Fichtes Social and Political Philosophy (Modern European Philosophy)

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  1. Publications
  2. Metaphysics of Freedom | SpringerLink
  3. German Idealism
  4. Modern European Philosophy

ISSN-e In his valedictory speech, titled De recto praeceptorum poesos et rhetorices usu On the Right Usage of the Rules of Poetry and Rhetoric , given upon his graduation from Schulpforta, Fichte addressed the issue of the harmony between reason, affect and fantasy. In this sense, I aim to point out a tradition which goes beyond the line connecting Fichte with Locke, Hobbes or Rousseau, whose influence on the German philosopher, Renaut has rightly established pp.

I intend to broaden the perspective with respect to the mentioned authors, enhancing the scope of the heritage collected and recreated by Fichte.

To better understand this question, I consider the presentation in the epic poems by John Milton. Second, I reconstruct the defense of freedom of speech as a condition for developing practical rationality in the political philosophy of the English thinker. Milton is considered one of the most important epic poets in English literature. However, his classic work goes beyond the borders of the linguistic community, given that it is embedded in universal literature. As Pujals states, Paradise Lost is an epic poem inspired by Virgil.

However, it can be compared to the Divina Commedia, given that in both poems, the starting point is the corrupt nature of the subject and the means to the redemption of humankind p. A central figure in Paradise Lost is Satan, which presents a certain complexity. This aspect of the character produced in works by William Blake and Percy Shelley conveys the impression that Milton sympathized with him and tended to erase the differences between the fallen angel and his creator Orgel and Goldberg, , pp.

In A Defense of Poetry , Shelley characterizes the construction of this character as a sublime grandeur Loewenstein, , p. This figure represents the idea of fate and the impossibility of moral progress pp. Besides, Satan is also constructed in the poem as an epic hero who represents monarchic and feudal order. Therefore, he reminds us of the figure of a tyrant Loewenstein, , pp. On the one hand, he attributes some traits typical of the tragic heroes to him, such as bravery in the battlefield, determination, leadership, strength, etc.

Thus, our author intends to explore and redefine the idea of a hero Lewaski, , p. On this point, it could be stated, against Percy Shelley, that Milton truly is at the antipodes of the satanic worldview, because his works are the expression of Arminianism. Actually, Milton grounds his poetic, political and philosophical work on the conviction that humans are free and called to achieve moral perfection Kasa, , p. At the beginning of the poem, Satan is enchained at the Stygian Lake as a sort of punishment.

God treats his creatures as adult persons, and therefore he values the rebellion of angels. For that, he tempts them to achieve their own moral convictions not using their own effort but an instance which is external to their own conscience. Thus, Satan wants to lead humanity to a heteronomous morality. This means that Satan intends to avoid his victims consciously by using their capability of moral judgment to manipulate them better. Nevertheless, God does not consider the original sin as the moral death of humankind.


However, the path toward moral progress will not be free from pains and troubles. Finally, the poem closes with a sad and overwhelming scene, in which Adam and Eve abandon their happy existence in Paradise and head to the uncertainty of earthly life. Milton paints this moment with these words:. Whereat In either hand the hastening Angel caught Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast To the subjected plain; then disappeared.

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms: Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and providence their guide.

Metaphysics of Freedom | SpringerLink

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way. Milton describes the ending of this formative sequence in his second epic poem, Paradise Regained. This poem centers on the character of Jesus as the model of the new humanity. Therefore, Jesus has the fragile nature of the fallen man. This poem describes the temptations of Jesus. The temptations to Jesus are presented in persuasive arguments. Of particular interest is the debate between Jesus and Satan about the problem of revolution.

German Idealism

Milton was a tenacious defender of the Revolution of , which ended with the execution of Charles I. However, following Walker , p. Kahn points out the influence of Arminianism in the Miltonian thesis that the social contract does not imply that people transfer all their power to the government because they always conserve it in their hands.

Skinner refers to the role played by the republican tradition, which goes back the Codex Justinianus. Our author takes from this tradition the idea of freedom as non-domination, that is to say as the absence of submission to the will of the other p. In this context, individuals are free since they are their own judge or sui iuris.

