Chapter 6 Philosophy of Freedom Steiner

Revised 07/01/2010
Copyright © Tom Last 2009-10

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P1
P2
Philosophy of Freedom Self-Study Course
 Thinking Cognition Ethics
 Chapter 07   reality-based thinking
self  Chapter 08   ethics of self-knowledge  
 Chapter 06   universal 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 will  Chapter 14   group ethics



The Philosophy of Freedom

Chapter 6
Human Individuality


Independent Thinking: Truth is not, as is usually assumed, an ideal reflection of something real, but is a product of the human spirit, created by an activity which is free; this product would exist nowhere if we did not create it ourselves. The object of knowledge is not to repeat in conceptual form something which already exists, but rather to create a completely new sphere, which when combined with the world given to our senses constitutes complete reality. -notes

Question: As a separate and unique individual, how can I connect to the whole?

Thought Training Exercise:
PTIT exercise #6 True Sequence Of Facts

Comments - Questions:
Chapter 6 Discussion Forum
Rita Stebbing
Summary 1
Summary 2
Topics: Individuality
Textbook
Notes

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Chapter 6 Summary 1

A consideration of the human individuality will aid us in both of these necessary steps --both in knowing ourselves, rather than merely being subjectively aware of the self, and also in determining the nature of the perception. Consider together the two entities, human consciousness and the perception. How can a representation of an external object enter my consciousness? The difficulty in understanding this is due to a limited conception of the human individuality. This difficulty disappears when we get rid of this limited conception of the human being. I am not only an individual being, but also a being merged with the world as a totality. The same stream of cosmic ongoings passes through the world of perceptions and also through me, as a being belonging to the cosmos, thus creating in me the perception of subject and of object. This stimulates my activity of thinking, which, through an act of inner observation that we may call intuition, draws the corresponding concept from the world of concepts. A single concept, individualized in association with one perception, then remains within the self, as a mental picture of the perception, enabling me later to recognize the same perception or other perceptions of the same kind.

Human beings live in a rhythmic alternation between the two aspects of their two-fold being: the personal, in self-consciousness, and the universal in consciousness of the world. The experience of the personal aspect is intensified by our life of feeling. This conception of the human being and of the mental picture removes the difficulty of understanding their conjunction in human consciousness. It is the objective perception which leaves the subjective mental picture within my consciousness. There is no reason for distrusting what thinking declares to be true of the world as presented to us. (next summary Chapter 7 Are There Limits To Knowledge?)


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Topics: Individuality

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6.0 Universal Thinking
The forces which are at work inside my body are the same as those which exist outside. Therefore I am really identical with the objects; not, however, "I" in so far as I am a perception of myself as subject, but "I" in so far as I am a part of the universal world process. I can discover the common element in both myself and the object through thinking, which relates one to the other by means of concepts.

6.1 Subjective States Of The Perceiving Subject
Those who, from the fact that an electrical process calls forth light in the eye, conclude that what we sense as light is only a mechanical process of motion when outside our organism, forget that they are only passing from one perception to another, and not at all to something lying beyond percepts.

All phenomena of the world are divided into two completely separated parts:
1. an outside world of motions that is independent of the special nature of our faculty of perception.
2. a world of subjective states that are there only within the perceiving subject.

6.2 Concept From My Thought System Connects To Perception
The moment a percept appears in my field of observation, thinking also becomes active through me. An element of my thought system, a definite intuition, a concept, connects itself with the percept.

6.3 Mental Picture Is Individualized Concept
The full reality of a thing is given to us in the moment of observation through the fitting together of concept and perception. By means of a perception, the concept acquires an individualized form, a relationship to this particular perception.

6.4 Sum Of Mental Pictures Is Total Experience
The sum of those things about which I can form mental pictures may be called my total experience.

6.5 Objective Personality
If our personality expressed itself only in cognition, the totality of all that is objective would be given in percept, concept and mental picture.

