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~Wissenschaftslehre and ~ Staatslehre in Fichte`s late writings

Gaetano Rametta (Padova)

The sun came up upon the leIt
Out oI the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
1. Wissenschaftslehre

When we try to explain the development oI philosophers such as Fichte, we have to deal with
special problems. On the one hand, we know that Fichte always asserted the identity oI his
philosophy. On the other hand, the various expositions oI the WL are very diIIerent Irom each
other, that at Iirst sight they seem to have in common little more than the name oI their author. It is
true that the structural diIIerences can`t protect the permanent and steady core oI Fichte`s
philosophy Irom a thorough analysis. Yet Fichte`s selI-interpretation raises some questions. II we
accept his opinion, we could be inclined to consider the Iorm oI the exposition as a kind oI
linguistic and conceptual surIace without any importance in comparison with the essential truth,
which would stand 'in depth behind any particular Darstellung. But then, we could ask why Fichte
kept on writing so many diIIerent kinds oI exposition? He worked on the Iorm oI the Darstellung
till his last days: should we not take this Iact seriously? I think, we should try to explain the identitv
oI the WL in a diIIerent way, as an identity not independent from, but self-revealing through the
multiciplicity oI expositions.
In Iact, each one oI them points out beyond itselI because (at least by principle) it is a selI-suIIicient
and accomplished whole. First oI all, insoIar as any exposition represents a circular accomplished
system, it reIers implicitly to liIe outside the system. Philosophy as a whole implies that thinking
has been brought to an end as a theoretical activity. We have exhausted the perimeter oI pure
'speculation, and we become aware that the real substance oI our existence cannot be Iound in
'theory (Lehre) any more. Fichte explains this in the exposition oI 1807, when he asserts that the
'daughter oI the WL is the 'Wisdom (Weisheit), that is, the ability to use selI-awareness acquired
through philosophy in each one`s liIe and action. But in this case, there is no possibility oI
mathematical deduction Irom theory to practice: any single man must reIer back to his own
responsibility in existence. Only in this case the WL has been understood not as a simple 'theory
among others, but as the revelation oI a totally 'new world Ior Ireedom and creation. That basic
structure explains the reason why the superior disciplines oI philosophy, such as Sittenlehre,
Religionslehre and Wissenschaftslehre, seem to merge into each other in late Fichte.
But philosophy is selI-transcending also in the Iollowing, purely theoretical sense. LiIe is not the
same as it was beIore the exposition came into existence. There is no 'naked liIe any more, liIe is
no more what it was in its pre-philosophical purety. It has been redoubled through conceptual
reIlection. So, it is by principle impossible Ior liIe to be repeated once again in that same Iorm oI
exposition. LiIe has grown richer and richer, because a new kind oI understanding has been added
to it. In that plus oI reIlection we Iind the root oI the Fichtean 'inIinity. 'InIinity means either the
unending movement oI the philosophical exposition through its diIIerent forms, or the unceasing
process oI Absolute`s appearing in life. But no appearance can ever take place without the subject`s
transcendental consciousness. In this case, there would be no eve to see the appearance as
appearance, so there would not be any appearance at all.
It is very diIIicult indeed to stress enough the importance oI the idea oI vision, or insight (Einsicht)
in the late Fichte. This is so true, that he points explicitly to the link between the philosophical
insight as an act oI the knowing subject, and the aspect oI reality which constitutes the content oI
that vision, namely the idea conceived as a sight (Gesicht).
The bind between the two raises the problem oI the alleged Fichtean platonism: is there such a
platonism in Fichte`s transcendental idealism? In this case, how could we deIine the diIIerence
between the two? Or, should that not be the case, what would expressions such as Einsicht and
Gesicht mean? Whatever answer we choose, the conceptual effects oI that connection would not
change. In any case, the transcendental philosophy would exalt the power oI the intelligence in
order to discover new articulations oI Being, to reveal reality in all its diIIerent aspects (which is
another possible translation oI Gesicht).
