The Science of Rights/Part 1/Book 1

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The Science of Rights by Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Book First
Deduction of the Conception of Rights

§ 1[edit]



A. If a rational being is to posit itself as such, it must ascribe to itself an activity which shall have its last ground in itself.

An in itself returning activity (Egohood, subjectivity) is character of the rational being. The positing of itself (reflecting about itself) is an act of this activity. Let this reflection be called A. The rational being posits itself through the act of such an activity. All reflection reflects something as its object; let this object be called B. Now, what sort of a something must this object be as object of the reflection A? In A the rational being is to posit itself, is to be its own object; but its character is in itself returning activity. The last highest object (B) of its reflection must therefore also be in itself returning, or itself determining activity, since otherwise it would not posit itself as a rational being, and hence would not posit itself at all.

This assumed rational being is a finite being; but a finite rational being is one which can reflect only upon a Limited. Hence, the in itself returning activity B, must be a limited activity, that is, beyond this activity B there must be, and must be posited by the reflecting, a C, which is not this in itself returning activity, but rather its opposite.

B. Its activity in contemplating the world can not be posited by the rational being as such an activity, which has its last ground in itself:

For this contemplating activity is posited by its very conception as an activity which does not return into the Contemplating, but rather has an externality, an opposite of the Contemplating, a World for its object.

(After the contemplation, the activity in this contemplating may certainly also be ascribed by the rational being to itself, or raised into its consciousness; that is, the rational being may posit itself as the Contemplating. Nay, from the stand-point of transcendental philosophy, it appears quite clearly that even this Contemplating is nothing but an in itself returning Ego, and that the World is nothing but the Ego contemplated in its original limits. But if the Ego is to ascribe that activity in the contemplation of the world to itself, it must already have existence; and, at present, the question is only, how the Ego can originally be for itself, and this we can not explain from the world-contemplation, since, on the contrary, the latter becomes possible only through the former, which we are in search of.)

C. But the rational being can opposit such an activity as we are in search of, to the world, as that which limits this activity, and in order to opposit it can generate it. Moreover, if such an activity is the sole condition of the possibility of self-consciousness, and if self-consciousness must be ascribed to a rational being, as indeed that which constitutes it a rational being, then it must opposit and generate such an activity.

The activity of the rational being, in contemplating the world, which must be known to the philosopher, when his speculation has advanced to the Science of Rights, but which may not yet be known to the rational being, about which he philosophizes, is necessitated and bound, if not in regard to its form, that is, that it occurs at all, at least in regard to its content; that is, that, if it occurs, it must occur in such or such a manner. We must represent objects as they are—in our belief—without our cooperation; our representation must be determined by their being. An activity opposed to this activity would therefore, in order to be its opposite, have to be free in regard to its content; or, there must be in it a possibility of acting thus or otherwise.

Again, this free activity is to be limited by the activity in contemplating the world; that is, the activity in the world-contemplation is itself that free activity, but in, a state of limitedness; and vice versa, the free activity is the activity in the world-contemplation, whenever that limitedness falls away. In other words, objects are objects merely in so far as and through this, that they do not exist through free activity; and this free activity must be checked and limited, if objects are to be. For free activity tends to cancel these objects, in so far as they bind it. Hence, free activity is causality upon the objects, and contemplation is cancelled causality, causality voluntarily renounced by the rational being itself.

We have now described what the activity B is in its relation to the world-contemplation, and to the world itself. But it is also to be a return of the rational being into itself, and in so far as it is directed upon objects, it is not this. Hence, when related to the rational being itself, it must be a free determining of itself to have causality. Only in so far as this activity is directed upon objects, is it determined in its content. But originally, and in its essence, it must not be so determined. Hence, it must be determined through itself—must be determined and determining at the same time, and is, therefore, most truly, an in itself returning activity.

What we have just said may be systematically expressed thus: The activity B, which we were in search of, must be posited as an opposite to the contemplation, and is, in so far, absolutely free, precisely because that contemplating activity is not free; this activity B, moreover, is directed upon the rational being, or, which means the same, returns into itself, precisely because the contemplating activity is directed upon something external to the rational being; and in so far this activity B is the creating of the conception of an intentional causality outside of us, or of the conception of an end, (object.) At the same time, this activity B must be related to the contemplation, that is, posited as equal to it; and in this relation it is a causality directed upon objects. But it is to be carefully remembered that this causality upon objects follows immediately from that conception of an end, and is the very same, only viewed from another point of view.

By means of such an activity B the required self-consciousness becomes possible. B is something which has its last ground in the rational being itself, and can, as such, be posited only by means of the possible opposition of a something which has not its ground in the rational being. The Ego (the rational being itself as such) is thus now limited and determined, and hence, can be taken hold of by reflection; that is to say, the practical Ego is the Ego for the reflection; the reflection takes hold of this practical Ego, which is posited through itself, and which, in the reflection, must be posited as through itself; and of this Ego, as logical subject, a possible predicate may assert something, as, for instance, in our case—the contemplation of the world.

It is only by means of such an activity that self-consciousness becomes possible; for our result involves only the characteristics, which, at the commencement, we showed to be the conditions of self-consciousness; namely, first, the existence of such an in itself returning activity, or of an activity which should have its last ground in the rational being itself; secondly, the finity and limitedness of this activity; and thirdly, the being posited of this activity in opposition and relation to the limiting; as which it is posited indeed by merely being reflected about.

Hence, such an activity, and the positing thereof, is necessarily assumed when self-consciousness is assumed; and both conceptions are identical.


1. It is here maintained, that the practical Ego is the Ego of original self-consciousness; that a rational being perceives itself immediately only in Willing, and that it would not perceive itself, and hence would also not perceive the world, and that it would therefore not be Intelligence, if it were not a practical being. Willing is the real essential character of reason; and representation—although in the insight of the philosopher it stands in reciprocal causality with willing—is posited as the accidental. The practical faculty is the inmost root of the Ego; to it every thing else is attached, and with it connected.

All other attempts to deduce the Ego in self-consciousness have failed, because they must always presuppose what they wish to deduce; and we here see why they must fail. How was it indeed possible to assume, that the Ego arises through the connection of many representations, in none of which the Ego is contained? that an Ego is produced by the mere connection? On the contrary, only after the Ego is, can any thing be connected in it. The Ego must, therefore, exist[1]—of course for the Ego—in advance of all connection.

2. Willing and Representing are, therefore, in continual and necessary reciprocal causality, and neither is possible unless the other is at the same time. The first assertion, that willing is not possible without representing, will be admitted without much trouble: I must represent what I will. The other, that every representing is conditioned by a willing, may, however, meet difficulties. But a representation can not be without a Representing subject, and can not be posited in consciousness unless this representing subject is posited. This representing subject is—not accidentaliter, in so far as it now represents, but substantialiter, in so far as it is at all, and as it is a somewhat—either a really Willing, or, at least, a something, which is posited and characterized through its ability to will. Not Intelligence alone constitutes a rational being, for it alone is not possible; nor does the practical activity alone constitute a rational being, for it also is not possible alone; it is only both united which complete it and make it a Whole.

