The Philosophy of Freedom
Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path, Lipson translation
copyright © Anthroposophic Press, 1995
Audio by Dale Brunsvold
(24:16) Whole page
 Philosophical objections, raised immediately after the publication of this book, call for the addition of the following brief discussion to this new edition. I can imagine that there are readers who take an interest in the other contents of this book, but who will regard what follows as a superfluous, remote, and abstract web of concepts. They may leave this brief discussion unread. But problems crop up in a philosophical contemplation of the world that have their origin more in certain thinkers’ prejudices than in the natural course of human thinking itself. Other issues treated in this book seem to me to present a task that concerns every human being who strives for clarity in regard to the essential nature of human beings and their relationship to the world. What follows, however, rather involves a problem some treatment of which is called for by certain philosophers in any discussion of the things portrayed in this book. This is because those philosophers have created for themselves certain difficulties that do not otherwise exist. If we bypass such problems completely, some people will be quick to make accusations of dilettantism and the like. And the opinion would gain ground that I have not sufficiently come to terms with viewpoints I have not discussed in the book itself.
 The problem to which I refer is this: there are thinkers who believe that a special difficulty arises when one seeks to understand how the soul life of another human being can affect one’s own (that of the observer). They say, “My conscious world is sealed off within me, just as any another conscious world is sealed off within itself. I cannot see into another person’s world of consciousness. How, then, can I come to know that we both inhabit the same world?” Those who hold the worldview that it is possible to infer, from the conscious world, the existence of an unconscious world that can never become conscious, try to solve this difficulty by saying, “The world that I have in my consciousness is the representation in me of a real world that I cannot consciously reach. In this real world, unknown to me, lie the causes of my conscious world. My own real being, of which I have likewise only a representation in my consciousness, also lies there. But this real world also contains the essential being of my fellow human beings. Now, what another person experiences in consciousness corresponds to a reality in that person’s essential being which is independent of this consciousness. The person’s being is active in a realm that cannot become conscious, the realm of my own necessarily unconscious being. It is through that realm that a representation is created in my consciousness of what is present in a consciousness altogether independent of my conscious experience.” We can see that a hypothetical world, inaccessible to conscious experience, is here added to the world accessible to my consciousness. Otherwise, these philosophers believe, we would be forced to assert that all the external reality I seem to have before me is only the world of my consciousness, and this would lead to the—solipsistic—absurdity that other people also exist only within my consciousness.
 This question, which has been created by some recent epistemological trends, can be clarified if we attempt to survey the matter from the viewpoint of the spiritually oriented observation described in this book. What, then, do I have before me when I face another person? I look at what is immediately apparent. It is the sensory, bodily appearance of the other person, given to me as a percept, and perhaps also the auditory percept of what the person is saying, and so forth. I do not merely stare at all of this; rather, it sets my thinking activity in motion. By my standing before the other person and thinking, the percept proves to be, to some extent, transparent to the soul. When I grasp the percept through thinking, I am bound to say to myself that it is not at all what it appears to be to the external senses. By what it is directly, the sensory phenomenon reveals something else that it is indirectly. Its presentation before me is, at the same time, its extinguishing as a mere sense phenomenon. But what it manifests during that extinguishing compels me, as a thinking being, to extinguish my own thinking for the period of its activity and to replace it with its thinking. I grasp this other thinking in my own thinking as an experience, as I do with my own. I have really perceived the thinking of the other person. The immediate percept, extinguishing itself as a sensory appearance, is grasped by my thinking, and this is a process lying completely within my consciousness, which consists in my thinking being replaced by the other thinking. Through the self-extinguishing of the sensory appearance, the separation between the two spheres of consciousness is actually suspended. This is represented in my consciousness in that, in experiencing the content of the other person’s consciousness, I experience my own consciousness just as little as I experience it in dreamless sleep. Just as my daytime consciousness is shut out in dreamless sleep, so is the content of my own consciousness when I perceive another person’s. The illusion that this is not so persists because, first, when perceiving another person, what replaces my own content of consciousness is not unconsciousness (as in sleep) but rather the content of the other person’s consciousness; and, second, the oscillations between the extinction and re-illumination of my consciousness of myself follow one another too rapidly to be normally noticed. The whole problem cannot be solved by artificial conceptual constructs that infer, from what is conscious, other things that can never be conscious. It must be solved through true experience of what results from a union of thinking and percepts. This applies to many questions that appear in the philosophical literature. Thinkers ought to seek the path to unprejudiced, spiritually-oriented observation, but instead they slide an artificial conceptual construction in front of reality.