But what does 'discovery mean in this context? Should we not rather speak oI 'invention? In
Schopenhauer`s transcription oI his courses in 1811/12, Fichte reIlects at length on this point (see
A. Schopenhauer, Nachlass, vol. II, ed. Hbscher, Mnchen 1985, p. 19 II.). It seems that both
words express something essential to Fichte`s position. But, at the same time, each oI them seems
too narrow and thereIore misleading. The word 'discovery stresses too much the passivity oI the
subject, that is, its mere receptivity in Iront oI something given. However, the discoverer has much
more to do than simply to receive what reality transmits to him. In Fichte`s example, when Galileo
discovered the laws oI modern mechanics, he had to organize his observations according to a
speciIical method, which included rules oI selection, inclusion, connection. From the point oI view
oI natural science already, knowledge is only possible iI man exercises his ability oI thinking, that
is, iI he originally selects and re-organizes the empirical stuII oI his perceptions. In summa, no
discovery could ever take place without thinking creativelv on the side oI the subject.
On the other hand, the word 'invention seems to imply the use oI Ireedom without rules. But, iI
knowledge has to be true, it seems quite obvious that it must bring out some new dimension oI
Being, that it must increase our understanding oI the world. That is why Fichte dwells on metaphors
such as the 'lightning oI evidence, which 'grasps the man when he 'discovers a new truth. In
the Reden an die deutsche Nation (1808), Fichte Iounds the internal distinction oI the scholarly
class on this basis. At the top we Iind those 'spirits who open up new ways oI thinking, that is,
scientists and philosophers who discover some signiIicant aspect oI reality, which was 'hidden and
unknown beIore them, and which will constitute a new Ioundation Ior the development oI
knowledge in the Iuture. On the second level, we Iind the teachers who communicate and transmit
the discoveries oI those original and creative 'minds to the younger generation. In this way, the
cultural development and 'perIectioning oI mankind should be granted by the chain oI
discovering, teaching and learning. We shall come back to this point, Ior the Gelehrtenstand plays a
major role in the political conception oI the Staatslehre.
The link between the insight oI the subject and the discovery oI new ideas is the Iocal point oI
Fichte`s late thinking. The WL becomes more and more a theory oI intellectual and practical
creativity, a doctrine oI (the) 'intelligence (Jerstand) as a might oI creation. On these grounds, we
can distinguish 'transcendental philosophy both Irom the natural sciences and Irom a simple
theory oI the Subject. With regard to the Iirst point, we can go back to the example oI Galileo:
Galileo descovered the laws oI modern mechanics, and in so doing he revealed a new dimension Ior
human knowledge. But his thinking was exhausted in his immediate creativity: thereIore, he could
not reIlect on the meaning oI that creativity with regard to the constitution oI reality as Absolute`s
appearance. He certainly had the enormous merit oI having Iounded a new science, but he could not
get 'to the bottom oI his own discovery. I do not mean to discuss here iI this concept oI the
activity oI modern scientists is right or wrong: what seems important to me is Fichte`s opinion that
philosophy has to look both at the deepest roots oI mind`s creativity, and Ior its Iarthest
consequences on the human liIe.
But iI we try to inquire into the condition and eIIect oI the mind`s creativity we see the theory oI
reality as Absolute`s appearing in the world. Now, that is the crucial point in regard to the question,
iI the Theory oI Science is, or it is not, a simple version oI a theory oI the Subject.
We know the overwhelming spread oI Heidegger`s conception, according to which all modern
thinking should be centered on the pathological primacy oI human subjectivity. We also know that
Heidegger has indicated in the so-called German Idealism one oI the crucial moments in the
unIolding oI this movement through the history oI western metaphysics as a whole.
I do not wish to strain the interpretation here. I would just limit myselI to remark that Heidegger`s
interpretation cannot take the complex multiIormity oI German Classical Philosophy into account.
More speciIically, it cannot explain the mere presence oI such philosophers as the late Fichte. In the
last analysis, the transcendental theory oI mind`s creativity and originality is possible just because it
is not based upon the I as subject and ultimate principle oI Being and reality.
It is well known how Fichte was more and more inclined to consider his philosophy as a 'superior
kind oI Realism. This happened not only in consequence to the strong criticism against his Iirst
conception Irom Jacobi and others, but as an internal trend to the Irameworks oI the theory. What
does 'superior Realism mean? First oI all, I think, it means that philosophy has to recognize as its
Iirst Principle a kind oI Being which is larger and deeper than the subject, the consciousness, or the
I. That Principle has a value which is both ontological and epistemological. It operates and reveals
itselI through the I, but it cannot be exhausted neither in nor bv it. Furthermore, that Principle does
not coincide with an Ens oI a special kind, it is neither a 'Thing in itselI, nor an inIinite 'Subject
nor 'Person. Fichte has always rejected the concept oI God as a 'personal one. Rather, it is the
Real (das Reale) in what appears (erscheint) as an eIIective presence in the world (das Wirkliche).
