Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 348
The Vocation of Man (Die Bestimmung des Menschen) is a treatise published in 1800 by German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Fichte was a contemporary of Kant and an imitator of his style. His treatise is divided into three parts: 1.) Doubt 2.) Knowledge, and 3.) Faith.
In beginning of the first chapter, Fichte states, "I cannot truly say that I possess the slightest knowledge of my vocation" (16). Fichte then proceeds with that which he knows: that everything in Nature "is something" (such as a color, or another descriptive adjective) or "it is not something," and he concludes that "from nothing, nothing whatever can proceed" (22). Humans, too, are a part of nature; however, they are capable of thoughts that exist in as real a fashion as tangible objects ("[thought's] existence is absolute and independent" ).
In "Doubt," Fichte concludes that "my consciousness is the source of my limitation." This results in a paradox: man is subject to the limitations of Nature but also makes his own limitations. Fichte postulates: "Am I free and independent?—or am I nothing in myself, and merely the manifestation of a foreign power?" Neither, according to Fichte, is sufficient to explain mankind's complexity.
His chapter on "Knowledge" begins with an imagined dialogue between himself and an encouraging interlocutor called "The Spirit." This internal dialogue with "The Spirit" convinces Fichte that humans don't necessarily have control over their own thoughts. Additionally, "in [human] consciousness there is always a conclusion drawn from the effect in myself to a cause out of myself" (94). This section suggests that mankind and consciousness are not subject to a foreign power. This conclusion is reached through a Socratic dialogue.
The third section acknowledges mankind's search for "something beyond a mere presentation of conception" (113). In this section, Fichte reasons that humans are uniformly directed by a common, universal "Will." He states, "This Will unites me with himself; he also unites me with all finite beings like myself, and is the universal mediator between us all" (174). Ultimately, Fichte's philosophical treatise uses inductive reasoning (stemming from our own human thoughts) to intuit the existence of a benevolent higher power.