It was during the French Revolution that Fichte began to establish the importance of national cohesion as a counterweight to a resurgent neo-feudalist oligarchy, a position that was intimately bound up with both his knowledge of and break with Spinoza.
It was noted above that in Tractatus Politicus 2/6, Spinoza had attacked the humanist position in which he asserted that ‘the ignorant violate the order of nature rather than conform to it; they think of men in nature as a state within a state [imperium in imperio]’. The phrase ‘imperium in imperio’ famously appears too in the preface to Ethics III, where Spinoza characterised the non-naturalist view that he opposed.
This was a pointed attack upon the Renaissance concept, expounded by Dante, that it is possible for the individual to attain ‘crown and mitre’, i.e. freedom over his own life, temporal and spiritual, a freedom arising out of man’s power to impose order over nature rather than conform to it.
Hegel responded to Spinoza’s oppressive imposition of his philosophical standpoint by trying to explain it as essentially Judaic.
The Jews possess that which makes them what they are through the One: consequently the individual has no freedom for itself. Spinoza regards the code of Moses as having being given by God to the Jews for a punishment - a rod of correction. The individual never comes to the consciousness of independence. (The Philosophy of History.)
Notwithstanding this acute observation of the Spinozist position, Hegel’s philosophy was itself all about the teleological return to the Absolute.
The dialectical process of Hegels’s Phenomenology was not a process within truth but a process to truth, or the Absolute, the One, Ein Sof. In other words, Hegel conceived the eternal becoming of experience by conceiving the Absolute idea as the fixed end to which finite thinking aspires. This was a declaration of the transcendence of truth to the act of thinking or experience, a return to a pre-existent truth rather than the generation of the truth. Such an exilic Kabbalah of return from exile was too readily co-opted by Marx as the self-sustaining dialectical motor of progression in his own Spinozist schema.
Marx clearly saw the Spinoza in Hegel. As a result, Hegel was easily turned on his head by Marx, i.e. re-Spinozised. But Hegel was not Marx’s main target in this act of inversion. By upturning Hegel, Marx rebutted Fichte’s inversion of Spinoza.
Hegel is to be credited with being the first to be fully conscious of the need of a new logic to solve the problem of experience. Marx understood this. But Hegel’s dialectic supplemented Spinoza’s philosophy rather than superseded it, confirming Spinoza’s thinking rather than discrediting it. And in Hegel’s Spinozism can be seen his ultimate break with Fichte’s philosophy, which was an echo of Fichte’s earlier break with Spinozism
Fichte’s response to Spinoza’s Jewish antipathy to individual ‘consciousness of independence’, was much more hostile than Hegel’s. His choice of words demonstrate clearly that he had Spinoza’s anti-humanism in mind and that he believed Spinozism epitomised broader Jewish thinking.
In a direct response to Spinoza’s accusations that those who aspire to freedom of thought represent ‘a state within a state’, Fichte responded with the same accusation against Judaism. In Contributions to the Correction of the Public's Judgement Concerning the French Revolution of 1793 Fichte claimed:
a powerful hostilely disposed nation is infiltrating almost every country in Europe. This nation is in a state of perpetual war with all these countries, severely afflicting their citizenry. I am referring to the Jewish Nation.
Fichte added that:
the Jewish Nation is so dreadful not because it is isolated and closely knit, but rather because it is founded on the hatred of mankind.
the Jews alone are citizens of a state within a state which is more secure and powerful than any of yours.
Fichte’s ire was turned against Marrano deceptiveness; it had nothing to do with petty racial or religious prejudice. Their rejection of Christ or even God was not even the issue for Fichte.
Let the Jews never believe in Jesus Christ. Let them never believe in God. If only they did not believe in a misanthropic God and in a double ethical standard (one applicable to Jews alone, another for their dealing with the Gentiles).
Fichte did not attempt to supplement or develop Spinozism, he sought to confront a deterministic, necessitarian and fatalistic philosophy that he himself had once espoused. He sought to break out of its closed entrapping mathematical schema.
Nowhere is it more clear than in the ‘state within a state’ rebuttal, which represented Fichte’s climax of conscious reaction to Spinozist kabbalism, his awakening to the socio-political and economic implications within the universalising tikkun of Spinozism.
© John Dunn.