Fichte on Freedom
Fichte characterized his Wissenschaftslehre as the first system of freedom. But what was Fichte’s conception of freedom? Fichte’s thinking on this topic is best reconstructed by dividing it into four phases: an early uncompromising determinism; conversion to an orthodox Kantian position; an encounter with a sophisticated critic of that position; and, finally, a mature post-Kantian approach. Fichte’s mature position emerges out of his struggle with a problem in Kant’s “still obscure teaching about the possible compatibility of necessity according to natural law and freedom according to moral laws.” In making sense of this struggle, we need to attend to the distinctive modality of Fichte’s claims about freedom: I ought to be free; I put myself forward as free; I posit myself as free.