Was Fichte a solipsist?

Lucy asked:

I was reading about the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. I don’t know if I just read it wrong but to be he comes across as someone who agrees with solipsism. What is your opinion?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

If you don’t supply a source of your reading, I can’t judge whether you or your source is in error. In fact, Fichte is the opposite of a solipsist; he tries to explain what it takes to furnish a mind with knowledge through experience. This can sound like a kind of solipsism to a careless reader, as he insists (rightly of course) that the contents of my mind cannot be the same as yours. If you fly over a mountain, you will naturally have a different perception of it than someone who climbs it from the bottom up. That’s the upshot of his take on individuality, which is what his philosophy seeks to establish. Even so, the sum of many such different perspectives can (and usually will) result in a consensus of opinion; although by the same token each one of us also has private experiences which we do not share.

That’s the nutshell response to your nutshell question. Of course, Fichte’s philosophy goes much deeper; but that’s for you to discover.

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