3. It is through this reciprocal causality between the Contemplation and Willing of the Ego, that the Ego and every thing which is for the Ego, that is, every thing which is at all, first becomes possible.

First of all, the Ego itself. It might be said, that a reciprocal causality between the Contemplation and the Willing of the Ego must precede the possibility of the Ego itself; that there must be something in the Ego, which stands in reciprocal causality, before the Ego is itself; and that this is a contradiction. But here lies the very deception which we wish to remove. Contemplation and Willing neither precede nor follow the Ego, but are the Ego; occur only in so far as the Ego posits itself; occur only in this positing and through this positing of its occurrence; and it is nonsense to think of any occurrence outside of and independent of this positing. Vice versa, the Ego posits itself in so far as both occur and in so far as it posits the occurrence of both; and it is equally nonsense to think of any other positing of the Ego. It is, at any rate, very unphilosophical to believe, that the Ego is something else than both its deed and product at once. Usually, however, as soon as we hear the Ego spoken of as an active, we hasten to picture a substrate, of which we proclaim this activity to be mere power or faculty. This substrate, however, is not the Ego, but is a product of our own imagination, which we sketch in consequence of the demand made upon us to think the Ego. The Ego is not something, which has powers; it is no power at all; but it is simply Acting; it is what it acts, and when it does not act, it is not at all.

It has been asked: How does the Representing subject arrive at the conviction that there exists an object of its representation outside of it, and that this object is determined precisely as it represents it? If those who asked this question had but considered what it really meant, they would themselves have arrived at the correct conception.

The Ego itself, through its acting, makes the object; the form of its acting is itself the object, and no other object is to be thought of. That, the manner of acting whereof necessarily becomes an object, is an Ego; and the Ego is nothing but that, the mere manner of acting whereof becomes an object. If it acts with its whole power—I must use this expression if but to express myself—then it is object to itself; but if it acts only with part of its power, then it acts upon something which is external, or upon an object.

To grasp itself in this identity of acting and being acted upon—not in the acting, nor in the being acted upon, but in the identity of both; and to surprise itself as it were in this act of grasping itself, is to comprehend the pure Ego and to get possession of the stand-point of all transcendental philosophy. This talent seems to be altogether deficient in some men. He who can only view each apart and separate, and who, though he takes the greatest pains, always grasps either the active or the object of the activity, obtains through both in their separation utterly distinct results, which can only be seemingly united, because they have not been so united from the beginning.

§ 2[edit]


A. It posits this external sensuous world. Only the absolutely self-active, or practical, is posited as subjective, as belonging to the Ego, and by its limitation the Ego is limited. Whatsoever lies beyond this sphere of the absolutely self-active, is posited, for the very reason that it lies beyond it, as not produced nor producible through the activity of the Ego; hence, it is excluded from the sphere of the Ego, and the Ego is excluded from its sphere; and thus there arises a system of objects, that is, a world, which exists independently of the Ego, that is to say, of the practical Ego, which here stands for the Ego generally, and independently of which world the Ego (also, of course, the practical Ego, which determines its ends) exists likewise; both of which, therefore, exist independently and externally of each other, and have both their separate existences.


1. The transcendental philosopher must assume that every thing which is, is only for an Ego; and whatsoever is for an Ego, can only be through the Ego. But common sense, on the contrary, claims an independent existence for both; and maintains that the world would be, though it (common sense) were not. The latter has no need to take cognizance of the assertion of the philosopher, and can not do so, for it stands on a lower stand-point; but the former must certainly take cognizance of common sense; and his assertions are indefinite, and hence, in part, incorrect, until he has shown how, from these very assertions, the precise results of common sense follow, and how they can indeed only be explained by those assertions. Philosophy must deduce our conviction of the existence of a world.

Now, this has been done here from the possibility of self-consciousness; and that conviction has been shown up as a condition of this self-consciousness. The Ego must posit an external world, because it can posit itself in self-consciousness only as practical activity; and because, since it can not posit any thing but a limited, it must posit a limit to this, its practical activity. This is the original procedure of every rational being, and is, doubtless, also the procedure of the philosopher.

Now, although the philosopher immediately afterward sees that the rational being must first posit its suppressed practical activity before it can posit and determine the object, and that thus the object itself is not immediately given, but is originally produced only by virtue of another—this need not disturb common sense; for it can not become conscious of the just now postulated process, since that process conditions the possibility of all consciousness, and is therefore beyond its sphere; it even does not disturb the philosopher as soon as he gets to the sphere of common sense.

It might be asked, What reality shall be ascribed to those acts which lie beyond the sphere of consciousness, and are not posited in consciousness, if reality is properly ascribed only to that which is necessarily posited by the Ego? Of course, no reality, except in so far as it is thus necessarily posited. Those acts beyond common consciousness have reality, therefore, only for the philosopher who posits them. If the activities of the human mind are to be systematically united in an ultimate ground, then this and that must be assumed as necessary acts; such, and nothing more, is what the philosopher asserts. Those original deed-acts have the same reality which the causality of things upon each other in the sensuous world, and their universal reciprocal relation, claim to have. For those primitive peoples, of which we still have memorials, who little united their experiences, but rather allowed their observations to lie scattered and separate in their consciousness, no such causality or universal relation of things had existence. They gave separate life to almost every object of the sensuous world, and thus made those objects first free causes, as they were themselves. The universal connection we speak of, had not only no reality for them, it even did not exist for them. But the man who connects his experiences into unity—and this problem lies in the way of the synthetically progressive human reason, and had to be taken up sooner or later—must necessarily connect in such a determined manner; and for him the whole connection thus obtained has reality. Moreover, as soon as this problem had been taken up and solved, and as human reason had once again returned into itself as it did for the first time with clear consciousness, and completely, in one of its sublimest representatives, KANT—and had thus discovered, that all its seeming external perceptions were, after all, produced by itself; the following additional problem proposed itself to the still synthetically progressive reason: namely, to unite all these, its modes of acting, also in an ultimate ground; and this proceeding had reality from the same ground which gave reality to the category of causality, of a universal connection of objects, etc. etc. This final problem for the synthetical faculty, moreover, after the solution of which mankind returns forever again to analysis, which analysis has thus, however, received quite a different significance—had also to be solved sooner or later; and all we might wish is this, that those persons who are not called by their talents to take part in this branch of science, would also take no notice of it, would leave, as has been heretofore customary, philosophy to the philosophers, and would not be so foolish in their anxiety for the reality of the results of that science, as to demand that we ought to give to those results the same kind of reality which alone is known to them. To say, "A pure Ego and its acts have no reality prior to consciousness," is as foolish as if a savage were to say, "Your causality and your reciprocal connection have no reality, because I can not eat them."

