By Karin A. Nisenbaum

This paper has two related aims. The first is to argue that Fichte’s concept of freedom is perfectionist. By ‘perfectionism,’ I mean a moral theory according to which our good, ultimately, is realizing our true nature; Fichte also holds a perfectionist view of freedom, according to which we achieve freedom only to the extent that we succeed in making ourselves good or realizing our true nature. The second aim of this paper is to show how Fichte’s perfectionist concept of freedom solves two problems confronting Kantian autonomy: the “paradox” of Kantian autonomy and the “dilemma” of post-Kantian autonomy. As I contend, Fichte’s perfectionist concept of freedom avoids these two problems by enabling us to view self-determination as a form of self-causation, and by showing that we can be responsible for our immoral actions even if we are not fully free when we perform them.

To be published in:
Baltimore: Journal of the History of Philosophy, Forthcoming