 In a treatise by Eduard von Hartmann, “Ultimate Questions in Epistemology and Metaphysics,”1 my book is classed with philosophical works based on “epistemological monism.” Von Hartmann dismisses this standpoint as impossible for the following reason.
According to the way of thinking he develops in his treatise, there are only three possible epistemological positions. We can remain at the naive position that takes perceived phenomena as real things outside human consciousness. In that case, we lack critical awareness. We would be unaware that the content of consciousness is, after all, only in our own consciousness. We would not see that we are dealing not with a “table-in-itself,” but only with the object of our own consciousness. Whoever remains at this standpoint, or after reflection returns to it, is a naive realist. But this point of view is untenable, precisely because it fails to see that consciousness has no access to objects outside consciousness.
Alternatively, we can survey the situation and fully acknowledge it. And, in this case, we become transcendental idealists. As such, we have to deny that anything of the “thing-in-itself” can ever enter human consciousness. But in this way, if we were sufficiently consistent, we would be unable to escape absolute illusionism. The world confronting us would transform itself into a mere sum of objects of consciousness; indeed, the objects of our own consciousness. And we would be compelled, absurdly, to think of other human beings as also existing only in the content of our own consciousness.
Only the third position of von Hartmann’s is supposed to be tenable: transcendental realism. This view assumes that there are “things-in-themselves,” but that they cannot become immediate experiences of consciousness. Things-in-themselves cause the objects of consciousness to appear from beyond human consciousness, but in a way that does not enter consciousness. We can arrive at “things-in-themselves” only by inference from the content of our consciousness, which, though only mental pictures, is our only kind of experience.
Von Hartmann claims that an “epistemological monism”— which is how he describes my position—would really have to embrace one of his own three positions. He claims that such a monism fails to do so only because it does not draw the proper conclusions from its premises. He goes on to say:
"If one wants to find out to which epistemological position a supposed epistemological monist belongs, one need only present him with certain questions and compel him to answer them. For, on his own, he will not be inclined to express himself on these points, and he will also try in every way to evade answering direct questions, because every answer nullifies epistemological monism’s claim to be a standpoint distinct from the three others.
These questions are as follows: 1. Are things continuous or intermittent in their existence? If the answer is “continuous,” then we are dealing with some form of naive realism. If the answer is “intermittent,” then it is transcendental idealism. But if the answer is that they are continuous on the one hand (as contents of absolute consciousness, or as unconscious mental pictures or as possibilities of perception), and intermittent on the other hand (as contents of limited consciousness), then transcendental realism is established. 2. If three persons are sitting at a table, how many instances of the table are present? Whoever answers “one” is a naive realist; whoever answers “three” is a transcendental idealist; but whoever answers “four” is a transcendental realist. Of course, this last example presupposes that we may combine under the common heading “instances of the table” such disparate things as the one table as thing-in-itself, and the three tables as perceptual objects in the three consciousnesses. If this seems to be too great a freedom, he or she will give the answer “one and three” instead of “four.” 3. If two persons are alone in a room together, how many instances of those persons are present? Whoever answers “two” is a naive realist; whoever answers “four” (namely, an I and an Other in each of the two consciousnesses) is a transcendental idealist; but whoever answers “six” (namely, two persons as things-in-themselves and four persons as objects of mental picturing in the two consciousnesses) is a transcendental realist.