2. From the deduction of our conviction of the existence of a sensuous world, it results at the same time, how far this conviction extends, and in what condition of mind it occurs: for no grounded goes further than the ground, and as soon as we know the ground of a certain mode of thinking we also know its extent. It extends so far as our practical faculty is distinguished from and opposed to the theoretical faculty; so far as our representation of the influence of things upon us and of our reaction upon them extends, since only by this representation is our practical faculty posited as limited. This is the reason why philosophers have always proved the reality of an external world by its influence upon us; a proof which certainly presupposes what it would prove, but which pleases common sense, because it is the same proof common sense makes use of for itself.

But how does the speculative philosopher proceed in order to remove this conviction for some time, so that he may investigate beyond its range? Evidently by not drawing the distinction which conditions this conviction. As soon as we look merely at the activity in the representation and seek only to explain it, a necessary doubt regarding the existence of external things will arise. The transcendental idealist comprehends the practical and theoretical activity at the same time as activity generally; and hence there being now no passivity in the Ego, as, indeed, there can not be he arrives at the result, that the whole system of objects must be produced for the Ego by the Ego itself. But for the very reason that he has thus comprehended both activities, he can also, at the proper time, distinguish both, and show up the stand-point which common sense must necessarily occupy. The dogmatic idealist excludes the practical activity wholly from his investigations, looks only at the theoretical activity, which he desires to ground through itself; and hence he naturally makes the theoretical activity unconditioned.

But these speculations are possible for both sorts of philosophers only so long as they remain in the solitude of thinking; as soon as their practical activity is excited, both immediately forget their speculative convictions and return to the ordinary human view of things, simply because they must. There never has been an idealist who extended his doubts or his certitude to his actions, and there never will be one; for if he did, he could not act at all, and hence could not live at all.

B. The rational being also determines the sensuous world by that positing of its free activity; that is, in positing that sensuous world it at the same time invests it with certain general and unchangeable characteristics.

Firstly. The conception of the causality of the rational being is produced through absolute freedom; and hence the object of this causality in the sensuous world, being its opposite, must be fixed and unalterably determined. The Ego is infinitely determinable; the object, because it is an object, is once and for ever determined. The Ego is what it is in Acting; the object is what it is in Being. The Ego is incessantly becoming, and there is nothing permanent in it; the object is, as it is, forever; is what it is and is what it will be. In the Ego lies the ultimate ground of its acting; in the object lies the ultimate ground of its being; for it has nothing but being.

Secondly. The conception of causality, produced through absolute freedom, and which, under this same circumstance, might be infinitely different, tends upon a causality in the object Hence the object must be infinitely changeable through an infinitely changeable conception; that is to say, it must be possible to make out of the object whatever one may possibly will to make out of it. The object is fixed, is permanently determined, as we said at first, and may, therefore, by virtue of this its permanency, resist the causality of a rational being; but it can not change itself through itself, (it can not commence any effort;) and hence it can not act contrary or in opposition to this causality of a rational being.

Finally, the rational being can not posit itself as having causality, without positing itself, at the same time, as representing; it can not posit itself as acting upon a determined object, without constantly representing this determined object; it can not posit a determined causality as completed, without positing the object upon which it was directed. For, since the object is posited as annihilating the causality, although the causality must remain together with the object, there arises here an opposition, which can only be mediated by a floating of the imagination between object and causality, through which floating there arises a Time. Hence, the causality, in its working upon the object, occurs successively in Time. Now, if the causality is directed upon one and the same object, and if thus the causality is regarded in every present moment as conditioned by the previous moment, then the condition of the object is also regarded in each moment as conditioned by its condition in all previous moments, beginning at the first cognition of the object; and thus the object remains the same, although it is incessantly changed; that is to say, the substrate produced by imagination, in order to connect in it the manyfold of the qualties, or in other words, the basis of the incessantly each other excluding accidences, which is called their substance, always remains the same. This is the reason why we can posit ourselves only as changing the form of the things, and not their substance, and why we are well conscious of the power to infinitely alter the shapes of things, but also of our inability to produce or annihilate them, and, likewise, why matter can be neither increased nor diminished for us. On this stand-point of common consciousness—but by no means on the stand-point of transcendental philosophy—it is true that matter is originally given to us.

§ 3.[edit]



A. We have shown in §1 that a rational being can not posit (perceive and comprehend) an object, without, in the same undivided synthesis, ascribing to itself a causality.

But it can not ascribe to itself a causality without having posited an object, upon which that causality is directed. The positing of the object, as a something determined through itself, and in so far checking the free activity of the rational being, must be posited in a previous time-moment, and it is only through this positing of a previous time-moment, that the time-moment, in which we comprehend the conception of causality, becomes the present. All comprehending is conditioned by the positing of a causality of the rational being, and all causality is conditioned by a previous comprehending of the same. Hence, every possible moment of consciousness is conditioned by a previous moment of the same; and thus, in the explanation of the possibility of consciousness, consciousness is already presupposed. Consciousness can only be explained through a circle; hence it can not be explained at all, and appears impossible.

The problem was to show: how self-consciousness can be possible. Our reply was: self-consciousness is possible, when the rational being can ascribe to itself a causality in one and the same undivided moment wherein it opposes something to this causality. Let us suppose this to occur in the time-moment Z. You ask now, under what condition this occurrence is possible? and it appears at once that the causality, which the rational being is to ascribe to itself, can be posited only in relation to a determined object, A, upon which it is directed. For no one must say that a general causality, a merely possible causality might be posited, since such would be an indefinite thinking; and Philosophy has already received injury enough from this sort of arguments. Such a merely possible causality, or causality in general, is posited only through abstraction from a certain or from all actual causality; but you can not abstract from any thing, unless it has been previously posited; and hence here, as ever, the indefinite conception of the general is preceded by a definite conception of a definite actual, and the former is conditioned through the latter. Nor must any one say that the causality might be posited as directed upon the object B, which is posited in the same moment, Z, for B is posited as object solely in so far as no causality is directed upon it.

Hence, the moment Z must be explained from another moment, in which the object A must have been posited and comprehended; but A also can be comprehended only under the same conditions under which alone B could be comprehended; that is to say, the moment in which A is comprehended, is also possible only on condition of a previous moment, and so on, ad infinitum. We find no possible point wherein we might connect the thread of self-consciousness, through which all consciousness first becomes possible, and hence our problem is not solved.

It is important for the whole science which is here to be established, that the reader should obtain a clear insight into this argument.