6.6 Subjective Ego
We are not satisfied merely to refer the percept, by means of thinking, to the concept, but we relate them also to our particular subjectivity, our individual Ego. The expression of this individual relationship is feeling, which manifests itself as pleasure or displeasure.

6.7 Two-Fold Nature: Thinking And Feeling
Thinking is the element through which we take part in the universal cosmic process; feeling is that through which we can withdraw ourselves into the narrow confines of our own being.

6.8 True Individuality
A true individuality will be those who reach up with their feelings to the farthest possible extent into the region of the ideal.

6.9 Forming Mental Pictures
Making mental pictures gives our conceptual life at once an individual stamp.

6.10 Intensity Of Feelings
Each of us combines special feelings, and these in the most varying degrees of intensity, with our perceptions.

6.11
Education Of Feelings
Knowledge of things will go hand in hand with the development and education of the life of feeling.

6.12 Living Concepts
Feeling is the means whereby, in the first instance, concepts gain concrete life.


Textbook
Human Individuality


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6.0 Universal Thinking
[1] In explaining mental pictures, philosophers have found the chief difficulty in the fact that we ourselves are not the outer things, and yet our mental pictures must have a form corresponding to the things. But on closer inspection it turns out that this difficulty does not really exist. We certainly are not the external things, but we belong together with them to one and the same world. That section of the world which I perceive to be myself as subject is permeated by the stream of the universal cosmic process.

To my perception I am, in the first instance, confined within the limits bounded by my skin. But all that is contained within this skin belongs to the cosmos as a whole. Hence, for a relation to subsist between my organism and an object external to me, it is by no means necessary that something of the object should slip into me, or make an impression on my mind, like a signet ring on wax. The question: "How do I get information about that tree ten feet away from me?" is utterly misleading. It springs from the view that the boundaries of my body are absolute barriers, through which information about things filters into me.

The forces which are at work inside my body are the same as those which exist outside. Therefore I really am the things; not, however, "I" in so far as I am a percept of myself as subject, but "I" in so far as I am a part of the universal world process. The percept of the tree belongs to the same whole as my I. This universal world process produces equally the percept of the tree out there and the percept of my I in here. Were I not a world knower, but world creator, object and subject (percept and I) would originate in one act. For each implies the other. In so far as these are entities that belong together, I can as world knower discover the common element in both only through thinking, which relates one to the other by means of concepts. (see notes below)


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6.1 Subjective Perceptions
[2] The most difficult to drive from the field are the so-called physiological proofs of the subjectivity of our percepts. When I exert pressure on my skin I perceive it as a pressure sensation. This same pressure can be sensed as light by the eye, as sound by the ear. An electric shock is perceived by the eye as light, by the ear as noise, by the nerves of the skin as impact, and by the nose as a phosphoric smell. What follows from these facts? Only this: I perceive an electric shock (or a pressure, as the case may be) followed by an impression of light, or sound, or perhaps a certain smell, and so on. If there were no eye present, then no perception of light would accompany the perception of the mechanical disturbance in my environment; without the presence of the ear, no perception of sound, and so on. But what right have we to say that in the absence of sense organs the whole process would not exist at all? Those who, from the fact that an electrical process calls forth light in the eye, conclude that what we sense as light is only a mechanical process of motion when outside our organism, forget that they are only passing from one percept to another, and not at all to something lying beyond percepts.

Just as we can say that the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in its surroundings as light, so we could equally well say that a regular and systematic change in an object is perceived by us as a process of motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse on the circumference of a rotating disc, reproducing exactly the attitudes which the horse's body successively assumes when galloping, I can produce the illusion of movement by rotating the disc. I need only look through an opening in such a way that, in the proper intervals, I see the successive positions of the horse. I do not see twelve separate pictures of a horse but the picture of a single galloping horse.

[3] The physiological fact mentioned above cannot therefore throw any light on the relation of percept to mental picture. We must go about it rather differently.


