Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action

Revised 04/09/2010

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by Dale Brunsvold 

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Philosophy of Freedom Self-Study Course
 Thinking Cognition Ethics
 Chapter 07   reality-based thinking
ego  Chapter 08   ethics of self-knowledge  
 Chapter 06   independent thinking  
 mental picture 
 Chapter 09   ethical individualism
 Chapter 05   critical thinking concept  Chapter 10   ethics of authority
 Chapter 04   reactive thinking perception  Chapter 11   ethical naturalism
 Chapter 03   reflective thinking 
thought  Chapter 12   ethical norms
 Chapter 02   one-sided thinking desire  Chapter 13   ethics of self-gratification 
 Chapter 01   compelled thinking action  Chapter 14   group ethics


The Philosophy of Freedom

Chapter 1
Conscious Human Action


Active Thinking: Most people are only able to think passively, finding active thinking impossible. But active thinking has no room for sleepy nor for intellectual dreaming. One must keep in step with it and get one's thinking on the move. The moment thinking is set in motion one goes with it. Then what I should like to call modern clairvoyance ceases to be anything miraculous. That this clairvoyance should still appear as something particularly miraculous comes from people not wishing to develop the energy to bring activity into their thinking.  -more in Notes below

Question: Are we free thinkers with free will or are we driven by unconscious urges, emotions, or habits of thought making our sense of freedom an illusion?

Other reading:  Rudolf Steiner's Idea of Freedom

Thought Training Exercise:
PTIT Introduction: Traditional Opinions and Habits
PTIT exercise #1 Right Attitude Toward Thinking

Comments - Questions:
Chapter 1 Discussion Forum
Rita Stebbing Book Summary
Summary 1  Olin D. Wannamaker
Summary 2  Eric Cunningham
Self-Observation: Motives
Textbook
Notes: active thinking

Videos:










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Chapter 1 Summary 1

Obviously, there is no freedom when we are compelled by motives of which we are unconscious.
The question we are to discuss must be: Are we free when compelled by motives, if we first permeate their nature with our consciousness before acting under their compulsion? Our first step toward an answer, therefore, must be to determine what is meant by knowing a motive, and this requires that we determine the nature of knowing in general. This requires, in turn, that we investigate the nature of thinking, since this is the sole organ of all knowing. This investigation must necessarily precede our inquiry into the question whether the human being possess inner freedom.

Our first step must be to determine what is the cause of thinking and what is its nature. (next summary Chapter 2 The Fundamental Urge To Science)


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Study Topics
pursuit of freedom

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1.0
The Question Of Freedom

Is the human being free in thought and action, or inescapably controlled by natural laws?

1.1 Freedom of Indifferent Choice
(support) Neutrally choosing, entirely at will, one or the other of two possible courses of action.
(opposed) There always exists a specific reason to explain why we carry out an action.

1.2 Freedom Of Choice
(support) Make a free choice according to our own wants and preferences.
(opposed) We are not free to desire or not desire arbitrarily.

1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Own Nature
(support) Freedom is to express the necessity of our own nature.
(opposed) However complex, our nature is determined by external causes to act in a fixed and exact way.

1.4 Free From External Influences
(support) We act on an idea only if it is first accepted by our character.
(opposed) An idea is made into a motive according to the 'necessity' of our characterological disposition.

1.5 Action Resulting From Conscious Motive
(support) Rather than blind urge, we act according to a conscious motive.
(opposed) The knower has been separated from the doer. We don’t always do what we know should be done.

1.6 Free When Controlled By Reason
(support) Freedom is to determine one's life and action by purpose and deliberate decisions.
(opposed) A rational decision may emerges in me with the same necessity with which hunger and thirst arise.

1.7 Free To Do As One Wants
(support) To be free does not mean being able to determine what one wants, but being able to do what one wants.
(opposed) If a motive works on me, and I am compelled to follow it because it proves to be the “strongest” of its kind, then the thought of freedom ceases to make any sense.

