Chapter 1 Section 7 & 8

Submitted by Tom Last on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 1:39pm.



1.7) PSYCHISM (Pisces)

[12] Another form of expression runs: to be free does not mean to be able to want (will) as one wills, but to be able to do as one wills. This thought has been expressed with great clearness by the poet-philosopher Robert Hamerling. “Man can certainly do as he wills, but he cannot want (will) as he wills, because his wanting (will) is determined by motives. He cannot want (will) as he wills? Let us consider these phrases more closely. Have they any intelligible meaning: Freedom of will would then mean being able to want (will) without ground, without motive. But what does wanting (willing) mean if not to have grounds for doing, or trying to do, this rather than that: To want (will) something without ground or motive would be to want (will) something without wanting (willing) it. The concept of wanting (will) cannot be divorced from the concept of motive. Without a determining motive the will is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real. It is, therefore, quite true that the human will is not "free" inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But on the other hand it must be admitted that it is absurd, in contrast with this "unfreedom", to speak of a conceivable freedom of the will which would consist in being able to want (will) what one does not want (will).

[13] Here again, only motives in general are mentioned, without taking into account the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act on it because it proves to be the "strongest" of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to have any meaning. How should it matter to me whether I can do a thing or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The primary question is not whether I can do a thing or not when a motive has worked upon me, but whether there are any motives except such as impel me with absolute necessity. If I am compelled to want (will) something, then I may well be absolutely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. And if, through my character, or through circumstances prevailing in my environment, a motive is forced on me which to my thinking is unreasonable, then I should even have to be glad if I could not do what I want (will).

[14] The question is not whether I can carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.

Topic: Free To Do As One Wills
  • To be free does not mean to be able to want (will) whatever one wills, but to be able to do as one wills.
    Or in the words of Robert Hamerling; “Man can certainly do as he wills, but he cannot want (will) as he wills, because his wanting (willing) is determined by motives."
  • Note: (want/will) Another translation-
    To be free does not mean to be able to will whatever one wills, but to be able to do as one wills.
    Man can certainly do as he wills, but he cannot will as he wills, because his willing is determined by motives."
    (meaning he cannot direct his will as he choses, because his will is determined by motives)
  • Without a determining motive the will is an empty faculty; it only becomes active and real through the motive.
  • If a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act on it because it proves to be the "strongest" of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to have any meaning.
  • The primary question is not whether I can do a thing or not when a motive has worked upon me, but whether there are any motives other than those that compel me with absolute necessity.
  • The question is not whether I can carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.
Question: Whether we are able to do what we will depends on external circumstances and on our technical skill. What is an example of a situation where we might be glad not to do what we will?

Match-up Quiz




1.8) PNEUMATISM (Aquarius)
[15] What distinguishes man from all other organic beings arises from his rational thinking. Activity he has in common with other organisms. Nothing is gained by seeking analogies in the animal world to clarify the concept of freedom as applied to the actions of human beings. Modern science loves such analogies. When scientists have succeeded in finding among animals something similar to human behavior, they believe they have touched on the most important question of the science of man. To what misunderstandings this view leads is seen, for example, in the book The Illusion of Freewill, by P. Rée, where the following remark on freedom appears:

“It is easy to explain why the movement of a stone seems to us necessary, while the volition of a donkey does not. The causes which set the stone in motion are external and visible, while the causes which determine the donkey's volition are internal and invisible. Between us and the place of their activity there is the skull of the ass. . . . The determining causes are not visible and therefore thought to be non-existent. The volition, it is explained, is, indeed, the cause of the donkey's turning round, but is itself unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning.

Here again human actions in which there is a consciousness of the motives are simply ignored, for Rée declares that "between us and the place of their activity there is the skull of the ass." To judge from these words, it has not dawned on Rée that there are actions, not indeed of the ass, but of human beings, in which between us and the action lies the motive that has become conscious. Rée demonstrates his blindness once again, a few pages further on, when he says, “We do not perceive the causes by which our will is determined, hence we think it is not causally determined at all."

[16] But enough of examples which prove that many argue against freedom without knowing in the least what freedom is.

Topic: Volition That Is Unconditioned
  • What distinguishes humans from all other organic beings is based on rational thinking. Activity we have in common with other organisms.
  • Rée says, "The determining causes are not visible and therefore thought to be non-existent. The volition is the cause of the donkey's turning round, but is itself unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning."
  • Rée's opposition to freedom ignores human actions in which there is a consciousness of the motives.
  • There are actions, not of the ass, but of human beings, in which between us and the action lies the motive that has become conscious.
Note: Instinctive action is immediate willing without the intervention of feeling or thought.

Question: Up to this point in Chapter 1 Steiner says that many argue against freedom without knowing what it is. What does he mean?

Match-up Quiz


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