Issue #57 November 2022

Negativity and Aletheia of Being in Fichte

James Whistler - "Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights" - (1872)

“On a particular occasion I divided the science of knowledge into two main parts; one, which is the doctrine of reason and truth; the second, which is a doctrine of appearance and illusion, but one which is indeed true and is grounded in truth.”

— Fichte: W-L 1804, Lecture 15, pp 115

What do Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel have in common? Schelling’s late system is a break with idealism, Hegel’s philosophy is absolute idealism par excellence, and Fichte in this trio is taken to be the subjective idealist who was transcended by both Schelling and Hegel after the latter have revealed the one-sidedness of the Wissenschaftslehre (Science of Knowledge). But that narrative can only hold as long as we keep our sights on Fichte’s early works during his Jena period. What about late Fichte, the Fichte of the 1800s? This Fichte remains unexplored still, the Fichte who proudly proclaimed himself an absolute idealist in 1804 and declared his philosophy as the culmination of all philosophy in his Religionslehre (Science of Religion).

One of the things these three philosophers have in common is the quite consistent usage of Schein not only as an important metaphor, but also as a way of explaining their respective methods in ontological terms. In the Phenomenology, for Hegel every shape of consciousness is Schein insofar as each moment shines in its truth but also as illusory and something to be transcended; essentially the truth shines through that which is illusory, but the illusory itself is a necessary moment in order to reach the Truth. In the Phenomenology, the shining is sublative, insofar as sublation itself has connotations with uplifting, or raising something in its truth to Heaven. The transcendence of shapes of consciousnesses is linked to the movement beyond the previous limits posited by previous shapes of consciousnesses through succeeding shapes, which do so through immanently recognizing that the previous limits were already transcended through their positing. This is why Schein is also connected to preservation and something appearing, or shining in its true, immanent form. In other words, Spirit as self-alienating (no separation between form and content: self-referring negativity) is “shining”. When Hegel uses Schein in the Phenomenology, it is both “shining” as illusory and the shining that is truthful behind the apparent and inherent to the apparent itself, which is Spirit itself as self-alienating pointing beyond itself, back to itself. Kant’s way of thinking Schein as simply illusion has long since vanished among the German Idealists.

What about Fichte? Does he, like Schelling and Hegel, use the same kind of vocabulary? He does, especially with his turning to the theme of transcendental seeing and manifest-ness that begins already in the later works of the Jena period but really achieves their maturity in the early 1800s, particularly in the 1804 lectures. What this essay will focus on in particular is the connection between Fichte’s Being with negativity and shining.


From Jena to Berlin

The major shift of Fichtean philosophy post-Jena is the inclusion of the Absolute into the system: (Pure) Light, or Being qua Being. One of Fichte’s most daunting tasks was to provide a deduction of the intelligible, or, as he called it, the spirit world, which would mean the completion of his system. It is for this reason he viewed his Jena works as incomplete; he remarks this just as well to Schelling in their infamous correspondence which culminated in the breaking apart of the two philosophers. ”Why does the Infinite Absolute appear finite to finite beings?” was the primary question for Fichte. The root of the very is, the genetic middle term between the subject and the predicate, sensible and supersensible was lacking in early Fichte. His middle (1801-1807) and late phases (1807-1813) are devoted to providing such a middle term. For this reason, just as in his Jena phase, Fichte’s position is that a true philosophy is a philosophy of philosophy. Fichte is not interested in a philosophy that grounds science but a philosophy that is its own ground and is capable of grounding itself. However, Fichte’s ruminations on the Absolute necessitated one more significant shift from Kantian transcendental idealism, already also present in his Jena phase. One such major shift is that Fichte re-formulates what is thinking; it cannot be reduced to judgements in the Kantian manner. Rather, for Fichte there is a more originary, primordial form. What he’s aiming at is the pragmatic history of activities inherent to the I which constitute the given as appearing/manifestation. This is why for him the true, original formula is instead: being–vision. The primary aim of the Wissenschaftslehre therefore is to grasp the given as a result of a genesis that made it appear, manifest into being.

