The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

Follett and Fichte! Does anyone understand Fichte?

Can anyone shed light on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte?

Here's why I'm asking. In one of Follett's books or tributes to her, a friend of hers tells the story of Follett telling her that she had been asked for help by many businessmen, that she had listened to them explain their problems, offered some suggestions or ways of looking at the problems, and what she said seemed to help. Then she added something to the effect, "I was only offering Fichte."

Anna Boynton Thompson, Follett's teacher at Thayer Academy, a fellow student at Radcliffe, and a lifelong friend, who named Follett one of her executors in her will, wrote her PhD thesis on The Unity of Fichte's Doctrine of Knowledge with an introduction by Josiah Royce, PhD, her professor of the history of philosophy at Harvard University. Thompson's monograph was published in 1895, and Follett's The Speaker of the House, in 1896, I believe. In the introducation to The New State Follett thanks Thompson for giving her first copy of that manuscript careful consideration and criticism. In other words, they had a "reciprocal relationship."

In Thompston's monograph about Fichte, here is what she says, in her own words, to try to make Fichte's point clear (she thinks him a horrible writer!) I'm adding some numbers in case we want to talk about this:

1. Imagine a glass globe whose cricumfrence is filled with millions of eyes all looking inward.

2. All the eyes see the same content, though each from its own special point;

3. and into the view of each eye the view of the others is received, though from its own particular angle.

4. Now suppose that the substance of the globe, instead of glass, is merely the sight projected from each eye, that without the eyes and their sight nothing whatever of the globe would exist.

5. We then have in the globe a unity of blended individualities where the individualities may be looked upon as essential, for without them there is nothing;

6. individuality is all that there is, and the ultimate reality is a blending of all individualities.

7. So in the world of truth there is no truth except as seen by individuals, and the totality of all the views of all the individuals is the totality of truth.

8. The substance of the individual mind, or its free activity shaped by the laws of thought, is truth, --truth from one point of view; and the union of all minds in all minds gives us ultimate truth.

This particular "glass globe" metaphor struck me as very powerful when I first read it (thanks to Fran Cooper who shared her "old" Follett PhD materials in 1989-90).

The rest of Thompson's thesis, well, it gave me a headache! The kind of headache you get when you know that to understand something you will have to devote several years of study just to "speak the same language," even when you think you are already doing so.

I hope you're still with me, and someone (or two) among I group has put in that time to understand Fichte.

Thanks, Albie Davis

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After reading Thompson's piece (which you sent to me years ago!), I took a look at Fichte. It was very dense to look at it, and I gave up. But I do glean this about him: Fichte developed a model wherein all of reality is a oneness that lives through an infinitude of observation points. It is a voluntary submission of freedom to law – the laws of ever-creation that bring about form. There is no collective consciousness, only the individual consciousness that is the whole from a unique point of view (which we can see in Follett's thinking). Fichte rejected any "Ding an sich" (thing in itself as an objective reality). Rather, the objective reality is the sum total of the subjectives, and so all is one Subject. He also rejected the idea of an anthropomorphic God, for God would have to be this oneness of all. I love this.

As an aside, I saw a video in one of my doctoral classes in education that blamed the industrial nature of our modern western education system on German thinking in the 1800's, and ultimately on Fichte, but I'm not sure that's apropos here :-)
Hi Matthew,

The Fichte reference had me wondering too. Years ago I found a copy of The Vocation of Man by Fichte, and I was disappointed; I found it opaque. I opened it up after reading this, and it's much better now. I think it's really "Wow!" now. I'm interested in looking into this further.

The Fichte anecdote is precious, because Mary Follett worked hard in her writing to make it simple. This story shows the unprocessed intellect. What in Fichte would have been relevant to share with a businessman? What is the kind of quandary the businessman might have had? And always, where was Mary Parker Follett coming from?

The summaries of Fichte in this thread are good. The text of The Vocation of Man I have is the Boobs and Merrill Library of Liberal Arts one, and I find the introduction clear. I want to explore this. I accept the Fichte Challenge!

from Jeff Bedolla, in San Jose, California on a mild fall evening...

