Chapter 9 Philosophy of Freedom Steiner

Revised 05/08/2009
Copyright © Tom Last 2009

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Philosophy of Freedom Self-Study Course
 Thinking Cognition Ethics
 Chapter 07   reality-based thinking
self  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 will  Chapter 14   group ethics

The Philosophy of Freedom

Chapter 9
The Idea of Spiritual Activity

Ethics of Individual Insight: How we act will depend on the way our capacity for intuition works in a given situation. To what extent do we put our intuitive ideas into action?

Question: In what ways does individual intuitive impulse express itself?

Comments - Questions:
Chapter 9 Discussion Forum
Rita Stebbing
Summary 1
Summary 2



Chapter 9 Summary 1

Only through the twofold activity of observation and thinking are concept and percept revealed as belonging together --with one sole exception, as we have seen: such is not the case in the one exceptional instance of observing the act of thinking. If we have learned to observe thinking, we have experienced in cognition the single instance in which perception and concept are one: in the very act of perceiving thinking, we also know its nature. Without this cognitional experience, we might always feel that the concept is only a shadowy refection of the perception. After this experience in direct cognition, however, we know that the perception alone is meaningless, an unrelated fragment, but that concept and perception united give knowledge of reality.

But this beholding of thinking in its reality teaches us much more about the human being. It leads us toward a true knowledge of the reality and the nature of human inner freedom.

We learn that thinking, in its own activity, thrusts aside the activity of the organism to make room for its own manifestation. But we learn also that this suppression of the organic activity gives self-consciousness, and that volition arises in connection with this creation of self-consciousness through the effect of thinkng on the organism. Thus are related thinking, the self-conscious ego, and acts of volition. Let us follow this reflection further toward our objective of undertanding human inner freedom.

Concepts become motives, attracting the will into activity toward their attainment, provided they are of such a character as to evoke a response in the individual characterological disposition. As this individual disposition rises to higher levels in the scale of moral quality, concepts on correspondingly higher levels act as motives. At the highest level, only the individual's own moral intuitions can become motives and attract the will into activity. Here the individual is above the sphere of the characterological disposition. Here the motive of action, consisting of a moral intuition, becomes identical with the impulse to action, the responsive spring of action in the individual's own nature. At this level, the human being has become a truly free spirit. But how does he actualize his free moral intuitions? In bringing his moral intuitions to realization, he uses the capacity of moral imagination.




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9.0 Self-Supported Being
When we observe our thinking, we live during this observation directly within a self-supporting, spiritual web of being. Intuition is the conscious experience -- in pure spirit -- of a purely spiritual content. Only through an intuition can the essence of thinking be grasped.

9.1 Psyche-Physical Organization
The psyche-physical organization contributes nothing to the essential nature of thinking, but recedes whenever the activity of thinking makes its appearance; it suspends its own activity, it yields ground; and on the ground thus left empty, the thinking appears.

9.2 Ego-Consciousness
The "I" is to be found within the thinking; the "ego-consciousness" arises through the traces which the activity of thinking engraves upon our general consciousness.

9.3 Characterological Disposition
The characterological disposition is formed by the more or less permanent content of our subjective life, that is, by the content of our mental pictures and feelings. It is determined especially by my life of feeling.

9.4 Levels Of Morality
The conceptual factor, or motive, is the momentary determining factor of the will; the driving force is the permanent determining factor of the individual. The levels of driving force are: instinct, feelings, thinking and forming mental pictures, and conceptual thinking. The levels of motive are egoism, moral authority, moral insight, and conceptual intuition.

9.5 Moral Intuition
Among the levels of characterological disposition, we have singled out as the highest the one that works as pure thinking or practical reason. Among the motives, we have singled out conceptual intuition as the highest. On closer inspection it will at once be seen that at this level of morality driving force and motive coincide.

9.6 Moral Motive
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. Of course, my "I" takes notice of these perceptual contents, but it does not allow itself to be determined by them.

9.7 Ethical Individualism
The sum of ideas which are effective in us, the concrete content of our intuitions, constitutes what is individual in each of us. To let this content express itself in life is both the highest moral driving force and the highest motive a man can have. We may call this point of view ethical individualism.

9.8 Love Of Action
While I am performing the action I am influenced by a moral maxim in so far as it can live in me intuitively; it is bound up with my love for the objective that I want to realize through my action. I do not work out mentally whether my action is good or bad; I carry it out because I love it.

9.9 Character Of Will
If we want to understand the nature of the human will, we must distinguish between the path which leads this will to a certain degree of development and the unique character which the will assumes as it approaches this goal. On the path towards this goal the standards play their rightful part.

9.10 Harmony Of Intentions
I differ from my fellow man, not at all because we are living in two entirely different spiritual worlds, but because from the world of ideas common to us both we receive different intuitions. The free man lives in confidence that he and any other free man belong to one spiritual world, and that their intentions will harmonize.

Concept of the Free Human Being
There are many who will say that the concept of the free man which I have here developed is a chimera nowhere to be found in practice. Yet in each of us there dwells a deeper being in which the free man finds expression.