1.8 Unconditioned Will
(support) Our will is the cause of our movement, the willing itself is unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning (a first cause and not a link in a chain of events).
(opposed) We do not perceive the causes that determine our will, so we believe it is not causally determined at all.

1.9 Knowledge Of The Reasons
(support) Freedom is an action of which the reasons are known.
(opposed) What is the origin of our thoughts?

1.10 Action Springs From The Heart
(support) Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for action where heart-felt sensibility prevails.
(opposed) The heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of action. The motives have already been established.

1.11 Expression Of Love

(support) Love determines our action.
(opposed) Thought is the father of feeling. Love is based on the thoughts we form of the loved one. The more idealistic these thoughts are, the more blissful is our love.

1.12 Seeing Good Qualities
(support) We see the good qualities of the loved one. Many pass by without noticing these good qualities.
(opposed) What has this person done other than make a mental image of something that hundreds of others have failed to see? Others do not love because they lack the mental image.


Textbook
Conscious Human Action
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1.0 The Question Of Freedom
[1] IS man free in action and thought, or is he bound by an iron necessity? There are few questions on which so much ingenuity has been expended. The idea of freedom has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in plenty.

"Is man free in action and thought, or is he bound by an iron necessity.?"
There are those who, in their moral fervour, label anyone a man of limited intelligence who can deny so patent a fact as freedom. Opposed to them are others who regard it as the acme of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe that the uniformity of natural law is broken in the sphere of human action and thought. One and the same thing is thus proclaimed, now as the most precious possession of humanity, now as its most fatal illusion.

Infinite subtlety has been employed to explain how human freedom can be consistent with determinism in nature of which man, after all, is a part. Others have been at no less pains to explain how such a delusion as this could have arisen. That we are dealing here with one of the most important questions for life, religion, conduct, science, must be clear to every one whose most prominent trait of character is not the reverse of thoroughness.

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1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
It is one of the sad signs of the superficiality of present-day thought, that a book which attempts to develop a new faith out of the results of recent scientific research (David Friedrich Strauss: Der alte und neue Glaube), has nothing more to say on this question than these words:

David Strauss
1808–1874

"With the question of the freedom of the human will we are not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the name. The determination of the moral value of human conduct and character remains untouched by this problem."

It is not because I consider that the book in which it occurs has any special importance that I quote this passage, but because it seems to me to express the only view to which the thought of the majority of our contemporaries is able to rise in this matter. Every one who has gown beyond the kindergarten-stage of science appears to know nowadays that freedom cannot consist in choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of two possible courses of action. There is always, so we are told, a perfectly definite reason why, out of several possible actions, we carry out just one and no other.

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Herbert Spencer
1820–1903
1.2 Freedom Of Choice

[2] This seems quite obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present days the main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, in fact, whose doctrines are gaining ground daily, says

"That every one is at liberty to desire or not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of free will, is negatived as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapters" (The Principles of Psychology, Part IV, chap. ix, par. 2I9).

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1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Own Nature
Others who refute the concept of free will start from the same point. The seeds of all such arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. What he brought forward against the idea of freedom so clearly and simply has since been repeated countless times, usually cloaked in such hair-splitting and theoretical doctrines that it is hard to recognize the simple course of thought, which is all that matters. Spinoza writes:

“I call a thing free that exists and acts out of the pure necessity of its nature; I call it compelled if its existence and activity are determined in an exact and fixed way by something else. For example, God is free, although with necessity, because He exists solely out of the necessity of His own nature. In the same way God knows Himself and everything else freely, because it follows solely out of the necessity of His nature that He knows everything. So you see that I locate freedom, not in a free decision, but in a free necessity.


Baruch Spinoza
1632-1677
[3] “But let us come down to created things, which are all determined by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way. To see this more clearly, let us imagine a very simple case. A stone, for example, receives a certain momentum from an external cause that makes contact with it so that, after the impact of the external cause has ceased, the stone necessarily continues to move. The continued motion of the stone is compelled by the external impact and not by any necessity within the stone’s own nature, because the continuing motion has to be defined by the thrust of an external cause.

