Chapter 09 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 09

The Idea Of Freedom

(52:17) Whole chapter audio

Part 1 of 5 audio within text
[1] For cognition, the concept of a tree is determined by the percept of a tree. Faced with a specific percept, I can select only a very specific concept out of the general conceptual system. The connection between a concept and a percept is indirectly and objectively determined by thinking about the percept. The percept’s connection with its concept is recognized after the act of perception; but their belonging together is determined by the situation itself.

[2] The process presents itself differently when we examine cognition itself or the relationship between human beings and the world through cognition. In the preceding discussion, an attempt was made to show that it is possible to clarify this relationship through unprejudiced observation. A proper understanding of such observation leads to the insight that thinking can be beheld directly as a selfenclosed entity. Those who find it necessary to explain thinking as such by appealing to something else—such as physical processes in the brain or unconscious mental processes lying behind observed, conscious thinking— misunderstand what the unprejudiced observation of thinking provides. To observe thinking is to live, during the observation, immediately within the weaving of a self-supporting spiritual entity. We could even say that whoever wants to grasp the essence of the spirit in the form in which it first presents itself to human beings can do so in the self-sustaining activity of thinking.

[3] In examining thinking itself, two things coincide that otherwise must always appear as separated: concepts and percepts. If we do not understand this, the concepts developed in response to percepts will seem to us to be shadowy copies of these percepts, while the percepts themselves will seem to present us with true reality. We will also build a metaphysical world for ourselves on the pattern of the perceived world. Following the style of our mental imagery, we will call this metaphysical world the atomic world, the world of the will, or of the unconscious spirit, and so forth. And we will fail to see how, in all of this, we have built up only a hypothetical metaphysical world on the pattern of our perceptual world. But, if we see what is really present in thinking, we will recognize that only one part of reality is present in the percept and that we experience the other part—which belongs to it and is necessary for it to appear as full reality—in the permeation of the percept by thinking. We shall then see, in what appears in consciousness as thinking, not a shadowy copy of reality, but a spiritual essence that sustains itself. Of this spiritual essence we can say that it becomes present to our consciousness through intuition. Intuition is the conscious experience, within what is purely spiritual, of a purely spiritual content. The essence of thinking can be grasped only through intuition.

[4] Only when, by means of unprejudiced observation, we have wrestled through to a recognition of this truth about the intuitive essence of thinking can we obtain a clear path to insight into the human organization of body and soul. We then recognize that this organization can have no effect on the essence of thinking, even though the facts initially seem to contradict this. In normal experience, human thinking appears only in and through the organization of body and soul. This organization makes itself felt so strongly in thinking that its true significance can only be seen by someone who has recognized that nothing of that organization plays a part in the essential nature of thinking. But such a person will also see what a peculiar kind of relationship exists between this human organization and thinking. For our organization has no effect on the essence of thinking but rather retreats when the activity of thinking appears. Our organization suspends its own activity—it makes room—and, in the space that has been made free, thinking appears. The effective essence in thinking has a double function. First, it represses the human organization’s own activity and, second, it replaces that activity with itself. Even the first of these, the repression of the bodily organization, is a result of thinking activity—of the part of that activity that prepares the appearance of thinking. We can see from this in what sense thinking is reflected in the bodily organization. Once we see this, we will no longer be able to mistake the significance of that reflection and take it for thinking itself. If we walk over softened ground, our footsteps dig into the earth. We are not tempted to say that the footprints are driven upward from below by forces in the ground. We will not attribute to those forces any share in the origin of the footprints. Similarly, if we observe the essence of thinking without prejudice, we will not attribute any part of this essence to traces in the bodily organism that arise because thinking prepares its appearance by means of the body.