Whoever wanted to prove that epistemological monism is a standpoint different from these three would have to give a different answer to each of these three questions; but I do not know what this could be.2"
The answers of Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom would have to be as follows: 1. Those who grasp only the perceptual contents of things and take it for reality are naive realists. They do not realize that those perceptual contents can be considered as persisting only as long as they are observed, and therefore that what is before us must be thought of as intermittent. But, as soon as we are aware that reality is present only in thought-permeated percepts, we arrive at the insight that the perceptual content that appears as intermittent, if it is permeated by what is worked through in thinking, reveals itself to be continuous. What we must therefore consider to be continuous is the perceptual content grasped in directly experienced thinking, of which what is only perceived would have to be regarded as intermittent if (as is not the case) it were real. 2. When three people sit at a table, how many instances of the table are present? There is only one table present. But as long as the three people want to stay with their perceptual images, they have to acknowledge that these perceptual images are in no way a reality. As soon as they switch over to the table as grasped in their thinking, the one reality of the table reveals itself to them. They are united in that reality with their three contents of consciousness. 3. If two people are alone in a room together, how many instances of them are present? There are most certainly not six —not even in the sense of transcendental realists—but only two. Yet initially both have only the unreal perceptual image of themselves as well as of the other person. There are four of these images, and through their presence in the two people’s thinking, reality is grasped. In this thinking activity, each person reaches beyond his or her own sphere of consciousness; in it, both one’s own and the other person’s consciousness comes to life. In the moments of its coming to life, the two people are no more enclosed within their own consciousness than they are during sleep. But, at other moments, the consciousness of merging with the other reappears, so that, in the experience of thinking, the consciousness of each person grasps both itself and the other person. I know that a transcendental realist would call this a relapse into naive realism. Yet, as I have already indicated in this book, naive realism retains its validity in the case of thinking that is experienced. Transcendental realists by no means experience the true state of affairs in the cognitive process; they cut themselves off from it by a web of thoughts in which they then become entangled. Nor should the monism appearing in Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom be called “epistemological.” Rather, if an epithet is wanted, let it be called “monism of thought.” All of this was misunderstood by Eduard von Hartmann. He did not engage the specifics of the presentation in my book, but claimed that I had attempted to unite Hegelian universalist panlogism with Hume’s individualistic phenomenalism.3 In fact, Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom has nothing to do with these two standpoints that it is supposedly attempting to unite. (This is also why I could not, for example, enter into a discussion of Johannes Remke’s “epistemological monism.” The viewpoint of Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: The Philosophy of Freedom is completely different from what von Hartmann and others call epistemological monism.)
1. “Die letzten Fragen der Erkenntnistheorie und Metaphysik,” Zeitschrift fuer Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, vol. 108, p. 55.
3. Zeitschrift fur Philosophie, vol. 108, p. 71, note.
 In the following, what stood as a kind of “Preface” to the first edition is reproduced in all essentials. I place it here as an appendix, not because it has anything immediately to do with the book’s contents, but because it shows the mood of thought in which I wrote the book twenty-five years ago. Since there is a recurrent idea that I have to suppress some of my earlier writings on account of my later ones on spiritual science, I do not want to omit it altogether. 1
 Our age wants to draw forth Truth only from the depths of the human being. Of Schiller’s two well known paths, our present age prefers the second:
We both seek truth; you in outer life, I within
In the heart, and thus each is sure to find it.
If the eye is healthy, it meets the Creator without;
If the heart is healthy, it surely mirrors the world within.2
 Truth that comes to us from without always bears about it the stamp of uncertainty. We want to believe only what appears to each of us inwardly as truth.
Only truth can bring us certainty in the development of our individual powers. These powers are lamed in anyone tormented by doubts. In a world of riddles, people cannot find a goal for their activity.
 We no longer want merely to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the recognition of truths that we do not quite understand. But whatever we do not completely comprehend goes against the individual element in us that wants to experience everything in its deepest inner core. The only knowing that satisfies us is the kind that submits to no outer norm, but springs from the inner life of the personality.
 Nor do we want the kind of knowing that has become frozen once and for all in academic rules and preserved in compendia valid for all time. We consider ourselves justified in proceeding from our closest experiences, our immediate life, and ascending from there to cognition of the whole universe. We strive for certain knowledge, each of us in his or her own way.
