Chapter 08 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 08

The Factors Of Life

(14:27) Whole chapter audio

Part 1 of 2 audio within text
[1] Let us recapitulate what we have gained through the previous chapters. The world comes to meet me as a multiplicity, a sum of separate details. As a human being, I am myself one of these details, an entity among other entities. We call this form of the world simply the given and—insofar as we do not develop it through conscious activity but find it ready-made—we call it percept. Within the world of percepts, we perceive ourselves. But if something did not emerge out of this self-percept that proved capable of linking both percepts in general and also the sum of all other percepts with the percept of our self, our self-percept would remain simply one among many. This emerging something, however, is no longer a mere percept; nor is it, like percepts, simply present. It is produced through activity and initially appears linked to what we perceive as our self, but its inner meaning reaches beyond the self. It adds conceptual determinates to individual percepts, but these conceptual determinates relate to one another and are grounded in a whole. It determines conceptually what is achieved through self-perception conceptually, just as it determines all other percepts. It places this as the subject or “I” over against objects. This “something” is thinking, and the conceptual determinates are concepts and ideas.

Thus, thinking first expresses itself in the percept of the self, but it is not merely subjective, for the self characterizes itself as subject only with the help of thinking. Such self-reference in thought is one way that we determine our personality in life. Through it, we lead a purely conceptual existence. Through it, we feel ourselves as thinking beings. Were it unaccompanied by other ways of determining our self, this determination of our personality would remain purely conceptual (logical). Then we would be beings whose lives were limited to establishing purely conceptual relationships among percepts, and between percepts and ourselves. Now, if we call the establishment of such a relationship in thought cognition, and the state of the self achieved through it knowledge, then—if the assumption just mentioned applied—we would have to regard ourselves as merely cognizing or knowing beings.

[2] But this assumption does not hold. As we have seen, we do not relate percepts to ourselves only through concepts, but also through feeling. Therefore we are not beings with merely conceptual content to our lives. The naive realist, in fact, sees in the feeling-life a more real expression of the personality than in the purely conceptual element of knowledge. And if the matter is judged from that standpoint, this view is quite correct. At first, feeling is exactly similar on the subjective side to the percept on the objective side. Therefore, according to the fundamental proposition of naive realism (everything that can be perceived is real), feeling guarantees the reality of one’s own personality. Yet monism, as understood here, must acknowledge that a feeling, if it is to appear to us in its full reality, requires the same kind of completion as any other percept. For monism, feeling is an incomplete reality that, in the form in which it is given to us at first, does not yet contain its second factor, the concept or idea. This is why feeling, like perceiving, always appears before cognizing. First, we merely feel ourselves as existing; and, in the course of our gradual development, we reach the point at which, out of our own dimly felt existence, the self concept dawns upon us. But what emerges for us only later is originally inseparably united with feeling. This is what makes naive persons believe that existence reveals itself directly in feeling, but only indirectly in knowledge. Exercising the life of feeling will therefore seem more important to them than anything else. They believe themselves to have grasped the pattern of the universe only when they have received it into their feeling. They try to make feeling, not knowing, the means of cognition. Since feeling is something altogether individual, something equivalent to perception, philosophers of feeling make something that has significance only within their own personality into the principle of the universe. They try to permeate the entire universe with their own selves. What monism, as described in this book, attempts to grasp conceptually, the philosophers of feeling seek to achieve with feeling. They see that kind of connection with things as more immediate.

[3] This tendency—the philosophy of feeling—is often called mysticism. A mystical view based solely on feeling errs in wanting to experience what it ought to know; it wants to make something that is individual, feeling, into something universal.

[4] Feeling is a purely individual act. It is a relationship of the outer world to our subject, insofar as that relationship finds expression in a purely subjective experience.

[5] There is yet another expression of the human personality. Through its thinking, the I participates in general, universal life. Through thinking, it relates percepts to itself, and itself to percepts, in a purely conceptual way; in feeling, it experiences a relationship of the object to its subject. But in willing, the reverse is the case. In willing, too, we have a percept before us: namely, that of the individual relation of our self to what is objective. And whatever is not a purely conceptual factor in our will is just as much a mere object of perception as anything in the outer world.