Going against Kant, Fichte believes that the categories themselves must be deduced through a higher genetic principle. The categories are created by and through the activities thanks to which consciousness itself comes to be a term along with beings. This means not only that these activities inhere to the I/Concept but they also produce the Concept, since their source resides in the Absolute. We shall see that Fichte not only dispenses with representationalism, but also goes beyond subject-object distinction as well as consciousness itself. The examination of consciousness does not result in judgements of what is legitimate or illegitimate – this is secondary and derivative – but seeing of the activities which inhere in the way beings as beings appear not only to the seeing I, but as manifestations as such. This is Fichte’s turn to transcendental seeing. Therefore, Fichtean phenomenology is not a descriptive phenomenology of the sensible beings/objects themselves, but the way they appear. This “way” itself, out of which beings spring forth and appear as beings for Fichte is Being itself. Being, or the Absolute, is the immediate pure appearing to itself; appearance that appears by appearing to itself which in doing so retroactively discloses the hiddenness of itself in its appearing. This is the true meaning of the Fichtean formula: being as being (als). The notion of hiddenness of the Absolute to itself will be explained later. What is important now is this as, and that it is for this reason that Fichte’s philosophy can said to be, as will be shown throughout the essay, a philosophy of Being qua Being.

This is why Fichte’s focus turns to phenomenology, manifestness-seeing and the way of appearing as such. Thanks to this, new key concepts were introduced, most prominently the concept of Light. During the Jena period, the Light was more related to the seeing of the I and the activities inherent to the I which constitute the given as appearing. First introduced in the Wissenschaftslehre Nova Methodo from 1796-9, in his middle phase (1800-7) it becomes the key cornerstone of his thought. In the late system the term Light is connected to two essential aspects of his system. Most notably these are the Absolute in its essence, as pure esse – Pure Light, and the Absolute outside of itself as existential and coming to existence: absolute Light (or Divine Da-sein/primordial Concept/Image of Being) in its 1804/5 iteration. The Absolute Light is the very is, hence the is and light are interchangeable, produced by the pure Light itself. The implications of this coming to existence, and the changing of Absolute’s essence in its coming out of itself is what we’re going to focus on in particular. What needs to be explained in this self-manifesting of reality and appearance to itself is what is the proper difference between the manifesting of Being qua Being and beings qua beings.

The Fichtean philosophy begins from reflexivity and posits the following assumption: the One (primordial Concept) splits into Being and Thinking (Concept). The Fichtean path is the retracing back of the multiplicity back to the One, conceiving the relationship between the two as reciprocal. The goal is to arrive at oneness which illuminates multiplicity, explaining multiplicity’s proceeding from its ontological ground (Fichte 1804: 24). Fichte explains his reasoning this way: prior to Kant, philosophies posited the Absolute in Being, therefore in the in-itself, while it was Kant’s and transcendental idealism’s great achievement to point out that all being posits a thinking of itself, so that being became one half of a whole along with thought of it. When one thinks of an object, one finds the object and its representation, and as thinking changes through thinking different objects and representations, since thinking is thinking of being (mediation), knowing throughout this remains self-identical and hence is always already in complete abstraction from objectivity (=transcendental seeing). Absolute, pure Oneness cannot then reside in either term isolated from the other but in their indivisibility. The knowledge of this principle-absolute oneness is pure knowing, which the absolute oneness is itself (knower=known) as the in and for itself. Fichte also calls this the “knowledge of nothing’”, due to the fact it is not knowledge of any particular thing or being, since in that case divisibility is already assumed. Pure Oneness is Being qua Being – nothing or no-thing.