Now, one cannot conceive that Real as something separate or detached Irom the movement oI
appearing; on the other hand, one cannot conceive the apperance as selI-suIIicient, Ior in this case
nothing would appear: with the consequence, that the appearance, as appearance oI nothing, would
destroy itselI as appearance.
That is the paradox in conceiving Fichte`s theory oI the Erscheinung. Without doubt, Erscheinung
means something positive, it aIIirms that there is 'something appearing in reality. In this sense, we
have a 'strong meaning oI Erscheinung as a maniIestation oI the Principle. But, at the same time,
one should conceive that maniIestation only stressing the difference between it and what appears in
it. The maniIestation oI the Absolute is always on the edge oI becoming nothing, and this occurs
when 'we (as thinking and living men) pretend to detach it Irom what reveals itselI through it. In
this case, we necessarily produce the selI-destruction oI the appearance and the retreat oI the
Absolute Irom reality. We would simply have at hand the Being in a dogmatic sense, as a complex
oI dead things and object.
For this reason, I would preIer to speak in terms oI 'appearance rather than in terms oI
'maniIestation. In my opinion, one can better express the ambiguity oI the term Erscheinung with
the word 'appearance. On the one hand, the WL points out that it is God that appears in the
appearing, and not simply nothing; but, on the other hand, it also stresses the Iact that the
appearance cannot claim to be completely independent. In this case, it would change into a Schein,
that is, in the appearing oI nothing, in an illusion oI reality without any reality.
Now, according to Fichte, we should try to understand ourselves as free, just because our
consciousness is at the center oI that implication between the Absolute and its appearance. We take
part in the Absolute which is not beyond ourselves, nor does it have to coincide with ourselves.
The bind in question is much wider than we are. For Fichte, God is the ground and principle oI all
our liIe, oI all our thinking and doing, just because we do not merge with it, even iI we are the only
'medium, the only 'through (Durch) in which the Principle appears.
The Absolute unIolds in a never ending process oI selI-maniIestation through consciousness. But in
order to understand this concept, we must break Irom any kind oI representational thinking
(Jorstellung). With the words oI Staatslehre, we should no more think in terms oI Being, but rather
in terms oI Becoming. But Becoming means creation, because its medium is the self-awareness oI
the I. Now, when Heidegger says that modern philosophy is metaphisycal because it conceives
Being in terms oI representation, we can see that his interpretation has nothing to do with Fichte`s
thinking. The movement oI apperance as Becoming oI reality through consciousness cannot be
positioned in-front-of the subject, because the subject is just a part of it. The I cannot put the Real
(das Reale) as an obfect in Iront oI himselI as a subject, because in this case he would destroy the
living connection between the Principle and its maniIestation. On the contrary, that is just the
consequence oI the representational thinking, which is ruled out by the transcendental philosophy.
The Theory oI Science oI 1807 explains this conception in a very eloquent manner. According to it,
the Absolute should not be expressed by a noun, but by means oI a verb. Yet, in this case we do not
have to confugate the Absolute in any particular person, because the Absolute is properlv no
person: it is neither I (Iirst person), nor Es (third person). The Absolute should be rather expressed
in an impersonal mood, namely in the infinitive. Fichte makes a pun with Leben, the german word
Ior LiIe, which indicates at once the noun and the inIinitive oI the verb. Then he employs the latin
language, stating that in order to understand his own theory oI the Abolute, one should use the
impersonal word vivere instead oI the simple noun vita.
I would like to make one last reIerence to the Exposition oI 1807. Here Fichte concentrates his
whole conception oI the appearance in one brieI Iormula. The Iormula is the Iollowing:

x A F U 5.

The letter 'x designates the 'LiIe as a living process oI appearing: but what does that mean
exactly? We Iind the solution oI this strange equation on the right side. The capital 'A indicates
the Absolute in its connection with the 'F Ior Freedom (Freiheit). Now, Irom the relationship
between the two starts an inIinite movement (the capital 'U Ior the german word Unendlichkeit),
which does not mean the same as the hegelian 'bad inIinity, but the creative becoming oI reality in
its diIIerent 'images (namely, the 'Iive major possibilities oI Iorming liIe, as conceived in
Fichte`s theory oI 'quintuplicity). But since all those images depend on the Iree activity oI the
consciousness, the I becomes the Iundamental medium Ior the maniIestation oI the Absolute. The
equation oI LiIe has been solved by the whole oI these moments in their reciprocal relations.