9.12 Moral World Order
The human individual is the source of all morality and the centre of earthly life. State and society exist only because they have arisen as a necessary consequence of the life of individuals. The individual would become stunted if he led an isolated existence outside human society. Indeed, this is just why the social order arises, so that it may in turn react favorably upon the individual.

The Idea of Spiritual Activity


9.0 Self-Supported Being
[1] For our cognition, the concept of the tree is conditioned by the percept of the tree. When faced with a particular percept, I can select only one particular concept from the general system of concepts. The connection of concept and percept is determined by thinking, indirectly and objectively, at the level of the percept. This connection of the percept with its concept is recognized after the act of perceiving; but that they do belong together lies in the very nature of things.

[2] The process looks different when we examine knowledge, or rather the relation of man to the world which arises within knowledge. In the preceding chapters the attempt has been made to show that an unprejudiced observation of this relationship is able to throw light on its nature. A proper understanding of this observation leads to the insight that thinking can be directly discerned as a self-contained entity. Those who find it necessary for the explanation of thinking as such to invoke something else, such as physical brain processes or unconscious spiritual processes lying behind the conscious thinking which they observe, fail to recognize what an unprejudiced observation of thinking yields. When we observe our thinking, we live during this observation directly within a self-supporting, spiritual web of being. Indeed, we can even say that if we would grasp the essential nature of spirit in the form in which it presents itself most immediately to man, we need only look at the self-sustaining activity of thinking.

"Intuition is the conscious experience -- in pure spirit -- of a purely spiritual content. "
[3] When we are contemplating thinking itself, two things coincide which otherwise must always appear apart, namely, concept and percept. If we fail to see this, we shall be unable to regard the concepts which we have elaborated with respect to percepts as anything but shadowy copies of these percepts, and we shall take the percepts as presenting to us the true reality. We shall, further, build up for ourselves a metaphysical world after the pattern of the perceived world; we shall call this a world of atoms, a world of will, a world of unconscious spirit, or whatever, each according to his own kind of mental imagery. And we shall fail to notice that all the time we have been doing nothing but building up a metaphysical world hypothetically, after the pattern of our own world of percepts. But if we recognize what is present in thinking, we shall realize that in the percept we have only one part of the reality and that the other part which belongs to it, and which first allows the full reality to appear, is experienced by us in the permeation of the percept by thinking. We shall see in this element that appears in our consciousness as thinking, not a shadowy copy of some reality, but a self-sustaining spiritual essence. And of this we shall be able to say that it is brought into consciousness for us through intuition. Intuition is the conscious experience -- in pure spirit -- of a purely spiritual content. Only through an intuition can the essence of thinking be grasped.


9.1 Psyche-Physical Organization
[4] Only if, by means of unprejudiced observation, one has wrestled through to the recognition of this truth of the intuitive essence of thinking will one succeed in clearing the way for an insight into the psyche-physical organization of man. One will see that this organization can have no effect on the essential nature of thinking. At first sight this seems to be contradicted by patently obvious facts. For ordinary experience, human thinking makes its appearance only in connection with, and by means of, this organization. This form of its appearance comes so much to the fore that its real significance cannot be grasped unless we recognize that in the essence of thinking this organization plays no part whatever.

Once we appreciate this, we can no longer fail to notice what a peculiar kind of relationship there is between the human organization and the thinking itself. For this organization contributes nothing to the essential nature of thinking,
"..this organization contributes nothing to the essential nature of thinking"
but recedes whenever the activity of thinking makes its appearance; it suspends its own activity, it yields ground; and on the ground thus left empty, the thinking appears. The essence which is active in thinking has a twofold function: first, it represses the activity of the human organization; secondly, it steps into its place. For even the former, the repression of the physical organization, is a consequence of the activity of thinking, and more particularly of that part of this activity which prepares the manifestation of thinking. From this one can see in what sense thinking finds its counterpart in the physical organization. When we see this, we can no longer misjudge the significance of this counterpart of the activity of thinking. When we walk over soft ground, our feet leave impressions in the soil. We shall not be tempted to say that these footprints have been formed from below by the forces of the ground. We shall not attribute to these forces any share in the production of the footprints.

Just as little, if we observe the essential nature of thinking without prejudice, shall we attribute any share in that nature to the traces in the physical organism which arise through the fact that the thinking prepares its manifestation by means of the body.


9.2 Ego-Consciousness
[5] An important question, however, emerges here. If the human organization has no part in the essential nature of thinking, what is the significance of this organization within the whole nature of man? Now, what happens in this organization through the thinking has indeed nothing to do with the essence of thinking, but it has a great deal to do with the arising of the ego-consciousness out of this thinking.

Thinking, in its own essential nature, certainly contains the real I or ego, but it does not contain the ego-consciousness. To see this we have but to observe thinking with an open mind. The "I" is to be found within the thinking; the "ego-consciousness" arises through the traces which the activity of thinking engraves upon our general consciousness, in the sense explained above. (The ego-consciousness thus arises through the bodily organization. However, this must not be taken to imply that the ego-consciousness, once it has arisen, remains dependent on the bodily organization. Once arisen, it is taken up into thinking and shares henceforth in thinking's spiritual being.)