[6] Yet here, too, naive realism believes that it has before it a far realer kind of existence than can be attained through thinking. In contrast to thinking, which formulates the event only afterward in concepts, naive realism sees an element in the will in which we are immediately aware of an event or cause. From this point of view, what the I achieves through its will is a process that is experienced immediately. Adherents of this philosophy believe that, in the will, they have hold of a corner of the world process. They believe that in willing we experience a real event quite immediately, while we can only follow other events from the outside. They make the form of existence in which the will appears within the self into an actual principle of reality. Their own willing appears to them as a special case of the universal world process; and the universal world process appears as a universal will. Here the will becomes a world principle, just as feeling becomes a cognitive principle in mysticism. This point of view is called the philosophy of the will (or thelism). It makes something that can be experienced only individually into a constitutive factor of the world.

[7] The philosophy of will can no more be called “science” than can the mysticism of feeling, for both maintain that to permeate the world with concepts is inadequate. In addition to a conceptual principle of existence, both demand a real principle as well. There is some justification in this. But since we can grasp these so-called real principles only through our perception, the claims of both mysticism of feeling and philosophy of the will are identical with the view that we have two sources of knowledge—thinking and perceiving, the latter expressing itself as individual experience in feeling and in will. According to this view, since what flows from one source (our experiences) cannot be received directly into what flows from the other (thinking), both kinds of cognition, thinking and perceiving, remain side by side without any higher mediation between them. Beside the conceptual principle attainable through knowledge, there is supposed to exist a real principle of the world that can be experienced, but not grasped by thinking. In other words, because they subscribe to the proposition that what is directly perceived is real, mysticism of feeling and the philosophy of will are both types of naive realism. Yet, compared to the original naive realism, they commit the further inconsistency of making a specific form of perceiving (feeling or willing) into the sole means of cognizing existence—but they can do so only by subscribing to the general proposition that what has been perceived is real. On that basis, however, they would also have to ascribe an equivalent cognitive value to external perceiving.

[8] The philosophy of will becomes metaphysical realism when it transfers the will into those realms of existence where immediate experience of it is not possible in the same way as it is in one’s own subject. It assumes the existence, outside the subject, of a hypothetical principle, the sole criterion for whose reality is subjective experience. As metaphysical realism, the philosophy of the will succumbs to the criticism given in the previous chapter, which the contradictory aspect of every metaphysical realism must recognize and overcome, that the will is only a universal world process to the extent that it relates to the rest of the world conceptually.


Addendum to the new edition (1918)
[1] The difficulty of grasping thinking in its essence by observing it consists in this: when the soul wants to bring it into the focus of attention, this essence has all too easily already slipped away from the observing soul. All that is left for the soul then is the dead abstraction, the corpse of living thinking. If we look only at this abstraction, we can easily feel drawn to the mysticism of feeling or the metaphysics of will, which seem so “full of life.” We find it strange if anyone seeks to grasp the essence of reality in “mere thoughts.” But whoever truly manages to experience life within thinking sees that dwelling in mere feelings or contemplating the element of will cannot even be compared with (let alone ranked above) the inner richness and the experience, the inner calmness and mobility, in the life of thinking. It is precisely the richness, the inner fullness of experience, that makes its reflection in normal consciousness seem dead and abstract. No other activity of the human soul is as easily misunderstood as thinking. Feeling and willing warm the human soul even when we look back and recollect their original state, while thinking all too easily leaves us cold. It seems to dry out the life of the soul. Yet this is only the sharply contoured shadow of the reality of thinking—a reality interwoven with light, dipping down warmly into the phenomena of the world. This dipping down occurs with a power that flows forth in the activity of thinking itself— the power of love in spiritual form. One should not object that to speak of love in active thinking is to displace a feeling, love, into thinking. This objection is actually a confirmation of what is being said here. For whoever turns toward essential thinking finds within it both feeling and will, and both of these in the depths of their reality. Whoever turns aside from thinking toward “pure” feeling and willing loses the true reality of feeling and willing. If we experience thinking intuitively, we also do justice to the experience of feeling and will. But the mysticism of feeling and the metaphysics of will cannot do justice to the penetration of existence by intuitive thinking. Those views all too easily conclude that it is they who stand within reality, while intuitive thinkers, devoid of feeling and estranged from reality, form only a shadowy, cold picture of the world in “abstract thoughts.”
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