Light and Negation

What is key here for Fichte is that by positing this assumption, the system presupposes that this movement of retracing is possible and that its fulfilment will be able to explain the conditions of the genesis of the given. Moreover, this source is internal to each act of reflection. The key aspect that has to be kept in mind here is that this presupposition is posited by, and through reflection. The problematic aspect of reflection is that for Fichte reflection is posited, but this positing cannot be explained by reflection itself. Under present conditions, reflection has not immanently self-produced itself. Reflection can only posit this fact, of being posited, as not having posited it. This will have important consequences for the very assumption it posits as well. Given the above, the presupposition likewise cannot be genuinely posit itself as the presupposition through its own self-genesis because it takes place within reflection. The presupposition is posited, but as that which was assumed since it cannot produce itself. In doing so the One is rendered factical, meaning that it is not self-sufficient and thereby reflects reflection’s own inability in relation to itself. The only way reflection will be able to explain itself is if, in deriving itself transcendentally, it posits the pure incomprehensible One beyond its own movement whose expression would thereby be negation of the Concept. This is why in general the movement is directed toward higher immanence of the terms in order to reach the pure One which is absolutely immanent so that the presupposition is purified of reflection. Of course this path is a double-edged sword, for if the presupposition is totally purified not only the starting assumption but the Concept also will be negated. In other words, to put it inversely, the Concept negates itself and that is the expression of pure Light thus self-sufficient Absolute is posited as self-sufficient and that is its form; what is to be its content has to immanently unfold. The pure Light shines forth as absolute manifestness to the Concept, while the Concept recognizes that it is an illusion due to lack of self-sufficiency. But all the Concept sees is its own imminent dissolution. Fichte’s goal through the whole Wissenschaftslehre is not to lose either the Pure Light or Concept.

The above dilemma, in turn, reflects Fichte’s way of approaching Kant in his middle period. Because Kant was not able to provide the grounding of reflexivity, he remained within its movement and the Kantian Absolute was rendered factical, and not even of the highest kind.1placeholder For Fichte, the Kantian Absolute was the link-transition between the supersensible and the sensible words but it was not their true, immanent bond since it was simply the principle of divisibility – it just divided into two terms. In other words, Kant did not conceive the union of being and thinking in its pure self-sufficiency or in and for itself and rendered it common property of two terms. Fichte here is referring to one of Kant’s key statements in the Introduction to the Critique of Judgement, where Kant stated that the sensible (being, appearances) and the supersensible (morality, thinking) worlds must come together in a common but wholly unknown root (Fichte 1804: 32). Due to it being unknown, that One cannot posit that it is self-producing in the sense of having posited itself as the presupposition immanently with respect to its content. Therefore for Fichte it is only a synthesis post factum (Fichte 1804: 37). That which is pure/unchangeable changeable itself (factical One) is not pure/unchangeable unchangeableness (pure One), and the former has to be derived from the latter. It is in recognizing this problem that for Fichte pure knowing is revealed to be between pure oneness and multiplicity. But if pure knowing is conceived separate from pure oneness, we fall into the same problem again. What has to be proven therefore, as already alluded to above, is the unity of pure oneness and pure knowing.

Despite all of this, it is not evident how Fichte plans to do this. Fichte’s incorporation of the incomprehensible Absolute only seems to prove Kant right. To move beyond the limits is to gain nothing but destruction, and Reason is to voyage endlessly for the final answer it is never meant to find.

“We have now not only traveled through the land of pure understanding, and carefully inspected each part of it, but we have also surveyed it, and determined the place for each thing in it. This land, however, is an island, and enclosed in unalterable boundaries by nature itself. It is the land of truth (a charming name), surrounded by a broad and stormy ocean, the true seat of illusion, where many a fog bank and rapidly melting iceberg pretend to be new lands and, ceaselessly deceiving with empty hopes the voyager looking around for new discoveries, entwine him in adventures from which he can never escape and yet also never bring to an end. But before out on this sea, to search through all its breadth and become certain of whether there is anything to hope for in it, it will be useful first to cast yet another glance at the map of the land that we would now leave, and to ask, first, whether we could not be satisfied with what it contains, or even must be satisfied with it out of necessity, if there is no other ground on which we could build”’ (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A235/B294 – A236/B295).