9.3 Characterological Disposition
[6] The "ego-consciousness" is built upon the human organization. Out of the latter flow our acts of will. Following the lines of the preceding argument, we can gain insight into the connections between thinking, conscious I, and act of will, only by observing first how an act of will issues from the human organization.

[7] In any particular act of will we must take into account the motive and the driving force. The motive is a factor with the character of a concept or a mental picture; the driving force is the will-factor belonging to the human organization and directly conditioned by it. The conceptual factor, or motive, is the momentary determining factor of the will; the driving force is the permanent determining factor of the individual. A motive for the will may be a pure concept, or else a concept with a particular reference to a percept, that is, a mental picture. Both general concepts and individual ones (mental pictures) become motives of will by affecting the human individual and determining him to action in a particular direction. But one and the same concept, or one and the same mental picture, affects different individuals differently. They stimulate different men to different actions. An act of will is therefore not merely the outcome of the concept or the mental picture but also of the individual make-up of the person. Here we may well follow the example of Eduard von Hartmann and call this individual make-up the characterological disposition. The manner in which concept and mental picture affects the characterological disposition of a man gives to his life a definite moral or ethical stamp.

[8] The characterological disposition is formed by the more or less permanent content of our subjective life, that is, by the content of our mental pictures and feelings. Whether a mental picture which enters my mind at this moment stimulates me to an act of will or not, depends on how it relates itself to the content of all my other mental pictures and also to my idiosyncrasies of feeling. But after all, the general content of my mental pictures is itself conditioned by the sum total of those concepts which have, in the course of my individual life, come into contact with percepts, that is, have become mental pictures. This sum, again, depends on my greater or lesser capacity for intuition and on the range of my observations, that is, on the subjective and objective factors of experience, on my inner nature and situation in life. My characterological disposition is determined especially by my life of feeling. Whether I shall make a particular mental picture or concept into a motive of action or not, will depend on whether it gives me joy or pain. These are the elements which we have to consider in an act of will. The immediately present mental picture or concept, which becomes the motive, determines the aim or the purpose of my will; my characterological disposition determines me to direct my activity towards this aim. The mental picture of taking a walk in the next half-hour determines the aim of my action. But this mental picture is raised to the level of a motive for my will only if it meets with a suitable characterological disposition, that is, if during my past life I have formed the mental pictures of the sense and purpose of taking a walk, of the value of health, and further, if the mental picture of taking a walk is accompanied in me by a feeling of pleasure.


9.4 Levels Of Morality

[9] We must therefore distinguish (1) the possible subjective dispositions which are capable of turning certain mental pictures and concepts into motives, and (2) the possible mental pictures and concepts which are in a position to influence my characterological disposition so that an act of will results. For our moral life the former represent the driving force, and the latter, its aims.

[10] The driving force in the moral life can be discovered by finding out the elements of which individual life is composed.

[11] The first level of individual life is that of perceiving, more particularly perceiving through the senses. This is the region of our individual life in which perceiving translates itself directly into willing, without the intervention of either a feeling or a concept. The driving force here involved is simply called instinct. The satisfaction of our lower, purely animal needs (hunger, sexual intercourse, etc.) comes about in this way. The main characteristic of instinctive life is the immediacy with which the single percept releases the act of will. This kind of determination of the will, which belongs originally only to the life of the lower senses, may however become extended also to the percepts of the higher senses. We may react to the percept of a certain event in the external world without reflecting on what we do, without any special feeling connecting itself with the percept, as in fact happens in our conventional social behavior. The driving force of such action is called tact or moral good taste. The more often such immediate reactions to a percept occur, the more the person concerned will prove himself able to act purely under the guidance of tact; that is, tact becomes his characterological disposition.

[12] The second level of human life is feeling. Definite feelings accompany the percepts of the external world. These feelings may become the driving force of an action. When I see a starving man, my pity for him may become the driving force of my action. Such feelings, for example, are shame, pride, sense of honour, humility, remorse, pity, revenge, gratitude, piety, loyalty, love, and duty.

[13] The third level of life amounts to thinking and forming mental pictures. A mental picture or a concept may become the motive of an action through mere reflection. Mental pictures become motives because, in the course of life, we regularly connect certain aims of our will with percepts which recur again and again in more or less modified form. Hence with people not wholly devoid of experience it happens that the occurrence of certain percepts is always accompanied by the appearance in consciousness of mental pictures of actions that they themselves have carried out in a similar case or have seen others carry out. These mental pictures float before their minds as patterns which determine all subsequent decisions; they become parts of their characterological disposition. The driving force in the will, in this case, we can call practical experience. Practical experience merges gradually into purely tactful behaviour. This happens when definite typical pictures of actions have become so firmly connected in our minds with mental pictures of certain situations in life that, in any given instance, we skip over all deliberation based on experience and go straight from the percept to the act of will.