"What is true here for the stone is true for everything else, no matter how complex and multifaceted it may be. Everything is determined with necessity by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way.


[4] “Now please assume that the stone, while in motion, thinks and knows that it is striving to the best of its ability to continue in motion. This stone is conscious only of its own striving, to which it is not at all indifferent to what it is doing, and it will believe that it is absolutely free to continue moving for no other reason than its own will to continue. Yet this is the human freedom that everybody claims to possess, which only consists of the fact that people are conscious of their desires, but ignorant of the causes that determine them.

"Thus the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the coward believes he freely chooses to run away. A drunk believes he says things of his own free will that, when sober again, he will wish he had not said; and since this bias is inborn in everybody, it is difficult to free oneself from it.

"Even though experience teaches us often enough that people can moderate their desires least of all, and that when moved by two opposing passions they see the better and pursue the worse; yet they still consider themselves free because they desire some things less intensely, and there are some desires that can be easily inhibited by becoming preoccupied with memories of something else.” (Letter of October or November, 1674)

[5] Because this view is so clearly and precisely expressed, it is easy to uncover its fundamental error. Human beings are supposedly compelled to carry out an action when driven to it by any cause with the same necessity as a stone that carries out a specific movement after an impact. It is only because human beings are conscious of their action that they regard themselves as the free originator of it. But in so doing they overlook the causes driving them, which they must obey unconditionally. The error in this line of thought is soon discovered. Spinoza and all who think like him overlook the fact that human beings can be conscious, not only of their actions, but also of the causes that guide them.

"the opponents of freedom never ask whether a motive of action that I recognize and understand, compels me in the same sense as the organic process...."
Anyone can see that a child is not free when it desires milk and that a drunk is not free who says things he later regrets. Neither knows anything of the causes working deep within their organism that exercise an irresistible control over them. But is it right to lump such actions together with those of human beings who are conscious, not only of their actions, but also of the causes of their actions? Are the actions of human beings really all of one kind? Should the actions of a warrior on the battlefield, a research scientist in the laboratory or a diplomat involved in complex negotiations be placed in the same scientific category as those of a child who desires milk?

It is no doubt best to seek the solution of a problem where the conditions are simplest. But the inability to see distinctions has often caused endless confusion. There is certainly a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. At first sight this seems to be an entirely obvious truth. Yet the opponents of freedom never ask themselves whether a motive of action that I recognize and understand compels me in the same sense as the organic process which causes the child to cry for milk.

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1.4 Free From External Influences
[6] Eduard von Hartmann asserts in his Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness that the human will depends on two main factors: motives and character. If we see people as all alike, or at least having negligible differences, then their will appears to be determined from outside by the circumstances they encounter.

Eduard von Hartman
1842–1906


But if we take into consideration that different people adopt an idea as a motive of action only if their character is such that a particular idea arouses a desire in them, then the human being appears to be determined from within and not from outside. But because an idea given to us from outside must first be adopted as a motive according to our character, we believe that we are free, that is, independent of external influences. However, according to Eduard von Hartmann the truth is that,

“Even though we must first adopt an idea as a motive ourselves, we do not do this arbitrarily, but rather according to the necessity of our inherent character traits; which means that we are anything but free.”

Here again, the difference is completely ignored between motives that I allow to influence me only after I have consciously made them my own, and motives that I follow without any clear knowledge of them.

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1.5 Action Resulting From Conscious Motive
[7] This leads straight to the standpoint from which the subject will be considered here. Can the question of freedom be directed only in a one-sided way towards the will? And if not, what other question needs to be linked to it?

[8] If there is a difference between a conscious and an unconscious motive of action, then the conscious motive will result in an action that must be judged differently to one resulting from blind urge. Our first question will consider this difference. The result of this inquiry will then determine the approach we need to take toward the question of freedom itself.

