“There is something which must be done,” writes the philosopher Fichte. …“And for this purpose only am I here. To know it, I have understanding. To perform it, I have power.”
But how does one know what one is here to do? Fichte believes (according to my interpretation of Robert Adamson’s interpretation of Fichte’s thought) we must let conscience be our guide. What we both will and feel good about doing, we should do. “That which conscious demands of me in this particular situation in life,” writes Fichte, “it is mine to do.” Changing standards of societal expectations are not what determine the morality of our actions. Doing what we are here to do is always the moral choice.
Morality is basically a side-effect occurring when one fulfills one’s destiny. We are not, as has been argued for millennia, born with a sense of right and wrong. Instead, by becoming more aware of our vocation by continuous effort, Fichte believes that we become moral over our lifetime. Our “true final aim” is “obedience to the law of conscience.”
The material purpose of our efforts is not the point. That which drives us toward our destiny– our Will– is determined beyond the sensory world. “I am member of two orders,” states Fichte. “The one, purely Spiritual” … “the other, sensuous.” The first order is the domain of the Will. The second, of the Deed. “The Earthly purpose is not pursued by me for its own sake alone,” he says, but for the purposes of the Spiritual order. As the Will attempts to fulfill its purpose in the Spiritual realm, we see the results manifested in the physical realm as the Self endeavoring to manipulate the world.
Thus, for Fichte, it is not knowledge but action which is the purpose of existence. Life does not exist as a completed fact, but as a process. It’s not so much about Being as Becoming. “There is nothing enduring either out of me or in me,” observes Fichte, “but only a ceaseless change.”
We would be going about our vocations without a whole lot of angst, if not for the fact that our Wills have become conscious due to their bumping up against resistance. According to Fichte, resistance is the source of consciousness. It is when the Will encounters resistance that the concept of “Other” is born. Thus, it can be said that Ego and non-Ego are birthed simultaneously and are mutually determinable.
If all were as one with our Will, the concept of “Other” or non-Ego would be transcended, become meaningless. Fichte contends that, in fact, the Ego, or sense of Self, is only conscious of its activity when that activity is restricted.
On the other hand, in some of his writings, Fichte speaks of the ability of the Self to recognize itself in the act of its willing. In this frame of mind, Fichte presents the realization of the Ego of itself as occurring in three parts: 1) the awareness of the impulse of the Will, 2) the awareness of its own activity in the world, and 3) the awareness of resistance.
Fichte believes that the sensory world we perceive– the realm of the Deed, as opposed to the Spiritual realm of the Will– is filtered through consciousness. It is consciousness which breaks the world down, separating it and giving it an incalculable number of objects with borders and other characteristics. He seems to agree with Kant, however, that the sensible, consciousness-filtered world and the supersensible world share a common root.
What we experience via our conscious mind as “knowledge” is not Reality directly, but a REPRESENTATION of Reality. We do not see the real landscape, but a PICTURE of the landscape. “I myself am one of these pictures,” says Fichte. “Nay, I am not even this, but merely a confused picture of the pictures.”