B. The ground of the impossibility of explaining self-consciousness, without constantly presupposing it as already existing, lay in this: that in order to be able to posit its causality, the subject of self-consciousness must previously have posited an object, merely as such; and that thus, whenever we wanted to connect the thread of self-consciousness to a time-moment, we were always forced to go to a previous moment, wherein the connections must have been already made. This ground must be removed; but it can be removed only by assuming that the causality of the subject is synthetically united with the object in one and the same time-moment; that the causality of the subject is itself the perceived and comprehended object, and this object that causality of the subject, and that thus both are the same. Only from such a synthesis can we not be driven to a previous one; only it contains all the conditions of self-consciousness, and gives us the point in which we can connect the thread thereof. Only on this condition is self-consciousness possible. As sure, therefore, as self-consciousness occurs, must we make this assumption. The strict synthetical proof is, therefore, completed; for what we have stated has shown itself to be the absolute condition of self-consciousness.

The only question is yet, what our synthesis may signify, or what it may involve, and how its requirements may be possible. Our business now is therefore to analyze what has been proven.

C. It seems as if the synthesis we have undertaken, in place of dispelling the mere incomprehensibility which it undertook to clear up, proposes to us a complete contradiction. That which the synthesis has established, must be an object; but it is the characteristic of the object, that the free activity of the subject in taking hold of it be posited as checked. Now, the object in the present case is to be a causality of the subject; but it is the character of such a causality that the activity of the subject be absolutely free, and determine itself. The activity of the subject is therefore by this synthesis required to be both checked and absolutely free. How is this contradiction possible? It is possible, and both activities are united, when we think the subject as being determined to determine itself; or when we think a requirement addressed to the subject to resolve on manifesting its causality.

In so far as that which the synthesis establishes is an object, it must be given in sensation, and in external, not in internal sensation; for all internal sensation arises solely through reproduction of an external sensation, and hence presupposes the latter; and thus, we should again by the assumption of such sensation, presuppose that self-consciousness, the possibility whereof is to be explained. But that object is comprehended, and can be comprehended only as a requirement addressed to the Ego to act. As sure, therefore, as the subject comprehends it, it has the conception of its own freedom and self-activity, and of this freedom and self-activity as given to it externally. It obtains the conception of its free causality, not as something which in the present moment is, for this were a real contradiction; but as something which in the future moment shall be.

The question was, How can the subject find itself as object? To find itself, it could find itself only self-active; for else it would not find itself; and since it does not find at all unless it is, and is not unless it finds itself, it would not find at all. Again, in order to find itself as object, (of its reflection,) it could not find itself as determining itself to be selfactive,[2] but as determined to self-activity through an external requirement, which requirement must leave it, however, in possession of its full freedom of self-determination; for otherwise, the subject would not find itself as Ego.

To make the latter point clearer, I shall here pre-state some future results. The subject can not find itself compelled to act; for then it would not be free, would not be Ego; nor, when it resolves to act, can it find itself necessitated to act in this or that determined manner; for then, again, it would not be free, would not be Ego. How, then, must we think it as determined to be active, in order to find itself as object? Only in so far, that the subject finds itself as something which may be active or not, to which a requirement is addressed to be active or not, but which may also not follow that requirement.

The rational being shall realize its free activity; this requirement addressed to it lies in its very conception, and as sure as it comprehends that conception it realizes that free activity. This it only can realize either through actual acting. All that is required is activity in general, but the conception expressly involves that the subject must choose in the sphere of possible acts one act through its free self-determination. It can act only in one way; can determine its power of sensation, which is here the power of sensuous causality, only in one manner. As sure as it acts, it chooses through absolute self-determination this one way, and is in so far absolutely free and a rational being; and posits itself as such.

Or it can realize that free activity through not acting. In this case it is also free, for according to our presupposition, it has comprehended the conception of its causality as something required of it. Now, in resisting this requirement and not acting, it chooses freely between acting and not acting.

The conception here established is that of a free reciprocal causality, in its greatest precision, and is, therefore, nothing but this. I could add, for instance, to any free causality a free opposing causality as accidental; but that would not be the precise conception here required. In our conception Causality and a Counter Causality can not be thought apart at all. Both are the integral parts of a whole event; and such an event is now postulated as the necessary condition of the self-consciousness of a rational being. It must occur, as we have shown.

Only to such an event is it possible to attach the thread of consciousness, which can then, we apprehend, pass through all other objects without difficulty.

This thread has been attached by our present representation. Under this condition the subject can and must posit itself as a free acting being: such was our proof. If it does posit itself as such, then it can and must posit a sensuous world and must opposit itself to the sensuous world. And now, after the chief problem has been solved, all the workings of the human mind proceed according to the laws thereof without further difficulty.

D. Hitherto our analysis of the established synthesis has been simply explanatory: all we had to do was to make clear to ourselves what the mere conception of that synthesis involved. This analysis still continues, but it now begins to draw conclusions; that is to say, perhaps the subject must posit many other things in consequence of the posited influence upon it; if so, how does it posit this other, or what does it posit, by virtue of the laws of its being, in consequence of its first positing?

The described influence was necessary condition of all self-consciousness; it occurs as sure as self-consciousness occurs, and is, therefore, a necessary fact. If, by virtue of the necessary laws of rational beings, something else must be posited at the same time with this influence, then the positing of this other is a necessary fact like the former.

In so far as the described influence enters sensation, (is felt,) it is a limitation of the Ego; and the subject must have posited it as such; but there is no limitation without a limiting. Hence the subject, in positing that influence, must have posited at the same time something outside of itself as the determining ground of that influence. This is evident at a glance.

But again: This influence is determined, and through the positing of it as determined there is posited, not merely a general ground, but a determined ground of it. What sort of ground must this be, or what must be its characteristic as ground of this determined influence? This is a question we shall have to dwell upon more at length. The influence was comprehended as a requirement addressed to the subject to manifest free causality; and (which is of all-important significance) it could not be at all comprehended otherwise, and could not have been comprehended, had it not been comprehended in this manner.

This requirement to act, is the content of the influence, and its ultimate end is a free causality of the rational being, to which that requirement is addressed. The rational being is not determined or necessitated to act by this requirement—as in the conception of causality the effect is necessitated by the cause—but merely seizes this requirement as occasion to determine itself to act. To do this, however, it must first have understood and comprehended the requirement, and this previous cognition of it is taken into calculation. Hence the posited ground of the influence, or of the requirement addressed to the subject, must, at least, presuppose the possibility, that the subject can understand and comprehend it, for otherwise its requirement would have no End in view at all. Its having such End is conditioned by the understanding and freedom of the rational being, to whom it is addressed. This ground must, therefore, necessarily have the conception of reason and freedom, and must, therefore, be itself a being, capable of comprehending, that is, an intelligence, and since this is also not possible without freedom, it must be a free and hence a rational being, and must be posited as such.