[9] What does it mean to have knowledge of the motives of one's actions? Too little attention has been given to this question, because unfortunately the indivisible whole that is the human being has always been torn in two. The doer has been separated from the knower, while the one who matters the most has been overlooked: the knowing doer who acts out of knowledge.

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1.6 Free When Controlled By Reason
[10] It is said that human beings are free when they are controlled only by their reason and not by animal passions. In other words, freedom means being able to determine one’s life and actions according to purposeful aims and deliberate decisions.

[11] Nothing is gained by such assertions. For the question is whether reason, purpose and decisions exercise the same kind of control over a person as animal passions. If, without any effort on my part, a rational decision emerges in me with the same urgent need as hunger and thirst, then I must obey it and my freedom is an illusion.

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1.7 Free To Do As One Wants
[12] Another claim is made that freedom does not mean being able to determine what one wants, but being able to do what one wants. This thought has been sharply outlined by poet and philosopher Robert Hamerling in his Atomistics of the Will:


Robert Hamerling
1830-1889
“The human being can certainly do what he wants, but he cannot determine what he wants, because his will is determined by motives! He cannot determine what he wants? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they make any sense?

"Is free will, then, being able to want something without reason, without a motive? But what does wanting mean other than having a reason for doing or trying to do this rather than that? To want something without a reason, without a motive, would be to want something without wanting it.

"The concept of wanting is inseparable from the concept of motive. Without a motive to determine it, the will is an empty ability; only through the motive does it become active and real. Therefore, it is entirely correct that the human will is not ‘free’ to the extent that its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom’, it is absurd to speak of a possible ‘freedom’ of the will that amounts to having the ability to want what one does not want.”

[13] Here too, only motives in general are mentioned without considering the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me and I am compelled to act on it because it proves to be the ‘strongest’ of its kind, then the idea of freedom ceases to have any meaning. Why should it matter to me whether I can do something or not if I am forced by the motive to do it?

The primary question is not whether I can or cannot do something when compelled by a motive, but whether any motives exist other than those that control me with absolute necessity. If I must want something, then I may be completely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. If a motive that I think is unreasonable is forced upon me because of my character or the circumstances prevailing in my environment, then I will have to be glad if I cannot do what I want.

[14] The question is not whether I am able to carry out a decision once it is made, but how I come to make the decision.

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1.8 Unconditioned Will
[15] Rational thinking fundamentally distinguishes human beings from all other organic beings. Simply to be active is something we have in common with other organisms. Nothing is gained by searching for analogies in the animal world to clarify a concept of freedom that applies to the actions of human beings.

Modern natural science loves such analogies. When scientists have successfully identified something similar to human behavior among animals, they believe they have touched on the most important question of the science of humanity. This attitude leads to misunderstandings such as the example in Paul Rée’s book The Illusion of Free Will, which says the following about freedom:


Paul Rée
1849-1901
“It is easy to explain why the movement of a stone appears to come about by necessity, while the will of a donkey does not. The causes that set a stone in motion are external and visible, while the causes that determine a donkey's will are internal and invisible. Between us and the place of their activity is the skull of the donkey...

"The conditional causality is not seen, so it is thought to be nonexistent. Then an explanation is given that the will, which is the cause of the donkey’s turning around, is itself unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning [(a first cause and not a link in a chain of events).]

["But a presumption of this kind is contradicted by experience and the universal validity of the law of causality… Let us now leave the realm of animals and proceed to consider the human being. Everything is the same here.”]

Here too human actions in which there is consciousness of the reasons are simply ignored, for Rée declares that “Between us and the place of their activity is the skull of the donkey.” These words show that Rée has no clue that there are actions -- not a donkey's actions, to be sure, but human actions -- where a motive that has become conscious lies between us and the action. Rée demonstrates his blindness again, a few pages later:

“We do not perceive the causes that determine our will, and so we believe it is not causally determined at all.”

[16] These examples are altogether enough to prove that many of those who dispute freedom know absolutely nothing of what freedom really is.