[14] The highest level of individual life is that of conceptual thinking without regard to any definite perceptual content. We determine the content of a concept through pure intuition from out of the ideal sphere. Such a concept contains, at first, no reference to any definite percepts. If we enter upon an act of will under the influence of a concept which refers to a percept, that is, under the influence of a mental picture, then it is this percept which determines our action indirectly by way of the conceptual thinking. But if we act under the influence of intuitions, the driving force of our action is pure thinking. As it is the custom in philosophy to call the faculty of pure thinking "reason", we may well be justified in giving the name of practical reason to the moral driving force characteristic of this level of life. The dearest account of this driving force in the will has been given by Kreyenbühl. In my opinion his article on this subject is one of the most important contributions to present-day philosophy, more especially to Ethics. Kreyenbühl calls the driving force we are here discussing, the practical a priori, that is, an impulse to action issuing directly from my intuition.

[15] It is clear that such an impulse can no longer be counted in the strictest sense as belonging to the characterological disposition. For what is here effective as the driving force is no longer something merely individual in me, but the ideal and hence universal content of my intuition. As soon as I see the justification for taking this content as the basis and starting point of an action, I enter upon the act of will irrespective of whether I have had the concept beforehand or whether it only enters my consciousness immediately before the action, that is, irrespective of whether it was already present as a disposition in me or not.

[16] Since a real act of will results only when a momentary impulse to action, in the form of a concept or mental picture, acts on the characterological disposition, such an impulse then becomes the motive of the will.

[18] The mental picture of one's own or another's welfare is, however, rightly regarded as a motive of the will. The principle of producing the greatest quantity of pleasure for oneself through one's action, that is, of attaining individual happiness, is called egoism. The attainment of this individual happiness is sought either by thinking ruthlessly only of one's own good and striving to attain it even at the cost of the happiness of other individuals (pure egoism), or by promoting the good of others, either because one anticipates a favorable influence on one's own person indirectly through the happiness of others, or because one fears to endanger one's own interest by injuring others (morality of prudence). The special content of the egoistical principles of morality will depend on the mental pictures which we form of what constitutes our own, or others', happiness. A man will determine the content of his egoistical striving in accordance with what he regards as the good things of life (luxury, hope of happiness, deliverance from various evils, and so on).

[19] The purely conceptual content of an action is to be regarded as yet another kind of motive. This content refers not to the particular action only, as with the mental picture of one's own pleasures, but to the derivation of an action from a system of moral principles. These moral principles, in the form of abstract concepts, may regulate the individual's moral life without his worrying himself about the origin of the concepts. In that case, we simply feel that submitting to a moral concept in the form of a commandment overshadowing our actions, is a moral necessity. The establishment of this necessity we leave to those who demand moral subjection from us, that is, to the moral authority that we acknowledge (the head of the family, the state, social custom, the authority of the church, divine revelation). It is a special kind of these moral principles when the commandment is made known to us not through an external authority but through our own inner life (moral autonomy). In this case we hear the voice to which we have to submit ourselves, in our own souls. This voice expresses itself as conscience.

[20] It is a moral advance when a man no longer simply accepts the commands of an outer or inner authority as the motive of his action, but tries to understand the reason why a particular maxim of behavior should act as a motive in him. This is the advance from morality based on authority to action out of moral insight. At this level of morality a man will try to find out the requirements of the moral life and will let his actions be determined by the knowledge of them. Such requirements are
1. the greatest possible good of mankind purely for its own sake;
2. the progress of civilization, or the moral evolution of mankind towards ever greater perfection;
3. the realization of individual moral aims grasped by pure intuition.

[21] The greatest possible good of mankind will naturally be understood in different ways by different people. This maxim refers not to any particular mental picture of this "good" but to the fact that everyone who acknowledges this principle strives to do whatever, in his opinion, most promotes the good of mankind.

[22] The progress of civilization, for those to whom the blessings of civilization bring a feeling of pleasure, turns out to be a special case of the foregoing moral principle. Of course, they will have to take into the bargain the decline and destruction of a number of things that also contribute to the general good. It is also possible, however, that some people regard the progress of civilization as a moral necessity quite apart from the feeling of pleasure that it brings. For them, this becomes a special moral principle in addition to the previous one.

[23] The principle of the progress of civilization, like that of the general good, is based on a mental picture, that is, on the way we relate the content of our moral ideas to particular experiences (percepts). The highest conceivable moral principle, however, is one that from the start contains no such reference to particular experiences, but springs from the source of pure intuition and only later seeks any reference to percepts, that is, to life. Here the decision as to what is to be willed proceeds from an authority very different from that of the foregoing cases. If a man holds to the principle of the general good, he will, in all his actions, first ask what his ideals will contribute to this general good. If a man upholds the principle of the progress of civilization, he will act similarly. But there is a still higher way which does not start from one and the same particular moral aim in each case, but sees a certain value in all moral principles and always asks whether in the given case this or that principle is the more important. It may happen that in some circumstances a man considers the right aim to be the progress of civilization, in others the promotion of the general good, and in yet another the promotion of his own welfare, and in each case makes that the motive of his action. But if no other ground for decision claims more than second place, then conceptual intuition itself comes first and foremost into consideration. All other motives now give way, and the idea behind an action alone becomes its motive.