In regard to the manner of drawing a conclusion, which has here been established, as a necessary manner, which is originally grounded in the nature of reason, and which most assuredly follows without our conscious cooperation, we add a few words of explanation.

The question has justly been asked: What effects can be explained only as the effects of a rational cause? The answer: Those effects, which must be necessarily preceded by a conception thereof; is true, but not sufficient, for the higher and more difficult question remains: What, then, are effects, of which it must be said, that they were possible only after a previous conception thereof? Every effect can be taken up in conception, after it once exists, and the manyfold of the effect arranges itself under the unity of the conception more easily and happily only as the observer himself has more sense and understanding. Now, this is a unity, which the observer himself has transferred into the manyfold through what KANT calls his reflective power of judgment, and which he must so transfer, if only one effect is to exist for him. But who guarantees him that, just as he now arranges the actual manyfold under the unity of his conception, so, previously to the effect, the conceptions of the manyfold, which he perceives, were subordinated by an understanding to the conception of that unity, which he now thinks; and what may justify him in arriving at such a result? There must be a higher ground of justification, or the conclusion, that the effect is that of a rational cause, is false throughout.

There is no doubt: a rational being, as sure as it is this, sketches out for itself the conception of the product, which is to be realized through its activity; and by the conception thus traced out, it guides its activity, always looking at it in acting, as it were. This conception is called the conception of an end.

Now, a rational being cannot at all obtain a conception of its causality, unless it has a cognition of the object of this causality. For it cannot determine itself to act—of course, with a consciousness of this self-determination, for only thereby does it become a free activity—unless it has posited this its activity as checked; and when it posits a determined activity as checked, it posits an external object as the checking. This is the reason, by the by, why nature, even if we should claim for her intelligence and freedom, cannot have the power to form the conception of an end, (and for that very reason, no one should claim for her intelligence and freedom.) For there is nothing external to nature, upon which she could direct her causality. Every thing upon which causality can be directed, is itself nature.

A sure criterion of the effect of a rational being would, therefore, be this: that the effect could only be thought possible on condition of a cognition of its object. Now, there is nothing which can not be thought possible through mere force of nature, and which must be thought as possible only through cognition, except cognition itself. Hence, when the object—and here also the end of an effect—can only be, to produce a cognition, then it is necessary to assume a rational cause of the effect.

But the assumption, that a cognition was intended, must be necessary; that is, it must be impossible to think any other end of the act, and the act itself it must be possible to comprehend only when it is comprehended as intending to produce a cognition.

(To illustrate by the contrary: Nature, we say, teaches us this or that by an event; but in so saying, we do not mean to assert that nature had not quite another end in view in producing the event than to teach us; we only wish to say that, if any one chooses to regard the event from such a point of view, it may be instructive for him to do so.)

The above case arises here. The cause of the influence upon us has no end at all, unless it has, above all, the end in view, that we should recognize it as such cause. Hence we must assume a rational being as this cause.

We have now proved what was to be proved. The rational being can not posit itself as such, unless a requirement to act free is addressed to it. When such a requirement to free self-determination is addressed to it, it must necessarily posit a rational being outside of itself, as the cause thereof; and hence it must posit a rational being outside of itself generally.


I. Man becomes man only amongst men; and since he can only be man, and would not be at all unless he were man, it follows, that if man is to be at all, there must be men. This is not an arbitrary assumption, not an opinion based on past experience or on other probability-reasons; but it is a truth to be strictly deduced from the conception of man. As soon as you proceed to determine this conception fully, you are driven from the thinking of a single man to the assumption of another one, by means of which to explain the first. Hence, the conception of man is not at all the conception of a single one, for such a one is unthinkable, but of a race.

The requirement addressed to the rational being to manifest its free self-activity, is what is called education. All individuals must be educated to be men; otherwise, they would not be men. The question here forces itself upon every one: If it should be necessary to assume an origin of the whole human race, and hence a first pair of human beings—and from a certain standpoint of reflection this assumption is assuredly necessary—who educated that first pair? They must have been educated, for our proof is universal, and a man could not educate them, since they are assumed as the first men; hence it is necessary to assume that another rational being, not of the race of men, educated them; of course, only so far, until they could educate each other. A spirit took them in his charge, precisely as it is represented in an old and venerable chronicle, which, indeed, contains throughout the profoundest, sublimest wisdom, and establishes results, to which all philosophy must, after all, return.

II. Only free, reciprocal causality upon each other through conceptions and after conceptions, only this giving and receiving of knowledge, is the distinguishing characteristic of mankind, through which alone every person shows himself to be man.

If man is, then there must also be necessarily a world, and precisely a world like our own, which contains irrational objects and rational beings. This is not the place to proceed further, and to show up the necessity of all determined objects in nature, and their necessary classification, which, however, can be demonstrated quite as strictly as the necessity of a world generally.[3]

The question concerning the ground of the reality of objects is now answered. The reality of the world—of course for us, that is, for all finite reason—is a condition of self-consciousness; for we can not posit ourselves without positing something outside of us, to which we must ascribe the same reality which we ascribe to ourselves. To ask for a reality which shall remain after having abstracted from all reason, is contradictory; for he who asks that question, has also, in all probability, reason, and is impelled by reason to ask his question, and desires a rational answer; hence he has not abstracted from reason. We can not go out of the sphere of our reason; this has been well taken care of; and philosophy desires only that we shall become aware thereof, and shall not believe that we have gone beyond it, when we are always, as a matter of course, within it.

§ 4.[edit]

The finite rational being can not assume other finite rational beings outside of itself, without positing itself as occupying a determined relation toward them, which is called the Legal Relation.


A. The subject must distinguish itself through opposition from the rational being, which it has assumed outside of itself. The subject has posited itself as one, which contains in itself the last ground of something that is in it, (for this is the condition of Egohood, or of Rationality generally;) but it has also posited a being outside of itself, as the last ground of this something in it.

It is to have the power of distinguishing itself from this other being; and this is, under our presupposition, possible only, if the subject can distinguish in that given something how far the ground of this something lies in itself and how far it lies outside of itself.

The ground of the acting of the subject lies both in the being outside of it, and in itself; that is, the ground of the form of that acting, or that the subject did act. For if the outside being had not influenced the subject and thus called upon it to act, the subject would not have acted. Its acting, as such, is conditioned by the acting of the outside being.

But moreover, its acting is also conditioned materialiter; for to the subject is assigned its general sphere of action.

Within this sphere, however, the subject has chosen with freedom, has absolutely given to itself the further determination of its acting; and of this further determination of its activity, the ground lies solely in the subject itself. In so far alone, therefore, can it posit itself as an absolutely free being, and as the sole ground of something; in so far alone can it separate itself utterly from the free being outside of itself, and ascribe its causality to itself only.

