Chapter 10 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 10

Freedom - Philosophy And Monism

(18:01) Whole chapter audio

Part 1 of 2 audio within text


[1] Simple people, who acknowledge as real only what they can see with their eyes and touch with their hands, also require reasons that are perceptible to the senses for their moral lives. Such people need someone to communicate the grounds for action to them in a way that is understandable to their senses. And they will allow these grounds for action to be dictated to them, as commandments, by a person whom they consider wiser and mightier than themselves, or whom they acknowledge for some other reason as a power over them. In this way, as principles of morality, arise the principles of family, state, church, or divine authority that were mentioned in the last chapter. Those who are the most limited in their horizons put all their faith in some one other person; those who are somewhat more advanced allow their ethical conduct to be dictated to them by a majority (state or society). They always rely on powers they can perceive. Those for whom the conviction finally dawns that these powers are basically human beings as weak as themselves will seek guidance from a higher power, from a divine being, whom they nevertheless endow with sense-perceptible qualities. They let the conceptual content of their moral life be communicated to them by this being, once again, in perceptible ways— whether the god appears in a burning bush, or dwells in a bodily/human form among humans and audibly declares for their ears what they should and should not do.

[2] At the highest ethical stage of development of naive realism, the moral commandment (moral idea) is separated from any entity foreign to oneself and is thought of hypothetically as an absolute power within oneself. What people first understood as the outer voice of God, they now understand as an independent power in their inner selves, speaking of this inner voice in a way that equates it with conscience.

[3] But, with this, the level of naive consciousness has already been left behind, and we have entered the region where moral laws become independent norms. They then no longer have a bearer, but become metaphysical entities that exist through themselves. They are analogous to the invisible-visible forces of metaphysical realism, which does not seek reality by way of human participation in it through thinking but imagines a hypothetical reality added onto experience. Extra-human ethical norms always appear as accompaniments to this metaphysical realism. Such metaphysical realism has to seek the origin of morality in the area of extra-human reality. There are various possibilities here. If we assume an entity, conceived of as having no thought of its own and operating under purely mechanical laws, as must be the case for materialism, then this entity will also produce out of itself—by purely mechanical necessity—human beings and everything associated with them. The consciousness of freedom can then be only an illusion. For, although I consider myself the creator of my action, what operates within me is the matter of which I am composed and its inner processes. I believe myself to be free, but actually all my actions are merely results of material processes underlying my bodily and spiritual organism. This view holds that we have the feeling of freedom only because we do not know the motives that compel us. “We must . . . emphasize that the feeling of freedom depends upon the absence of externally compelling motives. Our action, like our thinking, is necessitated.”

[4] Another possibility is to see a spiritual being as the extrahuman absolute behind phenomena. We would then also seek the impulse for action in such a spiritual power. We would regard the moral principles in our reason as an expression of this being-in-itself, which has its own particular goals for humanity. To the dualist of this persuasion, moral laws appear to be dictated by the absolute. Human beings through their intelligence need only discover and carry out the decrees of this absolute being. To the dualist, the moral world order appears as the perceptible reflection of a higher order standing behind it. Earthly morality is the manifestation of the extra-human world order. In this moral order, it is not human beings who are important but the being-in-itself, the extra-human entity. Human beings have to do what this being wills.

Eduard von Hartmann imagines the being-in-itself as a divinity whose own existence is suffering. He believes that this divine being created the world so that, through the world, it might be released from its infinite suffering. Von Hartmann therefore regards human moral evolution as a process whose purpose it is to redeem the Divinity:

"The world process can be brought toward its goal only through the construction of an ethical world order by reasoning, self-aware individuals. Real existence is the incarnation of divinity; the world process is at the same time both the Passion of the God who has become flesh and the path of redemption of Him who was crucified in the flesh; morality, however, is cooperation in the shortening of this path of suffering and redemption."

In this view, human beings do not act because they will it, but have to act because it is God’s will to be redeemed. Just as materialist dualists make human beings into automata whose actions are merely results of purely mechanical laws, so spiritualist dualists make human beings into slaves to the will of the absolute (because they see the absolute, the being-in-itself, as something spiritual in which human beings do not participate with their conscious experience). Freedom has no place either in materialism or in one-sided spiritualism, nor has it a place in metaphysical realism, which infers something extrahuman as true reality, but does not experience it.

[5] For one and the same reason, naive and metaphysical realism must both logically deny freedom. Both see in human beings merely executors of principles that have been necessarily imposed upon them. Naive realism kills freedom through subjection to the authority of a perceptible being, to a being thought of as analogous to a percept or, finally, to the abstract inner voice that it interprets as conscience. Metaphysical realists, who merely infer something extra-human, cannot acknowledge freedom because they see human beings as determined, mechanically or morally, by a “being-in-itself.”

[6] Because it acknowledges the validity of the world of percepts, monism must acknowledge the partial validity of naive realism. Anyone incapable of producing moral ideas through intuition must receive them from others. To the extent that humans receive their ethical principles from without, they are in fact unfree. But monism ascribes equal significance to ideas and to percepts. Ideas, however, can become manifest in human individuals. To the extent that human beings obey impulses from that side, they feel themselves to be free. But monism denies any validity to a merely inferential metaphysics, and therefore also to impulses to action deriving from socalled “beings-in-themselves.” According to the monistic view, human beings can act unfreely if they obey perceptible, external compulsion; they can act freely if they only obey themselves. But monism cannot acknowledge an unconscious compulsion lying behind both percepts and concepts. If one person maintains that another’s action was unfree, then the first must show the thing or person or situation in the perceptible world that occasioned the action. If the assertion is based on causes for action lying outside the world that is real to the senses and the spirit, then monism cannot accept such an assertion.

