Consequences Of Monism AudioBook

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

Final Questions

Consequences Of Monism

(24:14) Whole audio

[1] The unitary explanation of the world—the monism portrayed here—takes the principles needed to explain the world from human experience. It also looks for the sources of action in the observable world: that is, in the human nature accessible to our self-cognition, particularly in moral imagination. Monism refuses to seek the ultimate causes of the world that appear to our perceiving and thinking by making abstract inferences about something outside that world. For monism, the unity brought to the manifold multiplicity of percepts through the experience of thinking observation is both what our human urge for cognition demands, and the means by which this urge for cognition seeks entry into the physical and spiritual regions of the universe. Those who seek another unity behind the one sought in this way merely prove that they do not recognize the correspondence between what is discovered through thinking and what is demanded by our drive for knowledge. The single human individual is not, in fact, cut off from the world. The individual is a part of the world, and has a real connection with the whole cosmos, which is broken only for our perception. At first, because we do not see the ropes and pulleys by which the fundamental powers of the cosmos turn the wheel of our own lives, we see our individual part as an entity existing by itself. Whoever remains at this standpoint sees a part of the whole as an actually independent entity, as a monad, that somehow receives information about the rest of the world from outside. The monism advocated here shows how such independence will be believed in only as long as thinking does not weave what has been perceived into the network of the conceptual world. Once this happens, the existence of separate parts is unmasked as a mere illusion of perceiving. Only through the experience of intuitive thinking can we can find our total, self-contained existence within the universe. Thinking destroys the illusion of perceiving and integrates our individual existence into the life of the cosmos. The unity of the conceptual world, which contains objective percepts, also includes the content of our subjective personality. Thinking gives us the true form of reality, as a unity enclosed within itself, while the multiplicity of percepts is only an illusion conditioned by our organization (cf. pp. 79 ff.). In every age, cognition of the real, as opposed to the illusion of perceiving, has constituted the goal of human thinking. Science has striven to recognize percepts as reality by discovering the lawful connections among them. But wherever it has been believed that the connections transmitted by human thinking have merely subjective significance, the actual ground of unity has been sought in an object set beyond our world of experience (an inferred God, Will, absolute Spirit, etc.). And, based on this opinion, attempts were then made to achieve—in addition to knowledge of connections recognizable through experience—a second kind of knowledge, based not on experience but on metaphysical inference. This kind of knowledge went beyond experience and revealed a connection between experience and entities that are no longer directly available to us. On this basis, then, it was believed that we can understand the coherence of the world through orderly thinking because a primal Being built the world according to logical laws. The reason for our actions was also seen in the will of this Being. Yet it was not recognized that thinking simultaneously encompasses the subjective and the objective, and that full reality is conveyed in the union of percept with concept. Only as long as we regard the laws that permeate and determine percepts in the form of abstract concepts are we dealing with something purely subjective. The content of a concept, joined to a percept by thinking, is not subjective. For the content of this concept is taken not from the subject, but from reality. It is the part of reality that perceiving cannot reach. It is experience, but not experience transmitted by perceiving. Those who cannot imagine that a concept is something real are thinking only of the abstract form in which they hold concepts in their mind. But concepts, like percepts, are present only in this separated form because of our organization. The tree that we see has likewise no separate existence by itself. The tree is only a part in the great system of nature, and is only possible in real connection with nature. An abstract concept, by itself, has just as little reality as a percept by itself. Percepts are the part of reality that is given objectively, concepts are the part that is given subjectively (through intuition, see page 89 ff.). Our mental organization tears reality into these two factors. One factor is apparent to perceiving; the other to intuition. Only the union of the two—the percept integrating itself lawfully into the universe—is full reality. If we consider mere perception alone, we do not have reality, only disconnected chaos; if, on the other hand, we consider only the lawfulness of percepts, we are dealing merely with abstract concepts. Abstract concepts contain no reality. Reality lies in thinking observation that does not one-sidedly examine either concepts or percepts by themselves, but rather considers the union of both.


