Chapter 1 Section 0, 1 & 2

Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 01/25/2007 - 11:58am.

Conscious Human Action

[1] Is man in his thinking and acting a spiritually free being, or is he compelled by the iron necessity of purely natural law? There are few questions upon which so much sagacity has been brought to bear. The idea of the freedom of the human will has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their moral fervor, label anyone a man of limited intelligence who can deny so patent a fact as freedom. Opposed to them are others who regard it as the acme of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe that the uniformity of natural law is broken in the sphere of human action and thinking. One and the same thing is thus proclaimed, now as the most precious possession of humanity, now as its most fatal illusion. Infinite subtlety has been employed to explain how human freedom can be consistent with the laws working in nature, of which man, after all, is a part. No less is the trouble to which others have gone to explain how such a delusion as this could have arisen. That we are dealing here with one of the most important questions for life, religion, conduct, science, must be felt by anyone who includes any degree of thoroughness at all in his make-up.

Topic: The Question of Freedom
  • Is the human being spiritually free in thinking and acting, or compelled by the iron necessity of purely natural law?
  • Moralists support the idea of freedom and consider it our most precious possession while scientific thinkers oppose it considering freedom an illusion.
  • The question of freedom is felt to be one of the most important questions for life, religion, conduct, and science by all but the most shallow thinkers.
Question: In the Preface to The Philosophy of Freedom Rudolf Steiner writes: And one may well feel that if the soul has not at some time found itself faced in utmost seriousness by the problem of free will or necessity it will not have reached its full stature. What does this quote mean to you?

Match-up Quiz

A thought training exercise from Practical Training In Thought by Rudolf Steiner is being included at the start of each of the first 7 chapters in The Philosophy of Freedom Study Course.

Practical Training In Thought
Thinking Exercise #1

Tradition Opinions And Habits Of Thinking
Right Attitude Toward Thinking (Extraction of Thoughts)

1.1) MATERIALISM (Cancer)
It is one of the sad signs of the superficiality of present-day thought that a book which attempts to develop a new faith out of the results of recent scientific research, has nothing more to say on this question than these words:

"With the question of the freedom of the human will we are not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the name. The moral valuation of human action and character remains untouched by this problem.."

It is not because I consider that the book in which it occurs has any special importance that I quote this passage, but because it seems to me to express the view to which the thinking of most of our contemporaries manages to rise in this matter. Everyone who claims to have grown beyond the kindergarten stage of science appears to know nowadays that freedom cannot consist in choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of two possible courses of action. There is always, so we are told, a perfectly definite reason why, out of several possible actions, we carry out just one and no other.

Topic: Freedom of Indifferent Choice
  • Freedom of Indifferent Choice consists of choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of two possible courses of action.
  • Superficial present day thinkers consider freedom an illusion because scientific research indicates we are always compelled by a definite reason to carry out just one action from among several possible actions.
Question: Why is this view considered superficial?

1.2) SPIRITISM (Capricorn)
[2] This seems obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present day, the main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines are gaining ground daily, says,

“That everyone is at liberty to desire or not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of free will, is negated as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapter.

Topic: Freedom Of Choice
  • Freedom of choice is the ability to make a choice according to our own wants and preferences.
  • This freedom is attacked because internal perception reveals we are not free to desire something or not desire something arbitrarily.
Question: Why are the main attacks of the opponents of freedom directed only against freedom of choice?

Match-up Quiz Section 1 & 2
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1-1.mp3505.95 KB
1-2.mp3252.38 KB
COTS08.mp3321.03 KB
COTS08x.mp3321.02 KB