Study Group: Chapter 3 Section 9 & 10

Submitted by Tom Last on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 9:48pm.

The Philosophy of Freedom Study Group
Thinking In The Service Of Knowledge
Topics:
Create Thinking Before Knowing It and Thinking Subsists Through Itself
3.9 We must resolutely plunge right into the activity of thinking, so that afterwards, by observing what we have done, we may gain knowledge of it.


3-9 MONADISM (Sagittarius)
[22] Schelling says, "To know Nature means to create Nature." If we take these words of this bold Nature-philosopher literally, we shall have to renounce for ever all hope of gaining knowledge of Nature. For Nature is there already, and in order to create it a second time, we must first know the principles according to which it has originated. From the Nature that already exists we should have to borrow or crib the fundamental principles for the Nature we want to begin by creating. This borrowing, which would have to precede the creating, would however mean knowing Nature, and this would still be so even if after the borrowing no creation were to take place. The only kind of Nature we could create without first having knowledge of it would be a Nature that does not yet exist.

[23] What is impossible for us with regard to Nature, namely, creating before knowing, we achieve in the case of thinking. Were we to refrain from thinking until we had first gained knowledge of it, we would never come to it at all. We must resolutely plunge right into the activity of thinking, so that afterwards, by observing what we have done, we may gain knowledge of it. For the observation of thinking, we ourselves first create an object; the presence of all other objects is taken care of without any activity on our part.

[24] My contention that we must think before we can examine thinking might easily be countered by the apparently equally valid contention that we cannot wait with digesting until we have first observed the process of digestion. This objection would be similar to that brought by Pascal against Descartes, when he asserted that we might also say, "I walk, therefore I am." Certainly I must go straight ahead with digesting and not wait until I have studied the physiological process of digestion. But I could only compare this with the study of thinking if, after digestion, I set myself not to study it by thinking, but to eat and digest it. It is after all not without reason that, whereas digestion cannot become the object of digestion, thinking can very well become the object of thinking.

[25] This then is indisputable, that in thinking we have got hold of one corner of the whole world process which requires our presence if anything is to happen. And this is just the point upon which everything turns. The very reason why things confront me in such a puzzling way is just that I play no part in their production. They are simply given to me, whereas in the case of thinking I know how it is done. Hence for the study of all that happens in the world there can be no more fundamental starting point than thinking itself.

Topic: Create Thinking Before Knowing It
  • The only kind of Nature we could create without first having knowledge of it would be a Nature that does not yet exist.
  • What is impossible for us with regard to Nature, namely, creating before knowing, we achieve in the case of thinking.
  • We must resolutely plunge right into the activity of thinking, so that afterwards, by observing what we have done, we may gain knowledge of it.
  • We must think before we can examine thinking.
Match-up Quiz



3-10 DYNAMISM (Scorpio)
[26] I should now like to mention a widely current error which prevails with regard to thinking. It is often said that thinking, as it is in itself, is nowhere given to us: the thinking that connects our observations and weaves a network of concepts about them is not at all the same as that which we subsequently extract from the objects of observation in order to make it the object of our study. What we first weave unconsciously into the things is said to be quite different from what we consciously extract from them again.

[27] Those who hold this view do not see that it is impossible in this way to escape from thinking. I cannot get outside thinking when I want to study it. If we want to distinguish between thinking before we have become conscious of it, and thinking of which we have subsequently become aware, we should not forget that this distinction is a purely external one which has nothing to do with the thing itself. I do not in any way alter a thing by thinking about it. I can well imagine that a being with quite differently constructed sense organs and with a differently functioning intelligence, would have a very different mental picture of a horse from mine, but I cannot imagine that my own thinking becomes something different through the fact that I observe it. I myself observe what I myself produce. Here we are not talking of how my thinking looks to an intelligence other than mine, but of how it looks to me. In any case the picture of my thinking which another intelligence might have cannot be a truer one than my own. Only if I were not myself the being doing the thinking, but if the thinking were to confront me as the activity of a being quite foreign to me, might I then say that although my own picture of the thinking may arise in a particular way, what the thinking of that being may be like in itself, I am quite unable to know.

{28] So far, there is not the slightest reason why I should regard my own thinking from any point of view other than my own. After all, I contemplate the rest of the world by means of thinking. Why should I make my thinking an exception?

[29] I believe I have give sufficient reasons for making thinking the starting point for my study of the world. When Archimedes had discovered the lever, he thought he could lift the whole cosmos from its hinges, if only he could find a point of support for his instrument. He needed something that was supported by itself and by nothing else. In thinking we have a principle which subsists through itself. Let us try, therefore, to understand the world starting from this basis. We can grasp thinking by means of itself. The question is, whether we can also grasp anything else through it.

Topic: Thinking Subsists Through Itself
  • It is often said that thinking, as it is in itself, is nowhere given to us.
  • If we want to distinguish between thinking as it is before we become conscious of it, and thinking of which I am afterwards conscious, we should not forget that this distinction is a purely external one which has nothing to do with the thing itself.
  • Here we are not talking of how my thinking looks to an intelligence different than mine, but of how it looks to me.
  • There is not the slightest reason why I should regard my own thinking from any point of view other than my own.
  • In thinking we have a principle which subsists through itself.
  • We can grasp thinking by means of itself. The question is, whether we can also grasp anything else through it.
Match-up Quiz

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