A central figure in the development of German idealism, J. G. Fichte (1762-1814) sought to base a systematic account of the transcendental structure of experience upon a morally unshakable confidence in human freedom. Fichte named his version of transcendental idealism, which he continued to develop over the course of his life, the “theory of scientific knowledge” or Wissenschafslehre.
Fichte immediately repudiated his first presentation of the theory, published in 1794 under the title Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre (Foundations of the Entire Wissenschaftslehre). Over the winter semesters 1796-97 through 1798-99 in Jena, he provided an entirely new formulation of the rudiments of his philosophy in a lecture course entitled Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo. In the present volume, Daniel Breazeale offers the first English translation of these lectures, which are believed to constitute the clearest and most cogently argued statement of the first principles of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre, and which survive only in two student transcripts.
The English text is a composite of the two German versions, including the entire Krause transcript plus extensive passages from the Halle version. In addition, Breazeale provides a comprehensive introduction to the evolution of the Jena Wissenschaftslehre, with particular attention to its relation to the published Grundlage and the later and uncompleted “Attempt at a New Presentation of the Wissenschaftslehre.”
Fichte’s Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy is highly relevant to ongoing discussions of the relationship of consciousness to human freedom and to current debates concerning foundationalism. Philosophers interested in German idealism and others working in the history of philosophy, German literature, and intellectual history will welcome this translation.