A New Approach to the Logocentric Predicament

In other words, according to Jacobi a choice has to be made between “either a rational skepticism or an irrational faith.” This is Jacobi’s unavoidable epistmeological dilemma. Fichte is a rationalist insofar as he trusts in reason and uses reason as the primary instrument of the system. Jacobi is an irrationalist insofar as he denies the primacy of reason.

What needs to be done is not a justification of the laws of logic and inference rules but something more than that. The obvious normativity that is a part of logic, truth, justification, etc. was thoroughly revealed by Nietzsche. It has only been the audaciousness of post-Nietzschean philosophy to not heed his words when it comes to such matters. Pre-Nietzschean philosophy still has a unique innocence to it, for the horrors of unknowing had yet to be demonstrated (and to a certain degree, it was only with Bataille and then subsequently Land, in The Thirst for Annihilation, that the peak of the horrific repulsion induced by unknowing was “recognized”). But, it is because of this innocence that we can take from it. Kant is almost unrivaled in insight, thoroughness, and ruthlessness. Fichte is an unusually disregarded philosopher. His ambition was almost unparalleled, his rigorousness great, and his explication beautiful. We have looked toward Kant, and we will continue to look toward Kant, but let us also look toward Fichte. Fichte’s great aspiration for a Wissenschaftslehre is our aspiration, it has always been my aspiration.

In his essay “Fichte and the Problem of Logic: Positing the Wissenschaftslehre in the Development of German Idealism” from Fitche, German Idealism, and Early Romanticism, Nectarios Limnatis makes some key insights that further what I came up with and quickly relayed with Erik in an explosive intellectual triumph I had a couple of days ago. That Fichte was “convinced that absolute certainty is possible, and that »philosophy is a science« which must be characterized by systemicity, all-inclusiveness, clarity, and precision” is an attitude I am convinced of and an attitude which we need to hold in all philosophical endeavors (Limnatis 24). The skeptic, which I am and may always be, has an unstated allegiance to objectivity. In fact, skepticism is the will-to-completion, the completion of philosophy. Skepticism is only ruthless in its uncovering and subsequent demolishing of false assumptions because it desires completion. The skeptic who has an allegiance to aporia or to another mystical state, as many of the skeptics of ancient Greece did, have fundamentally misunderstood the skeptical project. For such an understanding of skepticism, nothing could be grosser.

Fichte says, “A science possesses systematic form. All the propositions of a science are joined together in a single first principle, in which they unite to form a whole” (qtd. in Limnatis 24). A single starting point must be hypostatized, for “[p]rovided a formally correct inference, the unconditioned validity of the first principle, ipso facto corroborates the unity between that principle and the system grounded thereupon” (Limnatis 24). The aspiration of the Wissenschaftslehre is “to substantiate »the absolutely unconditioned first principle of all human knowledge« and, therefore, this first principle “must be one that is »absolutely certain; that is, it is certain because it is certain; it provides the foundation of all certainty«” (Limnatis 24–25). The solution to the logocentric predicament must be absolutely certain, but even more than that, because, to get around the issue of Nietzschean critique of epistemological normativity (e.g., truth over untruth), we cannot reduce the first principle to “true,” “logical,” or anything like that. Now, it is Fichte’s insight that “[p]hilosphy is logic” that we must heed greatly, for, it becomes subsequently clear, that a first principle of philosophy that establishes philosophy would therefore be analogous to a first principle that establishes logic, which is what we have been after for so long now (Limnatis 25). It is this rigorousness of the construction of the Wissenschaftslehre that has been our rigorousness: “Prior to the Wissenschaftslehre, one may not presuppose the validity of a single proposition of logic — including the law of contradiction” (Limnatis 26). Because of Fichte’s rigorous understanding of his task (the task of a philosopher), we are to identify with him. We are neo-Fichteans! The accomplishment of the Wissenshcaftslehre is our goal, and by this I mean, the completion of philosophy is our goal.