[5] Here a significant question emerges. If the human organization plays no part in the essence of thinking, what significance does this organization play in the totality of the human being? The answer is that what happens in human organization as a result of thinking has nothing to do with the essence of thinking, but it does have something to do with the origin of I-consciousness out of thinking. The real “I” certainly lies in thinking’s own essence, but I-consciousness does not. Anyone who observes thinking without prejudice sees this is the case. The “I” is to be found in thinking; but “I-consciousness” appears because the traces of thinking activity are engraved in general consciousness, as characterized above. (I-consciousness therefore arises through the bodily organization. But let us not confuse this with the claim that I-consciousness, once arisen, remains dependent on the bodily organization. Once arisen, it is taken up into thinking, and thereafter shares in thinking’s spiritual being.)

[6] “I-consciousness” is based on the human organization, from which our acts of will flow. Following the preceding discussion, insight into the connection between thinking, the conscious I, and acts of will can be achieved only if we first observe how an act of will proceeds from the human organization.

[7] For an individual act of will, we must consider both the motive and the motive power. The motive is a conceptual or mentally pictured factor; the motive power is the factor of willing that is conditioned directly within the human organization. The conceptual factor, or motive, is the momentary determining principle of willing; the motive power is the abiding determining principle of the individual. A motive can be a pure concept or a concept with a specific relation to perceiving, that is, a mental picture. By affecting a human individual and by determining that individual to act in a certain direction, general and individualized concepts (mental pictures) become motives of willing. Yet one and the same concept, or one and the same mental picture, has different effects on different individuals. The same concept (or mental picture) can cause different people to perform different acts. Willing, then, is not merely the result of the concept or mental picture, but also of the individual human make-up. We shall call this individual make-up, following Eduard von Hartmann, the characterological disposition. The way in which concepts and mental pictures work upon someone’s characterological disposition gives that person’s life a specific moral or ethical stamp.

[8] Our characterological disposition is shaped by the more-or-less lasting content of our subjective life—in other words by the content of our mental pictures and feelings. Whether or not a mental picture currently arising within me stimulates my willing depends on how it relates itself to the rest of my mental pictures, as well as to my idiosyncracies of feeling. My store of mental pictures is determined, in turn, by the sum of concepts that have come into contact with percepts in the course of my individual life, that is, by the concepts that have become mental pictures. These, again, depend on my greater or lesser capacity for intuition and on the range of my observations— that is, on the subjective and objective factors of my experiences, on my inner character, and on my lifesetting. My feeling life is especially important in determining my characterological disposition. Whether or not I make a particular mental picture or concept a motive for action depends upon whether it gives me joy or pain.

These are the elements to be considered in an act of will. The immediate mental picture or concept becomes a motive and determines the goal or purpose of my willing; my characterological disposition determines whether or not I will direct my activity toward that goal. The mental picture of taking a walk during the next half hour determines the goal of my activity. This mental picture, however, is elevated into a motive of willing only if it encounters a suitable characterological disposition; that is, if in my life to date I have developed mental pictures of, for example, the usefulness of taking walks and the value of health and, further, if the mental picture of taking walks is linked in me with feelings of pleasure.

[9] Thus, we must distinguish between (1) the possible subjective dispositions that are suited to making specific mental pictures and concepts into motives and (2) the possible mental pictures and concepts that are capable of influencing my characterological disposition so that an act of will results. The former represent the motive powers, the latter the goals of morality.

[10] By identifying the elements that compose an individual life, we can discover the motive powers of morality.

[11] The first level of individual life is perceiving, particularly the perceiving of the senses. In this region of individual life, perceiving is immediately—without any intervening feeling or concept—transformed into willing. The motive power under consideration here is simply called drive. Satisfaction of our lower, purely animal needs (hunger, sexual intercourse, etc.) occurs in this way. The special characteristic of the life of the drives is the immediacy with which the individual percept activates our willing. This immediacy, originally belonging only to the lower sense life, can also be extended to the percepts of the higher senses. We react to the percept of some event in the external world without further reflection and without linking a special feeling to it—as occurs in conventional social behavior. We call the motive power here tact or moral taste. The more such an immediate reaction to a  percept occurs, the more suited the person in question will be to act purely under the influence of tact: that is, tact becomes the characterological disposition.

