The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte

Beiser, F.C. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte, Cambridge University Press, 1987.


“During the period between Kant’s first Kritik and Fichte’s first Wissenschaftslehre (1781-1794),  full also furs and devoted themselves to a single fundamental problem. They returned again and again to this problem, though it had many guises, and though it’s presence was not always clearly recognized. If we were to formulate this issue in a single phrase, then we might collect “the authority of reason”. It arises as soon as we begin to question our apparently healthy and natural faith and reason. Why should I listen to reason? What reason do I have to obey it? We demand that a person’s beliefs and actions be rational; to say that they are irrational is to condemn them. But why we make such a demand? What is the justification for it? Or, in short, whence the authority of reason?

Such are the questions that philosophers began to ask themselves during the last decades of the 18th century in Germany. They began to look critical he at the fundamental article of faith of the European enlightenment: the authority of reason. Philosophers were loyal to the Enlightenment the student enormous amounts of authority upon reason, which was the Enlightenment’s supper and standard of truth, its final courts of intellectual appeal. They made many bold claim this on the behalf of reason. Reason had self-evident first  principles; it  could criticize all our beliefs; it could justify morality, religion, and the states; it’s was universal and impartial; and it could, at least in theory, explaining every thing in nature. Towards the close of the 18th century, however, all these claims were thrown into question. If the Enlightenment was “the age of criticism”, then the last decades of the 18th century marked the beginning of the new age, the age of meta-criticism. Intellectuals began to suffer a crisis of conscience and question their own faith in the powers of criticism.”