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Fichte's Vocation of Man

New Interpretive and Critical Essays

Daniel Breazeale, Tom Rockmore

Publication Year: 2013

New perspectives on Fichte’s best known and most popular work.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

Key to Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This volume collects seventeen previously unpublished essays by an international group of scholars, all focusing upon different aspects of and offering diverse perspectives upon a single, seminal text, J. G. Fichte’s “popular” tract of 1800, Die Bestimmung des Menschen.1 The Vocation of Man has been translated into English no fewer than three times, first in 1846 by...

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Introduction: The Checkered Reception of Fichte’s Vocation of Man

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pp. 1-18

The Vocation of Man was published in January 1800, barely a year after the events of the “atheism controversy” that transfixed a large portion of the contemporary German reading public and eventually led to Fichte’s dismissal from his professorship in Jena.1 In this book, which is explicitly addressed not to professional philosophers but to “anyone capable of understanding...

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1. “An Other and Better World”: Fichte’s The Vocation of Man as a Theologico-Political Treatise

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pp. 19-32

Like Plato before him and Heidegger after him, Fichte was a prolific author but not really a writer of books. In the comprehensive edition of his collected works undertaken by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, which comprises some thirty‑five volumes, the works published by Fichte himself only amount to ten tomes. Moreover, most of those works originated in...

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2. Fichte’s Philosophical Bildungsroman

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pp. 33-44

Fichte’s first major publication of the new nineteenth century, Bestimmung des Menschen (hereafter The Vocation of Man), stands out within his corpus for a number of reasons. In comparison with his other self-described “popular” writings—Bestimmung des Gelehrten (1794 and of 1809), Religionslehre (1806), ...

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3. Bestimmung as Bildung: On Reading Fichte’s Vocation of Man as a Bildungsroman

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pp. 45-56

At the heart of the Bestimmung text is Fichte’s commitment to analyzing the idea of freedom. This is not surprising: Fichte is a philosopher of freedom. G. E. Moore, given his famous or infamous, “Refutation of Idealism,”1 is an unlikely cheerleader for Fichte. But even Moore, in a review of an early translation into English (a translation that Moore despised, among other...

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4. Knowledge Teaches Us Nothing: Vocation of Man as Textual Initiation

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pp. 57-78

It is a widespread though not universal commonplace that The Vocation of Man aims to place its readers outside discursive knowledge. This is not so unusual an ambition for a work of classical German philosophy, yet it is hard to see how a mere text could achieve this goal. If discourse fails to convey the real, there is no use substituting new ideas or judgments for old...

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5. J. G. Fichte’s Vocation of Man: An Effort to Communicate

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pp. 79-102

The appearance of J. G. Fichte’s “On the Ground of our Belief in a Divine World Governance” in 1798 led eventually to the Atheismusstreit, or atheism dispute, which reached its nadir in April 1799 with Fichte’s forced resignation from the University of Jena.2 After spending the summer and fall of 1799 in Berlin, Fichte returned to Jena, where he completed a small...

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6 “Interest”: An Overlooked Protagonist in Book I of Fichte’s Bestimmung des Menschen

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pp. 103-126

The mention of “interest” as the protagonist in Fichte’s Bestimmung des Menschen may sound a trifle odd, but perhaps it is not as absurd as it might seem.
Firstly, “interest” is to be understood in the sense of Kant’s concept of “Interesse” (praktisches Interesse, theoretisches Interesse, etc.). We cannot address this issue in detail here. So let it suffice to say that Kant’s concept...

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7. The Dialectic of Judgment and The Vocation of Man

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pp. 127-144

I propose to approach Fichte’s Bestimmung des Menschen by thinking about its bearing on the phenomenon of judgment. The theme of judgment is one that recurs in many of Fichte’s writings, often in quite prominent contexts, and of course it was a central concern of the Kantian and post‑Kantian...

