Between Reinhold and Fichte

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Because of the numerous interpretations that have appeared in the work of various philosophers, representation has been a source of great discussion in philosophy. Philosophers such as Reinhold and Fichte provide distinct interpretations of representation, although both imply the same meaning on the issue. Reinhold presented an interpretation of the meaning of the act of representation through his critical work in attempting to develop a universal understanding of the work of another philosopher, Kant. Reinhold's work is based on the premise of the widely accepted legitimacy of particular philosophical topics, because Kant's work is difficult to interpret and, despite its importance, is not well welcomed in society. On the other hand, Fichte based his work on philosophy by arguing against some of the philosophical concepts of Reinhold. Fichte argues that representation analogy by Reinhold should not be accorded the first principle of philosophy as it failed in some areas since it allowed skeptical objections. According to Fichte, representation requires the analysis of distinction and relation in the human spirit to give the principle of consciousness an eligible meaning, which contradicted Reinhold's analogy of universal determination of the principals of knowledge. These arguments by the philosophers present a difficulty in understanding what representation means since both give different interpretations on the same subject.

Reinhold’s Views

Reinhold claimed that representation took place and had an impact on the consciousness of a person, thus, making it a fact rather than an act. Reinhold argued that different philosophical positions were necessary since they shared a common goal, which was the inquiry to find the truth, however, at the same time did not achieve the complete truth but only partial insights on an object of the investigation. Understanding that the conscious mind questioned the object rather than the action was essential to Reinhold since it gave perspective to his argument that the representation of the object was a fact since it took place in the conscious mind.

Reinhold understood the importance of having an assured and reasonable foundation to base on the discipline of philosophy. Therefore, having the proper interpretation of representation was imperative to aid in the attempts to deduce the meaning of consciousness and prove the claims of Reinhold. According to Reinhold, there was a need to have extensive discussions on the act of representation and its transcendental implications. He deduced that the work of Kant, Kritik, was shallow since it failed to address the original elements involved in the theory of knowledge, therefore, affected the perceptions of representation.

Reinhold also discussed the critical subject of consciousness raising the thought that the scope of the elements of knowledge and its meaning, formulated the essential idea of philosophy. Since the Reinhold demanded the reformulation of some of the aspects of philosophy, he argued that there was the need for an original and universally acceptable principle of philosophy to transform it into a whole discipline. Through the universal accepted validity of philosophy, only then would representation have any significance on the fact of consciousness. This is because only when the reality of consciousness is unquestionable will it fulfill the criteria of universality and provide acceptance of its validity.

According to Reinhold, consciousness and knowledge are the consequences of a multifaceted process since it synthesizes both thought and intuition of a person. Reinhold argues that the fact of consciousness upon reflection provided the immediate confirmation on the original and required character of representation. This means that consciousness is not a fact that is verifiable since it is neither a product of internal or outside experience, however, its revelation is reliant on an individual's reflection. Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that representation is only in mind and the idea of an object is from the outside mind since the interpretation lies in the choice of perception.

Fichte’s Views

Criticism of the work of Reinhold made Fichte decide to question some of the similarities he shared with Reinhold; thus, he had to reconsider critical conviction and rethink his philosophical premises. Fichte argued that Reinhold’s position on the first philosophy failed to address some concerns and was not intelligently established, thus gave it an incorrect interpretation. There were contradictions with the effort to ground philosophy as a fact of consciousness by Reinhold, which Fichte identified and argued that some of the elementary philosophy interpretation challenged the opinions of Reinhold. However, he agrees with Reinhold that the construction of philosophy is a first self-evident principle since the suggestion of consciousness is undeniable and an existing fact of consciousness and its representation. Fichte points out that the principle of consciousness admits two original concurrent procedures of the human spirit, distinction, and relation that are synthesized in the act of representation.

According to Fichte, the principal of consciousness cannot fulfill the first principle of philosophy since it does not qualify as a universally self-determined principle thus, depicting Reinhold’s interpretation to be significantly undersupplied. From Fichte’s determination, one would argue the elaborate principal of consciousness should fulfill the material-ontological condition required to qualify an object. The grounding of representation in Fichte’s opinion needs to realize a subjective and objective component of elements whereby there is the achievement of concurrent acts of distinction and relation. This means that an object or subject needs to be logically assumed to enable the possibility of its direct representation. Both the subject and object need to be portrayed as indirectly present in the conscious mind as representations of the subject and object. Therefore, the description of an object becomes an act rather than a fact since an object exists in the conscious mind of the subject.


While Reinhold acknowledged the representation of a subject and an object as well as their simultaneous acts of distinction and relation, the systems were unclearly defined and left an uncertain interpretation. Fichte, on the other hand, demanded that the transcendental possibilities of the original elements be explained systematically to provide an understanding of the representation of distinction and relation. Fichte argues that the progressive deduction of the subject requires an in-depth inquiry about the conscious acts of the human’s consciousness. The standards set by Reinhold are in contradiction to the views by Fichte suggesting the principle of consciousness can only guarantee a representation that meets the logical certainty. However, Fichte argues that it is incorrect to assume that the subject is a necessary reasonable condition for all representation since the object and the subject are perceptions created by the consciousness action and not considered a fact. However, these two philosophers agree on the need to ground philosophy on a first self-evident principle.


Posesorski, Ezequiel L. Between Reinhold and Fichte: August Ludwig Hülsen's contribution to the emergence of German idealism. Vol. 5. KIT Scientific Publishing, 2012.

June 12, 2023
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