Matthew Shapiro said:
After reading Thompson's piece (which you sent to me years ago!), I took a look at Fichte. It was very dense to look at it, and I gave up. But I do glean this about him: Fichte developed a model wherein all of reality is a oneness that lives through an infinitude of observation points. It is a voluntary submission of freedom to law – the laws of ever-creation that bring about form. There is no collective consciousness, only the individual consciousness that is the whole from a unique point of view (which we can see in Follett's thinking). Fichte rejected any "Ding an sich" (thing in itself as an objective reality). Rather, the objective reality is the sum total of the subjectives, and so all is one Subject. He also rejected the idea of an anthropomorphic God, for God would have to be this oneness of all. I love this.

As an aside, I saw a video in one of my doctoral classes in education that blamed the industrial nature of our modern western education system on German thinking in the 1800's, and ultimately on Fichte, but I'm not sure that's apropos here :-)
Albie Davis, as custodian of library resources, have you the Thompson thesis ready at hand? It would be helpful to get at Fichte through the perspective of that time when his philosophy was in vogue.

I've made it through the first two chapters of The Vocation of Man. This is the introductory part and I couldn't follow it. It reminds me of Stirner (?), another 19th century German writer who wrote something called "The Ego and It's Own" and Neitzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra". In all of these I can catch glimmers of recognizable meaning through impenetrable prose. In the case of Fichte, I know there must be something in it (on good authority), so I read on even though I lost the continuity of the argument. I just picked it up where I was and kept going. Now I'm at Chapter 3, "Faith", and in that chapter the clouds of rigorous abstraction lift.

Of the "Eight Theses" you introduced, (I find) the second and third points are corollaries of number one; numbers 6, 7 and 8 are also subsidiary to the basic argument. The three major theses are numbers 1, 4, and 5.

The Vocation of Man is Fichte's popular summation of his philosophical system. I am interested in reading his "The Science of Rights", "The Way Toward the Blessed Life", and "On the Definition of the Idea of Religion" to get closer to his inspiration. In the meantime, Thompson's thesis would be interesting to look over too, as it surely would be inspired by Fichte's complete work. I am curious about the rest of the thesis. Can you help me access it? If you could send me the requisition information, maybe the reference librarian could get it for me through inter-library services.

Have you ever heard the expression, "May the Blessings Be!"? I like it for philosophical reasons.

Jeff Bedolla
Matthew, your summation of Fichte sure is suggestive. It could be numbered as well. I will do it here:

1. Fichte developed a model wherein all of reality is a oneness that lives through an infinitude of observation points.

2. It is a voluntary submission of freedom to law – the laws of ever-creation that bring about form.

3. There is no collective consciousness, only the individual consciousness that is the whole from a unique point of view (which we can see in Follett's thinking).

4. Fichte rejected any "Ding an sich" (thing in itself as an objective reality). Rather, the objective reality is the sum total of the subjectives, and so all is one Subject.

5. He also rejected the idea of an anthropomorphic God, for God would have to be this oneness of all.

Your Points 1, 3 and 4 seem to match up well with Albie's 1, 4 and 5. I'm curious to hear more about number 2; and, in support of number 5, here is this, quoted in the Editor's Introduction to The Vocation of Man [Bobbs-Merrill, The Library of Liberal Arts (1956), p. xvii]:

"...[N]o one who reflects a moment, and honestly avows the result of his reflection, can remain in doubt that the conception of God as a *particular substance* is impossible and contradictory: and it is right candidly to say this, and to silence the babbling of the schools, in order that the true religion of cheerful virtue may be established in its place."--Johann Gottlieb Fichte, "On the Definition of the Idea of Religion" (1798)

Now, I'd really like to know about that suggestive remark at the end of your reply, '...I saw a video in one of my doctoral classes in education that blamed the industrial nature of our modern western education system on German thinking in the 1800's, and ultimately on Fichte...". Please continue with this doctoral lesson. That's an E. F. Hutton moment to me. I have a feeling Tadit Anderson may be a strong rhythm section for this little number!

Jeff





Matthew Shapiro said:
After reading Thompson's piece (which you sent to me years ago!), I took a look at Fichte. It was very dense to look at it, and I gave up. But I do glean this about him: Fichte developed a model wherein all of reality is a oneness that lives through an infinitude of observation points. It is a voluntary submission of freedom to law – the laws of ever-creation that bring about form. There is no collective consciousness, only the individual consciousness that is the whole from a unique point of view (which we can see in Follett's thinking). Fichte rejected any "Ding an sich" (thing in itself as an objective reality). Rather, the objective reality is the sum total of the subjectives, and so all is one Subject. He also rejected the idea of an anthropomorphic God, for God would have to be this oneness of all. I love this.