9.5 Moral Intuition
[24] Among the levels of characterological disposition, we have singled out as the highest the one that works as pure thinking or practical reason. Among the motives, we have just singled out conceptual intuition as the highest. On closer inspection it will at once be seen that at this level of morality driving force and motive coincide; that is, neither a predetermined characterological disposition nor the external authority of an accepted moral principle influences our conduct. The action is therefore neither a stereotyped one which merely follows certain rules, nor is it one which we automatically perform in response to an external impulse, but it is an action determined purely and simply by its own ideal content.

[25] Such an action presupposes the capacity for moral intuitions. Whoever lacks the capacity to experience for himself the particular moral principle for each single situation, will never achieve truly individual willing.

[26] Kant's principle of morality -- Act so that the basis of your action may be valid for all men -- is the exact opposite of ours. His principle means death to all individual impulses of action. For me, the standard can never be the way all men would act, but rather what, for me, is to be done in each individual case.


9.6 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.


9.7 Ethical Individualism
[28] Men vary greatly in their capacity for intuition. In one, ideas just bubble up; another acquires them with much labor. The situations in which men live and which provide the scenes of their actions are no less varied. The conduct of a man will therefore depend on the manner in which his faculty of intuition works in a given situation. The sum of ideas which are effective in us, the concrete content of our intuitions, constitutes what is individual in each of us, notwithstanding the universality of the world of ideas. In so far as this intuitive content applies to action, it constitutes the moral content of the individual. To let this content express itself in life is both the highest moral driving force and the highest motive a man can have, who sees that in this content all other moral principles are in the end united. We may call this point of view ethical individualism.

[29] The decisive factor of an intuitively determined action in any concrete instance is the discovery of the corresponding purely individual intuition. At this level of morality one can only speak of general concepts of morality (standards, laws) in so far as these result from the generalization of the individual impulses. General standards always presuppose concrete facts from which they can be derived. But the facts have first to be created by human action.


9.8 Love Of Action
[30] If we seek out the rules (conceptual principles) underlying the actions of individuals, peoples, and epochs, we obtain a system of ethics which is not so much a science of moral laws as a natural history of morality. It is only the laws obtained in this way that are related to human action as the laws of nature are related to a particular phenomenon. These laws, however, are by no means identical with the impulses on which we base our actions. If we want to understand how a man's action arises from his moral will, we must first study the relation of this will to the action. Above all, we must keep our eye on those actions in which this relation is the determining factor. If I, or someone else, reflect upon such an action afterwards, we can discover what moral principles come into question with regard to it.

While I am performing the action I am influenced by a moral maxim in so far as it can live in me intuitively; it is bound up with my love for the objective that I want to realize through my action. I ask no man and no rule, "Shall I perform this action?" -- but carry it out as soon as I have grasped the idea of it. This alone makes it my action. If a man acts only because he accepts certain moral standards, his action is the outcome of the principles which compose his moral code. He merely carries out orders. He is a superior automaton. Inject some stimulus to action into his mind, and at once the clockwork of his moral principles will set itself in motion and run its prescribed course, so as to result in an action which is Christian, or humane, or seemingly unselfish, or calculated to promote the progress of civilization. Only when I follow my love for my objective is it I myself who act.

I act, at this level of morality, not because I acknowledge a lord over me, or an external authority, or a so-called inner voice; I acknowledge no external principle for my action, because I have found in myself the ground for my action, namely, my love of the action. I do not work out mentally whether my action is good or bad; I carry it out because I love it. My action will be "good" if my intuition, steeped in love, finds its right place within the intuitively experienceable world continuum; it will be "bad" if this is not the case. Again, I do not ask myself, "How would another man act in my position?" -- but I act as I, this particular individuality, find I have occasion to do. No general usage, no common custom, no maxim applying to all men, no moral standard is my immediate guide, but my love for the deed. I feel no compulsion, neither the compulsion of nature which guides me by my instincts, nor the compulsion of the moral commandments, but I want simply to carry out what lies within me.

9.9 Character Of Will
[31] Those who defend general moral standards might reply to these arguments that if everyone strives to live his own life and do what he pleases, there can be no distinction between a good deed and a crime; every corrupt impulse that lies within me has as good a claim to express itself as has the intention of serving the general good. What determines me as a moral being cannot be the mere fact of my having conceived the idea of an action, but whether I judge it to be good or evil. Only in the former case should I carry it out.

[32] My reply to this very obvious objection, which is nevertheless based on a misapprehension of my argument, is this: If we want to understand the nature of the human will, we must distinguish between the path which leads this will to a certain degree of development and the unique character which the will assumes as it approaches this goal. On the path towards this goal the standards play their rightful part. The goal consists of the realization of moral aims grasped by pure intuition. Man attains such aims to the extent that he is able to raise himself at all to the intuitive world of ideas. In any particular act of will such moral aims will generally have other elements mixed in with them, either as driving force or as motive. Nevertheless intuition may still be wholly or partly the determining factor in the human will. What one should do, that one does; one provides the stage upon which obligation becomes deed; one's own action is what one brings forth from oneself. Here the impulse can only be wholly individual. And, in truth, only an act of will that springs from intuition can be an individual one.

