Situational Ethics Determined by Pure Intuition

Submitted by Tom Last on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 1:44pm.

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The Philosophy Of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Chapter 9
The Idea Of Freedom
What is Freedom?

Moral Motive

[27] A superficial judgment might raise the following objection to these arguments: How can an action be individually made to fit the special case and the special situation, and yet at the same time be determined by intuition in a purely ideal way? This objection rests upon a confusion of the moral motive with the perceptible content of an action. The latter may be a motive, and actually is one in the case of the progress of civilization, or when we act from egoism, and so forth, but in an action based on pure moral intuition it is not the motive. Of course, my "I" takes notice of these perceptual contents, but it does not allow itself to be determined by them. The content is used only to construct a cognitive concept, but the corresponding moral concept is not derived by the "I" from the object. The cognitive concept of a given situation facing me is at the same time a moral concept only if I take the standpoint of a particular moral principle. If I were to base my conduct only on the general principle of the development of civilization, then my way through life would be tied down to a fixed route. From every occurrence which I perceive and which concerns me, there springs at the same time a moral duty: namely, to do my little bit towards seeing that this occurrence is made to serve the development of civilization. In addition to the concept which reveals to me the connections of events or objects according to the laws of nature, there is also a moral label attached to them which for me, as a moral person, gives ethical directions as to how I have to conduct myself. Such a moral label is justified on its own ground; at a higher level it coincides with the idea which reveals itself to me when I am faced with the concrete instance.