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8. The Traction of the World, or Fichte on Practical Reason and the Vocation of Man

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pp. 145-154

Fichte’s philosophically most significant or even his most interesting writings are not always his most technical ones. His corpus contains popular, semipopular, as well as very technical writings. The Vocation of Man is a semipopular text, which is not intended for a professional philosophical audience in effectively transforming his ethics into a moral theory...

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9. Fichte’s Conception of Infinity in the Bestimmung des Menschen

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pp. 155-172

The Bestimmung des Menschen, a text first published in Berlin in 1800, closes with two opposed geometrical images—those of a circle and an infinite straight line. For Fichte, these images are intimately related to a correct understanding of our "Bestimmung" or "vocation" as human beings. Once I grasp the true nature of my vocation, I see the universe become trans?...

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10. Intersubjectivity and the Communality of Our Final End in Fichte’s Vocation of Man

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pp. 173-184

Fichte first attempted to formally deduce the reciprocal interaction of rational beings in the 1796 Foundations of Natural Right, but continued to revisit the topic after that. The view expressed in Book III of the 1800 Vocation of Man is the result of at least two other attempts on his part to refine his views on the issue, and is worth our careful consideration. In a draft of a...

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11. Evil and Moral Responsibility in The Vocation of Man

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pp. 185-198

In the third part of the Vocation of Man, Fichte argues that the world as we experience it is so awful that we cannot rationally accept that it is all there is—it simply cannot be the case that life exists just so that it can die (VM, 81). He provides a lengthy list of the harms that surround us in this world, beginning with those inflicted by nature, such as (paraphrasing...

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12. Jumping the Transcendental Shark: Fichte’s “Argument of Belief” in Book III of Die Bestimmung des Menschen and the Transition from the Earlier to the Later Wissenschaftslehre

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pp. 199-224

Let us begin our reconsideration of the place of Die Bestimmung des Menschen within the larger framework of Fichte’s development and its relationship to his earlier “scientific” presentations of his philosophy somewhat obliquely: namely, by means of a brief comparison of this popular work of 1800, not to any of the scientific treatises or private lectures from the Jena...

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13. Determination and Freedom in Kant and in Fichte’s Bestimmung des Menschen

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pp. 225-240

Even a superficial look at the philosophical production of the period “between Kant and Hegel” reveals that there is a family of terms, which are employed as frequently as no others—sometimes casually in the aftermath of the scholastic tradition, sometimes in a programmatic way, sometimes to introduce new (and not so new) philosophical slogans—of whose importance...

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14. “There is in nature an original thinking power.": On a Claim from Book One of The Vocation of Man

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pp. 241-254

Disturbing—this is how Fichte’s readers regarded The Vocation of Man at the beginning of the nineteenth century when it was first published in 1800, and disturbing it has remained to this very day. This treatise does too little to enforce the image of the thinker who wrote...

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15. Erkenntnis and Interesse: Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism and Fichte’s Vocation of Man

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pp. 255-272

Rarely have notable workers in philosophy and in literary theory interacted so intensely as in the period of German letters that spanned the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. The case of Johann Fichte and Friedrich Schelling is especially interesting, since each of them imagined they were working to solidify a common position...

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16. Faith and Knowledge and Vocation of Man: A Comparison between Hegel and Fichte

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pp. 273-284

Hegel and Fichte belong to the group of thinkers who create organic and original philosophical systems. The exercise of delving deep into their philosophies, as well as the points of disagreement between them, is a highly fruitful one for philosophical research. My aim in this chapter is to...

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17. The Vocation of Postmodern Man: Why Fichte Now? Again!

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pp. 285-300

We know that one of the main tasks of philosophy, or at least for the Wissenschaftslehre, is to explain the very possibility of philosophy. I would like to add to this task the following for those of us who do the history of philosophy. In choosing to study the work of a particular philosopher or philosophy we must ask, “Why this philosopher or philosophy?” and, ...


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pp. 301-318

Back Cover

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p. 332-332

E-ISBN-13: 9781438447650
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438447636

Page Count: 329
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human beings.
  • Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 1762-1814. Bestimmung des Menschen.
  • Faith.
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