Fichte seems to promise to be able to bridge the gap Kant elucidates above by bringing forth the pure One that was always already implicit in Kant’s work. But by pointing out that this One, the Nothing of the Concept is posited and that the only quality this Beyond has and can have is incomprehensibility immanently introduced into it by Concept/Knowing, it only seems to confirm Kant’s suspicions. It can only be that which is outside of the Concept and thanks to which the Concept knows its limits, which would be an admission that Kant was right; all that lies beyond the island is a land of illusion. Nonetheless, there is already a major shift in the very questioning itself, since Fichte’s lesson here is that Kant was not aware of the pure, self-sufficient One and that it is precisely this negativity that is immanent to the Concept. In other words, what is beyond the island is not a land of illusion, but land of pure oneness that is implicit in the Concept. This is an extremely crucial point for Fichte: that the pure One is implicit and its expression is negation means that the Concept can only know this pure One as the incomprehensible, contrary to the divisible One, and that whenever the Concept tries to reach for the pure One before it is seen into it must be immanently posited by the Concept as incomprehensible. Because of this, negativity is not outside of the Concept but rather internal to its being and the pure One can be immanent to the Concept only as incomprehensible or negativity. Concept is to be posited so that it can be negated by, since that is the expression of Light. Therefore one sees into (eingesehen) that pure knowing is the oneness of both Pure Light and Concept. On the other hand, if one abstracts from the inconceivability, one is left only with the immediate manifestness of the pure Light’s self-sufficiency as its form. As alluded to above, we can only see the incomprehensible as incomprehensible – what it is itself is not still seen since insight has not still reached to the root of the inconceivable. What must be thought therefore is the Light in relationship with the pure changeableness as principle of disjunction so that one is not only stuck at the manifestness of the One. So what is Pure Light and what does the oneness of Light and Concept entail? The question is of essential importance, because it touches upon a singular issue which would be the focus of both Schelling and Hegel, the latter in particular – namely, the issue of self-referring negativity.

James Whistler - "Nocturne in Black and Gold - The Falling Rocket" - (c.1875)


What is incredibly important for Fichte now is that insight into the oneness of Pure Light and Concept, due to the movement of negation above, means that it is not the immediate bearer of Pure Light’s manifestness. Insight is always in relation to Light and it is that which objectifies it through the positing and negating of the Concept. In other words, Light is not immediately in the insight itself, for that would mean insight and Light fully correlate but only mediately as a likeness of itself (Fichte 1804: 45). Light is, therefore the Concept is posited and negated. As a result of this, an important insight appears; the principle of disjunction that has emerged entails something that remains inwardly self-same through its division due to the difference between pure Light and its likeness in insight. In other words we have now reached the pure Light as the sole focus and in-sight is now between absolute oneness and multiplicity. Light shows and shines forth through its own self-sufficiency and for the Concept now not only as negated, but as posited vitality of Light itself: appearance (Fichte 1804: 53).

But even if we have reached the in-sight, this in-sight is still factical and not self-producing. Namely, what was contained in the likeness of Light? If it is a representative then what must be in it is something imaged on the basis of a posited image, and an image on the basis of posited imaged (Fichte 1804: 63). Therefore, we do not have yet absolute oneness, since what we have here is two terms. Additionally, what is unknown as of yet is what is imaged in the image and vice versa. The absolute validity of this insight is negated and pure Light emerges once more in pure intuition. As a result of this, the ground is retroactively disclosed; now insight is between what was formerly taken to be insight and pure Light. If the former insight was that we had acquired likeness of light (image-imaged), we now see that this is primordial Concept’s content (Fichte 1804: 64). This means that the Concept has always had self-subsisting content and is in fact disclosed as that which is more original than the Light itself, as this Concept as the posited presupposition is the original source from which everything apparent, in its original disjunction into Being and Thinking, comes forth from. Containing the image and imaged, the true primordial Concept is through-one-another as Reason of understanding or oneness of duality, being and thinking. Its originality, even in comparison to the as of now Pure Light, lies in the fact that it was immanently posited as a presupposition and not taken formally as the former. Concept up to now was something to be simply negated and which had no intrinsic content, but now this is no longer the case. However, where there are still terms, even in an unity, this is still not pure Oneness and the relationship between this One and the primordial Concept is not yet disclosed. But if the Concept’s essence is as the through, then it is also clear that absolute oneness can also only be explained through itself and that such a path has disclosed itself now as always already having been possible, importance of which we’ll see in relation to negation of negation. The last ascent is therefore at hand; from oneness, original disjunction to pure oneness, pure identity.