Within that sphere, that is, from the end point of the product of the outside being, X, to the end point of its own product, Y, it has chosen amongst the possibilities, which that sphere contains; and from these possibilities and from this comprehension of them, as possibilities which it might have chosen, the subject constitutes for itself its freedom and self-determination.

Within that sphere the subject had to choose, if the product, Y, was to become possible as a separate one of the effects given through that sphere. Again:

Within this sphere only the subject could choose, and not the other being; for the other being had left that sphere undetermined, according to our presupposition.

That, which chose exclusively within this sphere, is its Ego, is the individual, is the rational being determined as such through opposition to another rational being; and this individual is characterized through a determined utterance of freedom, pertaining exclusively to it.

B. In this distinction through opposition the conception of the subject as a free being, and the conception of the outside rational being, as also a free being, are mutually determined and conditioned through the subject.

Opposition is not possible unless in the same undivided moment of reflection the opposites are also posited as equals, related to each other, and compared with each other: this is a formal theoretical proposition, which has been proved in its place in the Science of Knowledge, but which we trust will be accepted here as self-evident by common sense, even without that proof. We shall now apply this proposition.

The subject determines itself as an individual and as a free individual through the sphere wherein it has chosen one of the possible acts given in that sphere; and the subject also posits another individual outside of itself, as its opposite, and as determined through another sphere, wherein this other individual has chosen. Hence the subject posits both spheres at the same time, and only thus is the required opposition possible.

The being outside of the subject is posited as free, hence as a being, which might also have overstepped the sphere by which it is now determined, and might have overstepped it in such a manner as not to leave to the first subject the possibility of a free acting. It has voluntarily not overstepped that sphere, and has, therefore, itself restricted its own freedom, materialiter, that is to say, the sphere of the acts, which its formal freedom could have realized; and all this the subject also posits necessarily in that stipulated oppositing, (as indeed it posits every thing that follows, which the reader will please bear constantly in mind.)

Again: This outside being has addressed a requirement to the subject to manifest free activity; hence it has restricted its freedom by a conception of an end entertained by the subject, wherein the freedom of the subject, be it only problematically, was presupposed; it has therefore restricted its freedom through the conception of the (formal) freedom of the subject.

Now, through this self-restriction of the other being its cognition by the subject as a rational and free being is conditioned. For the subject has posited a free being outside of itself only by virtue of a requirement addressed to itself to manifest free activity, hence only by virtue of that self-restriction of the outside being. But again: This self-restriction was conditioned also by the cognition on the part of the outside being of the subject as a possibly free being. Hence the conception, which the subject has of the outside being, as a free being, is conditioned by the same conception on the part of the outside being of the subject, and by an acting, determined through this conception.

On the other hand, the completion of the cognition on the part of the outside being of the subject, as a free being, is conditioned by the same cognition and a correspondent acting on the part of the subject. If the subject had not cognized a free being outside of itself, then something would not have resulted, which, according to the laws of reason, ought to have resulted, and the subject would not be rational. Or, if this cognition did result in the subject, but was not followed by a correspondent restriction of its freedom, in order to leave to that other outside being also the possibility to act free; then the other outside being could not have concluded the subject to be a rational being, since that conclusion became necessary only by the subject's self-restriction of freedom.

Hence the relation of free beings to each other is necessarily determined in the following manner and is posited as thus determined: The mutual cognition of individuals is conditioned by this, that each treat the other as free, (or, restrict his freedom through the conception of the freedom of the other.) But this manner of treatment is conditioned by the manner of acting of each toward the other; and this by the manner of acting and by the cognition of the other, and so on ad infinitum. The relation of free beings toward each other is therefore the relation of a reciprocal causality upon each other through intelligence and freedom. No free being can recognize the other as such, unless both mutually thus recognize each other; and no one can treat the other as a free being, unless both mutually thus treat each other.

The conception, here established, is very important for our purpose; for it is the basis of our whole theory of Rights. We shall try, therefore, to make it clearer by the following syllogism:


I can suppose that a certain rational being will recognize me as a rational being only in so far as I treat it myself as such.

The Conditioned of this proposition is, not that that being in itself, and apart from me and from my consciousness, as, for instance, in its own conscience, (which falls within the sphere of Morality,) or before others, (which is a matter for the State,) should recognize me as such a rational being; but that it should recognize me as such according to its own consciousness and mine synthetically united in one, that is, according to a consciousness common to us both; and in such a manner, that I should be enabled to compel it to acknowledge, as sure as itself wishes to pass for a rational being, that it knows me to be one also.

The Conditioned of this proposition moreover is, not that I can prove generally that I have been recognized by rational beings as their equals, but that this particular individual, C, has recognized me as such.

The Condition of this proposition is, not that I merely entertain the conception of C as a rational being, but that I actually act in the sensuous world. For the conception remains in my most inner consciousness, only mine, not accessible to the outside individual. It is only through experience that the individual, C, obtains something; and this experience I can excite only through acting. What I think, the other one can not know.

The Condition is, moreover, not that I shall only not act in opposition to that conception, but that I shall really act in conformity to it, or shall really enter into mutual causality with C. For otherwise we should remain separate, and should not exist the one for the other.

The ground of the connection is:

Unless I exercise causality upon him, I can not know, or can not prove to him, that he has even a representation of myself or of my existence. Even assuming that I appear as object^ in the sensuous world and that I am within the sphere of his possible experience, the question still remains, whether he has ever reflected upon me; and this question he can answer only himself.

Again: Unless I act upon him according to the conception of a rational being, I can not prove to him that he must necessarily have taken me for a rational being. For every manifestation of power can be the result of a power of nature working by mechanical laws; and only the moderation of power through conception is the sure and exclusive criterion of reason and of freedom.


But I must assume that all rational beings outside of me will in all possible cases recognize me as a rational being.

The necessity of this universal requirement must be shown up as condition of the possibility of self-consciousness. But self-consciousness is not without consciousness of individuality, as has been shown. All that needs, therefore, to be proved now is, that no consciousness of individuality is possible without this recognition, or that the latter necessarily results from the former. We proceed to establish this proof.

A. I posit myself in opposition to C as individual only by ascribing exclusively to myself a sphere for my free activity, which sphere I deny to him.

I posit myself in opposition to C as a rational and free being only by ascribing also to him freedom and reason, hence only by assuming that he has also chosen a sphere of his free activity different from mine.

But I assume all this only on the presupposition that he, in choosing his sphere, has taken my free choice into consideration, and has voluntarily and with fixed purpose left my sphere open to me. (Only by positing him as treating me like a rational being do I posit him at all as a rational being. My whole judgment proceeds from me and his treatment of me, as could not well be otherwise in a system which has the Ego for its basis. It is only from this determined manifestation of his reason that I draw a conclusion as to his rationality generally.)

But the individual, C, can not act upon me in the described manner without first, at least problematically, recognizing me as such rational being; and I can not posit him as thus acting upon me unless I posit him also as recognizing me (at least problematically) in that manner.

