Kant and Fichte on Education: Critical Review
Dr Reza Mahoozi, Assistant Professor, a Faculty Member and Vice President for Research and Education of the research Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, at the 24th World Congress of Philosophy in China (Beijing) presented his article titled: ” Kant and Fichte on Education: Critical Review”. The full text of the article is attached.
Kant discusses his education theory in “The Conflict of the Faculties” and “The Education”. He believes that the aim of education is acquiring skills, citizenship and morality in both pre-university and university. With the entrance of German society to the new period of civilization and for developing reason, while using the precedent’s experiences, education system looks ahead to the future. Therefore, under the concept of “culture of skill”, the education system paves the ground for reaching the better situation or ultimate end in the framework of “culture of discipline”. Some years after Kant and having conquered the important territories of Prussia by Napoleon Bonaparte and migration of elites and university professors to Berlin, The thought of renewing and giving back the power to the Prussia government emerged seriously in a new way as a public discourse. In this period, contrary to the previous decade, the rationality and rational education has been considered in proportion to government and political issues. At this time, the thought of understanding of religion in scope of pure reason replaced with understanding of reason in politics. For this reason, Fichte in “Addresses to the German Nation” and other books, which have been written on the occasion of establishing Berlin University, emphasized on education system and university in order to serve the government and German nationality.
In this paper, while we discuss the features of five dominant discourses –religious, philosophical, nationality (state-nation), communism, economical, and cultural – in two recent centuries, we also review the status of peace among countries and unions in the viewpoint ofKant and Fichte. Since Kant considers the rationality as a providence of God and nature on human being, therefore, all people and nations has to wake up and open-mindedly stands on their feet. Therefore, in Kant’s philosophy, there is no ban for proposing theoretical and practical fundaments of cultural and economical interaction between nations and countries and as a result, imagining of multi-dimensions of peace and peaceful interactions among societies. This issue is evident in “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” and “Perpetual Peace”.
The same as Kant, Fichte also talked about the new civilized period. But the issue is more complex about him. With the aim of tacking back the conquered territories and emphasizing on the flag on one hand, and furthering the German idealism on the other hand, Fichte is in doubt among using Kantian rationality project and nationality discourse. Putting aside this question that “if Kant faced with the social and political issues of Fichte period or even contemporary issues, what thought he would have had?”, and “If we apply the thought of these two thinkers in our time which is economic oriented, would it be helpful?”
Keywords: peace, culture, education, Kant, Fichte
Kant and University
Although Kant was educated and taught in a classic system of university and became full professor in this system, based on his historical point of view he definitely knows that the beginning of a new era of culture and civilization requires change in the function of university and its historical role. Kant believes university should be a think tank for future evolutions of a society that intends to change towards rationality, morality and unity.
This perception of Kant from university function is relevant to what he proposed as “Culture of Skill” and “Culture of Discipline” in his “third Critique”. Kant points out the two of triple university functions, i.e. teaching special and practical skills and Citizenship rules as a subject that university should supply in culture of skill framework. For Kant, Culture of Skill which is essential condition for the Culture of discipline paves the ground for fundamental evolutions and change of the society, based on the orientation of new civilization. According to the Kant’s Philosophy of History, since the Nature make possible the development of reason for human and directs it toward comprehensive ethical system, Kingdom of ends or highest good or “Culture of Discipline”, for all societies and nations as providence, so the man and societies have to use all the possibilities (natural resources and aid of creatures and the whole world) in order to reach the final and ideal state. Although we are far from the final state, as Kant says, we should consider an unpredictable and long time for that.
For Kant, teaching special and citizenship skills is two tasks that the education system, in the university and before that, should prepare in the framework of culture of skill and with a view on the ideals of culture of discipline and educate the skilled graduates for future changes and evolutions. In this process, “morality” as the third function of the education system is the hidden end but present in all phases of education and since the moral perfection for the society and individuals comes at the end of historical moves of reason, the third function of education system (Morality) is the same as the teleological Cause. The cause that aids the education system in order to serve the society that moves to the new phase of culture and civilization.
Kant sees this explicit future for the whole human being, not for special society and individual, and argues that the ideal reason of Humanity is the final end for development of reason in history and fulfilling the civil society that protects peace and “the culture of skill”.
… Now for the first time we are beginning to judge rightly and understand clearly what actually belongs to a good education? It is delightful to imagine that human nature might be developed better and better by means of education. And that the latter can be brought into a form appropriate for humanity. This opens to us the prospect of a future happier human species. (Kant, 1960, 9: 444)
… Children ought to be educated not for the present, but for a possibly improved condition of man in the future; that is, in a manner which is adapted to the idea of humanity and the whole destiny of man” (Ibid, (15), 9: 447).
Kant in “Perpetual Peace” refers to the republican system, economic welfare, citizenship rights, civil participation, sustained peace and so on as conditions of moving toward morality and fulfilling the moral society that the culture of skill should acquire. All the mentioned states require the creative and promoting education system that brings the future to the present; the education system teaches subjects that the current society does not possess them.