When the primordial Concept is itself negated, as it also is not truly self-sufficient in the sense we have been looking for, what takes place in insight? Here we must pay close attention to the text, in particular the paragraphs when Fichte focuses on the realisation of the differentiation between the Concept and Pure Light.

“That the light lives absolutely through itself must mean: it splits itself absolutely into Being and Thinking. But absolutely through itself also means independent of any insight into itself(=absolute self-sufficiency: my insertion) and absolutely negating the possibility of insight (posited incomprehensible). Nevertheless…. we have seen, and had insight into, the fact that this light splits itself into B and T: consequently this split as such no longer resides in the light, as we had thought, but in the insight into the light. …The inward life of the light itself in pure identity, from itself, out of itself, through itself without any split; a life which exists only in immediate living, and has itself, and nothing else. ”It lives”; and thus it will live, and appear, and otherwise no path leads to it.–

“Good, but can you not provide me with a description of it?”

“Very good, and I have given it to you; it is precisely what cannot be realised, what remains behind after the completely fulfilled insight which penetrates to the root, and therefore what should exist through itself.”

“How then do you arrive at these predicates of what cannot be realised-i.e., is not to be constructed from disjunctively related terms as being is from thinking and vice versa – predicates such as “it is what remains behind after the insight”, or that which “ought to exist through itself”, qualities which are the content or the reality that you have claimed to deduce fundamentally?”

Manifestly only by negation of the insight: hence all these predicates, leading with the most powerful – absolute substance – are only negative criteria, in themselves null and void. “Then your system begins with negation and death?” By no means; rather it pursues death all the way to its last resort in order to arrive at life. This lies in the light that is one with reality, and reality opens up in it...” (Fichte 1804: 71).

The insight in question reaches to the root of Pure Light, and what occurs in it is the opening of reality. While Fichte says we are negated because Pure Light is not accessible to insight and this is methodologically correct, he in fact states later that this is in fact highest affirmation (Fichte: 81). Why? Pure Light remains inconceivable, but in seeing to the root of Pure Light what opens up is the reality itself, which lies in the Light, and Light is always already with this reality. Being is that which fundamentally lives and appears, and so this world is nothing but Light. This means that insight is Light’s external existence itself in the Concept, which as imaged=image is the sensible world, the very reality and its content from inside pure One itself. Instead of losing ourselves fully in the One, as was feared in the beginning, we had only regained ourselves, all this moreover taking place in Pure Light itself. More importantly, this process entailed not only the negation of Concept, but also what we had assumed pure Light to be thus far – formal self-sufficiency. The Concept was not lost because the pure One that had been posited as formal self-sufficiency was also negated–negation of negation and the true pure One had disclosed itself as the presupposition that posited itself. We see now that Pure Light, although remaining inconceivable, has self-sufficiency because it is immanently posited through the self-constructing of the primordial Concept itself, unlike in the beginning where we had ungrounded reflexivity and formal Light (Fichte 1804: 81). Pure Light, as the producer of the ”is”, is Being and Life, purely immediate and appearing and therein consists of its inner life. For Fichte, we who live in the act of living itself are therefore this pure Light itself. In losing ourselves, we have regained ourselves; Pure Light has appeared through affirming the Concept, which was always already retroactively achieved. In the reality that manifests, the Concept as affirmed is the middle term disclosing reality revealed to it, which it is itself as disclosure of Pure Light itself, into objective intuition. The movement, up to this point, has immanently reached its end. The speculative movement admits its ground in this alethic culmination. This is why Fichte himself states of the Concept that:

“The Concept finds its limits, conceives itself as limited, and its completed self-conceiving is the conceiving of this limit. The limit, which no one will transgress, even without any request or command from us, it recognizes exactly; and beyond it lies the one, pure living light; insight points therefore beyond itself to life, or experience… to that experience which alone contains something new: to a divine life” (Fichte 1804: 72).