As an aside, I saw a video in one of my doctoral classes in education that blamed the industrial nature of our modern western education system on German thinking in the 1800's, and ultimately on Fichte, but I'm not sure that's apropos here :-)
"Sleepless in Sacramento"

Hi Jeff, Matt and all. Between traveling and daylight savings time, here I am in Sacramento at my brother's house sleepless at 2:15am.

But, my mind may be awake, because I just remembered that Betsy Geist had found a copy of Anna Boynton's monograph on Google's book search. Or, maybe I found it after she found something else we wanted. At home I have a xeroxed copy given to me by Fran Cooper. (Are you there Fran or Betsy?)

Try the link below, or use your own google search abilities. The unity of Fichte's doctrine of knowledge
By Anna Boynton Thompson, Josiah Royce


http://books.google.com/books?id=DV4VAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=anna+boynton+Thompson&ei=0AHwStHGG5DskwTelOXbCw#v=onepage&q=&f=false

There's a nice color photo of the cover with a label, "Havravd depository, Brittle books." Nice! I think Anna would agree, brittle. She complains early on about his horrible writing style.

See the preface where Anna, apologizing for the length of her monograph, says, "He who knows Fichte knows that the essentials of Fichte's thinking could be bounded in a nutshell . . . " I think she would get a kick about our conversation!

Keep on trying to crack this nut! Albie
PS. On the third or so page in of Anna's monograph is a listing of the others in the series, including Follett's Speaker of the House.

Albie

Albie M. Davis said:
"Sleepless in Sacramento"

Hi Jeff, Matt and all. Between traveling and daylight savings time, here I am in Sacramento at my brother's house sleepless at 2:15am.

But, my mind may be awake, because I just remembered that Betsy Geist had found a copy of Anna Boynton's monograph on Google's book search. Or, maybe I found it after she found something else we wanted. At home I have a xeroxed copy given to me by Fran Cooper. (Are you there Fran or Betsy?)

Try the link below, or use your own google search abilities. The unity of Fichte's doctrine of knowledge
By Anna Boynton Thompson, Josiah Royce


http://books.google.com/books?id=DV4VAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=anna+boynton+Thompson&ei=0AHwStHGG5DskwTelOXbCw#v=onepage&q=&f=false

There's a nice color photo of the cover with a label, "Havravd depository, Brittle books." Nice! I think Anna would agree, brittle. She complains early on about his horrible writing style.

See the preface where Anna, apologizing for the length of her monograph, says, "He who knows Fichte knows that the essentials of Fichte's thinking could be bounded in a nutshell . . . " I think she would get a kick about our conversation!

Keep on trying to crack this nut! Albie
"Keep on trying to crack this nut!" and "Can anyone shed light on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte?" First of all, if by 'nut' is meant 'abstruse material requiring effort to grasp',...thanks for offering this topic.

I'm up to page 42 in the Thompson monograph. Fichte is tremendously relevant. Hard to access, though. This monograph is valuable because it is like a flashlight guiding through the difficulties. After plowing through for awhile, structures of meaning and relevance begin to emerge. For those who want to better understand Mary Parker Follett, this monograph is a great help. I am reading it closely, and am finding in it so much of value. One part of it gave me an idea which I wrote in the margin of my notepaper as I was copying the passage, and then this margin note became so elaborated that it took off and covered the rest of the page I was writing on! Then I went on the back of the sheet and continued. The 'note that took off' I then tried to compose, but I haven't been able to do so yet. Each time I start to copy out my out notes, it wants to take off in a new direction.

I recommend this book on the educational theories which I just got from the library, that I am now also reading. It's an easy read, and it's short. It's title is "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull. It's ironic. San Jose State University used to be called the San Jose State Teacher's College. And up until a few years ago, when the university library merged with the City of San Jose Public Library, in checking out books, they were stamped by the check-out clerk. The slips are still pasted in them. This particular volume has no stamps in it. And I've seen stampings in other books that go back more than 40 years. I guess no one checked this one out for a long time. No pencil markings in it either. So, here's a book of the deepest sort on the very essence of educational philosophy in a library collection of a college/university originally organized on the principle of the value of education, that has been neglected.