[12] The second sphere of human life is feeling. Particular feelings accompany percepts of the external world. These feelings can become motive powers for action. If I see a hungry person, my compassion can form the motive power to act. Such feelings include shame, pride, sense of honor, humility, remorse, compassion, vengeance, gratitude, piety, loyalty, love, and duty.

[13] Finally, the third level of life is thinking and mental picturing. Through mere reflection, a mental picture or concept can become a motive for action. Mental pictures become motives because, in the course of life, we constantly link certain goals of our will to percepts that recur repeatedly in more or less modified form. Therefore people who are not without experience are always aware, along with certain percepts, of mental pictures of actions they themselves have performed or seen others perform in similar cases. These mental pictures float before them as defining patterns for all later decisions; they become part of their characterological disposition. We can call this motive power of the will practical experience. Practical experience merges gradually into purely tactful action. This happens when certain typical pictures of actions have become so firmly connected in our consciousness with mental pictures of certain situations in life that we may, in any given instance, skip over all deliberation based on experience and go immediately from the percept into willing.

[14] The highest stage of individual life is conceptual thinking without reference to a specific perceptual content. We determine the content of a concept out of the conceptual sphere through pure intuition. Such a concept initially contains no reference to specific percepts. If we enter into willing under the influence of a concept referring to a percept— that is to say, a mental picture—then it is this percept that determines our willing through the detour of conceptual thinking. If we act under the influence of intuitions, then the motive power of our action is pure thinking. Since it is customary in philosophy to designate the capacity for pure thinking as “reason,” we are fully justified in calling the moral driving force characteristic of this stage practical reason. The clearest account of this motive force of the will has been given by Kreyenbuehl. I count his essay on the topic among the most significant creations of contemporary philosophy, particularly of ethics. Kreyenbuehl calls the motive power in question practical a priori, that is, an impulse to act flowing directly from my intuition.

[15] Clearly, such an impulse no longer belongs, strictly speaking, to the realm of characterological dispositions. For what is active here as the motive power is no longer something merely individual in me, but the conceptual, and therefore universal, content of my intuition. As soon as I recognize the justification for making this content the basis and starting-point for an action, I enter into willing, regardless of whether the concept was already present in me beforehand or only entered my consciousness immediately before the action—that is, regardless of whether or not it was already present in me as disposition.

[16] An act of will is real only if a momentary impulse of action influences the characterological disposition in the form of a concept or mental picture. Such an impulse then becomes a motive of willing.

[17] The motives of morality are mental pictures and concepts. There are ethicists who also see a motive of morality in feelings. They claim, for example, that the aim of moral action is to promote the greatest possible amount of pleasure in the acting individual. But only the mental picture of pleasure, not pleasure itself, can become a motive. The mental picture of a future feeling, but not the feeling itself, can affect my characterological disposition. For the feeling itself is not present in the moment of action; rather, it must first be produced through the action.

[18] The mental picture of one’s own or another’s well-being is quite properly recognized as a motive of willing. The principle of producing through one’s actions the greatest amount of pleasure for oneself—that is, of attaining individual happiness—is called egoism. This individual happiness is sought either through thinking ruthlessly only of one’s own welfare and striving for it even at the expense of the happiness of other individuals (pure egoism), or through promoting the good of others because one hopes for indirect advantages from their happiness, or through fear of endangering one’s own interests by harming others (morality of prudence). The particular content of egoistic moral principles will depend on what mental picture we form of our own or others’ happiness. We will determine the content of our egoistic striving according to what we regard as good in life (luxurious living, hope of happiness, deliverance from various evils, and so forth).