For this reason, the insight into the Pure Light is not simply the methodological unconcealment of the Light but also the ontological unconcealment of the Truth itself through, and immanent to the path toward reaching the Truth. But is that the whole story?


Negativity and Aletheia

The primordial Concept or Absolute Light is appearance of pure Light, or appearance of appearance from which factical beings spring forth, which are appearance of appearance of appearance. If we go back to the formulation of the Absolute as the appearance appearing to itself, I/Concept and Being (sensible world) as two terms in the primordial Concept(=Reason) are now grasped as genetic products the Absolute produces in order to appear. In this sense, these terms are produced by appearance which, through the vision of the I that sees itself as seeing in seeing objects and differentiating itself from them (self–consciousness), appears to itself as appearance. If we refer back to this distinction between I and objective world having in mind the Concept as the unity of its two internally differentiated aspects that are nonetheless the same, for Fichte then the I always already must have an intuition of itself as the seeing through which appearance appears to itself. So vision of the I is not against beings, but as absolute self-consciousness/knowledge: the unity of the seeing and the seen. With the above in mind, let’s go back to the insight again – when reality was revealed in Light, this always already presupposed the Concept as the through to which this disclosed reality was revealed to, this reality being immanent to the Concept and then projected into objectivity. In other words genesis is also seeing because the primordial Concept’s self-cognition is through the I (self-consciousness) which is itself seeing (Fichte 1804: 157). But after Concept/Absolute Light what about Pure Light itself? Where does it stand? This is where we have to explain the other part of the definition of the appearance appearing to itself as also retroactively disclosing its own hiddenness to it.

If Pure Light/Life/Being is that which is in itself, of itself and through itself, that means it negates all insight (in itself; it cannot be conceived, and is essentially independent self-creating Truth), it is that from which existence originates from, namely it posits primordial Concept/Absolute Light/Existence itself: genesis–seeing (of itself – Light permeates the Concept and internal disjunction originates from here) and it posits itself in Absolute Light (through itself–just like it posits genesis, genesis immanently posits the Absolute; no longer as the simple ‘’inconceivable’’ but as its true ground–positing of presuppositions). However, all of this takes place without Pure Light ever becoming visible. As Fichte himself says on the matter: “God only reveals itself as the one who never reveals itself. If he could ever enter entirely as it is into the phenomena, they would be over… It is only God’s immediate drive, which will never be realised, to be the root of our apparent existence, that guarantees the infinity of this apparent existence of ours” (Fichte: WL-1807, GA II/10, 171-172).

When Fichte says here “God”, he means Pure Light itself. Pure Light revealed itself as the ground of the Concept, and returned the Concept to itself through Concept’s own self-construction since Light is the presupposition that posits itself, but disclosure of reality in Pure Light does not mean that Pure Light is itself revealed. The full transition from essence to existence cannot be an object of proof, due to absolute immanence of the former. On the other hand, while Absolute Light consists of terms, as Reason that unites the understanding it is not inconceivable like the former. Aside from being the Absolute’s Manifestation, it is Being outside of Being conceived as beingness of beings (I and the world). But this does not mean that for Fichte there are two worlds, the transcendent in the classical metaphysical sense and the sensuous. There is only one world, only God for Fichte – one point that Fichte emphasizes throughout the 1804 Wissenschaftslehre is that Being can never go outside of itself, and that there is nothing outside of Being. Therefore, Absolute Light is God and not God. As a result, Pure Light is not the beingness of beings since no category can be ascribed to it and it cannot be reduced to the Concept. Since it is absolute immanence, and Existence is not, Pure Light cannot fully enter this world – the transition from essence to existence can never be fully realised, but existence is nonetheless actual. Even though reality manifests, Pure Light for all of the reasons above is that which is revealed to be self-concealing while unconcealing the reality that opens up in it.