A certain problem seems to arise though: “On the contrary, every logical proposition and logic in its entirety must be deduced from the Wissenschaftslehre” (Limnatis 26). Does the Wissenschaftslehre not then suppose the validity of deduction? It certainty does. Therefore, we are to begin Fichte’s project again, without any prejudices against or proclivities for anything. The movement of Ficthe, though, is, again, that movement which we are to take up:

By positioning Wissenschaftslehre at the metalevel of discourse (metalogic, metascience, metaknowledge), Fichte aims at attaining a vantage point that would justify unqualified cognitive objectivity. The philosopher searches into the mere possibility of the logical from a meta-logical level, into knowledge as knowledge of knowledge and logic as logic of logic. Philosophy is supposed to examine the objectivity of the subjective, no matter how correct the subjective seems. (Limnatis 27)

But, Fichte does somewhat recognize the issue at hand: “The philosopher asks: how can we learn that 5 x 9=45 and not 36? The question itself already implies the existence of a given rule of inference, but it is the rule that is the object of the meta-analysis of the Wissenschaftslehre. For the latter is by definition positioned beyond the subjective, as a verification of the subjective” (Limnatis 27).

The circularity that Limnatis finds in Fichte, and which Fichte supposedly found in himself, is that “the mere examination of the subjective requires the subjective” (Limnatis 27). We have not yet operated under this presupposition, for it is just that: a presupposition. We have sparsely, in our theories addressing the logocentric predicament, supposed the subject to be the case. However, I think there is a clear way out of this circularity that Fichte is supposedly suffering from: the establishment of the subject that Fichte heads toward can be articulated as self-positing, and, in this sense, the circularity lingers but is softened. By this I mean that if the self grounds itself then there would be no circularity, assuming it grounded itself. The only issue, and the only reason circularity lingers, is that it is the self positing itself. An escape from this circularity would ameliorate almost every problem headed our way.

The entire emphasis of neo-Fichtean thinking is contained in “I=I.” For it is my conviction that I=I does not come from A=A (the law of identity), but the other way around. Represented as a rule of inference, the law of identity is, “if p, then p,” but as a consistency principle, the law of identity states that p is always the same “p,” which is to say, “if p is, then p is itself.” Fichte takes the law of identity to state “because A is […] then A is” (qtd. in Limnatis 30). Limnatis explains,

Fichte’s example is carefully chosen, for it permits him to make a momentous reversal. What in the above proposition was the particular illustration (I=I) of a general rule (A=A), turns out to be the condition of the validity of the rule. The reason is as follows: the proposition »A=A« is originally valid only for the I. It is a proposition derived from the ›I am I‹, which is a proposition of the Wissenschaftslehre. Thus all of the content to which the proposition »A=A« is supposed to be applicable to must be contained within the I. Therefore, A can be nothing but something posited within the I, and the proposition in question now reads: »That which is posted within the I is posited«. If A is posted within the I, then A is posited. Fichte’s shift will constitute the basis of his system: the logical relationship gains proof through the human subject. Yet the subject seems here to come from the outside, becoming the condition of the whole argument, instead of being its outcome. The whole enterprise initially aimed at deducing the I as the starting point of the analysis. Instead, the I becomes the exemplifying case. (Limnatis 30)