[19] The purely conceptual content of an action should be seen as a different kind of motive. Unlike the mental picture of one’s own pleasure, this content relates not just to a single action, but to the derivation of an action from a system of moral principles. These moral principles can regulate ethical conduct in the form of abstract concepts, without an individual’s worrying about the origin of the concepts. We then feel that our subjection to the moral concept, which hovers over our actions as a commandment, is simply a moral necessity. We leave the establishment of this necessity to whoever demands our moral subjection; that is, to whatever moral authority we recognize (the head of our family, the state, social custom, ecclesiastical authority, divine revelation). A special kind of moral principle is involved when the commandment does not announce itself to us through outer authority, but from within ourselves. We may call this moral autonomy. We then hear within ourselves the voice to which we must submit. The expression of this voice is conscience.

[20] Moral progress occurs when a person does not simply accept the commandment of an outer or inner authority as a motive for action, but rather strives to see why any given principle should work as a motive. This is to progress from an authoritarian morality to action based on ethical insight. At this level of morality, we consider the needs of a moral life and allow our actions to be determined by knowledge of them. Such needs are (1) the greatest possible welfare of all humanity, purely for the sake of that welfare; (2) the progress of civilization or the moral evolution of humanity to ever greater perfection; and (3) the realization of individual moral goals that have been grasped purely intuitively.

[21] The greatest possible welfare of all humanity will naturally be formulated differently by different people. This phrase does not refer to a particular mental picture of such welfare but to the idea that those individuals who recognize this principle strive to do whatever they think will most promote the welfare of all humanity.

[22] For those who associate a feeling of pleasure with the benefits of civilization, the progress of civilization turns out to be a special case of the moral principle of greatest possible welfare. But they will have to accept into the bargain the demise and destruction of many things that also contribute to the welfare of humanity. However, it is also possible that someone could see ethical necessity in the progress of civilization, quite apart from the feeling of pleasure associated with it. For such a person, then, it is a distinct moral principle in addition to the previous one.

[23] The principle of the welfare of all, like that of the progress of civilization, depends on a mental picture; that is to say, on the relationship that we make between the content of ethical ideas and particular experiences (percepts). But the highest ethical principle of which we can think is that which contains no such relationship in advance, but rather springs from the source of pure intuition and only afterward seeks a relationship to a percept (to life). Here, the determination of what is to be willed proceeds from a different source than in the previous examples. Those who honor the ethical principle of the good of all will, in all their actions, ask first what their ideals contribute to that good. Those who adhere to the ethical principle of the progress of civilization will do the same. Yet there is a higher way that does not proceed from one definite, single ethical goal in each case, but assumes a certain value to all ethical maxims and in each case asks whether one or the other moral principle is more important. In certain circumstances, I might regard promotion of cultural progress as right and make it into the motive of my action; in others, promotion of the good of the whole; and in a third case, promotion of my own welfare. But, if all other reasons determining action move to second place, then conceptual intuition itself has primary consideration. The other motives now step down from the leading position, and the ideal content of the action alone operates as its motive.

[24] We described the stage of characterological disposition that works as pure thinking, or practical reason, as the highest. We have now described conceptual intuition as the highest motive. More exact reflection soon reveals that motive power and motive coincide at this level of morality. That is, neither a previously determined characterological disposition nor an outer ethical principle taken as a standard influences our action. The action is therefore not executed robotically according to certain rules, nor is it action performed automatically in response to outer pressure, but rather it is action determined solely by its own conceptual content.

[25] Such an action presupposes the capacity for moral intuitions. Whoever lacks the capacity to experience the particular ethical principle of each individual case will also never achieve truly individual willing.

[26] The exact opposite of this ethical principle is the Kantian: Act in such a way that the bases of your action are applicable to all human beings. This sentence is the death of all individual impulses of action. My standard cannot be how all humans would act but rather what I am to do in the individual case.