2. Staatslehre

From the equation above it results that the Theory oI Science starts Irom something that cannot be
logically derived. In Fichte`s words, it starts Irom an 'absolute Fact. At the beginning, the Iact in
question is nothing more than the unknown denoted by 'x; it will be revealed as 'LiIe
experienced in the appearance process at the end oI the exposition only.
Now, what is surprising in the Staatslehre (or at least, what was surprising Ior me, when I read the
text Ior the Iirst time), is that the 'absolute Fact in question is not simply the appearing, nor the I:
the Iact in question is Christ. Christ appears as a non deducible presupposition, Irom which point
only philosophy can reach the comprehension oI History as a whole. It is only since Christ that
history can be understood as a tendence towards the realisation oI a Iundamental aim, that
philosophy can organize the comprehension oI mankind`s existence on earth in terms oI intellectual
development and moral selI-improvement. For this reason, the Staatslehre seems to abandon the
more complex articulation oI history in five ages, such as it was presented in the Grund:ge some
years beIore. Now Fichte preIers the radical dichotomy oI the 'Old and the 'New World, whose
ground is Christ.
BeIore Christ, we Iind a world without Ireedom. The political communities were grounded on a
principle which could be deIined oI a theological-political kind. In its more basic sense, as it was
Iormulated in the last century by the controversial Iigure oI Carl Schmitt, the concept oI 'Political
Theology illustrates the theological roots oI Western political thinking. I think that this suggestion
has an ermeneutical value also in order to understand the role and the Iunction played by Fichte`s
Staatslehre in this context.
First oI all, it seems particularly useIul to me in order to explain Fichte`s reading oI the ancient
political communities. For him, they were Iundamentally grounded on Gods revelation through
miracles. The political leaders were men considered by the multitude as the chosen instruments of
Gods revelation. They spoke in the name oI God, and their authorization in so doing depended on
their might in operating miracles, namely in doing actions which seemed to Iall outside the normal
course oI nature. The social and political order was not based on the Iree and independent insight oI
each singular I, but in the faith on allegedly extraordinary facts, which were grounded on some
difference among the Iorces and the abilities oI men. In this way, the multitude was forced to obey
to those particular individuals, who could impose their power on them through their privileged
status with God.
We have reached the point. For Fichte, the imperIection oI the insight which brings men to believe
in miracles, is the reason Ior the inequalitv prevailing in the ancient civilisations, and vice versa: a
government based on the inequality among classes and individuals, can sustain itselI only till
'darkness reigns in the selI-consciousness oI man.
But we must not conIuse the Fichtean interpretation oI the ancient world with an enlighted-oriented
criticism oI the civilisations beIore the modern age. Fichte explicitly rejects the understanding oI
the ancient experience oI the relations between politics and religion as a kind oI mere superstition
on the side oI the dominated multitude, and as a kind oI sly deceit on the part oI the ruling classes.
The ancient cultures had an authentic experience oI God, but they based their knowledge oI him
only on external signs like miracles. Men had no possibility oI using their own intelligence in order
to understand God through their clarity oI vision. That possibility was only realised aIter the advent
oI Christ. But then, it has been realized once and for all. Since the advent oI Christ, each man has
the 'right and freedom to obev to his own insight (StL, 437). Christ is the event which has
deIinitively changed the course oI history.
But what are the consequences oI that event on the organization oI political power? This question
leads us to deal with the conception oI the 'coercive Lord (Zwingherr), namely the Sovereign
which reigns as a representative oI God. That is a problem which does not only concern the ancient
societies, but a good deal oI Western political history, Irom the Christian Empire oI the Middle
Ages to the modern Kings by the Grace oI God. But at the beginning oI the Third section entitled
Jon der Errichtung des Jernunftreiches (StL, 436 II.), the problem is not historical, but a
conceptual one. In Iact, who can veriIy that the Sovereign is an authentic messanger oI God? He
reigns because he has aIIirmed his power by making use oI his 'overwhelming Iorce (we Iind this
expression in the Natural Right oI 1796): but did he have the right to use this Iorce?