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6.2 Concept Referred To Perception
[4] The moment a percept appears in my field of observation, thinking also becomes active through me. An element of my thought system, a definite intuition, a concept, connects itself with the percept. Then, when the percept disappears from my field of vision, what remains? My intuition, with the reference to the particular percept which it acquired in the moment of perceiving. The degree of vividness with which I can subsequently recall this reference depends on the manner in which my mental and bodily organism is working. A mental picture is nothing but an intuition related to a particular percept; it is a concept that was once connected with a certain percept, and which retains the reference to this percept. My concept of a lion is not formed out of my percepts of lions; but my mental picture of a lion is very definitely formed according to a percept. I can convey the concept of a lion to someone who has never seen a lion. I cannot convey to him a vivid mental picture without the help of his own perception.

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6.3 Perceptual Reference
[[5] Thus the mental picture is an individualized concept. And now we can see how real objects can be represented to us by mental pictures. The full reality of a thing is given to us in the moment of observation through the fitting together of concept and percept. By means of a percept, the concept acquires an individualized form, a relation to this particular percept. In this individualized form, which carries the reference to the percept as a characteristic feature, the concept lives on in us and constitutes the mental picture of the thing in question. If we come across a second thing with which the same concept connects itself, we recognize the second as belonging to the same kind as the first; if we come across the same thing a second time, we find in our conceptual system, not merely a corresponding concept, but the individualized concept with its characteristic relation to the same object, and thus we recognize the object again.

[6] Thus the mental picture stands between percept and concept. It is the particularized concept which points to the perception.

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6.4 Total Experience
[7] The sum of those things about which I can form mental pictures may be called my total experience. People who have the greater number of individualized concepts will be the ones of richer experience. People who lack all power of intuition are not capable of acquiring experience. They lose the objects again when they disappear from their field of vision, because they lack the concepts which they should bring into relation with them.

People whose faculty of thinking is well developed, but whose perception functions badly owing to their clumsy sense organs, will just as little be able to gather experience. They can, it is true, acquire concepts by one means or another; but their intuitions lack the vivid reference to definite things. The unthinking traveler and the scholar living in abstract conceptual systems are alike incapable of acquiring a rich sum of experience.

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6.5 Objective Personality

[8] Reality shows itself to us as percept and concept; the subjective representative of this reality shows itself to us as mental picture.

[9] If our personality expressed itself only in cognition, the totality of all that is objective would be given in percept, concept and mental picture.

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6.6 Subjective Ego
[10] However, we are not satisfied merely to refer the percept, by means of thinking, to the concept, but we relate them also to our particular subjectivity, our individual Ego. The expression of this individual relationship is feeling, which manifests itself as pleasure or displeasure.

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6.7 Two-Fold Nature: Thinking And Feeling
[[11] Thinking and feeling correspond to the two-fold nature of our being to which reference has already been made. Thinking is the element through which we take part in the universal cosmic process; feeling is that through which we can withdraw ourselves into the narrow confines of our own being.

[12] Our thinking links us to the world; our feeling leads us back into ourselves and thus makes us individuals. Were we merely thinking and perceiving beings, our whole life would flow along in monotonous indifference. Were we able merely to know ourselves as selves, we should be totally indifferent to ourselves. It is only because we experience self-feeling with self-knowledge, and pleasure and pain with the perception of objects, that we live as individual beings whose existence is not limited to the conceptual relations between us and the rest of the world, but who have besides this a special value for ourselves.

[13] One might be tempted to see in the life of feeling an element that is more richly saturated with reality than is the contemplation of the world through thinking. But the reply to this is that the life of feeling, after all, has this richer meaning only for my individual self. For the universe as a whole my life of feeling can have value only if, as a percept of my self, the feeling enters into connection with a concept and in this roundabout way links itself to the cosmos.

