Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675
The Vocation of Man by Johann Gottlieb Fichte is the author’s attempt to break down the steps in developing faith. Fichte establishes “Doubt,” “Knowledge,” and “Faith” as the key stages to developing an individual’s faith.
Fichte begins his work with “Doubt.” Here the author tries to establish his ethos. Fichte attempts to build his credibility by establishing that he comes by his knowledge through a complex analysis of his observations and through a dedication to this process of analysis.
I believe that I am now acquainted with no inconsiderable part of the world that surrounds me, and I have certainly employed sufficient labour and care in the acquisition of this knowledge. I have put faith only in the concurrent testimony of my senses, only in repeated and unvarying experience I have beheld, I have touched—what I have touched, I have analyzed have repeated my observations again and again; I have compared the various phenomena with each other; and only when I could understand their mutual connexion, when I could explain and deduce the one from the other, when I could calculate the result beforehand, and the observation of the result had proved the accuracy of my calculations, have I been satisfied. Therefore I am now as well assured of the accuracy of this part of my knowledge as of, my own existence; I walk with a firm step in these understood spheres of my world, and do actually every moment venture welfare and life itself on the certainty of my convictions.
Fichte continues his exploration of the development of faith with the idea of “Knowledge.” Fichte, having established some credibility in “Doubt,” now appeals to pathos. He attempts to draw on the sympathy of the reader. He is trying to show the pains that he has gone through in his endeavor to analyze how faith is developed.
Chagrin and anguish stung me to the heart. I cursed the returning day which called me back to an existence whose truth and significance were now involved in doubt. I awoke in the night from unquiet dreams. I sought anxiously for a ray of light that might lead me out of these mazes of uncertainty. I sought, but became only more deeply entangled in the labyrinth.
Fichte ultimately attempts to define faith. He argues that it is something that cannot be defined. There can be no proof of something that is dependent on faith.
This it is:—l demand something beyond a mere presentation or conception; something that is, has been, and will be, even if the presentation were not; and which the presentation only records, without producing it, or in the smallest degree changing it. A mere presentation I now see to be a deceptive show; my presentations must have a meaning beneath them, and if my entire knowledge revealed to me nothing but knowledge, I would be defrauded of my whole life. That there is nothing whatever but my presentations or conceptions, is, to the natural sense of mankind, a silly and ridiculous conceit which no man can seriously entertain, and which requires no refutation. To the better-informed judgment, which knows the deep, and, by mere reasoning, irrefragable grounds for this assertion, it is a prostrating, annihilating thought.
Fichte leaves his reader with the idea that his search for faith was his way of developing his faith.
The world on which but now I gazed with wonder passes away from before me and sinks from my sight. With all the fullness of life, order, and increase which I beheld in it, it is yet but the curtain by which a world infinitely more perfect is concealed from me, and the germ from which that other shall develop itself. My FAITH looks behind this veil, and cherishes and animates this germ. It sees nothing definite, but it expects more than it can conceive here below, more than it will ever be able to conceive in all time.
Even though his answers were not the ones he sought, he has made peace with his faith.