The question is a classical one in modern political thinking, Ior it concerns the problem oI
legitimacv in the use oI Iorce. It is the question oI authori:ation, which Iinds its epochal
Iormulation in Hobbes` Leviathan oI 1651. But in the argument oI Staatslehre, I Iind extremely
signiIicant not only with regard to Hobbes, but also with regard to Fichte`s own Philosophy oI
Right, that we Iind no mention oI any kind oI 'social contract. OI course, that depends on the
particular character oI these lessons. We must not Iorget that the title oI Staatslehre was chosen by
the editors oI the Iirst edition (1820), whereas Fichte had announced his lessons simply as
Conferences on different subfects from the Applied Philosophv. We shall come back to this concept
oI 'applied philosophy (angewandte Philosophie). But apart Irom this question, I Iind oI special
interest in Fichte`s Staatslehre the Iact oI dealing with the problem oI Sovereignty in terms
exceeding the patterns oI a Iormal-juridical demonstration. It seems to me that the 'applied
philosophy, which Irom a systematic point oI view is subordinated to the transcendental Theory oI
Right (we must remember that the Right is the 'second among the major 'Iive images through
which the Absolute appears), permits an higher degree oI concreteness in Fichte`s argument. In
other words: having an applied philosophy subject, makes it possible Ior Fichte to reveal the
theological-political core in the furidical notion of Sovereigntv.
But Fichte`s operation goes Iurther. InsoIar as he discloses the political (and theological) core in the
concept oI Sovereignty, he also stresses the Iact that this same stratum is not the last one. In Iact, at
the center oI the Sovereignty lies a reference to the idea of Truth, it contains in itselI a
philosophical core, which the WL has to put in evidence as an object oI explicit reIlection. The
'coercive Lord has been sent along by God in order to realize the 'Right on earth, but he lacked
any kind oI Iormal authorization, so that he had to carry out his mission through the use oI Iorce.
Yet a government by Iorce can be considered justiIied only iI the insight oI the Sovereign in the
concept oI 'Right is true. But, who can assure that his concept oI Right is the true one? The
'coercive Lord can ground his convinction only on his own conscience. But again, who can fudge
the truth oI his insight, iI it is only on the ground of his own insight that the community has to judge
what is 'right and what is 'wrong?
From the point oI view oI our Christian age, there is a situation which is clearly opposed to the
Right, that is, to each one`s 'right and Ireedom to obey to his own Insight (loc. cit.). So, the only
possible justiIication Ior the Sovereign by the Grace oI God could be the presence oI a second
'institution (Anstalt), which should 'bring everyone to the insight in the legitimacy
(Rechtsmigkeit) oI the coercion (Zwang), and so to the superIluity (Entbehrlichkeit) oI it (StL,
437). Otherwise, the Sovereign himselI should be the teacher oI his subjects. Yet, this solution does
not solve the diIIiculty. We remain in the same circle as above, because we must again assume that
the insight oI the Sovereign is the true one: only on this ground we can conceive his teaching as a
real education, instead oI being an ideological manipulation oI the multitude. On the other hand,
acknowledging the truth oI the Sovereign`s judgements and decisions requires the exercise oI each
individual`s insight, which is precisely excluded in such a situation; otherwise the multitude would
need no education, and coercion would be immediately 'superIlous.
In his argument, Fichte seems to criticize the position he adopted in the Rechtslehre oI 1812, or at
least, he seems to articulate it in a quite diIIerent manner. In that work he criticized his Naturrecht
oI 1796 in respect oI the problem oI the Sovereignty. He described his preceding position with the
Iollowing words: 'the ruler must be the best (RL, 149). He reIers to the institution oI the 'ephorat
as a means to control the political power oI the government. Now, that theory takes Ior granted that
the people could always be Iair judges, that they can always decide the contrast between the
'government and the 'ephors in a way according to justice. That diIIiculty shows that the
institutional solution oI the problem oI justice cannot be satisIying, and it leads Fichte to the new
Iormulation we Iind in the Rechtslehre: 'the best must rule (RL, 149 II.).
Yet, the Staatslehre also seems to question that Iormulation. Fichte writes that the problem
concerning 'who must be the Sovereign (Zwingherr) cannot be solved in such an 'unconditional
way as the Iollowing: 'the First, the Best who can ( StL, 442). The question is not a factual one, it
rather concerns the legitimacv and fustification oI the Iigure oI the Sovereign, which is the 'last and
highest Entscheider about what has to be considered right or wrong. It is at this point that we
would expect the usual recourse to the conceptual strategy oI contractualism, in order to establish an
authorised representative oI the general will oI the people: but as we already said, here Fichte
searches Ior another solution. The question concerns the Right in the use oI political power: but
Irom the point oI view oI the 'applied philosophy, Fichte points out the political issue oI that
problem, as iI the Iormal-juridical argument could neither solve nor understand the question of the
Sovereigntv in all its concreteness. For this reason, Fichte imagines a sort oI political strategv of
self-authori:ation on the side oI the Sovereign. He could argue that the 'development oI culture and
civilization (Bildung) will conIirm his insight and decisions: 'But, what iI this development should
not confirm them? (StL, 442).