[27] A superficial judgment might perhaps object to these arguments by asking: How can an action be formed individually, for the particular case and the particular situation, and yet simultaneously be determined purely conceptually, out of intuition? This objection rests on confusing the ethical motive with the perceptible content of an action. The latter can be a motive, and even is so, for example, in the case of the progress of civilization, in egoistic actions, etc. In actions based on purely ethical intuition, it is not the motive. Naturally, my I directs its gaze toward the perceptual content but it does not allow itself to be determined by it. The content is used only to form a cognitive concept for oneself; the corresponding moral concept is not derived by the I from the object. The cognitive concept of a particular situation that I encounter is also a moral concept only when I come from the standpoint of a particular moral principle. If I wanted to base all of my actions on the moral evolution of civilization, then I would have fixed marching orders. From every event that I perceive and that can possibly concern me, an ethical duty immediately arises; namely, to do my part so that the event in question serves the evolution of civilization. In addition to the concept, which reveals to me the context of an event or thing in natural law, the event or thing also has an ethical label with instructions addressed to me, the moral being, about how I should behave. Such a moral label is legitimate in its sphere, but on a higher level it coincides with the idea that reveals itself to me when I face a concrete situation.

[28] People vary in their capacity for intuition. For one person, ideas just bubble up, while another achieves them by much labor. The situations in which people live, and which serve as the scene of their activity, are no less varied. How I act will therefore depend on how my capacity for intuition works in relation to a particular situation. The sum of ideas active within us, the real content of our intuitions, constitutes what is individual in each of us, notwithstanding the universality of the world of ideas. To the extent that the intuitive content turns into action, it is the ethical content of the individual. Allowing this intuitive content to live itself out fully is the highest driving force of morality. At the same time, it is the highest motive of those who realize that, in the end, all other moral principles unite within it. We can call this standpoint ethical individualism.

[29] What is decisive in an intuitively determined action in a concrete instance is the discovery of the corresponding, completely individual intuition. At this level of morality, we can speak of general moral concepts (norms or laws) only to the extent that they result from the generalization of individual impulses. General norms always presuppose concrete facts from which they can be derived. But facts are first created by human action.

[30] When we seek for laws (or concepts) in the actions of individuals, peoples, and eras, we discover an ethics that is not a science of ethical norms but a natural history of morality. Only the laws obtained in this way relate to human conduct as natural laws relate to a particular phenomenon. But they are by no means identical with the impulses on which we base our actions. If we want to understand how a human action springs from ethical willing, we must look first to the relationship of that willing to the action in question. First, we must focus on actions for which this relationship is decisive. If I or another later reflect upon such an action, then we can discover which ethical principles are relevant. While I am acting, an ethical principle moves me to the extent that it can live within me intuitively; it is united with love for the goal that I wish to realize through my action. I do not consult any person or code with the question, “Should I perform this action?” — I perform the action as soon as I have grasped the idea. Only in this way is it my action.

The actions of those who act only because they recognize particular ethical norms result from the principles present in their moral code. They are mere executors, a higher form of robot. Toss an opportunity to act into their awareness and, right away, the clockwork of their moral principles sets itself in motion and runs its course in a lawful fashion to produce a Christian, humane, or apparently selfless action or one for the sake of the progress of civilization. Only when I follow my love for an object is it I myself who act. At this level of morality, I do not act because I acknowledge a lord over me or an external authority or a so-called inner voice. I acknowledge no outer principle for my action, because I have found within myself the basis of my acting—love for the action. I do not check rationally whether the action is good or evil; I do it because I love it. My action becomes “good” if my intuition, steeped in love, stands in the right way in the intuitively experienceable world continuum; it becomes “bad” if that is not the case. I do not ask myself, “How would another person act in my situation?” Rather, I act as I, this particular individuality, want (or will). What directs me is not common usage, not general custom, not a universal human principle, and not an ethical norm, but my love for the deed. I feel no compulsion, neither the compulsion of nature, which guides me in my drives, nor the compulsion of ethical commandments. I simply want to carry out what lies within me.

[31] Defenders of universal ethical norms might object to these arguments as follows: If all people strive merely to express themselves, and to do as they please, then there is no difference between a good action and a crime; every bit of knavery within me has equal claim to expression with the intention to serve the universal good. As an ethical human being, what should be decisive for me is not the mere fact that I have focused on the idea of an action, but rather my determination of whether the action is good or evil. Only if I have determined that it is good should I carry it out.

