Friday, December 22, 2006

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

I had the occasion of reading Gottlieb Fichte's On the Divine Government of the Universe. The whole essay may perhaps be short but the point of Johann is clear enough: that the inferring of faith does not come from those assumptions extrinsic of itself but from its intrinsic component, which its nature it is. The German idealist philosopher argues that only the transcendental idealism can give a complete vindication to the existence of God; the natural sciences cannot give more than it has, that is, it sees the material world as subsisting itself: "The universe is regarded as a whole which is grounded in itself and complete by itself." It is organised in itself and at the same time always organising. So in the words of Fichte, to demand an explanation is a nonsense since "the world exists simply because it does and it is the way it is simply because it is that way." The existence of such a God can only be deduced from man's inner activity in a transcendental viewpoint, a point in which an external world does not exist apart from the mind, which is primarily the seat of reason. "There is then no independent world: everything now is simply a reflection of our inner activity." What is the being of God primarily is the being of a moral world order, that is, the existence of a moral order in the material world is tantamount to saying the existence of God. Both is tautologous. So, Fichte did not conclude positing the idea of God on the basis of some arguments banked on the natural world order, but that it has to be explained on the grounds of the existence of a moral world order that has its essence in the mind as explained by reason itself: "What is founded in reason is absolutely necessary; and what is not necessary is therefore a violation of reason." Fichte as being faithful to transcendental idealism vivifies himself with his position in saying this as he raises the bar of reason to make sense of the world. He would go even further than where Kant has rescinded in elaborating by his throwing off of the concept of Ding an sich, and he expands his concept by augmenting an idea that everything is part of the self's consciousness. If one has to follow suit as to Fichte's own ground, then we, since gifted with the ability to reason, have to take this position or nothing will ever explain our belief of a Higher Being per se in any other way.

The Age of Aufklarung is the Age of Reason. It is its hallmark. And, Johann Gottlieb Fichte is truly the son of this age. The world history has seen no other epoch of great minds ever, who would seek to conquer and attempt to explain reality. In his time, he saw the rise of empiricism from the wake of Newtonian physics, the fall of Bastille in 1789 would set the stage for liberal democracy to flourish in its trail, the fermenting scientific ideas ushered in the beginning of economic revolution in the rest of Europe, and the Romantic Period that would grope the intellectual world in the first half of nineteenth century. The philosopher who studied in Jena and would impress his mentor and friend, Immanuel Kant, indeed, was at the epicenter of it all. He put reason as the test of all possible explanations of reality and most of all not excluding faith. The implication thereby became that reason absorbed faith and rendered it at the mercy of those whose minds it is that shaped philosophy precisely at this era

In one way or in another, how to arrive to a belief that is rationally verified is through its deduction from faith itself. Fichte was implying negatively on cosmological grounds on assuming an existence of God, which the great Medieval protagonist St. Thomas of Aquino elaborated in detail. In it, he says that it is absurd and weak.

But what exactly is the problem with this reasoning of Johann? Primarily, he posits things which he thinks are already given. These are a priori things that he contends. The mere fact that faith is borne in the person is already something internal that becomes subjective, and, hence, particular for that unique person. On what ground does this faith is born is something which limits the essay. Since positing it this way, Johann exposes his reasons of such faith to doubt, thereby weakening it by having nothing to anchor it beyond itself. You cannot ground a thing on something that in the first place has not been defined but posited as something a priori.

Furthermore, he contends that what makes faith vivified is in the mere apparent evidence of moral order that is inherent in the world. A moral order that both a believer and a non-believer have to acknowledge because it exists. There is not a contradiction to this claim because order that is morally governed exists in the temporal sphere as evidenced in the way human beings have always categorized a hierarchy of goods. Even in the most brute men in history, a certain organization of society rooted in some form of laws and basic instructions animated by the inherent desire of it. It would be almost ignorant of someone not to have acknowledged in and among the great civilizations of the world the inherent character of man to order and systems. That is why man achieves something out from his systematic approach to reality in which he lives.

If then man is finite and himself has limitations, then it could do no well to infer that what is particular can be transposed as absolute. The intrinsic value of subjectivity is exaggerated to include a claim higher than itself. The imposed boundary upon singular apprehension of an external world does not mean that it runs true through the whole.

However, this apparency of moral order does not have any intrinsic value of inferring an existence of God. It can only subserve a premise of a logical order of the world that becomes obvious to the eyes of men. It could be that apart from any substantive arguments in favor of God the systems of laws identified in the world could just well be a part of its own existence as it is its own creation itself. In fact and in form, the reality of this temporal sphere is always double edged, depending on which perspective you view reality.