The practical absolute: Fichte's hidden poetics

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The following paper argues that J.G. Fichte, despite his apparent philosophical neglect of art and aesthetics, does develop a strong, original, and coherent account of art, which not only allows the theorization of modern, non-representative art forms, but indeed anticipates Nietzsche and Heidegger in conceiving of truth in terms of art rather than scientific rationality. While the basis of Fichte's philosophy of art is presented in the essay "On Spirit and Letter in Philosophy," it is not developed systematically either in this text or anywhere else in his writings, but must be reconstructed through a broad consideration of all his works, including, above all, his political and economic writings. For Fichte, the art-work does not exist as an object possessing "aesthetic value" and which can, in turn, be possessed, consumed, and enjoyed through the subjective act of aesthetic experience. Rather, it involves a mode of praxis which, grounded in a radical and original power of imagination, creatively discloses possibilities for future forms of existence, experience, and political community that cannot be theoretically anticipated. While Fichte cannot himself theorize specific forms of art, since the art that concerns him belongs to the future, we can, however, retrospectively try to understand non-representational painting and non-mimetic dance as concrete realizations of Fichte's art-work of the future. In this way, Fichte's philosophy of art ultimately suggests an alternative to Heidegger's understanding of the work of art as a projective institution of truth. Fichte suggests that the human body, rather than human language, is the fundamental medium of art.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-433
Number of pages27
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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