[2] Not even the most orthodox subjective idealist denies that we live in reality and are rooted in it by our real existence. Such idealists only deny that our cognition—our ideas—can reach that real life. Monism, in contrast, shows that thinking is neither subjective nor objective, but a principle that spans both sides of reality. When we observe with thinking, we execute a process that itself belongs to the order of real events. Through thinking, we overcome, in experience itself, the one-sidedness of mere perceiving. We cannot piece together the essence of reality with abstract, conceptual hypotheses (purely conceptual reflections); we live in reality by finding ideas to match our percepts. Monism does not seek to add anything to experience that is not experienceable (transcendental), but it sees the Real in concepts and percepts. Monism spins no metaphysics from merely abstract concepts. For, in the concepts by themselves, it recognizes only one side of reality, which remains hidden to perceiving and makes sense only in connection with the percept. Monism evokes the conviction in us that we live in the world of reality, and that we need not seek outside our world for a higher reality that we cannot experience. Because it recognizes the content of experience itself as reality, it seeks absolute reality nowhere but in experience. It is satisfied by that reality, because it knows that thinking has the power to guarantee it. What the dualist looks for only behind the observable world, a monist finds within this world itself. Monism shows that, in cognizing, we grasp reality in its true form, not in a subjective picture that interposes itself between ourselves and reality. For monism, the conceptual content of the world is the same for all human individuals (cf. p. 82 ff.). According to monistic principles, one human individual considers another human individual to be of the same kind, because the same world content expresses itself in both. In the unitary world of concepts, there are not, for example, as many concepts of the lion as there are individuals who think about a lion; there is only one concept. The concept that A adds to the percept of the lion is the same as that of B, only it is grasped by means of a different perceptual subject (cf. p. 84). Thinking leads all perceptual subjects to the common conceptual unity within all multiplicity. The unitary world of ideas expresses itself in them as in a multiplicity of individuals. As long as we understand ourselves merely through self-perception, we see ourselves as the separate human beings that we are; as soon as we notice the world of ideas that lights up in us, embracing everything separate, we see what is absolutely real light up livingly within us. Dualism fixes on the divine, primordial Being as that which permeates all humans and lives within them all. Monism finds this universal divine life in reality itself. The conceptual content of another human being is also my own conceptual content, and I see the other as other only as long as I am perceiving, and not once I am thinking. Each person’s thinking embraces only a part of the total world of ideas and, to that extent, individuals also differ through the actual content of their thinking. But the contents exist within a self-enclosed whole that contains the thought contents of all human beings. The universal, primordial Being permeating all humanity thus takes hold of us through our thinking. Life within reality, filled with thought content, is at the same time life in God. The merely inferred, not-to-be-experienced transcendent realm is based on a misunderstanding by those who believe that what is manifest does not bear within itself the reason for its existence. They do not realize that, through thinking, they can find the explanation for perception that they seek. This is why no speculation has ever brought to light a content that was not borrowed from the reality given to us. The God derived through abstract inference is only the human being displaced to the Beyond. Schopenhauer’s “Will” is human willpower made absolute. Von Hartmann’s “unconscious primordial Being,” composed of Idea and Will, is a combination of two abstractions of our experience. Exactly the same can be said of all transcendent principles based on thinking that has not been experienced.

[3] In truth, the human spirit never moves beyond the reality in which we live. Nor does it need to, for everything needed to explain the world lies within it. If philosophers declare themselves content in the end with the derivation of the world from principles borrowed from experience and displaced into a hypothetical Beyond, then such satisfaction should also be possible if the same content is left here, where it must be for the kind of thinking that we can experience. Every transcendence beyond this world is only apparent; and the principles transposed outside the world explain the world no better than those lying within it. Nor does thinking that understands itself demand any such transcendence, since it is only within the world, not outside it, that a thought content must seek a perceptual content together with which it can form something real. The objects of imagination, too, are merely contents; they find their justification only in becoming mental pictures that point to a perceptual content. Through that perceptual content, the objects of imagination integrate themselves into reality. A concept supposedly filled with a content, and lying outside the world given to us, is an abstraction and corresponds to no reality. We can think only the concepts of reality; to find reality itself, we also need to perceive. For thinking that understands itself, a primordial essence of the world whose content is invented is an impossible assumption. Monism does not deny the conceptual. On the contrary, it even regards a perceptual content lacking its conceptual counterpart as falling short of the  complete reality. Yet it finds nothing in the whole realm of thinking that could require us to step outside of the realm of its experience by denying the objective, spiritual reality of thinking. According to monism, a science that limits itself to describing percepts without penetrating to their conceptual complements is only half complete. But it also sees as incomplete all abstract concepts that find no complement in percepts and that cannot fit into the conceptual network that spans the observable world. Therefore, it recognizes no ideas that refer to something lying objectively beyond our experience and that are supposed to form the content of a merely hypothetical metaphysics. For monism, all such humanly created ideas are abstractions borrowed from experience—an act of borrowing that is simply overlooked by the borrowers.