To regard evil, the deed of a criminal, as an expression of the human individuality in the same sense as one regards the embodiment of pure intuition is only possible if blind instincts are reckoned as part of the human individuality. But the blind instinct that drives a man to crime does not spring from intuition, and does not belong to what is individual in him, but rather to what is most general in him, to what is equally present in all individuals and out of which a man works his way by means of what is individual in him. What is individual in me is not my organism with its instincts and its feelings but rather the unified world of ideas which lights up within this organism. My instincts, urges and passions establish no more than that I belong to the general species man; it is the fact that something of the idea world comes to expression in a particular way within these urges, passions and feelings that establishes my individuality. Through my instincts and cravings, I am the sort of man of whom there are twelve to the dozen; through the particular form of the idea by means of which I designate myself within the dozen as "I", I am an individual. Only a being other than myself could distinguish me from others by the difference in my animal nature; through my thinking, that is, by actively grasping what expresses itself in my organism as idea, I distinguish myself from others. Therefore one cannot say of the action of a criminal that it proceeds from the idea within him. Indeed, the characteristic feature of criminal actions is precisely that they spring from the non-ideal elements in man.

[33] An action is felt to be free in so far as the reasons for it spring from the ideal part of my individual being; every other part of an action, irrespective of whether it is carried out under the compulsion of nature or under the obligation of a moral standard, is felt to be unfree.

[34] Man is free in so far as he is able to obey himself in every moment of his life. A moral deed is my deed only if it can be called a free one in this sense. We have here considered what conditions are required for an intentional action to be felt as a free one; how this purely ethically understood idea of freedom comes to realization in the being of man will be shown in what follows.


9.10 Harmony Of Intentions
[35] Acting out of freedom does not exclude the moral laws; it includes them, but shows itself to be on a higher level than those actions which are merely dictated by such laws. Why should my action be of less service to the public good when I have done it out of love than when I have done it only because I consider serving the public good to be my duty? The mere concept of duty excludes freedom because it does not acknowledge the individual element but demands that this be subject to a general standard. Freedom of action is conceivable only from the standpoint of ethical individualism.

[36] But how is a social life possible for man if each one is only striving to assert his own individuality? This objection is characteristic of a false understanding of moralism. Such a moralist believes that a social community is possible only if all men are united by a communally fixed moral order. What this kind of moralist does not understand is just the unity of the world of ideas. He does not see that the world of ideas working in me is no other than the one working in my fellow man. Admittedly, this unity is but an outcome of practical experience. But in fact it cannot be anything else. For if it could be known in any other way than by observation, then in its own sphere universal standards rather than individual experience would be the rule. Individuality is possible only if every individual being knows of others through individual observation alone. I differ from my fellow man, not at all because we are living in two entirely different spiritual worlds, but because from the world of ideas common to us both we receive different intuitions. He wants to live out his intuitions, I mine. If we both really conceive out of the idea, and do not obey any external impulses (physical or spiritual), then we cannot but meet one another in like striving, in common intent. A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible between men who are morally free. Only the morally unfree who follow their natural instincts or the accepted commands of duty come into conflict with their neighbors if these do not obey the same instincts and the same commands as themselves. To live in love towards our actions, and to let live in the understanding of the other person's will, is the fundamental maxim of free men. They know no other obligation than what their will puts itself in unison with intuitively; how they will direct their will in a particular case, their faculty for ideas will decide.

[37] Were the ability to get on with one another not a basic part of human nature, no external laws would be able to implant it in us. It is only because human individuals are one in spirit that they can live out their lives side by side. The free man lives in confidence that he and any other free man belong to one spiritual world, and that their intentions will harmonize. The free man does not demand agreement from his fellow man, but expects to find it because it is inherent in human nature. I am not here referring to the necessity for this or that external institution, but to the disposition, the attitude of soul, through which a man, aware of himself among his fellows, most clearly expresses the ideal of human dignity.


9.11 Concept of the Free Human Being
[38] There are many who will say that the concept of the free man which I have here developed is a chimera nowhere to be found in practice; we have to do with actual human beings, from whom we can only hope for morality if they obey some moral law, that is, if they regard their moral task as a duty and do not freely follow their inclinations and loves. I do not doubt this at all. Only a blind man could do so. But if this is to be the final conclusion, then away with all this hypocrisy about morality! Let us then simply say that human nature must be driven to its actions as long as it is not free. Whether his unfreedom is forced on him by physical means or by moral laws, whether man is unfree because he follows his unlimited sexual desire or because he is bound by the fetters of conventional morality, is quite immaterial from a certain point of view. Only let us not assert that such a man can rightly call his actions his own, seeing that he is driven to them by a force other than himself. But in the midst of all this framework of compulsion there arise men who establish themselves as free spirits in all the welter of customs, legal codes, religious observances, and so forth. They are free in so far as they obey only themselves, unfree in so far as they submit to control. Which of us can say that he is really free in all his actions? Yet in each of us there dwells a deeper being in which the free man finds expression.

[39] Our life is made up of free and unfree actions. We cannot, however, think out the concept of man completely without coming upon the free spirit as the purest expression of human nature. Indeed, we are men in the true sense only in so far as we are free.