[32] My response to this objection, which seems plausible, but arises only from a misunderstanding of what is meant here, is this: Anyone who wants to know the essence of human willing must distinguish between the path that brings willing up to a certain stage of development and the special form that it assumes when it nears its goal. On the path to this goal, norms play their justifiable role. The goal consists in the realization of ethical aims that are grasped purely intuitively. Humans achieve such aims to the degree that they possess any capacity to lift themselves to the intuitive-conceptual content of the world. In any individual act of willing, other things are generally mixed in with such aims, as motive or motive power. But intuition can still determine, or co-determine, human willing. What we should do, we do; we offer the stage upon which “should” becomes “do.” An action is our own if we allow it to emerge as such from within ourselves. Here, the impulse can only be completely individual. In truth, only an act of will emerging from intuition can be individual. Only if blind drives are reckoned to belong to the human individuality can we see a criminal deed, or evil, as an expression of individuality equivalent to the incarnation of pure intuition. But the blind drive that drives someone to commit a crime does not come from intuition. It does not belong to what is individual within a person. It belongs to what is commonest, to what is equally present in all individuals and out of which we must work our way with our individuality. What is individual in me is not my organism, with its drives and feelings, but my own world of ideas that lights up within this organism. My drives, instincts, and passions establish no more in me than that I belong to the general species human being. The fact that something conceptual expresses itself in a special way in those drives, passions, and feelings establishes my individuality. Through my instincts, my drives, I am the kind of person of whom there are twelve to the dozen; I am an individual by means of the particular form of the idea by which, within the dozen, I designate myself as I. Only a being other than myself could distinguish me from others by differences in my animal nature. I distinguish myself from others by my thinking, that is, by actively grasping what expresses itself in my organism as conceptuality. Thus, we cannot say that the action of a criminal proceeds from an idea. In fact, what is characteristic of criminal acts is precisely that they derive from non-conceptual elements within a human being.

[33] Insofar as an action proceeds from the conceptual part of my individual being it is felt to be free. Every other portion of an action, whether it is performed under the compulsion of nature or according to the requirement of an ethical norm, is felt to be unfree.

[34] Humans are free to the extent that they are able to obey themselves at each instant of their lives. An ethical deed is only my deed if it can be called a free deed in this sense. We have examined under which conditions a willed act is felt to be free. What follows will show how this purely ethically understood idea of freedom realizes itself in human nature.

[35] To act out of freedom does not exclude moral laws, but rather includes them. Still, it stands on a higher level than action dictated by moral laws alone. Why should my action serve the welfare of the whole any less if I have acted out of love than if I acted only because I feel a duty to serve the welfare of the whole? The simple concept of duty excludes freedom, because duty does not recognize individuality but demands instead subjection of individuality to a general norm. Freedom of action is thinkable only from the standpoint of ethical individualism.

[36] But how is it possible for humans to live together socially if everyone is striving merely to express his or her own individuality? This objection is characteristic of misguided moralism, which imagines that a society of human beings is only possible if they are all united by a commonly determined ethical order. Such moralism fails to understand the unity of the world of ideas. It cannot conceive that the world of ideas that is active in me is none other than the one that is at work in my neighbor. To be sure, this unity is merely a result of experience in the world. But it must be so. For, if it were to be recognized in any way other than observation, then general laws rather than individual experience would give the stamp of validity in that realm. Individuality is possible only if each individual being knows another being by individual observation alone. The difference between me and my neighbor consists not in our living in two completely distinct spiritual worlds, but in my neighbor’s receiving intuitions other than my own out of the world of ideas common to us both. My neighbors want to live out their intuitions, I mine. If we all really draw from the Idea, and follow no external (physical or spiritual) impulses, then we cannot but meet in the same striving, the same intentions. An ethical misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible among ethically free human beings. Only someone who is ethically unfree, who obeys natural drives or the conventional demands of duty, will thrust aside someone else who does not follow the same instincts and the same demands. To live in love of action, and to let live in understanding of the other’s will, is the fundamental maxim of free human beings. They know no other “should” than the one with which their willing is intuitively in harmony. Their capacity for ideas tells them how they are to will in any given case.

