An Outline of Rudolf Steiner's
Philosophy of [Inner] Freedom
by Tom Mellett
This book is structured as two parts, each one with 7 chapters. The 1st Part is called "The Knowledge of Freedom" and the 2nd Part is called "The Reality of Freedom." In Part I, questions are raised in each chapter which are then answered by the corresponding "mirror-image" chapter in Part II. That is to say, the question chapter number and the answering chapter number add up to 15. A Chapter 10 dilemma is first addressed in Chapter 5; Chapter 12 relates back to 3, etc. To help us make sense of this, here's an outline of all 14 chapters and the "Ultimate Questions" afterword.
(After I give the title of each chapter, there is a phrase in brackets which corresponds to the focus of the questions in each chapter of Part I and the answering chapters in Part II.)
QUESTIONS RAISED IN PART I: THE KNOWLEDGE OF FREEDOM
CHAPTER 1: CONSCIOUS HUMAN ACTION [Willing]
Is free will or freedom an illusion or reality? This question can only be answered by first answering a more basic question: How do we know anything, especially what motivates us to any action? This question in turn leads us directly to consider the phenomenon of thinking.
CHAPTER 2: THE FUNDAMENTAL LONGING FOR KNOWLEDGE [Feeling]
Why does the world approach us as a duality? Why do we feel so dissatisfied with what the world presents us and long so deeply to go beyond what the world merely gives us? The need for unity drives some people into materialism; others into spiritualism; others into a hodge-podge mixing of the two which merely diverts attention away from understanding our fundamental inner striving as human beings. (Why is Baron von Muenchhausen's pigtail mentioned in this chapter?)
CHAPTER 3: THINKING IN THE SERVICE OF KNOWING [Thinking]
What is the basis of thinking: the brain? God? Angels? The devil? My own ego? My own self-consciousness? The collective unconcscious? Thinking itself? Or is it concepts and ideas? What are the 4 unique qualities of thinking? What is the relationship of thinking to consciousness? Of thinking to willing? Why is "having thought pictures" not the same as thinking?
CHAPTER 4: THE WORLD AS PERCEPT [The Perceiving Ego]
Now we go from a study of thinking itself to a study of the being that thinks. The first issue is sense perception. Is the chair I can see and touch actually there in reality as the "naive realist" would assert? Or is my perception of the chair merely my subjective brain-generated image of a chair as the "critical idealist" would assert? How does Steiner demolish Schopenhauer's "world as my mental picture" philosophy?
CHAPTER 5: THE ACT OF KNOWING [The Conceiving Ego]
Here is a multiple choice quiz: Is thinking:
Circle as many answers as apply and then answer the question for perceiving as well (with the same 4 choices). Compare your answers and justify them. So just what is the "act of knowing?" Big question: what role does the brain play in all this, if any? What is the relationship of intuition and observation?
CHAPTER 6: THE HUMAN INDIVIDUALITY [The Thinking and Feeling Ego]
So we have solved the problem of knowledge! But wait! Are we not more than mere perceiving, conceiving and self-cognizing machines? We also have feelings and emotions. Then what role does our human feeling play in this study of thinking that is supposed to solve the riddle of free will? How do I determine my individuality?
CHAPTER 7: ARE THERE LIMITS TO KNOWLEDGE? [The Self-Conscious 3-fold Human Being]
Answer: In practice, yes; in principle, no. Do limits to perception mean limits to knowledge? Which is more real: the cut rose in a vase or the species "rose?" What is the common fallacy of naive realism and metaphysical realism? Now the ultimate question: What is the brain for? Is it an instrument for thinking? Or is it an instrument for self-consciousness?
ANSWERS GIVEN IN PART II: THE REALITY OF FREEDOM
CHAPTER 8: THE FACTORS OF LIFE [Answers Chapter 7]
The paradox of my individual feeling and will impulses co-existing with the universal nature of thinking is a living and constantly experienced polarity in my life. How to overcome the twin fallacies of Mysticism and Thelism. Thinking is then seen as the power of love in spiritual form.
CHAPTER 9: THE IDEA OF FREEDOM [Answers Chapter 6]
The brain has nothing to do with the essential nature of thinking just as my reflection in a mirror has nothing to do with the essential nature of me. However, the brain has EVERYTHING to do with the arising of my self-consciousness by means of which I can then direct actions of my will and introduce moral impulses into the world. Characterological dispositions and "driving forces" or "mainsprings of action." Instinct, tact, practical experience, reason and the statemnent of moral and ethical indvidualism.
CHAPTER 10: FREEDOM-PHILOSOPHY AND MONISM [Answers Chapter 5]
The role of mental pictures in my moral development. We are not free in the realm of percepts, but we can unite percepts with concepts from the realm of moral imagination in order to realize the free spirit within us. Tus Monism is a freedom-philosophy which regards man as a developing being, partly free, partyly unfree, moving on the path to spiritual freedom, which ids the human way of being moral.
CHAPTER 11: WORLD PURPOSE AND LIFE PURPOSE ([Answers Chapter 4]
The relation between cause and effect in purposeful actions must include the concepts and percepts of cause and effect. Purpose can only be ascribed to human beings, not to God, Nature, forces or any other non-human metaphysical entity. What is my purpose in life then? Easy. The task I set myself. Period.
CHAPTER 12: MORAL IMAGINATION (DARWINISM AND MORALITY) [Answers Chapter 3]
The realization of the free human being, through the development of moral imagination by means of the moral techniques of letting moral intuitions be the sole guide to human action is the crowning glory of evolution. Three cheers for Charles Darwin who first formulated the theory that Rudolf Steiner then takes to its culmination in clearing the path for the further evolution of the spiritually free human being.
CHAPTER 13: THE VALUE OF LIFE (OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM) [Answers Chapter 2]
Is the fundamental longing for knowledge a pain or a pleasure? The fallacy of pessimism results from an erroneous "calculation." (Pessimists subtract when they ought to divide). Furthermore: "an ethics built on pessimism arises from the disregard of moral imagination." And: "No ethics can deprive man of the pleasure he experiences in the fulfillment of his own desires" in pursuing the tasks he has set himself in his life.
CHAPTER 14: INDIVIDUALITY AND GENUS [Answers Chapter 1]
The emancipation of the human being from the generic to the individual especially in regard to the place of women in society. "The moral life of humanity is the sum total of the products of the moral imaginations of free human individuals."
"The truth is that the human spirit never transcends the reality in which we live, nor has it any need to do so, seeing that this world contains everything the human spirit requires in order to explain it."
"Monism regards a science that limits itself to a description of percepts without penetrating to their ideal components as incomplete."
"Monism also regards (as incomplete)
abstract concepts that do not find their complements in percepts; abstract concepts that fit nowhere into the conceptual network that embraces the whole observable world."