[40] This is an ideal, many will say. Doubtless; but it is an ideal which is a real element in us working its way to the surface of our nature. It is no ideal just thought up or dreamed, but one which has life, and which announces itself clearly even in the least perfect form of its existence. If man were merely a natural creature, there would be no such thing as the search for ideals, that is, for ideas which for the moment are not effective but whose realization is required. With the things of the outer world, the idea is determined by the percept; we have done our share when we have recognized the connection between idea and percept. But with the human being it is not so. The sum total of his existence is not fully determined without his own self; his true concept as a moral being (free spirit) is not objectively united from the start with the percept-picture "man" needing only to be confirmed by knowledge afterwards. Man must unite his concept with the percept of man by his own activity. Concept and percept coincide in this case only if man himself makes them coincide. This he can do only if he has found the concept of the free spirit, that is, if he has found the concept of his own self. In the objective world a dividing line is drawn by our organization between percept and concept; knowledge overcomes this division. In our subjective nature this division is no less present; man overcomes it in the course of his development by bringing the concept of himself to expression in his outward existence. Hence not only man's intellectual but also his moral life leads to his twofold nature, perceiving (direct experience) and thinking. The intellectual life overcomes this two-fold nature by means of knowledge, the moral life overcomes it through the actual realization of the free spirit. Every existing thing has its inborn concept (the law of its being and doing), but in external objects this concept is indivisibly bound up with the percept, and separated from it only within our spiritual organization. In man concept and percept are, at first, actually separated, to be just as actually united by him. One might object: At every moment of a man's life there is a definite concept corresponding to our percept of him just as with everything else. I can form for myself the concept of a particular type of man, and I may even find such a man given to me as a percept; if I now add to this the concept of a free spirit, then I have two concepts for the same object.

[41] Such an objection is one-sided. As object of perception I am subjected to continual change. As a child I was one thing, another as a youth, yet another as a man. Indeed, at every moment the percept-picture of myself is different from what it was the moment before. These changes may take place in such a way that it is always the same man (the type) who reveals himself in them, or that they represent the expression of a free spirit. To such changes my action, as object of perception, is subjected.

[42] The perceptual object "man" has in it the possibility of transforming itself, just as the plant seed contains the possibility of becoming a complete plant. The plant transforms itself because of the objective law inherent in it; the human being remains in his incomplete state unless he takes hold of the material for transformation within him and transforms himself through his own power. Nature makes of man merely a natural being; society makes of him a law-abiding being; only he himself can make of himself a free man. Nature releases man from her fetters at a definite stage in his development; society carries this development a stage further; he alone can give himself the final polish.

[43] The standpoint of free morality, then, does not declare the free spirit to be the only form in which a man can exist. It sees in the free spirit only the last stage of man's evolution. This is not to deny that conduct according to standards has its justification as one stage in evolution. Only we cannot acknowledge it as the absolute standpoint in morality. For the free spirit overcomes the standards in the sense that he does not just accept commandments as his motives but orders his action according to his own impulses (intuitions).
[44] When Kant says of duty: "Duty! Thou exalted and mighty name, thou that dost comprise nothing lovable, nothing ingratiating, but demandest submission," thou that "settest up a law ... before which all inclinations are silent, even though they secretly work against it," then out of the consciousness of the free spirit, man replies: "Freedom! Thou kindly and human name, thou that dost comprise all that is morally most lovable, all that my manhood most prizes, and that makest me the servant of nobody, thou that settest up no mere law, but awaitest what my moral love itself will recognize as law because in the face of every merely imposed law it feels itself unfree."

[45] This is the contrast between a morality based on mere law and a morality based on inner freedom.


9.12 Moral World Order
[46] The philistine, who sees the embodiment of morality in an external code, may see in the free spirit even a dangerous person. But that is only because his view is narrowed down to a limited period of time. If he were able to look beyond this, he would at once find that the free spirit just as seldom needs to go beyond the laws of his state as does the philistine himself, and certainly never needs to place himself in real opposition to them. For the laws of the state, one and all, just like all other objective laws of morality, have had their origin in the intuitions of free spirits. There is no rule enforced by family authority that was not at one time intuitively grasped and laid down as such by an ancestor; similarly the conventional laws of morality are first of all established by definite men, and the laws of the state always originate in the head of a statesman. These leading spirits have set up laws over other men, and the only person who feels unfree is the one who forgets this origin and either turns these laws into extra-human commandments, objective moral concepts of duty independent of man, or else turns them into the commanding voice within himself which he supposes, in a falsely mystical way, to be compelling him. On the other hand, the person who does not overlook this origin, but seeks man within it, will count such laws as belonging to the same world of ideas from which he, too, draws his moral intuitions. If he believes he has better intuitions, he will try to put them into the place of the existing ones; if he finds the existing ones justified, he will act in accordance with them as if they were his own.

