Chapter 06 Audiobook

The Philosophy of Freedom
Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path, Lipson translation
copyright © Anthroposophic Press, 1995
Audio by Dale Brunsvold
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Chapter 06

Human Individuality


(12:33) Whole chapter audio

Part 1 of 2 audio within text
[1] In explaining mental pictures, philosophers have had the greatest difficulty with the fact that we are not ourselves external things, but our mental pictures are supposed to have a form corresponding to them. On closer inspection, however, this difficulty turns out to be non-existent. To be sure, we are not external things, but we belong with them to one and the same world. The segment of the world that I perceive as my subject is run through by the stream of the universal world process. With regard to my perception, I am at first confined within the boundary of my skin. But what is contained within this skin belongs to the cosmos as a whole. Therefore, for a relationship to exist between my organism and an object outside me, it is not at all necessary for something of the object to slip into me or to impress itself on my mind like a signet ring on wax. Thus the question, “How do I learn anything about the tree that stands ten paces from me?” is all wrong. It arises from the view that the boundaries of my body are absolute barriers, through which news about things filters into me. The forces acting within my skin are the same as those existing outside it. Therefore, I really am the things: to be sure, not “I” as a perceived subject, but “I” as a part of the universal world process. The percept of the tree lies with my I in the same whole. The universal world process calls forth equally the percept of the tree there, and the percept of my I here. Were I a world-creator, not a world-knower, then object and subject (percept and I) would arise in one act. For they determine each other mutually. As worldknower, I can find the common element of the two, as two sides of being that belong together, only through thinking, which relates them to each other through concepts.

[2] The so-called physiological proofs of the subjectivity of percepts will be the hardest of all to drive from the field. If I exert pressure on my skin, I perceive it as a sensation of pressure. The same pressure may be experienced by me through the eye as light, and through the ear as sound. I perceive an electric shock through the eye as light, through the ear as sound, through the nerves of the skin as impact, and through the nose as an odor of phosphorus. What follows from this? Only that I perceive an electric shock (or pressure) and then a quality of light, or a sound, or a certain smell, and so forth. If there were no eye, there would be no percept of light accompanying the percept of mechanical change in the environment; without an ear, no percept of sound, etc. What right have we to say that, without organs of perception, the whole process would not exist? Those who conclude—from the fact that an electrical process in the eye evokes light—that what we sense as light is, outside our organism, only a mechanical process of motion, forget that they are merely passing from one percept to another and not at all to something outside perception. Just as we can say that the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in its environment as light, so we could just as well claim that any systematic change in an object is perceived by us as a process of motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse on the circumference of a rotating disc, in exactly the positions that its body assumes in the course of a gallop, then I can by rotating the disc evoke the illusion of movement. I need only look through an opening in such a way that I see the successive positions of the horse at appropriate intervals. Then I see, not twelve pictures of a horse, but the image of a single horse galloping.

[3] Thus, the physiological fact mentioned above can throw no light on the relation of percepts to mental pictures. We must find our way by some other means.

[4] The moment a percept emerges on the horizon of my observation, thinking, too, is activated in me. An element of my thought-system—a specific intuition, a concept— unites with the percept. Then, when the percept disappears from my field of vision, what remains? What remains is my intuition, with its relationship to the specific percept that formed in the moment of perceiving. How vividly I can then later re-present this relationship to myself depends upon how my spiritual and bodily organism is functioning. A mental picture is nothing but an intuition related to a specific percept. It is a concept, once linked to a percept, for which the relation to that percept has remained. My concept of a lion is not formed out of my percepts of lions. Yet my mental picture of a lion is certainly formed by means of perception. I can convey the concept of a lion to those who have never seen a lion. But without their own perceiving, I will not succeed in conveying a vivid mental picture.