What if we reframe Fichte? What if “I am I” was not a deduction, not an inference, but rather noninferential. This would solve the whole issue Dummett et al. pose at us (the problem of the justification of the deduction of deduction). What if the “I am I” which is the I positing itself established both logic through “I=I” being noninferentially justified through the “noninference” of the “I am I” from which “A=A” would be justified in all its forms (I am myself → consistency principle version of the law of identity; I am then I am → inference rule version of the law of identity [“if p, then p”]). Having the inference rule version of the law of identity noninferentially justified will help us greatly, as will having the consistency principle understanding of the law of identity justified as well, because now 1. We have a potential access to other inferences and 2. Meaning has been secured (the p in P1 is the same as the p in P2). Furthermore, Fichte seems to have had a proto-version of my concept of post facto explanation: “The I can grasp itself only in retrospect, circularly. Whatever I think of is what I think of, and this implies my self-identity, I=I. Thus, the posting of the self receives no analytic explanation, but description. The principal attribute of the I is the de facto existing and de facto realized ability to posit itself. The I posits itself, and posits itself because it is. Self-positing and being are one and the same” (Limnatis 31). We, therefore, would have a defensible basis for the construction of a philosophy. The question then becomes a question not of logical circularity, but “metaphysical circularity.” The subject presupposes itself. So, how can we escape this circle? Furthermore, would we not need to have the law of non-contradiction established as well for the possibility of a real basis for philosophical inquiry? I think so… So, how are we to ameliorate these two issues? Though, before we continue, let us clarify that we want to resist the idea that the establishment of the I is a temporal activity. Rather, time and activity (and therefore practical reason) are established on once the I realizes those conditions of its existence (the positing of itself, and the establishment of logic on a discursive and metaphysical level). Let us address the second issue of the law of non-contradiction. Limnatis says,

Once the self realizes itself as such, the formal laws of inference are employed to deduce further knowledge. From the first principle, the I, Fichte proceeds to deduce the second principle, the not-I. By accepting that the I equals to the I, it can be derived that the not-I is equal to not-I, and then that the I is not equal to the not-I (I=I; -I=-I; I not=-I). Thus, the self is opposed to the external manifold. (Limnatis 33)

Let us once extricate Fichte from inference and throw him back into the realm of inferential justification. That meaning, now established through the I’s very posting of itself (that it is?), meaning and consistent meaning between different propositions has been established, is gained through understanding is key. It is this positing and understanding that one has been posited and held as an object that the reflection takes place, in which understanding establishes itself and the law of identity is established, and it is through understanding that the negation of the I can be syntactically recomposed to the understand the law of non-contradiciton (i.e., not-I=not-I, or -I=-I, not-I=-I, and subsequently I not=not-I, or I not=-I). That we now have noninferentially justified, through self-reflexive understanding, the law of noncontradiciton as both a consistency principle and an inferential law (p cannot be not-p). But, where did this understanding of negation come from? This is the question which it seems would be infinitely hard to answer. For, if the I only has an understanding of itself and subsequently identity (because it understands its identity), how is it supposed to know the not-I? In other words, if all the I understands is the I, where did this not-I come from? The question becomes “How does the I constitute itself?” The reason that the I individuates is not by logical necessity, for logic is not governing such a movement (it is the otherway around). Rather, the posting I posits the posited I against something that it is not, and it is in this, essentially, “being thrown against a brick wall” that the posited I understands not negation, but opposition, of which negation is born out of into understanding. That is one response. I think a better response, though, would be that in this reflexive state, the posited I cannot not think of something if negation isn’t present. Therefore, because it cant understand negation because negation hasn’t be introduced yet, negation automatically introduces itself in tandem with identity, because once meaning is established, that one is not able to think outside of the I means that one must think outside of the I immediately. This further helps us realize that it is in the self positing of the I that the self and the world become in relation to one another, and a kind of immanent experience is established as the-world-as-the-manifold(-of-experience) no longer, like it does in Heidegger, hold the I (Being) in the world, but vice versa. The world is held and in fact posited by the positing I, which does not mean that it is posited by the posited I. But, is this differentiated between the posited and the positing I not make I=I false? Not necessarily, for identity, as Fichte argued earlier, is understood throug being posited through the positing I, the I and the not I equal one another in the sense that that both equally come out of the positing I. Let us not forget to note that within the movement of self-positing that analyticity is established. In a certain sense, if the I is a positing I, could we not represent it as I → I as well?[1] If we could, then modus ponens would be established (we are saved, hallelujah!):

P1: If p → q

P2: p

C1: q


[1]: This is a suggested move by Anindya Bhattacharyya in “Idealism and infinity in Fichte’s Jena system.”



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Evan Jack

Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille