Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Daniel Breazeale


In this dissertation, I take on an exegetical project of understanding how Fichte’s theory of the self influences his account of moral deliberation, and specifically, his account of conscience. I argue that moral action can only be understood within Fichte’s system as possible on the basis of the individual’s own cognitive awareness that they are not only bound by the moral law, but that they are so in virtue of their essential nature as selves. In other words, the feeling of conscience in Fichte’s work, and the decision to abide it, requires that the acting individual recognize that the ought behind the moral law is a product of nothing more than their own nature as free I’s.

This recognition of the self-given nature of the moral law requires a specific reflective process, one that Fichte lays out clearly in the early part of The System of Ethics. This reflective process elevates the I – from first something only potentially conscious, to finally something fully so.

But it is not always clear how this reflective work fits with his account of particular moral deliberations – is it a backdrop that creates humans capable of moral deliberation at all, or is it a feature of individual deliberative processes themselves? Below, I argue that it is the latter view – that reflection on the moral law’s self-givenness is a part of specific deliberative acts – that best makes sense of Fichte’s account of moral deliberation.

Incorporating Fichte’s remarks on self-reflection into his account moral deliberation also offers a clear picture of how Fichte conceived of I-hood. In this project, I argue that I-hood for Fichte must be understood in two different ways; one, a ‘minimal’ form of I-hood that all humans capable of rational thought possess, and another ‘full’ form of I-hood that is found only when individuals choose to think and act freely.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)