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1.9 Knowledge Of The Reasons

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
1770–1831
[17] It is obvious that an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. But what about the freedom of an action in which we reflect upon the reasons? This leads us to the question of the origin of our thoughts and the significance of thinking. Once we know what thinking in general means, it will be easy to see clearly the role thought plays in human action. Hegel is right when he says:

”it is thinking that turns the soul, common to us and animals, into spirit.”

It is also thinking that gives human action its characteristic stamp.

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1.10 Action Springs From The Heart
[18] This is not meant to imply that all our actions proceed only from calmly reasoned deliberation. Nor am I suggesting that only actions following abstract judgments are in the highest sense "human". But the moment our conduct reaches above the level of satisfying purely animal desires, our motives are always shaped by thoughts.

Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for action that refuse to dissipate into unemotional conceptual reasoning. It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility prevails. No doubt. But the heart and its sensibility do not create what it is that moves us to act. This is established prior to our response. Pity appears in my heart only after the thought image of a pitiful person appears in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the head.

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1.11 Expression Of Love
"The more idealistic these thoughts are, the more blissful is our love."
Love is no exception to this. If it is not merely the expression of bare sexual drive, then it depends on the thoughts we form of the loved one. The more idealistic these thoughts are, the more blissful is our love. Even here, thought is the father of feeling.

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1.12 Seeing Good Qualities
It is said that love makes us blind to the flaws of the loved one. But we can turn this around and say that love opens our eyes to the good qualities of the loved one. Many pass by without noticing these good qualities. One person sees them and, just because of this, love awakens within. What has this person done other than make a mental image of something that hundreds of others have failed to see? Others do not love because they lack the mental image.

[19] From whatever point of view we consider the subject, it becomes ever clearer that an investigation into the origin of thought is required before inquiring into the nature of human action. So I will turn to this question now.

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Chapter 1 Summary 2

Conscious Human Action
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom is one of the canonical books of Anthroposophy. In this 1916 classic, Steiner provides the philosophical foundation of his "spiritual science" by explaining the nature of freedom as a function of spiritual activity. As he states in the introduction, "a full justification is won for the idea of the freedom of the will, if only the soul region is first found in which free willing can unfold itself (viii)." So, while this book contains none of the raw data of his famous clairvoyant research, it does provide a philosophical foundation for apprehending the reality of spiritual worlds. "What is striven for in this book," he writes, is to justify a knowledge of the spiritual realm before entry into spiritual experience (ix)."

The first chapter, "Conscious Human Action," opens the philosophical debate on free will with the following question: "Is man, in his thinking and doing, a spiritually free being, or does he stand under the compulsion of an iron necessity of purely natural lawfulness?( 3)" He then makes a short survey of how a number of modern thinkers, including Spencer, David Friedrich Strauss, Spinoza, Hamerling, Ree, and von Hartman, have approached this problem, all of them in an imperfect way because they incorrectly link the notions of freedom and determination to unconscious desires, and many argue that human beings are always somehow slaved to their unconscious motivations, which negates the idea of freedom. No action can be free, they argue, because all actions stem from a deterministic biology or a characterological disposition which includes emotion and unconscious desire.

Steiner refutes this position, saying that motivations and desires can be understood through the process of thinking. Thinking, Steiner argues, is fundamentally an activity of spirit, and as such, is the very activity that makes the human being free. Once we acquire, through thinking, the reasons we want what we want, and the reasons we do what we do, we live in spirit and can attain the possibility for real freedom. (next summary Chapter 2 The Fundamental Urge To Science)


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Chapter 1 Notes

1.3 Necessity of our own nature
Des Cartes said that creation was due to the will of God uninfluenced by any motive. From this, Spinoza concluded that God must act from the necessity of His own nature. God is free to create, that is, there is no motive from without, no subjection to fate, no compulsion to call forth creation, but this freedom is regulated by the nature of God, so that He acts by a free necessity.