Jeff Bedolla

ps. Thank you!
Hi Jeff,

Hey, someone's got to understand Fichte, the Fichte-Follett connection! You're the one! You got to page 42!!!!! I stopped around page 5, quickly skimmed until I came to page 71 with the "imagine a glass globe" metaphor, which I could understand. When using that metaphor, complete with overheads (remember those) at a seminar at Harvard Law School, Program on Negotiation, I introduced it thusly:

This is Albie, responding to Anna Boynton Thomaston, responding to Fichte. I had no idea if I got it "right."

Now, here's the other person I think influenced Follett-- Col. Francis W. Parker, Civil War vet; friend of Chas. A. Follett, also a vet, Mary's father; superintendent of schools in Quincy, Mass, where he started the "Quincy system," visited by thousands of school teachers and administrators each year; man whom John Dewey credits with influencing his views on education. As far as I can tell, neither Parker nor Fichte show up in Joan Tonn's amazing thorough book, Mary P. Follett: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management. Time to add to her amazing piece of scholarship.

I'm going to upload Chapter XXIII, Examinations, from a 1993 book, Note of Talks on Teaching by Francis W. Parker, as an example of his thinking. Another one of those old books that are so much fun to hold and wonder who else has read them.

I'll try to find and read "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull."

Ciao, Albie

Jeff Bedolla said:
"Keep on trying to crack this nut!" and "Can anyone shed light on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte?" First of all, if by 'nut' is meant 'abstruse material requiring effort to grasp',...thanks for offering this topic.

I'm up to page 42 in the Thompson monograph. Fichte is tremendously relevant. Hard to access, though. This monograph is valuable because it is like a flashlight guiding through the difficulties. After plowing through for awhile, structures of meaning and relevance begin to emerge. For those who want to better understand Mary Parker Follett, this monograph is a great help. I am reading it closely, and am finding in it so much of value. One part of it gave me an idea which I wrote in the margin of my notepaper as I was copying the passage, and then this margin note became so elaborated that it took off and covered the rest of the page I was writing on! Then I went on the back of the sheet and continued. The 'note that took off' I then tried to compose, but I haven't been able to do so yet. Each time I start to copy out my out notes, it wants to take off in a new direction.

I recommend this book on the educational theories which I just got from the library, that I am now also reading. It's an easy read, and it's short. It's title is "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull. It's ironic. San Jose State University used to be called the San Jose State Teacher's College. And up until a few years ago, when the university library merged with the City of San Jose Public Library, in checking out books, they were stamped by the check-out clerk. The slips are still pasted in them. This particular volume has no stamps in it. And I've seen stampings in other books that go back more than 40 years. I guess no one checked this one out for a long time. No pencil markings in it either. So, here's a book of the deepest sort on the very essence of educational philosophy in a library collection of a college/university originally organized on the principle of the value of education, that has been neglected.

Jeff Bedolla
Attachments:
And the cover of the Francis W. Parker book. Albie
Attachments:
The library story reminds me of the story behind the 1918 copy of The New State that I acquired to allow the publisher to reissue the book in 1998. I found the old copy in the Idaho State Library with the edges of the pages still uncut. No one had ever opened it and read it. I cut the pages with a knife in order to read it for a research fellowship; later, when Penn State Press asked for an older edition to sacrifice (it would be destroyed in order to copy for the new edition), the Idaho State Library agreed to trade it for a copy of the new edition.

~ Matthew

Jeff Bedolla said:
"Keep on trying to crack this nut!" and "Can anyone shed light on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte?" First of all, if by 'nut' is meant 'abstruse material requiring effort to grasp',...thanks for offering this topic.

I'm up to page 42 in the Thompson monograph. Fichte is tremendously relevant. Hard to access, though. This monograph is valuable because it is like a flashlight guiding through the difficulties. After plowing through for awhile, structures of meaning and relevance begin to emerge. For those who want to better understand Mary Parker Follett, this monograph is a great help. I am reading it closely, and am finding in it so much of value. One part of it gave me an idea which I wrote in the margin of my notepaper as I was copying the passage, and then this margin note became so elaborated that it took off and covered the rest of the page I was writing on! Then I went on the back of the sheet and continued. The 'note that took off' I then tried to compose, but I haven't been able to do so yet. Each time I start to copy out my out notes, it wants to take off in a new direction.