[5] A mental picture, then, is an individualized concept. We can now understand how mental pictures can represent the things of reality for us. The full reality of a thing is revealed to us in the moment of observation, out of the merging of a concept and a percept. Through a percept, the concept receives an individualized form, a relationship to that specific percept. The concept survives in us in this individual form, with its characteristic relationship to the percept, and forms the mental picture of the corresponding thing. If we encounter a second thing and the same concept combines itself with it, then we recognize it as belonging to the same species as the first, for we find not only a corresponding concept in our conceptual system, but the individualized concept with its characteristic relationship to this same object, and we recognize the object once again.

[6] Thus, a mental picture stands between a percept and a concept. A mental picture is the specific concept that points to the percept.

[7] The sum of everything of which I can form mental pictures I can call my “experience.” Hence, the greater the number of individualized concepts a person has, the richer their experience will be. A person lacking intuitive capacity, on the other hand, is unsuited to acquire experience. For such a person, once objects are out of sight they are lost, because the concepts that ought to be brought into relationship with them are lacking. A person whose capacity to think is well developed but who perceives poorly because of coarse sensory equipment will be equally incapable of gathering experience. Such persons might acquire concepts somehow, but their intuitions will lack a vivid relationship to specific things. A thoughtless traveler and a scholar living in abstract conceptual systems are equally unable to have rich experience.


[8] Reality reveals itself to us as percepts and concepts; the subjective representation of that reality reveals itself as mental pictures.

[9] If our personality manifested only cognitively, the sum of everything objective would be given in percepts, concepts, and mental pictures.

[10] Yet we are not satisfied with relating a percept to a concept by means of thinking. We also relate it to our particular subjectivity, to our individual I. The expression of this individual relation is feeling, which manifests as pleasure or displeasure.

[11] Thinking and feeling correspond to the dual nature of our being, on which we have already reflected. Thinking is the element through which we participate in the universal process of the cosmos; feeling is the element through which we can withdraw into the confines of our own being.

[12] Our thinking unites us with the world; our feeling leads us back into ourselves and makes us individuals. If we were only thinking and perceiving beings, then our whole life would flow past in monotonous indifference. If we could only know ourselves as selves, then we would be completely indifferent to ourselves. It is only because we have self-feeling along with self-cognition, and pleasure and pain along with the perception of things, that we live as individual beings whose existence is not limited to our conceptual relation to the rest of the world, but who also have a special value for ourselves.

[13] Some might be tempted to see in the life of feeling an element more richly imbued with reality than thinking contemplation of the world. The reply to this is that the life of feeling has this richer meaning only for my individuality. For the world as a whole, my feeling life can attain value only if the feeling, as a percept of my self, combines with a concept and so integrates itself indirectly into the cosmos.

[14] Our life is a continual oscillation between our individual existence and living with the universal world process. The farther we rise into the universal nature of thinking, where what is individual continues to interest us only as an example, an instance of a concept, the more we let go of our character as particular entities—as completely specific, separate personalities. The more we descend into the depths of our own life, allowing our feelings to resonate with the experiences of the outer world, the more we separate ourselves from universal being. A true individual will be the person who reaches highest, with his or her feelings, into the region of ideals. There are people for whom even the most universal ideas entering their heads still retain a special coloring that shows them unmistakably connected with their bearer. There are others whose concepts meet us so completely without trace of ownership as to seem unconnected to anyone of flesh and blood.

[15] Making mental pictures already gives our conceptual life an individual stamp. After all, each of us has a standpoint from which to view the world. Our concepts connect themselves to our percepts. We think universal concepts in our own special way. This characteristic quality is a result of our standpoint in the world, of the sphere of perception connected to our place in life.

[16] In contrast to this particularity is another, dependent on our individual constitution. How we are constituted, after all, makes for a special, well-defined entity. We each connect special feelings with our percepts, and do so in the most varying degrees of intensity. This is the individual aspect of our personality. It remains left over after we have accounted for the specificities of the stage on which we act out our lives.
[17] A feeling-life completely devoid of thought must gradually lose all connection with the world. Yet for human beings, oriented as they are toward wholeness, knowledge of things will go hand in hand with education and development of the life of feeling.

[18] Feeling is the means by which concepts first gain concrete life.

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