[37] If the basic source of compatibility did not lie within human nature, we could not implant it by any outward laws! Only because individuals are of one spirit can they live out their lives side by side. A free person lives in trust that the other free person belongs to the same spiritual world and that they will concur with each other in their intentions. Those who are free demand no agreement from their fellows, but they expect it, because it is inherent in human nature. This is not meant to indicate the necessity of this or that outer arrangement. Rather, it is meant to indicate the attitude, the state of the soul, with which a human being, experiencing himself or herself amidst esteemed fellow human beings, can best do justice to human dignity.

[38] There are many who will object: The concept of the free human being that you sketch is a chimera; it has been realized nowhere. We have to deal with real people, and the only morality to hope for in them comes when human beings obey an ethical commandment, when they formulate their ethical task as duty and do not freely follow their inclinations and their love. I do not doubt this at all. Only a blind man could. But if this is supposed to be the final insight, then away with all hypocrisy about “ethics.” You should then simply say that, as long as human nature is not free, it must be forced into action. From a certain standpoint, it is irrelevant whether unfreedom is enforced through physical means or through moral laws, whether humans are unfree because they obey their limitless sexual drive or because they are enchained by conventional morality. But let us not claim that people can correctly call their actions their own, if they are driven to them by a power other than themselves. Still, right in the midst of compulsion, certain human beings lift themselves up, free spirits, who, in the welter of custom, legal stricture, religious practice, and so forth, find themselves. They are free to the extent that they obey only themselves; they are unfree to the extent that they subject themselves to something else. Who of us can say that they are really free in all their actions? But in each of us there dwells a deeper being in whom the free human comes to expression.

[39] Our life is made up of free and unfree actions. Yet we cannot think the concept of the human through to the end without arriving at the free spirit as the purest expression of human nature. Indeed, we are only truly human to the extent that we are free.

[40] That is an ideal, many will say. No doubt. But it is an ideal that works as a real element in our being and manifests its effects on the surface. It is no thought-up or dreamed-up ideal, but one that has life and makes itself clearly known in even its most imperfect form of existence. Were human beings merely natural creatures, it would be absurd to look for ideals—that is, ideas that are not currently effective and requiring realization. With things of the external world, the idea is determined by the percept, and we have done our part once we have recognized the connection between idea and percept. But this is not so with humans. The totality of human existence is not determined apart from the human beings themselves; their true concepts as ethical human beings (free spirits) are not united in advance, objectively, with the perceptual picture of “human beings,” needing merely to be confirmed afterward by cognition. As human beings, we must each unite our own concept with the percept of “human” through our own activity. Concept and percept coincide here only if we ourselves make them coincide. But we can only do so if we have discovered the concept of the free spirit, which is our own concept. In the objective world, the percept is divided from the concept by the way we are organized; in cognition we overcome this division. The division is no less present in our subjective nature; we overcome it in the course of our development by bringing our own concept to full outward manifestation. Thus, the intellectual as well as the moral life of human beings leads us to the dual nature of humans: perceiving (immediate experience) and thinking. Intellectual life overcomes the duality through cognition; moral life overcomes it through the actual realization of the free spirit. Every being has its inborn concept (the law of its being and activity); but in external things the concept is inseparably bound up with the percept, and only separated from it in our spiritual organism. In human beings, the concept and the percept are actually separate at first, to be just as actually united by human beings themselves. It could be objected that a particular concept corresponds to our percept of a human being at every instant of a person’s life, just as it does to every other thing; that I can create the concept of a stereotypical human for myself, and can also have such a human given me as percept. Were I then to add to that the concept of the free spirit, I would have two concepts for one and the same object.