I recommend this book on the educational theories which I just got from the library, that I am now also reading. It's an easy read, and it's short. It's title is "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull. It's ironic. San Jose State University used to be called the San Jose State Teacher's College. And up until a few years ago, when the university library merged with the City of San Jose Public Library, in checking out books, they were stamped by the check-out clerk. The slips are still pasted in them. This particular volume has no stamps in it. And I've seen stampings in other books that go back more than 40 years. I guess no one checked this one out for a long time. No pencil markings in it either. So, here's a book of the deepest sort on the very essence of educational philosophy in a library collection of a college/university originally organized on the principle of the value of education, that has been neglected.

Jeff Bedolla

ps. Thank you!
Fichte Research Progress Report

I made it up to the famous page 71! I've read everything up to about page 72, copying out what I like. From about p. 42, that was the bulk of the text! I also got a couple of books from Inter-library services, including The Science of Right, in an edition from1869. But I got the same book twice, just to see if they were the same, and the other one came home with me. The other book contains two shorter works, Characteristics of the Present Age, and The Way Towards The Blessed Life, Or The Doctrine of Religion. I am excited learning about Fichte.

Albie M. Davis said:
Hi Jeff,

Hey, someone's got to understand Fichte, the Fichte-Follett connection! You're the one! You got to page 42!!!!! I stopped around page 5, quickly skimmed until I came to page 71 with the "imagine a glass globe" metaphor, which I could understand. When using that metaphor, complete with overheads (remember those) at a seminar at Harvard Law School, Program on Negotiation, I introduced it thusly:

This is Albie, responding to Anna Boynton Thomaston, responding to Fichte. I had no idea if I got it "right."

Now, here's the other person I think influenced Follett-- Col. Francis W. Parker, Civil War vet; friend of Chas. A. Follett, also a vet, Mary's father; superintendent of schools in Quincy, Mass, where he started the "Quincy system," visited by thousands of school teachers and administrators each year; man whom John Dewey credits with influencing his views on education. As far as I can tell, neither Parker nor Fichte show up in Joan Tonn's amazing thorough book, Mary P. Follett: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management. Time to add to her amazing piece of scholarship.

I'm going to upload Chapter XXIII, Examinations, from a 1993 book, Note of Talks on Teaching by Francis W. Parker, as an example of his thinking. Another one of those old books that are so much fun to hold and wonder who else has read them.

I'll try to find and read "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull."

Ciao, Albie

Jeff Bedolla said:
"Keep on trying to crack this nut!" and "Can anyone shed light on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte?" First of all, if by 'nut' is meant 'abstruse material requiring effort to grasp',...thanks for offering this topic.

I'm up to page 42 in the Thompson monograph. Fichte is tremendously relevant. Hard to access, though. This monograph is valuable because it is like a flashlight guiding through the difficulties. After plowing through for awhile, structures of meaning and relevance begin to emerge. For those who want to better understand Mary Parker Follett, this monograph is a great help. I am reading it closely, and am finding in it so much of value. One part of it gave me an idea which I wrote in the margin of my notepaper as I was copying the passage, and then this margin note became so elaborated that it took off and covered the rest of the page I was writing on! Then I went on the back of the sheet and continued. The 'note that took off' I then tried to compose, but I haven't been able to do so yet. Each time I start to copy out my out notes, it wants to take off in a new direction.

I recommend this book on the educational theories which I just got from the library, that I am now also reading. It's an easy read, and it's short. It's title is "The Educational Theory of J. G. Fichte", by G. H. Turnbull. It's ironic. San Jose State University used to be called the San Jose State Teacher's College. And up until a few years ago, when the university library merged with the City of San Jose Public Library, in checking out books, they were stamped by the check-out clerk. The slips are still pasted in them. This particular volume has no stamps in it. And I've seen stampings in other books that go back more than 40 years. I guess no one checked this one out for a long time. No pencil markings in it either. So, here's a book of the deepest sort on the very essence of educational philosophy in a library collection of a college/university originally organized on the principle of the value of education, that has been neglected.

Jeff Bedolla
The glass globe seems a wondrously beautiful opposite to Bentham's panopticon. Makes me want to try reading Fichte. Unfortunately, his odious political philosophy seems to allow only his approved eyes a place at the globe. ?

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