It seems clear to me that Fichte tries to go beyond the patterns oI a demonstration in Iormal-
juridical terms, but also that he tries to Iree Politics Irom the 'Iactual use oI an 'overwhelming
Iorce. In order to realize this project, he has to join the concept oI Politics with the idea of Truth.
But Ior him, 'truth necessarily means the transcendental idea oI it, namely the genetic insight into
the origin oI Being. That is a crucial point not only Ior Fichte`s general, strictly theoretical
conception: it is a crucial point Ior the understandig oI his political conception too. In the Iollowing
quotation, Fichte stresses the link between his concept oI philosophy as a transcendental vision and
his notion oI the 'intelligence, or the 'intellect (Jerstand), which he distinguishes Irom the
Iaculty oI 'intuition (Anschauung):

'Dort Anerkennung der Erkenntnis in ihrem alleinigen Sevn: hier das Verstehen der Erkenntnis in ihrem
Ursprunge; verstndiges Erkennen, des Erkennens eben selbst. Dieses philosophischer Jerstand, jenes
philosophische Anschauung |...| Hieran habe ich die Form der genetischen oder verstndigen Einsicht des
Seyns' (StL, 379).

According to Fichte`s explanation, God is not immediately revealed to our knowledge, but only
'mediately, namely through the knowledge that the knowledge is the 'Iorm oI His appearing (see
StL, 382). God is not immediately 'given as a 'content, which could be grasped at once by means
oI the intuition, but He is 'given absolutely only through the intelligence, which Ilies high (sich.
hinaufschwingt) above any Iactual consciousness (StL, 381).
Obviously, the 'knowledge oI knowledge in question is nothing else than Fichte`s Theory oI
Science. So, it is the use of each ones free Intelligence in accordance with the model of the WL that
dissolves the authoritv of the simplv 'given`, and opens the free space for a new living, based on
the claritv of each ones vision. That is the 'absolute` meaning of Christ. he is the 'fact`, bv which
the possibilitv for the development of such an insight has been realised in historv. But Christ is onlv
the 'factual presupposition` of the WL, he is not vet the 'transcendental` and rational fustification
of it. On the contrarv, it is onlv the WL that permits to understand Christ in his authentic,
'methaphisical` meaning. But with his performance, the WL makes Christ himself 'superflous` as
a particular individual (see StL, 249 and 269), and reali:es Christs prophecv about the 'advent`
of the Holv Spirit on earth. This 'advent` is at once the culmination and the dissolution of the
modern theorv of Sovereigntv, and in a more radical wav, it is the destruction of the entire
framework of 'political theologv` as the prevailing pattern in the Historv of Western political
thought and experience.
The point in Fichte`s argument is clear: iI the 'intelligence is the 'Iorm oI the genetic insight into
the origins oI Being, it is clear that no Ireedom in action will be possible, unless it is permeated by
the clearness oI the transcendental vision. That raises the problem oI the relationships between
intelligence and will, between clarity oI philosophical selI-awareness and practical Iaculty oI
shaping reality through a creative action. At the beginning oI this paper, we already saw that the
name oI this reciprocal determination between knowledge and action is 'Wisdom. Wisdom
(Weisheit) means knowledge Iormed into action, action absorbed and transIigured through vision. In
the Staatslehre, that is just the primarv sense oI the Iormula 'applied philosophy. Whoever truly
understands the Theory oI Science,
'lebt und wirkt die philosophische Erkenntnis; das dort Ruhende und Unthtige |that is, Knowledge as pure
Thinking and 'speculation| ist hier |as Wisdom| Trieb und Bestimmung eines weltschaIIenden Lebens
geworden. In ihm ist die Philosophie SchpIer des Seyns, also angewendet. Anwendung der Philosophie ist
ein sittliches Leben (StL, 389). And then: ' |Philosophie| in der Anwendung heit eben: im Leben, Wirken
und ErschaIIen, als eigentliche, die Welt bildende GrundkraIt; sie tritt and der Spitze der Weltgestaltung im
eigentlichen und hchsten Sinne (ibid.).

