Fichte’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense

Document Type

Book Chapter

Department or Administrative Unit

Philosophy and Religious Studies

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Fichte’s almost singular focus on consciousness has fueled the charge that he is a subjectivist, and, bolstered by the self-serving characterizations of the Wissenschaftslehre by Schelling and Hegel, this has led to Fichte’s relative neglect among contemporary philosophers. If we study Fichte’s philosophy on its own terms, however, we can correct this caricature. As Fichte understands it, the Wissenschaftslehre carries out the philosophical implications of Kantianism. Critics of Fichte often mistake his transcendental inquiry as a series of metaphysical claims. Thus they assume that realism is correct, and they see Fichte as reducing the world itself, rather than the world as representation, to consciousness. However, if we position the Wissenschaftslehre in its philosophical context, it becomes clear that his focus on consciousness is not a reduction of the world to the self, but a transcendental inquiry into the conditions for the possibility of experience, and specifically objective representations.


This book chapter was originally published in The Palgrave Handbook of German Idealism. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


© Matthew C. Altman 2014