Dante was pre-eminent in establishing humanism as the new philosophy of the Renaissance (or post-feudalism). That philosophy reached its zenith with Fichte, even though it did so as the Counter-Renaissance reassertion of feudalism (or neo-feudalism) was complete. Fichte’s philosophy was developed behind enemy lines so to speak.
This made Fichte’s philosophy not so much the ideological successor to feudalism, but rather a key influence upon the Romantic reaction to the dominant neo-feudalism.
Fichte’s philosophy represents a peak anti-Spinozism and a peak anti-feudalism, expressing Renaissance ideas, i.e. pro-nation state, but anti-oligarchy, anti-globalism.
Fichte had turned the monist materialist Spinoza on his head in formulating his own idealist philosophy of the Absolute I. Rather than continue his work, Schelling and Hegel sought a path of mediation between Fichte’s Absolute I and a persistent and residual external reality.
Consciously Christian, Hegel believed that he had developed a supercessionary philosophy, one that took the philosophy of the Jew Spinoza as its starting point. Hegel offered a secular ‘New Testament’ to Spinoza’s ‘Old’. In reality Hegel ended up providing the self-sustaining motor of return to the Absolute that was lacking in Spinoza’s own philosophy.
It only needed Marx to turn Hegel on his head, consciously in opposition to Fichte, to complete the return, setting Spinoza ‘right side up’ in the process. Above all, Marx was a Spinozist, rather than a Hegelian.
The shadow of the Hegelian dialectic that remained as a materialist teleology in Marx’s work, was the determinism, necessitarianism and fatalism of Spinoza’s philosophy. The Hegelian dialectic of progression masked the philosophy of return, which had existed from the start in the Lurianic Kabbalah of exile and return adopted by Spinoza.
In academic philosophy, the myth of succession has held sway, with Schelling and Hegel perpetually presented as the heirs and successors of Fichte, rather than his opposite.
So what did Fichte represent? He represented the Promethean struggle, the assertion of the same individual will that had attained crown and mitre in Dante’s Divine Comedy; the will which later thundered in the symphonies of Beethoven and the art of other Romantics.
What did Schelling and Hegel represent? They were Spinozists.
Fichte defined what it is to be human as a freedom from necessity. Schelling, Hegel and, ultimately Marx, as followers of Spinoza, denied that humanity in a submission to necessity.
© John Dunn.