Fichte: From Nature to Freedom (System of Ethics §§ 9-13:)

Allen W.Wood Stanford University Fichte’s overall aim in the Second Chapter of the System of Ethics is to derive the applicability of the moral principle he has deduced in the First Chapter. That principle was: To determine one’s freedom solely in accordance with the concept of selfdetermination (SW IV:59).1 To show that this principle can be applied is to derive its application from the conditions of free agency in which we find ourselves. In the section of the Second Chapter that will concern us, Fichte attempts to do this starting with our awareness of ourselves as organic beings of nature (as deduced in §§ 4-8), and deriving from this awareness our consciousness of the moral principle as an activity of our freedom, together with the general object of this activity, our interest in this activity, and some preliminary indications of the way we are to identify the particular objects and actions that fall under it. (The formal character of moral volition will be further explored in the first section of the Third Chapter, while the material of this volition is to be determined in the second and third sections.) It is important to keep in mind that throughout this discussion, Fichte’s concern is not with deducing philosophical propositions from the transcendental standpoint (as was done in the First Chapter) but rather with comprehending, in the light of this, the standpoint of everyday or nonphilosophical consciousness. The aim will therefore be to help us recognize the transcendental source and estimate the significance for moral philosophy of such ordinary facts of practical consciousness as drive (Trieb), desire (Begehren), the ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ faculties of desire, our awareness of freedom.
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