Every thing problematic becomes categorical when the condition is added. The condition was, that I should recognize the individual, C, as a rational being in a manner valid for him and me; that is, that I should treat him as such, for only acting is such a universally valid recognition. Now, I must necessarily treat him thus, as sure as I posit myself in opposition to him as rational being—of course in as far as I proceed at all rationally or logically in my cognitions.

As certain, therefore, as I now recognize, that is, treat him as a rational being, he is bound or obliged by his first problematical recognition to recognize me categorically, and to recognize me thus in a universally valid manner, that is, to treat me as a rational being.

There occurs in this instance a uniting of opposites into one. Under the present presupposition, the point of union lies in me, in my consciousness; and the uniting is conditioned by this, that I am capable of consciousness.

He fulfills the condition under which I am to recognize him, and prescribes now on his part the condition to me. I, on my part, add the condition by actually recognizing him; and thus I compel him, in virtue of the condition established by himself, to recognize me categorically, whilst I also oblige myself, by thus recognizing him, to treat him as such.


The conception of individuality is, as we have shown, a Reciprocal Conception, that is, a conception which can be thought only in relation to another thinking, and which in its form is conditioned by this other thinking, and moreover by the same thinking of it. This conception is possible in every rational being only in so far as it is posited as completed through another individual. Hence the conception of individuality is never mine; but by my own confession and the confession of the other individual, it is both mine and his; and his and mine; a common conception, wherein two consciousnesses are united into one.

Each one of my conceptions determines its next succeeding one in my consciousness. Through the given conception of individuality a community is determined, and the further results thereof depend not only upon me, but also upon the individual, who, by its means, has entered into community with me. And since the conception is necessary, this necessity COMPELS US BOTH TO AGREE TO AND ABIDE BY ITS RESULTS: we are both now bound to each other and obliged to each other through our very existence. There must be a law common to us both, and which we both must recognize in common as necessary, which determines us both in common to abide by the results of that conception; and this law must lie in the same character, which led us to enter that community, namely, the character of Rationality. This law, which compels us to agree to the same results of a conception, is called Consequence, and is scientifically established in common Logic.

The whole described union of conceptions was possible only in and through acts. Hence, the continued consequence also is such only in acts; and can be required and is required only for acts. The acts stand here for conceptions; and of conceptions in themselves, without acts, we do not speak, because we can not speak of them as such.


B. I must appeal to that recognition in every relation which I may occupy to the individual, C, and must always judge him by that recognition.

It is presupposed that I am placed in many relations, connections, and mutual communications with that one and the same individual, C. Hence, I must be able to relate given effects to him, that is, to connect them with other effects, which I have already accepted as his.

But when he is posited, he is posited both as a determined, sensuous being, and as a rational being; both characteristics are synthetically united in him. The former, by virtue of the sensuous predicates of his causality upon me; the latter, solely by virtue of my having recognized him as such. Only in the union of both predicates is he posited at all through me, and has he become an object of cognition for me. Hence, I can relate an act to him only in so far as it is partly connected with the sensuous predicates of his previous acts, and partly connected with his recognition through me; and in so far as it is determined through both.

Assuming him to act in such a manner as to make his act determined through the sensuous predicates of his previous acts, (which, indeed, the mechanism of nature itself has provided for,) but not determined through the recognition of him by me as a rational being; that is to say, assuming him to treat me as an object, and thus to deprive me by his act of the sphere of freedom belonging to me: in that case I am nevertheless still forced to ascribe the act to him, to that same sensuous being, C. Now the conception of this sensuous being, C, has heretofore, through the common recognition—and perhaps also through a series of previous acts, which were determined by that recognition—been united in my consciousness with the conception of rationality, (he has been accepted by me as not only a sensuous but also a rational being,) and what I have once united I can not separate again. Those conceptions were posited in my consciousness as necessarily and essentially united; I had posited sensuousness and rationality in union as the essence of C. But in this new act, X, I am called upon, necessarily, to separate these conceptions; and hence I can now ascribe rationality to him only accidentally. My own treatment of him, as a rational being, becomes now accidental and conditioned, and holds good only if he should treat me as one. Hence, I can in this case treat him in strict logic, which is here my only law, as a mere sensuous being, until sensuousness and rationality shall again be united in the conception of his act.

My assertion in such a case would be: Your act, X, contradicts your confessed recognition, that I am a rational being; you have acted inconsequently. I, however, acted logically previous to your act, X; and act now logically in treating you as a mere sensuous being, because by your act, X, you have confessed yourself such.

By making such an assertion I place myself on a higher stand-point over us both, go beyond my individuality, appeal to a law which is valid for us both, and apply it to the present case. Hence, I posit myself as judge, that is, as his superior. This is the source of the superiority which every one claims, who believes to be in the right over his opponent. But, by appealing to this common law, I invite him to judge with me, and demand that in the present case he shall himself acknowledge my conduct toward him to be logical, and shall, forced by the laws of thinking, approve my conduct. The community of consciousness continues always. For I judge him by a conception, which I hold that he must have himself.

This is the source of the Positiveness which lies in the conception of Rights, and whereby we believe we oblige our opponent not to resist our treatment, but even to approve it. This obligatoriness arises by no means from the Moral Law, but from the law of thinking; and hence there enters here a practical validity of the syllogism.

C. Whatsoever is valid between me and C, is valid between me and every individual with whom I am placed in mutual causality.

Every other rational being can be given to me only in the same manner and under the same conditions as C was given; for only thus is the positing of a rational being outside of me possible.

The new individual, D, is another one than C, in so far as its free act, in its sensuous predicates, is not relatable to the sensuous predicates of the acts of other individuals posited by me.

The condition of the cognition of the identity of the acting individual was the possibility of connecting the characteristic signs of his present act with his previous acts. Where this possibility does not exist, I can not refer the act to any of the rational beings known to me; and since I must relate it to a rational being, I posit a new one.

Perhaps it may be well to gather the point of the proof here undertaken—which has been somewhat diffused by its numbers of links—into a single view. What we had to prove was this: As sure as I posit myself as an individual, I require all rational beings known to me to recognize me in all cases of reciprocal causality as a rational being. A certain positing of myself is therefore assumed to involve a postulate for other individuals, a postulate extending to all possible cases of its application; and this postulate, if involved in it, we must be able to discover in it by a mere analysis of that certain act of self-positing.

I posit myself as individual, in opposition to another individual, by ascribing to myself a sphere for my freedom, from which I exclude the other, and by ascribing to him a sphere, from which I exclude myself—of course, only in the thinking of a fact and by virtue of this fact. Hence, I have posited myself as free a side of him without danger to the possibility of his freedom. Through this positing of my freedom I have determined myself; to be free constitutes my essential character. But what does to be free mean? Evidently to be able to carry out the conceptions of acts I may entertain. But the carrying out always follows the conception, and the perception of the desired product of my causality is always—in relation to its first conception—a matter of the future. Freedom is therefore always posited in the future; and if it is to constitute the character of a being, it is posited for all the future of the individual; is posited in the future as far as the individual himself is posited in the future.