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6.8 True Individuality
[14] Our life is a continual oscillation between living with the universal world process and being our own individual selves. The farther we ascend into the universal nature of thinking where in the end what is individual interests us only as an example or specimen of the concept, the more the character of the separate being, of the quite definite single personality, becomes lost in us. The farther we descend into the depths of our own life and allow our feelings to resound with our experiences of the outer world, the more we cut ourselves off from universal being.

"A true individuality will be the one who reaches up with their feelings into the ideal."
A true individuality will be the one who reaches up with his feelings to the farthest possible extent into the region of the ideal. There are men in whom even the most general ideas that enter their heads still bear that peculiar personal tinge which shows unmistakably the connection with their author. There are others whose concepts come before us without the least trace of individual character as if they had not been produced by a man of flesh and blood at all.

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6.9 Forming Mental Pictures
[15] Making mental pictures gives our conceptual life at once an individual stamp. Each one of us has his own particular place from which he surveys the world. His concepts link themselves to his percepts. He thinks the general concepts in his own special way. This special determination results for each of us from the place where we stand in the world, from the range of percepts peculiar to our place in life.

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6.10 Intensity Of Feelings
[16] Distinct from this determination is another which depends on our particular organization. Our organization is indeed a special, fully determined entity. Each of us combines special feelings, and these in the most varying degrees of intensity, with his percepts. This is just the individual element in the personality of each one of us. It is what remains over when we have allowed fully for all the determining factors in our surroundings.


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6.11 Education Of Feelings
[17] A life of feeling, wholly devoid of thinking, would gradually lose all connection with the world. But man is meant to be a whole, and for him knowledge of things will go hand in hand with the development and education of the life of feeling.

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6.12 Living Concepts
[18] Feeling is the means whereby, in the first instance, concepts gain concrete life.


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Chapter 6 Summary 2

The human individuality
How do we come to grips with the fact that we create mental pictures of the outside world while being separated from it?

First, we realize that we are part of the object world that we perceive; our coming to know the world does not happen through the world making an imprint on our spirit, it rather happens through thinking, because thinking, through concepts, bridges the gap between us and the outer world.

Steiner writes "If I were not a world knower, but rather a world creator, then object and subject (perception and "I"), would originate in one act. For they determine each other mutually (94)." This kind of expression of mutual determination between opposites resonates a great deal with Nishida Kitaro's descriptions of the self-determination of mutually contradictory entities. I have never heard of Nishida referring to the unifying creative activity between opposites as "thinking," but in many of his later writings, he does propose that history might be the self-determination of absolute nothingness in a process that unites the historical world (object) with the creative human historical body (subject). I suppose we could speculate on whether the history is itself an extended network of thinking, in which case our thinking could be seen as the governing agent of the historical process.

From thinking to feeling
In pages 94-96, Steiner introduces another discussion of the phenomenology of perception, this time from the standpoint of individuality. He opens by refuting, as he has done several times up to this point, the idea of the pure subjectivity of perception. It is incorrect to conclude, he argues that an impression from the outside world "calls forth" the functions of the organs of cognition; in other words, it is incorrect to say that without the body and its organs there would be no perception.

In fact, it works like this:

-an object of perception arises and thinking immediately becomes active

-from within the subject, intuition in the form of a concept joins itself to the perception

-(the object disappears from sight)

-later, a mental picture of the object can be recalled--this mental picture is an "individualized concept."

-if a second object of perception arises similar to the first, we add to our concepts of the object, and the sum total of these mental pictures is called "experience."

Our capacity for intuition is directly related to our ability to acquire experience, and reality is always a rich ground for gaining experience because always consists of an interaction between perception and concept.

The passage from thinking (taking part in the activity of the cosmos) to feeling (re-subjectifying experience) comes about when we relate our perceptions to our selves in terms of "pleasure" and "pain." The degree to which we experience pleasure and pain (in addition to merely being aware our own mental activity) is the degree to which we live as human beings.