It is only in a secondarv sense that also the 'conIerences in which Fichte presents these
conceptions are 'applied philosophy. In this second sense, the Theory oI Science can be seen as a
'Guide Ior LiIe, and it means the same as the traditional 'practical Philosophy (praktische
Philosophie) (StL, 390).
There is a striking correspondance between the meanings oI 'Wisdom, and the double Iunction oI
the Christian religion as a 'theory (Lehre) on the one hand, and as a 'constitution (Jerfassung) on
the other hand.
In his Iirst sense as a 'theory, the main doctrine oI the Christian Iaith is the concept oI the
'Kingdom oI Heaven (Himmelreich). According to Fichte, this theory is grounded the equalitv oI
all men as God`s sons and as free members oI the Saints`community. That bring about the
destruction oI the ancient God as an arbitrary Lord and as a Force revealing itselI through miracles.
After Christ all men are free not only in a moral sense, but also in a political one. Each one aIIirms
his own independence Irom any kind oI 'superior power (Obergewalt), and the peculiar message
oI the Christian Iaith is just the link between equalitv and freedom: 'the Christian Iaith is the
Gospel oI Ireedom and equality (StL, 523). That means that each man has the Right to live
'according to his own Iree insight (:ufolge seiner freien Einsicht), and that each individual has the
right and duty to do God`s will in accordance with his selI-awareness oI his own relation with the
Father (StL, 525). It is in this sense that the Christian Iaith is a 'theory and 'a question oI
intelligence (eine Sache des Jerstandes, StL 524). Here we have the correspondance between the
WL as 'Wisdom in the secondarv sense (namely, in the meaning oI 'practical philosophy and oI
'guide Ior liIe), and the Christian religion as a 'doctrine (Lehre).
But, just in the same way as wisdom had the meaning oI 'practical Philosophy only insoIar as it
was still detached Irom the concreteness oI liIe, so the Christian Iaith as Gospel and 'doctrine oI
the Kingdom oI Heaven has only a partial and unaccomplished meaning. The Christian Iaith is not
only a question oI knowledge and oI theory; it is also and above all a question oI the practical
realization oI that vision. The Christian Iaith has to make the insight into the Father`s will into a
'Iorce Ior the transIormation oI reality, it is properly and in the last analysis a principle Ior giving
a shape to history through Ireedom. ThereIore, in the same way as the genetic vision oI the
intelligence becomes eIIective in reality when it determinates the Will and receives an 'impulse
Ior action (praktischer Trieb, StL 516), so the message oI the Himmelsreich cannot simply remain
'a question oI intelligence, but it must become what Fichte calls Jerfassung (StL, 526), namely
'constitution as a Iormative 'Iorce and an 'impulse Ior action in History. But with respect to the
philosophical wisdom in its primary sense, we have here the emergence oI a quite new aspect. The
Christian Iaith as a 'constitution permeates the liIe oI man not only as a singular being, but also as
a multitude oI rational beings who live together in a political communitv. So, the term oI
'consitution means not only the 'determination oI the real existence oI mankind (Bestimmung des
wirklichen Sevns des Menschengeschlechtes) (StL, 526), but in a more speciIic way, it means the
way oI 'being-determinate oI men as a society (Bestimmtheit der Menschen als Gesellschaft) (StL,
At the end we come back to the question oI political Power: is it still possibile to obey to a
Zwingherr on the basis oI the Christian religion? What are the consequences oI Christ as a
constitutional principle? I must state conclusions in a quite assertive way, but I think they are
suIIiciently grounded by what I have said till now. Christ is the 'absolute Iact oI history, because
he is the 'principle oI the basic distinction between an 'old and a 'new age. He has Iounded Ior
man the Right oI doing only what he approves by means oI his own insight. From now on, no
government by Iorce will be justiIied any more by the belieI in miracles. But that kind oI insight
receives its maximum oI clarity in the WL. So it is only the WL which can claim to understand the
meaning oI Christ. What in Christ was simply based upon his Iactual convinction and belieI in his
own mission; what Christ himselI could only justiIy on the ground oI his interior Ieeling oI the truth
oI his own message; what he could 'demonstrate to others only by means oI a 'Iactual kind oI
evidence, namely by means oI miracles, - all that is over. With the WL, the realization oI Jesus`
prophecy on the advent oI the Holy Spirit has begun. That process IulIils itselI through the
uniIication oI the socratic 'technique oI the intelligence (Jerstandeskunst) as a form oI vision,
with the christian message oI the 'Kingdom oI Heaven as its own content.
