggs is a Socratic hero in that she uses (she is 99 years old!) the power of philosophical dialogue to challenge assumptions as she engages in a lifelong revolutionary struggle.)
It is a shame that Fichte said nothing original about art or aesthetics since this has led to neglect of his metaphysical position by aestheticians and philosophers of art.