This is the very difficult task that Education, as the most complicated of human creativity, is engaged in it. Because in this process, human, who is in need of education themselves, should educate our children and move the society ahead. In fact, this is the aspect that promotes the education to the level of art.
The human being shall make him better, cultivate himself, and, if he is evil, bring forth morality in himself. If one thinks over this carefully, will find it very difficult. That is why education is the greatest and the most difficult problem that can be given to the human being. because insight depends on education and education in turn depends on insight (Ibid, (12), 9:446).
Kant resolves the problem by applying the antecedent’s experiences and promotes them on the view of the aim of scientific education which is perfect humanity (personality):
Each generation, provided with the knowledge of the foregoing one, is able more about gifts, and the fulfillment of man’s destiny (Ibid, 11).
All these functions are justified because in order to enter to a new era of culture and civilization the human have to become mature. In fact, as Gonzalez says, “the aim of the education is to change the human from being immature to maturity and using his freedom with consideration. In order to meet this aim, education cannot be mechanical and just imitate. It should teach the human how to act based on principles and thought” (Gonzalez, 2011, P.449).
This subject on university education is so complicated because of specialty of the knowledge. In “the Conflict of the Faculties” Kant believes that University should preserve its historical role for the future evolutions. It should be changed from being classical and traditional into the new structure and officially recognize the priority and superiority of Philosophy and Faculty of philosophy which criticize the Reason. It is necessary not only the government and church recognize the independency of university and avoid interfering in framework of three high faculties, Theology, law and medicine, but also ask the university to change the faculty of philosophy from lower level to the highest. In other word, the faculty of philosophy in a legitimate conflict brought to challenge the fundamental thoughts of the three faculties- that educate the people who will be practitioners of the government- and based on a scheme from the future and the rational and moral system and final unity of thought and reality, tries to help the promotion of knowledge, society, morality and religiosity.
In Kant’s view, in order to accurate the function of university system, it is necessary that the government concentrate on the rational and ethical reading that emphasis on moving the society towards maturity and rationality instead of mystical or emotional reading of religion,. For this, at first the government should recognize the domination of rationality of philosophy (critique of modern reason) as the soul of university, and the second, the faculty of philosophy play its historical role properly.
Fichte and University
Fichte believes that the promotion and saving the rational and ethical society of Germany is possible merely by changing the current educational situation. For him, this change is the only way to protect of German nation.
The main solution to protect German nation is to develop a new national education system does not exist in any country (Fichte, 1979, P.19).
Fichte connect this monopoly with specialty of German language and its capabilities in thinking and presenting varied levels of idealism in the enlightenment age in order to reach to freedom and regeneration of human race by the high level of education (see Ibid, p 17). Fitch, the same as Kant, focused on the fundamental evolution in his time and introduced German Idealism as a beginning step of entrance to the new civilization. He declared this matter in “Addresses to the German Nation”:
… The present is no longer ours…; the hope of a better future is the only atmosphere in which we can still breathe (Ibid, P. 193)
For Fichte who believes in rebuilding national life of Germany in perspective of rebuilding of academic life, the education system which is going to guarantee the life and duration of German society should be under supervision of the government and considering the goals ahead, apply all the freedoms of will and under the art of patriotism educate the strong wills (Fichte, 1979, P 20). This thoroughly education is the one that connect Bildung to Fichte in patriotism so that the outcome to be rebuilding the nation; Patriotism that needs much expenses of education. The Government ‘that at first all of us expect from it” should pay the heavy expenditure of national educating. But there is no reason to worry about because “the correct education resolves so many unnecessary expenditure and there is no need to remove military, jails and … (Ibid, P.191).
For Fichte, the redeeming power of national education that can make unity in every aspect, gains its soul from the philosophy to much extent. In fact this is philosophy that sketches the united structure of science and defines the position of pure and impure sciences. Fichte argues that only the professors who believe that the idealistic philosophy is the fundaments of all academic efforts, deserve the title of Master of Art. Those who do not have the accurate understanding of philosophy are called in old title of Doctor. Those Master of Arts should engage them in philosophy as an art and enjoy the freedom and wisdom that redirected properly (see Hofstetter, 2011).
Fichte also proposes the link between German nationalism and the sublime and romanticism in philosophy which is moral in its first phase. In other meaning, for Fichte, the future system of education should consider the leadership for rebuilding the moral Germany (see Ibid). The failure of Peruse from Napoleon military and as a result closing of more than half active universities in the government of Peruse (Witrrock, 2014, 1396, P.12) is rooted in the morality weakness of German society and for overcoming this weakness, the system of education should educate the whole German nation, and not a special class, with the aim of moral unity and territorial integrity.
Principally, this education should be undertaken by elite that poses “moral perfection on knowledge” and direct people and society to good situation. These educated elites who have their own class, in proportion to state and church, have the moral responsibility of German nation and Peruse government under the highest sublime for this land.