Feeling as beyond mere knowing
"Reality presents itself to us as perception and concept;" writes Steiner, "our subjective representation of this reality presents itself to us as a mental picture (97)."

How do we get beyond the role of mere "knower" or "thinker about" the perceptions that rise up in our consciousness? When we come to appreciate the difference between the properties of "thinking" and "feeling," we can arrive at better understanding of how these two soul-functions work in the formation of our being. Thinking, as we have noted, puts us into contact with the cosmos itself--it is the means by which we take part in something objectively much larger, larger beyond comprehension, than ourselves. Feeling, though, is the means by which we re-enter, and then come to know ourselves as things distinct from the cosmos.

We feel when we associate pleasure and pain with our perceptions, giving them an individual stamp that differentiates them from the shared realm of thinking. Steiner describes our alternations between thinking and feeling as the movement of a pendulum, and suggests that feeling is most useful when it most closely allied to concept formation. It is essential to keep in mind that thinking is still of a "higher" order than feeling, inasmuch as it represents greater connection to the world. It is almost as if we should hold feeling "at bay" as much as possible, so that our thinking can take us into higher ideal plateaus of cosmic reality.

"A true individuality," he writes, "will be the one who reaches up the farthest with his feelings into the region of the ideal (99)."

While we will always think thoughts in a fashion unique to ourselves, i.e., a fashion in which our own feelings are joined to the concepts of perceptions of outer things, it is still necessary that our life of feeling be guided by our thinking. In this way, our feeling will become enriched, and universalized rather than completely self-reflective. (next summary Chapter 7 Are There Limits To Knowledge?)


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Chapter 6 Notes

There outside stands a tree

What I add to things by this awakening is not a new idea, is not an enrichment of the content of my knowledge; it is a raising of knowledge, of cognition, to a higher level, on which everything is endowed with a new brilliance. As long as I do not raise my cognition to this level, all knowledge remains worthless to me in the higher sense. Things exist without me too. They have their being in themselves. What does it mean if with their existence, which they have outside without me, I connect another spiritual existence, which repeats things within me? If it were a matter of a mere repetition of things, it would be senseless to do this. But it is a matter of a mere repetition only so long as I do not awaken to a higher existence within my own self the spiritual content of things received into myself. When this happens, then I have not repeated the nature of things within me, but have given it a rebirth on a higher level. With the awakening of my self there takes place a spiritual rebirth of the things of the world. What things show in this rebirth they did not possess previously.

There outside stands a tree. I take it into my mind. I throw my inner light upon what I have apprehended. Within me the tree becomes more than it is outside. That part of it which enters through the portal of the senses is received into a spiritual content. An ideal counterpart to the tree is in me. This says infinitely much about the tree, which the tree outside cannot tell me. What the tree is only shines upon it out of me. Now the tree is no longer the isolated being which it is in external space. It becomes a part of the whole spiritual world living within me. It combines its content with other ideas which exist in me. It becomes a part of the whole world of ideas, which embraces the vegetable kingdom; it is further integrated into the evolutionary scale of every living thing.  -Rudolf Steiner, Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age,  Introduction

Creative Thinking
Truth is not, as is usually assumed, an ideal reflection of something real, but is a product of the human spirit, created by an activity which is free; this product would exist nowhere if we did not create it ourselves. The object of knowledge is not to repeat in conceptual form something which already exists, but rather to create a completely new sphere, which when combined with the world given to our senses constitutes complete reality. Thus the human being's highest activity, his spiritual creativeness, is an organic part of the universal world-process. The world-process should not be considered a complete, enclosed totality without this activity. Man is not a passive onlooker in relation to evolution, merely repeating in mental pictures cosmic events taking place without his participation; he is the active co-creator of the world-process, and cognition is the most perfect link in the organism of the universe.  -Rudolf Steiner, Truth And Knowledge, Preface

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