[4] Just as little, according to monist principles, can the goals of our actions be taken from an extra-human Beyond. To the extent they are in our thought, they must stem from human intuition. Human beings do not make the purposes of an objective (transcendent) primordial Being their own individual purposes, but follow the purposes given to them by their moral imaginations. A person detaches the idea that realizes itself in an action from the single world of ideas and sets it at the base of his or her will. Thus, our actions express not commands from the Beyond injected into our world, but human intuitions that belong to this world. Monism recognizes no world dictator, who would assign aim and direction to our acts from outside ourselves. Human beings find no such primal source of existence whose advice could be sought to learn the goals that we must give our actions. We are returned to ourselves. We ourselves must give our actions their content. We seek in vain if we seek directives for our will outside the world in which we live. If we go beyond the satisfaction of natural drives for which Mother Nature has provided, we must seek such directives in our own moral imaginations, unless we find it easier to let ourselves be directed by the moral imagination of others. That is, we must either forego all action or act according to reasons that either we give ourselves from the world of our ideas or others give us from the same source. If we move beyond our sense-bound life of instinct and execution of the commands of other human beings, then we are determined by nothing other than ourselves. We must act out of an impulse that we set ourselves, and that is determined by nothing else. To be sure, this impulse is conceptually determined in the one world of ideas. But, in fact, it can be drawn down from this world and translated into reality only through a human being. It is only within human beings themselves that monism can find a basis for the human translation of ideas into reality. Before an idea can become an action, a human being must first want it. Therefore, such wanting has its source in human beings themselves. Human beings are thus the ultimate determinants of their actions. They are free.

Addenda to the new edition (1918)
[1] 1. The second part of this book has sought to establish that freedom is to be found in the reality of human action. For this, it was necessary to separate out from the whole realm of human actions those aspects about which, from unprejudiced self-observation, one can speak of freedom. These are actions that realize conceptual intuitions. Other actions, when viewed without prejudice, cannot be called free. Yet precisely through unprejudiced self-observation we should consider ourselves well equipped to progress along the path toward ethical intuitions and their realization. But this unprejudiced observation of human ethical nature cannot by itself offer a final decision about freedom. For, if intuitive thinking itself sprang from some other entity—if its own essence were not self-sustaining—then the consciousness of freedom flowing from morality would prove to be an illusion. The second part of this book, however, finds natural support in the first. The first presents intuitive thinking as an inner spiritual activity of the human being that is actually experienced. But to understand this essence of thinking experientially, is equivalent to knowing the freedom of intuitive thinking. If one knows that this thinking is free, then one also sees the region of the will to which freedom is attributable. We will consider human acts to be free if, on the basis of direct inner encounter, we can ascribe a self-sustaining being to the experience of intuitive thinking. Those who cannot do so will also be unable to find an incontestable path to the acceptance of freedom. The experience emphasized here finds in consciousness the intuitive thinking that also has reality beyond consciousness. With this, it discovers freedom to be characteristic of actions flowing from the intuitions of consciousness.

[2] 2. The content of this book is built on intuitive thinking that can be experienced purely spiritually, and through which every percept is placed within reality during the act of cognition. No more was to be presented than can be surveyed from an experience of intuitive thinking. But we must also emphasize what kind of thought formation the experience of thinking demands. It demands that intuitive thinking not be denied as a self-sustaining experience within the process of cognition. It also demands that we acknowledge its capacity, in conjunction with percepts, to experience reality, instead of seeking reality only in an inferred world outside experience, in the face of which the human activity of thinking would be merely subjective.

[3] Here, then, thinking is characterized as the element through which we, as human beings, enter spiritually into reality (and no one should confuse this world view, based on the experience of thinking, with a mere rationalism). But, on the other hand, it follows from the whole spirit of this portrayal that the element of perception can be considered as real for human cognition only if it is grasped in thinking. The characterization of something as reality cannot occur outside thinking. Therefore, we should not assume that sense perception is the only guarantee of reality. We can only wait for the percepts that emerge in the course of our lives. The only question is whether we can, from the viewpoint of intuitively experienced thinking alone, await perception not only of what is sensory, but also of what is spiritual? We can indeed wait for this. For even if, on one hand, intuitively experienced thinking is an active process performed within the human spirit, on the other hand, it is also a spiritual percept grasped with no sensory organ. It is a percept in which the perceiver himself or herself is active; and it is an activity of one’s self that is simultaneously perceived. In intuitive thinking, human beings are also transferred into a spiritual world as perceivers. What approaches us in that world as a percept, in the same way as the spiritual world of our own thinking, we recognize as the world of spiritual perception. This perceptual world would have the same relation to thinking as does the sensory perceptual world on the side of our senses. As soon as we experience it, the spiritual perceptual world cannot be anything strange to us as human beings, because we already have in intuitive thinking an experience of a purely spiritual character. A number of my later writings discuss such a world of spiritual perception. This book, Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom is their philosophical foundation. In this book an attempt is made to show that the experience of thinking, properly understood, is already an experience of spirit. Therefore, it seems to me that whoever can adopt the point of view of this book in earnest will not stop short of entering the world of spiritual perception. To be sure, what is portrayed in my later books cannot be logically derived—inferred—from the contents of this book. But a living grasp of what is meant in this book by intuitive thinking will naturally lead onward to a living entry into the world of spiritual perception.


pof_consequences.mp39.71 MB
pof_consequencesP1.mp35 MB
pof_consequencesP2.mp34.64 MB