In Fichte’s view, passing over the territories would not be possible merely with the aim of discovering and educating top talents. Basically, the education must convey the required awareness from the whole land and this awareness result in cognition of German customs and national features came across. The complete cognition of land can lead to cultural identity and patriotism (Hofstetter, 2011). Fichte combines this patriotism with “world citizenship and the meaning of German nationality” and suggests it as a soul of future German higher education (Fichte, 1835, P.284). For Fichte, the art of Critical thought that measures everything with critical and dialectical method, directed towards unity and this unity, blossoms the idea of cultural unity and land. Therefore, an academic individual should pass three course of learning, teaching and scientific and practical artistic during his education and throughout this courses, do not lose his main mission, i.e. getting rationality and freedom via research (see Ibid).
Fichte, combining the unity of culture, science and land through human subject, think about self-subsisting that education, pre-university and university, is responsible for educating and acquiring it. Although this prosperous and free subject, gained the final end of humanity, in the beginning is educated under the supervision of distinguished professor and state authorizes and is not benefited from the common freedom in education systems, but at the end, when it can reach to the rational maturity benefiting from the physical and spiritual results, can benefit from morality and feels its unity with divine order and paternal land and can see all these affairs in a rational unity (Fichte, 1979, pp.113-14). In fact, the value of paternal land and moral and rational feeling gained through entrance to the third step that is freedom. In other word, philosophy should be present from the beginning to the end and undertake the leadership of the new era of civilization and culture.
Kant and Fichte and contemporary issues
If Kant faced with the issues of Fichte time, the necessity of rebuilding German culture and identity, what would he do to improve weak pints of Peruse military and government? We can ask this question when Kant and Fichte confronts with our time issues and problems. Kant in his writings emphasis on human kind and all society’s improvement and global nature of modern reason. He did not limit the improvement of reason to the German society. Kant limits religion to the pure reason and asks from the king to recognize the kingdom and priority of pure reason for changing the society. In Kant’s view, with recognizing the pure reason, we can reach to development of sciences, moral and cultural unity, civilization promotion and perpetual peace. Kant opposes revolution and war as two public forms of conflict among nations and governments. Because these forms distracts moral talents and postpone rational and moral development.
Definitely, if Kant was the thinker of Fichte time, he would suggest peace and discourse instead of war. He did not limit the development and rationality to the national territories or special races. Every peace requires both party agreements. If the discourse be one-way, there would be no positive result as well. In this situation, perhaps the war becomes the only choice of the government. In order to bind the government to adopt peace and avoid war, Kant suggests the establishment of global federation. In his view, this global organization which is established as a result of neighbor countries coalition, can grantee sustained peace instead of war and hidden development of war equipment in order to avoid it. It also can help to reach to the scientific and moral development and finally, global unity.
Besides these possible suggestions of Kant to the contemporary issues of ours, we can invite these two thinkers to the contemporary world and propose the problem of considerable role of economy in international affairs and the peace based on economic benefits to them. As we know, after World War II, economic development as a substitute approach in order to inform the global communication discourse was suggested with the aim of weakening national and racial thought; a suggestion that led to the establishment of different universities and economic-oriented research and educational institutes.
In fact, Kant and Fichte are the philosophers of culture. They believe the culture priority over technique. In contrast, in the recent time, the priority of technique is dominant over culture. Maybe in this situation you think the Fichte-Kantian universities in the contemporary period and their acclaim on social responsibility is useless. However, as Jacques Derrida points out, their university and education system, specially Kant’s, can help the independency of universities and the necessity of fading external disruptive factors that spread all over the system including economic and news agencies, and center of services. In contemporary world, economic oriented universities have no responsible over social problems except for financial projects. Their obligation is dependent to the project they accept. Fichte and Kantian responsible-oriented university can rebuilt the obligation to the truth and reality as the need of future society which will be discourse oriented and peace defender. The future of nations should not war supporter. Instead, it should be based on discourse among national and countries with the aim of clarifying hidden aspects of fact and reality. The only way, is to rebuild the Kantian University in different work.
The human reason in the recent two centuries had different experiences and tasted the bitterness and sweetness of some collective and International decisions. The future global society, wishes peace, welfare and spirituality for all the human being, regardless of race, religion, language and color. The reason and culture oriented of university model of Kant and to some extent Fichte that concentrates on moral and rational evolution, can be an approach in order to suggest the world without considering local, verbal, and national commitment to incomplete truth. This model can suggest discourse as a new solution in the world, while economic rivalry among government and states that requires political interactions, commercial, political, military and cultural interference can be seen. This principal of discourse put aside tribalism and instead of creating boundary between self and other tries to listen carefully.
Fichte. 1979. Addresses to the German Nation (Trans. by R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull). Westport: Greenwood press.
Fichte. 1835. Ideas for the Inner Organization of the University of Erlangen. Bonn: Adolph Marcus.
Gonzalez, Ana Marta. 2011. Kant’s Philosophy of Education: Between Relational and Systemic Approaches. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 45 (3).
Hofstetter, Michael, 2001, The Romantic Idea of a University, Palgrave macmillan.
Kant. I. 1979. The Conflict of the Faculties (translation and introduction by Mary J. Gregor). New York press.
Kant. I. 1960. Education, trans. by Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.
Kant. I. 2003, to Perpetual Peace, trans. by Ted Humphrey, Hackett Publishing.
Wittrock, Bjorn, 2014, The Modern university in its historical context, Rethinking three transformations.