Wednesday, May 06, 2009

George di Giovanni, why?

This is tiresome.

George di Giovanni's little essay in The Cambridge Companion to Kant, "The first twenty years of critique: The Spinoza connection," just bothered the hell out of me. I liked his translation work in Religion and Rational Theology, although the sentences were often so long that I had to take a coffee break after the first dozen commas. Kant's fault, not his, but yikes. Anyway, this stuck in my craw:
1799 is when Fichte was being driven away from his position as professor of philosophy at Jena because of charges of atheism -- and also, unofficially, because he was suspected of Jacobin leanings.
Uh, not quite true. Not utterly false, but here's the whole story:
In the heat of this crisis [the Atheism Controversy], Fichte seriously miscalculated and badly overplayed his own hand. He and Niethammer, as requested, prepared and sent to the Weimar authorities a "Juridicial Defense" of their behavior; and then, as a tactical move, Fichte wrote a letter to these same authorities in which he stubbornly declared himself unwilling to accept the slightest censure and threatened to resign if he was found in the least blameworthy. On March 29 he received a letter from Duke Karl-August of Weimar "accepting his resignation." Despite frantic efforts to repair the harm he had inflicted on himself -- efforts that included the ill-advised publication of his Juridicial Defense Against the Charge of Atheism -- and despite equally frantic efforts on his behalf by friends, colleagues, and students, Fichte failed to retain his position at the University of Jena.
Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings.

Fichte sort of...did these things. He threw fits all the time. So, while losing his job over some writings that could broadly be interpreted as atheist was unfair, he didn't handle it well.

What concerns me is that this feeds a narrative of religious oppression that is often overstated. I expect Allen Wood to do this sort of thing. Let's be better than that, George.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home