We act and we know that we act, but we do not know the motives which determine our actions. Liberty does not consist in the will being undetermined, but in its not being determined by anything but itself. A thing is free when it exists by the sole necessity of its nature, and is determined to action by itself alone; a thing is necessary, or rather constrained when it is determined by something else to act according to a certain determined law. God is free because he acts from the necessity of His own nature.
-unknown

Active Thinking

In what I have named Anthroposophy, in fact in the foreword to my Philosophy of Freedom, you will meet with something which you will not be able to comprehend if you only give yourself up to that passive thinking so specially loved today, to that popular god-forsaken thinking of even a previous incarnation. You will only understand if you develop in Freedom the inner impulse to bring activity into your thinking. You will never get on with Spiritual Science if that spark, that lightning, through which activity in thinking is awakened does not flash up. Through this activity we must reconquer the divine nature of thinking.

Modern Clairvoyance
Most people are only able to think passively, finding active thinking impossible. But active thinking has no room for sleepy nor for intellectual dreaming. One must keep in step with it and get one's thinking on the move. The moment thinking is set in motion one goes with it. Then what I should like to call modern clairvoyance ceases to be anything miraculous. That this clairvoyance should still appear as something particularly miraculous comes from people not wishing to develop the energy to bring activity into their thinking. It often drives one to despair. One often feels when demanding active thinking of anyone that his mood is illustrated by the following anecdote: Somebody was lying in a ditch without moving hand or foot, not even opening his eyes; he was asked by a passer-by: “Why are you so sad?” The man answered: “Because I don't want to do anything.” The questioner was astonished at this, for the man lying there was doing nothing and had apparently done nothing for a long time. But he wanted to do even more “doing nothings” Then the questioner said: “Well, you certainly are doing nothing,” and got the answer: “I have to revolve with the earth and even that I don't want to do “

Force of a stout heart
This is how people appear who do not wish to bring activity into thinking, into what alone out of man's being can bring the soul back into connection with the divine-spiritual content of the world. Many of you have learnt to despise thinking, because it has met you only in its passive form. This, however, is only head-thinking in which the heart plays no part. But try for once really to think actively and you will see how the heart is then engaged; if one succeeds in developing active thinking the whole human being in a way suited to our present age enters with the greatest intensity into the spiritual world. For through active thinking we are able to bring force into our thinking — the force of a stout heart. If you do not seek the Spirit on the path of thought, which although difficult to tread must be trodden with courage, with the very blood of one's heart, if you do not try on this path to suck in that spiritual life which has flowed through humanity from the very beginning, you will create a movement where the infant would believe himself able to draw nourishment out of himself and not from his mother's breast. You only come to a movement with real content when you find the secret of developing within an activity which enables you to draw again out of cosmic life true spiritual nourishment, true spiritual drink.

But that is pre-eminently a problem of the will, a problem of the will experienced through feeling. Infinitely much depends today upon good-will, upon an energetic willing, and no theories can solve what we are seeking today. Courageous, strong will alone can bring the solution.

Rudolf Steiner, The Younger Generation VIII


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I found out I can

I found out I can self-publish the new translation as a full color Philosophy of Freedom textbook style book just like the one above, 8.5 x 11 inches with background color high-lighting quotes and pictures for low cost and no up front money. I can also produce a DVD to go with it plus an online exam. 

Format

I think the format is great too and very attractive. The pictures of the authors Steiner quotes adds a sense of flesh-and-blood connection to his own period that is very pleasing. The summary of the chapter is very useful. If that's going in the final version may I just point out a 'their' that should be 'there' and 'truely' is 'truly' usually. The sentence is "Is this belief in freedom merely an illusion resulting from not being conscious of the hidden causes that actually rule over us or is their a place within the human being where one can truely originate an action out of our own individual spirit?"

 

Revisions made, thanks

Revisions made, thanks Richard. I would like to publish a basic black and white copy of the book with perhaps just the topic headings and then publish a color textbook with pictures and more depending how the summaries and additional information turn out. The additional information could also go in a third publication as some sort of study guide with tips on how to study. Maybe others would have papers to submit for this publication. With self-publishing to fall back on we can publish anything so everyone should be encouraged to write.