But the Kingdom oI Heaven is only the religious Iormula that prophecies the age oI Ireedom and
equality, which has been Iirst realized by the WL as a transcendental vision oI Being. From now on,
no employ oI coercion will be justiIied any more without an insight into its conIormity to the Right,
and the estinguishing oI the Sovereignty begins with that subordination oI Iorce to insight. In the
Kingdom oI Heaven, which realizes itselI on earth as a constitution oI Ireedom and equality,
'intelligence (Jerstand) will be the only possible ruler. But socially realized intelligence coincides
exactly with the class oI the learned men, about which the Speeches to the German Nation had
already spoken. The circulation oI (the) transcendental insight through the whole oI the political
community expands the creative Might oI mankind`s general intellect. The WL replaces the
Christian Iaith as a constitutional principle, in the same way as the WL-er (in the plural sense)
replace Christ as a 'Iactual individual, which once upon a time came into existence. We haven`t
only a Theory oI Science (Wissenschaftslehre), but also a Theory oI Constitution
(Jerfassungslehre). In this way, beIore Hegel`s Grundlinen (published in 1821), but aIter Hegel`s
criticism against the modern Wissenschaftliche Behandlungsarten des Naturrechts (1802), the
Staatslehre accomplishes the course oI western political theology, especially regarding its latest
expression in the modern doctrine oI Natural law.
Carl Schmitt had spoken long ago oI the 'Hobbesian Crystal, at the core oI which there was the
obligation to assert that 'Jesus is the Christ. That was the supreme condition Ior the institution oI
the Commonwealth. Schmitt stressed in this manner the Iact that modern contractualism had
'seculirized the theological tradition in political thinking, but that it could not bring to the bottom
its separation Irom religion. 'Faith was no more investigated as an eIIective presence in the
conciousness oI men, but still in Schmitt`s interpretation an 'article to be 'proIessed remained,
which at the core oI Hobbes` Leviathan maintained a sort oI open link towards Transcendence.
That link seems to be 'resolved once and Ior all in Fichte`s late political philosophy. The Holy
Spirit means the realization on earth oI a community based on Ireedom oI insight and equality in
Iront oI the Right. The Government cohalesces with the development oI knowledge and with
common education. No miracle can justiIy the power exercised by men on men. Where Jerstand
rules, no kind oI Sovereignty is possible any more. That is the seeming paradox oI the Staatslehre:
we Iind ourselves conIronted with a political Christology, which at once declares that Irom now on
Christ has become 'superIluous. For Fichte, the superIluity oI Christ was prophesied by Christ
himselI, when he announced the advent oI the Holy Spirit in the Iuture. But now, that Iuture has
become the Present: the 'Holy Spirit prophecied by Jesus has to become eIIectual principle oI a
Constitution, so that the strategy oI contractualism in the Ioundation oI political power can be
dissolved. II Christ means an 'absolute event in the making oI History, we do not need to imagine
any kind oI 'social covenant at the origin oI the commonwealth. It makes no sense to try to
reconstruct the 'Iact oI Christ in an artiIicial way. In making himselI superIlous, Christ makes it
possible Ior Fichte to exclude any kind oI Iormal authorization Irom the political community. The
Sovereign is not the legitimate representative oI people`s general will, because there is no
Sovereign any more. The 'intelligence cannot be 'represented, but only improved, communicated
and practised in person. The Hobbesian Crystal disappears, and the contractualist device in the
Ioundation oI power disappears as well.
Even iI it has a Iragmentary Iorm, the Staatslehre does not lack systematic character. At the
beginning oI History, we have Christ; at the end oI History, we reach a political Christianity without
Christ. We proceed Irom the transcendental insight to the understanding oI Christ, and then we
come back again to Fichte as the 'Iounding Iather oI the WL, which is going to realize itselI as a
constitutional principle. The Christian Iaith has dissolved into transcendental philosophy, and the
Sovereignty has been replaced as a theological-political Ioundation oI coercive power by the advent
oI the 'Kingdom oI Heaven on earth. In the sunny light oI Fichte`s 'third demonstration, we are
going beyond Christ, beyond Plato`s 'second navigation.

Thank you very much Ior your attention

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