This is why, aside from the unconcealment of reality in the Light, the higher Light remains hidden; through insight we see into the Pure Light, but what is revealed is the One which never reveals itself and is by necessity self-concealing. The Wissenschaftslehre concludes by revealing the Absolute which remained hidden to the speculative movement that the Absolute grounded, thanks to which (namely the revealing of the Absolute as this ground) this movement or development came back to itself. But due to the fact that Pure Light is immanently beyond the Concept, reflection is therefore a subordinate element of the Science of Knowing whereas its ground and true culmination is Love, namely the love of God toward his Existence, his absolute revelation which is reality itself. As Fichte would say in the Religionslehre:

“Love is therefore higher than all Reason; it is itself the fountain of Reason and the root of Reality… Love, as it is the source of all Truth and Certainty generally, so is the source of completed Truth in the actual man and his life. Completed Truth is Science, and the element of Science is Reflexion. Just as Science (=Existence, my insertion) becomes clear to itself as the Love of the Absolute, and comprehends this Absolute, as it necessarily must, lying beyond all Reflexion and inaccessible to it in any possible form…” ((Fichte 1806: 190; my emphasis).

The transition from reflection to aletheia is provided and the original question: “Why does the Infinite Absolute appear finite to finite beings” is answered. The reconciliation between thought and world is complete, but this can only take place if beforehand the Absolute has hidden itself in order to allow for Existence. Because Fichte is a panentheist, what this means for him is that there is a structural hidden-ness or a non-transparency inherent to reality itself. If beingness of beings is the Concept, the appearance of beings qua beings in this world always discloses the inherent hidden-ness of the way from which beings, or Existence as such, appear forth. This is also where the fundamental transition from theoretical to practical Reason occurs for Fichte as the Absolute is the unity of the theoretical and practical Reason. Theory proves that there is an irreducible remainder immanent to it which is the concealment of Light itself. To that effect theory is eks-tactical insofar as it immanently dissolves itself by arriving to the One who is beyond it from inside the One; theory does not dissolve itself because the One is far too away from it but because it concludes that the impossibility of fully knowing the Absolute is immanent to it. But practical Reason or Love, as the presupposition of theoretical Reason that posited itself and is pure energeia, reveals God’s radically immediate openness is not made out of strife between oneness and multiplicity but out of Love; Being qua Being, Light is that which is fundamentally eks-tatic itself insofar as it maintains himself in its other while not reducing it to it and is by virtue of this in repose with itself. For Fichte, the incompleteness of theory (the inability to fully disclose Light’s presence to itself) is in turn what completes it, since theory as reflection as consciousness goes outside of itself and immanently finds fulfillment in Love. This is why the act of living itself is to be Pure Light and how the ascent to Fichtean absolute knowledge ends; from negativity into the hidden Light. Absolute Light or Knowledge, the I and this world are by nature shining; appearances which point beyond themselves to the self-concealing God. But they are also God Himself, his true Manifestation, or as Fichte called them in his lectures of ethics in 1812, a miracle. Unconcealed manifestation that flows forth like pure energeia from a hidden source, the Light itself is the higher shining that lets this miracle be – for that is love as the fountain of Reason.

“In the beginning, before all Time, and the absolute creator of all Time, is Love; and Love is in God for it is his own act whereby he maintains himself in Existence; and Love is itself God–God is in it, and forever abides in it, as he is in himself. By it and from it, as the fundamental Substance of all Existence, are, by means of living Reflexion (=primordial Concept, my insertion), all things made,… and dwells among us, and if we will, we may behold forever before our eyes its glory, as the glory of the Eternal necessary Effluence of the Godhead” (Fichte 1806: 191).

Jovan Mitić is an undergraduate student studying history at Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. His research interests include cultural and intellectual history, particularly Byzantium and German Idealism.

Works Cited

J.G. Fichte, The Science of Knowing: J. G. Fichte’s 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre, translated with an introduction and notes by Walter E. Wright, State University of New York Press, 2005.

J.G. Fichte, The way towards the blessed life; or, The doctrine of religion, translation by W. Smith, John Chapman 142, London, 1849.


In other words, it is not even the self-sufficient Concept which will be shown later not to be the pure One. This is because it cannot cognize itself through the return of the I as Light back to itself as the Concept; in other words, it is not self-referring but simply a principle of division. He runs a blog on wordpress called Byzantium and German Idealism.


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