 Nor should the teaching of science assume a form in which its recognition is a matter of unconditional compulsion. None of us would give a scientific text the title Fichte once did: “A Crystal Clear Report to the Greater Public on the True Nature of the Latest Philosophy. An Attempt to Compel Readers to Understand.”3 Today, no one should be compelled to understand. We demand neither recognition nor agreement from those who are not driven to a given opinion by their own particular, individual needs. We do not want to cram knowledge into even an immature human being, a child; rather, we try to develop the child’s capacities so that the child no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but wants to understand.
 I am under no illusion as to this characteristic of my time. I know how much automatism, devoid of individuality, prevails. But I am also just as aware that many of my contemporaries seek to orient their lives in the direction that I have suggested here. I would like to dedicate this book to them. It is not supposed to lead to the “only possible” path to truth but to describe the path taken by one for whom truth is central.
 This text leads first through abstract regions where thought must draw sharp contours so as to arrive at some secure positions. But the reader is also led from arid concepts into concrete life. I am certainly of the opinion that one must also lift oneself into the ethereal realm of concepts if one is to experience every aspect of existence. Someone who knows only how to enjoy use of the senses does not really know the most delicious part of life. Oriental sages have their students first spend years in renunciation and asceticism before they share with them what they know. The West no longer requires pious exercises or asceticism to attain knowledge, but it does demand the good will to remove oneself for a brief time from the immediate impressions of life and enter the world of pure thought.
 The realms of life are many. For each, specific sciences develop. But life itself is a unity, and the more the sciences busily immerse themselves in separate realms, the farther they move away from seeing the living wholeness of the world. There must be a kind of knowing that seeks, in the separate sciences, the elements that lead human beings back to full life again. A scientific specialist wants to become aware of the world and how it works through his or her insights. In this book, the goal is philosophical: science itself is to become organically alive. The separate sciences are preludes to the science attempted here. A similar relationship obtains in the arts. A composer works on the basis of compositional theory, which is a sum of all that one needs to know before one can compose. In composing, the laws of composition serve life, serve reality. In just the same way, philosophy is an art. All real philosophers have been artists in concepts. For them, human ideas have become artistic materials and scientific methods have become artistic technique. Thereby, abstract thinking attains concrete, individual life. Ideas become powers of life. Then we not merely know about things, but have made knowing into a real, selfgoverning organism. Our active, real consciousness has lifted itself above mere passive reception of truths.
 How philosophy as an art relates to human freedom, what freedom is, and whether we do, or can, participate in it—this is the principal theme of my book. All other scientific discussions are included only because, in the end, they throw light on these (in my view) most immediate human questions. These pages are meant to offer a philosophy of freedom.
 If it were not aimed at heightening the value of existence for the human personality, all science would be nothing but satisfaction of idle curiosity. The sciences attain their true value only by showing the human significance of their results. The ultimate goal of an individual cannot be ennoblement of only a single capacity of the soul. Rather, it must be the development of all the capacities dormant within us. Knowledge has value only through contributing to the all-around development of the whole of human nature.
 Therefore, this book interprets the relationship of science to life not in the sense that human beings must bow down before the idea and dedicate their forces to its service, but rather in the sense that we take possession of the world of ideas to use them for our human goals, which extend beyond those of mere science.
 We must be able to confront an idea while experiencing it; otherwise, we fall into its bondage.
1. Only the very first introductory sentences of this preface (in the first edition) have been completely omitted; today, they seem to me quite inessential. But what is said in the rest of it seems to me necessary to say even today in spite of—indeed, because of—the natural scientific thinking of our contemporaries. (Author’s note)
2. Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805) Great German dramatist, aesthetic philosopher, and critic.
3. Sonnenklarer Bericht an das grössere Publikum über das eigentliche Wesen der neuesten Philosophie. Ein Versuch, die Leser zum Verstehen zu zwingen. For Fichte, see also notes pp. 23 and 76.