[41] This is one-sided thinking. As a perceptual object, I am subject to continual transformation. As a child I was one thing, as a youth another, as an adult still another. In fact, at every moment the perceptual picture of myself is different from what it was a moment before. These changes can take place in such a way that the same person (the stereotypical human) is always expressed in them or in such a way that they represent the expression of the free spirit. My actions, too, as objects of perception, are subject to such changes.

[42] There is a possibility for the human perceptual object to transform itself, just as within the plant seed there lies the possibility of becoming a whole plant. The plant will transform itself because of the objective lawfulness lying within it. Humans remain in an incomplete state if they do not take in hand the transformative substance within themselves, and transform themselves through their own power. Nature makes human beings merely natural creatures; society makes them law-abiding actors; but they can only make themselves into free beings. At a certain stage of their development, nature releases human beings from her chains; society carries this development up to a further point; but human beings must give themselves the final polish.

[43] The standpoint of free morality does not claim that the free spirit is the only form in which a human being can exist. Free morality sees in free spirituality only the final stage of human evolution. This is not to deny that acting in accordance with norms has its justification as one stage in evolution. But it cannot be acknowledged as the absolute standpoint of morality. The free spirit overcomes such norms in that free spirits do not merely feel commandments as motives, but order their actions according to their impulses (intuitions).

[44] Kant says, “Duty! You exalted, mighty name, you who contain nothing lovable, nothing ingratiatingly agreeable, but who demand submission, (you who) establish a law. . . before which all inclinations fall dumb, though in secret they might work against it!" To this, a human being, out of the consciousness of the free spirit, replies: “Freedom! You friendly, human name, you who contain everything morally beloved, everything that most dignifies my humanity, and who make me into no one’s servant, you who do not merely establish a law, but wait for what my moral love itself will recognize as law, because it feels unfree in the face of every merely imposed law!”

[45] This is the contrast between morality that is merely lawful and morality that is free.

[46] Philistines, who see morality embodied in something externally fixed, might even see a free spirit as a dangerous person. They will do so, however, only because their view is limited to a particular epoch. If they could look beyond it, they would immediately find that free spirits need to move beyond the laws of the state as little as the philistines themselves, and that they never have to place themselves in real opposition to these laws. For the laws of the state, like all other objectively ethical laws, all sprang from the intuitions of free spirits. There is no law enforced by family authority that was not once intuitively conceived and formulated as such by an ancestor. Even the conventional laws of morality are first established by specific persons. And the laws of the state always arise in the heads of state officials. These minds have set up laws over other people, and no one becomes unfree except by forgetting that origin and making the laws either into extra-human commandments, into objective ethical concepts of duty independent of human participation, or into the commanding voice of one’s own falsely conceived, mystically compelling inner self. But those who do not overlook the origin, but seek the human being within it, will see it as belonging to the same world of ideas from which they too draw their moral intuitions. If they believe that they have better intuitions, then they try to substitute their own for the existing ones; if they find that the existing ones are justified, then they act in accordance with them as if they were their own.

[47] We must not establish the formula that human beings exist to realize an ethical world order cut off from themselves. Anyone who claimed as much would still be standing, in relation to the science of humankind, at the same point at which natural science stood when it believed that a bull has horns in order to butt. Fortunately, natural scientists have done away with such concepts of purpose. It is harder for ethics similarly to free itself. But just as horns do not exist because of butting, but butting exists through the horns, so human beings do not exist because of morality, but morality exists through human beings. Free human beings act morally because they have moral ideas, but they do not act in order for morality to arise. Human individuals, with the moral ideas belonging to their being, are the precondition for the moral world order.

[48] The human individual is the source of all morality and the center of earthly life. States and societies exist because they turn out to be the necessary consequence of individual life. That states and societies then react upon individual life is just as understandable as the fact that butting, which exists because of the bull’s horns, reacts upon the further development of the horns which would otherwise become stunted with prolonged disuse. In the same way, individuals would become stunted if they led isolated existences outside human community. It is precisely for this that the social order is formed, so that it can then react favorably on the individual.

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