Now, my freedom is possible only if the other individual remains within his sphere; hence, as I demand my freedom for all the future, I also demand his restriction to his sphere, and since he is to be free, his restriction through himself for all the future; and all this I demand immediately in positing myself as an individual.

But he can restrict himself only in consequence of a conception of me as a rational being. Nevertheless, I demand this his self-restriction absolutely; hence I demand of him Consequence, (logical consistency,) that is, that all his future conceptions shall be determined by one certain previous conception, namely, his cognition of me as a rational being.

And since he can recognize me as such only if I myself treat him as such, by virtue of such a conception of him, I require of myself the same Consequence, and thus his acting is conditioned through mine.


The conclusion has been discovered already. It is this: I must recognize the free being as such in all cases, that is, must restrict my freedom through the conception of the possibility of his freedom.

The deduced relation between rational beings—namely, that each individual must restrict his freedom through the conception of the possibility of the freedom of the other—is called the Relation of Legality, Legal Relation; and the formula given to it is called the Fundamental Principle of the Science of Rights.

This relation has been deduced from the conception of the individual. We have therefore proven what was to be proven. Again: the conception of the individual has been proven to be the condition of self-consciousness; hence, the conception of Law (of Rights) is itself condition of self-consciousness; and hence, this conception has been properly deduced a priori, that is, from the pure form of Reason, from the Ego.


I. Our deduction, therefore, asserts that the conception of Law lies in the conception of Reason, and that no finite rational being is possible wherein it does not occur. It does not occur in consequence of having been taught, nor through experience, nor in virtue of arbitrary arrangements among men, etc., but in consequence of man being a rational being. It is a matter of course that the manifestation of this conception in empirical consciousness is conditioned through a given case of application; and that this conception does not lie originally—like some empty form—in our soul, waiting for experience to put something into it, as certain philosophers seem to hold in regard to a priori conceptions. But that the case of application must occur, because man can not be man isolated, has also been proven.

Likewise have we shown that a certain conception, that is, a certain modification of thinking, a certain manner of judging things, must be necessarily pertaining to the rational being as such. Let us call this conception for the present X, if the reader so chooses. This X must operate wherever men live together, and must manifest itself among them and have a designation in their language; and will do this of itself, without the laborious deduction of the philosopher. Whether this X is precisely what the use of language has named Law, is a question which common sense—that is to say, common sense when left to itself, and not when confused and led astray by the arbitrary explanations and interpretations of philosophers—has to decide. For the present we declare, as we have a perfect right to do, that the deduced conception, X, the reality whereof has been proven in our deduction, is to be called in this our investigation the conception of Law or Rights, holding ourselves responsible to prove by it whatever questions common sense may raise concerning Law.

II. The deduced conception has nothing to do with morality; nay, has been deduced without it, and since only one deduction of a conception is possible, this fact is already in itself sufficient to prove that the conception of Law is not to be deduced from the conception of Morality. Indeed, all attempts to so deduce it have failed utterly. The conception of Duty, which is involved in Morality, is in most of its characteristics utterly opposed to the conception of Law. Morality commands categorically; Law merely permits, and does not command you to make use of your rights. Nay, Morality often prohibits you to exercise what is your Right, and what, in the admission of all the world will, nevertheless, remain your Right. You have a Right to it, undoubtedly, the world will say, but you ought not to have used your Right. Now, if the conception of Law were derived from Morality, Morality would be in contradiction to itself, since in such a case it would first grant a Right and then prohibit its exercise.

Whether, however, Morality may not give a new sanction to the conception of Law is another question; but this question belongs to the Science of Morality. On the field of Natural Law a good will is counted for nothing. It must be possible to carry out the conception of Law though not one individual had a good will; and it is the very business and object of the Science of Rights to establish such a condition.

And thus we need no artificial measures to separate Natural Law and Morality; for both Sciences are originally, and without any cooperation of ours, separated and completely opposed to each other through and in Reason.

III. The conception of Law is the conception of a relation between rational beings. Hence it results only when such beings are thought as in relation to each other. It is nonsense to speak of rights between man and nature, or between man and the ground, soil, or animals, etc., as such; nonsense to speak of such rights as existing direct between Man and Nature. Reason has only power over Nature, not a right in relation to Nature; for the conception of Rights does not arise at all in such a relation. It is quite a different thing, when the question is asked, Whether we may not have conscientious scruples as to enjoying this or that portion of Nature? For this is not a question which we ask because we feel that we may have invaded the rights of the things of Nature, but we ask it because we are afraid we might hurt ourselves by indulging in such enjoyments of things; it is a moral, not a legal question.

It is only when two persons are related to one and the same thing that a question arises as to the Right to the thing, or, more properly expressed, as to the Right which the one person has against the other, to exclude him from the use of such thing.

IV. It is only through acts, through manifestations of their freedom in the sensuous world, that rational beings are placed in mutual causality with each other; hence the conception of Rights relates only to what manifests itself in the sensuous world; and that which has no causality in the sensuous world, but remains in the interior of the Soul, is not subordinated to the conception of Right, but to Morality. It is, therefore, nonsense to speak of a right to freedom of thinking, freedom of conscience, etc. You have a power to do these internal acts, and you may have duties concerning them, but you can not speak of rights in reference to them.

V. Only in so far as rational beings are really placed in relation to each other and can really act in such a manner that the acting of the one can have results for the other, is a question of rights possible between them. Between persons who do not know each other, or whose spheres of action are utterly separated, a legal relation is not possible. It involves an utter misapprehension of the conception of rights, when people speak of the rights of the Dead upon the Living. We may have moral duties, to remember them, etc., but in no way legal obligations toward them.


  1. The Ego, which is to reflect, or which is to determine itself to have causality, or which is to contemplate the world, is the prior—of course, for the philosophizing Ego, which, however, let us hope, is also an Ego, and follows the laws of its being—by virtue of those very laws; and it is this prior Ego, of which the first fundamental principle of the Science of Knowledge speaks. Now another Ego is to be object for this reflecting Ego; that is, this Ego is to be object for itself. How is this possible? Such is the question we are here answering. Attentive readers must pardon this note. It is not for them, but for the careless and superficial readers, who need such a reminder; and these are requested to recall it to mind whenever they need it hereafter.
  2. The question here is not how the matter may be when viewed from the transcendental stand-point, but simply, how it must appear to the subject under investigation.
  3. Readers who can not see this, should have patience, and should draw no other conclusions from their not seeing, than the only legitimate one, that they do not see it.