[7] In the monistic view, human action is part unfree, part free. We find ourselves unfree in the world of percepts and realize within ourselves the free spirit.

[8] For the monist, ethical commandments, which the merely inferential metaphysician must regard as expressions of a higher power, are human thoughts. For the monist, the ethical world order is the imprint neither of a purely mechanical natural order nor an extra-human world order. It is entirely the free work of human beings. Humans have to carry out their own will, not that of a being outside them in the world. They realize their own resolves and intentions, not those of some other being. Monism does not see, behind an active human being, the goals of an external world executive who determines human actions according to its will; rather, to the extent that they realize intuitive ideas, human beings pursue only their own, human goals. In fact, each individual pursues his or her special goals. For the world of ideas is expressed not in a human community, but only in human individuals. What emerges as the common goal of a human collective is only a result of separate deeds of will by its individual members, usually a few select individuals whom the others obey as authorities. Each of us is meant to be a free spirit, just as each rose seed is meant to be a rose.

[9] Therefore, in the realm of truly ethical action, monism is a freedom philosophy. As a philosophy of reality, monism rejects metaphysical, unreal restrictions on the free spirit—just as it recognizes the physical and historical (naive realistic) restrictions on the naive person. Because monism does not regard human beings as finished products who reveal their full being at every moment of life, it views as inconsequential the argument over whether a human being as such is or is not free. Monism sees an evolving essence in humans and asks whether, on this path of evolution, the stage of the free spirit can be attained.

[10] Monism knows that nature does not release human beings from her arms as ready-made free spirits, but leads them to a certain stage. From this, as still unfree beings, they must develop themselves further, to the point where they discover themselves.

[11] Monism understands that a being acting under physical or moral compulsion cannot be truly ethical. It considers the passage through automatic actions (following natural drives and instincts) and the passage through obedient action (following ethical norms) as necessary preliminary stages in morality, but it also understands the possibility of overcoming both transitional stages through the free spirit. Monism liberates a truly moral world view both from the inward fetters of naive ethical maxims and from the outward ethical maxims of speculative metaphysicians. Monism cannot eliminate these naive ethical maxims, just as it cannot eliminate the percept. But it rejects the outward maxims of speculative metaphysicians because it seeks within the world, not outside it, all explanatory principles for the illumination of world phenomena. Just as monism declines even to think of cognitive principles other than human ones (cf. p. 87), it also decisively rejects the thought of ethical maxims other than those applying to human beings. Human morality, like human cognition, is conditioned by human nature. And just as other beings will have a different understanding of cognition, so they will also have a different morality. For the follower of monism, morality is a specifically human quality and freedom is the human way of being moral.

Addenda to the new edition (1918)
[1] 1. One difficulty in evaluating what has been presented in the last two chapters is that readers may think they have encountered a contradiction. On the one hand, the discussion mentions the experience of thinking, which is felt to be of universal significance, equally valid for every human consciousness. On the other hand, it is noted that the ideas realized in moral life, which are of the same kind as the ideas worked out in thinking, are expressed in an individual way in each human consciousness. But if we feel compelled to remain at the level of this “contradiction”— if we do not recognize that a piece of the essence of human beings is revealed precisely in the living contemplation of this actually present contrast—then we shall be able to see neither the idea of cognition nor that of freedom in their true light. For those who think of its concepts as merely borrowed (abstracted) from the sense world, and who do not give intuition its full weight, what is claimed here as a reality remains “mere contradiction.” For those who understand how ideas are intuitively experienced as a kind of self-sufficient essence, it is clear that, when we cognize in the world of ideas, we live our way into something that is the same for all human beings; but that, when we borrow intuitions from that world of ideas for our acts of will, we individualize an element of that world through the same activity that we develop in the spiritual-conceptual process of cognition as something universally human. What appears as a logical contradiction— the universal formation of cognitive ideas and the individual formation of ethical ideas—becomes, when it is beheld in its reality, a living concept. Here lies something characteristic of the human entity: what can be grasped intuitively in the human being moves back and forth, as in a living pendulum, between universally valid cognition and individual experience of the universal. For those who cannot see one half of the pendulum’s movement in its reality, thinking remains a merely subjective human activity; for those who cannot grasp the other, all individual life seems lost in the human activity of thinking. For a thinker of the first kind, cognition is an unintelligible fact; for the other, moral life. Both will contribute inadequate notions of all kinds to the explanation of one or the other, either because they do not actually grasp that thinking can be experienced, or because they misunderstand it as a merely abstracting activity.

[2] 2. Materialism is mentioned on pages 164 –65. I am well aware that there are thinkers—such as Ziehen, mentioned above—who do not call themselves materialists at all but who, from the point of view put forward in this book, must be labeled as such. What matters is not whether people claim not to be materialists because, for them, the world is not limited to merely material existence. Rather, what matters is whether they develop concepts that are applicable only to material existence. Those who say, “Our action, like our thinking, is determined,” express a concept that applies neither to action nor to existence, but only to material processes. If they thought through their concept to the end, they would have to think materialistically. That they do not do so is merely a result of the inconsistency that so often comes from thinking that is not carried through to the end. Today, we often hear that science has abandoned nineteenth-century materialism. But actually this is not true. It is simply that, at present, we often fail to notice that our ideas apply only to material things. Nowadays, materialism is veiled; in the second half of the nineteenth century, it showed itself openly. The veiled materialism of the present is no less intolerant toward a view that grasps the world spiritually than was last century’s admitted materialism. But materialism today deceives many into thinking that they can reject a worldview involving spirituality because, after all, natural science “has long since abandoned materialism.”

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