Cox differentiates the Miltonian conception of freedom from the Hobbesian idea of negative freedom as well as from that which is bound to narrow ideals of moral perfection pp.

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Despite this republican conception of freedom, Milton does not believe that a violent revolution could end any form of tyranny. Virtue can, in turn, be developed only through the use of practical reason, thanks to the exercise of critical judgment. Hence the importance of the freedom of speech for the optimization of rational agency. Areopagitica was published as a reaction against a law passed in , called the Licensing Act.

However, beyond this particular event, the book is motivated by the conviction that politicians must recognize and obey the voice of reason, wherever it could come from. The privileged medium for the improvement of critical rationality is the free expression of ideas and convictions through a book. In the course of Areopagitica, Milton develops several argumentative strategies to defend freedom of speech as a condition of argumentative rationality in moral and political fields. From this background, Milton refers to Ancient Greece when the judges of the Areopagus only condemned the blasphemous, atheists, or slanderous books.

Nevertheless, this happened neither with the writings of Epicurus, who denied the divine providence, nor with those by cynics, who stood for a licentious sexual life. In this respect, and according to Kranidas , Milton reconstructs English culture in continuity with the Roman republican tradition. Therefore, he considers the practice of censorship is foreign to that tradition p. He states that even the goddess Juno, who crossed her legs to delay the arrival of an unwanted child, would not do anything similar to postpone the birth of an intellectual offspring.

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The same indignation drives Milton to draw on biblical arguments. As shown above, Milton states that God does not want to keep humans in a childish state, submitting them to a series of prescriptions.

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As an echo of the conception of the original sin developed in Paradise Lost , Milton argues that we are born morally corrupted. Therefore, virtue stems from the wisdom which results from the rejection of moral evil once the individual has known all the temptations evil offers. God allowed Satan to tempt Adam in Paradise so humankind could make use of the freedom of choice and be morally responsible and imputable.

Modern European Philosophy

In this sense, Milton examines several arguments in favor of the prohibition of morally damaging books. One of them is grounded in the idea that the moral evil contained in them is a kind of infection, which could expand without control.

Milton argues that, if we followed this chain of reasoning, even the Bible would have to be prohibited, given that there are narrated blasphemous acts, the intemperance of evil people, or holy people complaining about divine providence, as in the Book of Job. Milton also objects that the system of censorship of books assumes that censors are morally infallible. This metaphor implies that truth is something dynamic, which means that the subject must be ready to put into question those ideas held to be true.

At the same time, as Bezemek shows, Milton develops an agonal conception of truth, understood as the friction and contrast between truth and falsehood, which can be settled only by the sentence of reason p. Blasi notes that in this sense, Milton has a remarkable trust that truth will prevail anyway in the long run p. Also, Milton argues that the previous censorship of books is a lack of respect for the dignity of those who seek knowledge for itself. This line of argumentation developed by Milton has a precursor character.

Some posterior theories will explore the way in which disrespecting relationships affect the perception of judicative capacities and moral autonomy. In this sense, I consider that the Fichtean theory of recognition could be seen as a deepening of this line of work. Following this chain of reasoning, the previous censorship of books is also a lack of respect for the public, given that it is a form of paternalism since it assumes that the public is so stupid as to change its mind as a result of reading a pamphlet. In this sense, Jordan remarks that, according to Milton, a government is legitimate when its treats citizens as adult and rational people p.

Thus, the ideal of a just State involves the requirement of establishing relationships of mutual recognition in terms of equal respect and consideration. Only in this way could citizens confirm their capacity of critical judgment and defend their moral and political conceptions. Milton points out that the conformist attitude which promotes censorship is similar to that of businessmen who find religion too complicated and mysterious.

Thus, to devote all their energy and time to their businesses, these wealthy men feast and flatter the churchmen. However, as in the case of Fichte, the defense of freedom of speech makes any sense only from the background of an ideal of State. As Corns states, Milton determines his concept of a Commonwealth in a negative way.