I think this new translation will be noticably better than the previous translations so a real publisher may want to print it. I doubt if a traditional anthroposophy publisher would be interested as I am not part of the traditional network but another publisher may be interested in getting into the Steiner market with his foundation book. A new publisher would also give the book wider exposure to a broader readership rather than the inbred Steinerbooks market.

Format

This is a very nice format Tom - it reads very well!  I like the highlighting and pictures for the quotations.

Here are a few editing suggestions:

So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy freely demands revenge; and the timid escape.

So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the timid person believes they freely choose to escape.

Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a person may not only be conscious of one's actions, but can also become conscious of the causes by which one is led. 

Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a person can be not only conscious of their actions, but also conscious of the causes by which they are led. 

No one will dispute the fact that the child is unfree when it desires milk, or the drunk who says things and later regrets them.

No one will dispute the fact that the child is unfree when it desires milk, or that the drunk who says things and later regrets them is not in control of themselves.

 

Thanks Tim, glad to see you

Thanks Tim, glad to see you are still interested in editing. I have set aside the time (5 months?) to complete this latest attempt at a new translation. I am finding that the translation itself may be the biggest obstacle for study. A lot of room exists for improvement. I think a better translation will also expand the pool of potential readers which I think is very small now.

Chapter 1-3:
OLD:
So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy freely demands revenge; and the timid escape.

revised to TIM NEW: So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the timid person believes they freely choose to escape.

OLD: Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a person may not only be conscious of one's actions, but can also become conscious of the causes by which one is led.

revised to TIM NEW: Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a person can be not only conscious of their actions, but also conscious of the causes by which they are led.

OLD: No one will dispute the fact that the child is unfree when it desires milk, or the drunk who says things and later regrets them.

TIM NEW: No one will dispute the fact that the child is unfree when it desires milk, or that the drunk who says things and later regrets them is not in control of themselves.
This goes beyond the German to define freedom as "control of themselves".

revised to TOM NEW: No one will deny the fact that the child is unfree when it desires milk, or that the drunk is unfree, who says things and later regrets them.

translation tools

I added links to past Philosophy of Freedom translations and computer translators to the new translation page for anyone interested in translating. I am currently on Chapter 3 and put a marker in the text --end new translation-- that indicates how much of the chapter has been translated.

That reads nicely and loses

That reads nicely and loses 'themselves'. I hear my Latin master ask "HOW many drunks?" -- nicely captured in The Life of Brian... British public school education, you're stuck with it for life.

"they"?

Dear Tom,

Just a small grammatical point: "the timid person believes they freely choose to escape." -- from Ch 1, 4... I'm sure Spinoza knew better than to mix singular and plural in this way, but we see it often today. Excusable perhaps in speech because of the lack in English of a gender-independent singular pronoun, but surely not in a translation that aims to improve on previous ones? Even 'he and she' though clumsy is better than using 'they' in this bad way.

best wishes,

Richard

translation distractions

Thanks Richard, I think it is important a reader's concentration isn't broken by something like grammar. So it is helpful for people to point out anything in the translation that is distracting.

1-3: So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the timid person believes they freely choose to escape.

Several possibilities to remove the single they. Here is one.

revised to: So the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the timid person freely chooses to escape. A drunk believes it is his own decision to freely say things now, that when sober again, he will wish he hadn’t said, and since this bias is inborn in everybody, it is difficult to free oneself from it.

retranslation

Dear Tom,

thanks for the alteration. I feel a bit pedantic about mentioning it, but it's true I do stumble over 'they' as I do over 'it's' for 'its' -- which is almost a lost cause now. I've even seen things on cafe menus like 'Pie's' for 'Pies'! But that just makes me smile... I guess people just like apostrophes -- or should that be apostrophe's? :-)

They

Thanks I think the outcome here is good.  The use of "they" is of course ugly and incorrect but you have to do so many grammatical dances to avoid it that I think English will eventually have to evolve something along those lines.