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Duties to Oneself and Other Ways of Being Bound in Fichte’s Sittenlehre

2022 , De Haro Romo, Vicente

In this chapter, I will briefly explore a relatively recent discussion on the kind of normativity found in Fichte’s 1798 Das System der Sittenlehre nach den Prinzipien der Wissenschaftslehre. Because of some ambiguity that the Fichtean argument presents in this book, some interpretations argue that Fichte’s ethics could be understood as consequentialist or as agent-neutral perfectionism. I squarely argue against this consequentialist interpretation and express doubt about some aspects of the perfectionism alternative, and later focus on how I think we should understand, in the context of this discussion, Fichte’s position on duties to oneself. Fichte accepts duties to oneself as part of his system of duties, but only as conditioned (bedingte) and mediated (mittelbare), because, for him, the object of the moral law is the moral law itself, and its presentation (Darstellung) to the moral agent is never instantiated in his or her own person, but rather only presented in the whole community of rational beings. Does this mean that, in Fichte’s ethics, the individual person is irrelevant or even unthinkable as an end in itself? I will argue that this is not the case, and I will propose another way of understanding Fichte’s argumentative strategy on duties to oneself, suggesting at the end of the chapter that Kant’s position on this topic is preferable. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.