[47] We must not coin the formula: Man exists only in order to realize a moral world order which is quite distinct from himself. Anyone who maintains that this is so, remains, in his knowledge of man, at the point where natural science stood when it believed that a bull has horns in order to butt. Scientists, happily, have thrown out the concept of purpose as a dead theory. Ethics finds it more difficult to get free of this concept. But just as horns do not exist for the sake of butting, but butting through the presence of horns, so man does not exist for the sake of morality, but morality through the presence of man. The free man acts morally because he has a moral idea; he does not act in order that morality may come into being. Human individuals, with the moral ideas belonging to their nature, are the prerequisites of a moral world order.

[48] The human individual is the source of all morality and the centre of earthly life. State and society exist only because they have arisen as a necessary consequence of the life of individuals. That state and society should in turn react upon individual life is no more difficult to comprehend than that the butting which is the result of the presence of horns reacts in turn upon the further development of the horns of the bull, which would become stunted through prolonged disuse. Similarly, the individual would become stunted if he led an isolated existence outside human society. Indeed, this is just why the social order arises, so that it may in turn react favorably upon the individual.


Chapter 9 Summary 2

The Idea of Spiritual Activity (Freiheit)
Before getting into this chapter, I should point out that Steiner would probably not have liked the fact that I am calling this book "The Philosophy of Freedom." His word "freiheit" can be translated "freedom," but it literally means "freehood." The most commonly used English translation for this book is "The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity," as in the text I'm referring to, which is the fine 1986 translation by William Lindemann.

I think Steiner may have feared that the word "freedom" would summon up for English readers too many connotations of modern political or social freedom--rather than the deep spiritual free-ness that he wanted to convey.

I don't use "spiritual activity" because it seems too linguistically remote from the word "freiheit," and much too New-Agey to do justice to the complexity of Steiner's philosophy.

In this chapter, Steiner begins to describe more concretely what he means by thinking. Thinking is "a self-contained entity" that can be observed by the thinking subject. As Steiner writes, "(w)hoever observes thinking lives during his observation directly within a spiritual, self-sustaining weaving of being (134)." Thinking is thus "founded upon itself" and is the key to grasping the spiritual quality of the human condition.

Thinking and intuition
According to Steiner, thinking brings about the unity of perception and concept, two things which are usually considered separate in most modern mental constructs. If we don't recognize (and presumably think about), the role that thinking plays in making this unification, we will be stuck with both flawed perceptions and flawed concepts, and will tend to falsely favor one over the other as the chief characteristic of reality.

The most interesting comment in this section is an introductory remark about intuition--Steiner maintains that when thinking arises in our consciousness, it is not a "shadowy copy of reality, but rather self-sustaining, spiritual, essential being (134)." He goes on to say that this "being" is present for him through "intuition," which he characterizes as "the conscious experience, occurring within the purely spiritual, of a purely spiritual content (135)."

What this means is that the "being" of thinking is purely spiritual, and that through our intuition (a word with layers of meaning in the Steiner lexicon) we participate in this purely spiritual enterprise. Whether his readers buy into this or not, it's fascinating to ponder the idea that the material object, the material eye, the material brain, etc., permit us access to an experience that is autonomous and wholly non-material--moreover this is not deep meditation, or a revealed vision of something, but merely day-to-day thinking.

Thinking and the human organism

In this section, Steiner puts forth one of his most peculiar ideas about thinking, but one that becomes an essential piece of the teachings of Anthroposophy.

When we come to grips with the intuitive (and spiritual) quality of thinking, we realize that the human physical organization "can bring about nothing with respect to the essential being of thinking (135)." In fact, the operations of the human organism withdraw, or make room for thinking as it makes its appearance. This means that the body is not "doing" the activity of thinking, rather thinking appears "through" the body.

But, even though thinking is not dependent on the bodily organization, "I-consciousness" is, because thinking leaves traces upon the bodily organization which contribute to the subject's sense of ego-identity. Steiner makes a distinction between the "real I" and "I-consciousness." The "real I" can be found in thinking, but "I-consciousness" is a by-product of thinking, again, the "trace" or imprint of thinking upon the thinker.

Acts of will
In relation to acts of the will Steiner distinguishes between "motives" for action, and "mainsprings" of action. The former is a "conceptual or mentally-pictured" factor, or an "immediate" cause for action; the latter is the "directly conditioning factor of willing in the human organization," in other words sustaining quality underlying the action.

He refers to a "characterological" disposition, or individual make-up for each individual that largely influences the acts of will--this disposition is formed over the whole of life, influenced by the experiences and concepts each person holds, in particular the individual's life of feeling.

"When I feel pleasure or pain with respect to a definite mental picture or concept, upon this will depend whether I want to make it a motive for my action or not (138)."

So, a positive felt response to a concept becomes a motive for action, but the characterological disposition of a person will determine the way energies are marshaled to act.

Steiner then makes an unexpected, but not unreasonable leap to morality, suggesting that the feeling and willing that prompt our actions, and the motives and mainsprings associated with feeling and willing are all moral in nature.

Mainsprings of morality
The mainsprings of morality, Steiner tells us, are located in the "elements" from which our lives are composed.

The first of these elements are perceptions (the nature of which he has discussed at length in previous chapters, but), which are now discussed as "drives," or, impulses that activate the will in an attempt to satisfy desires triggered by the perception. He distinguishes between the drives activated by the "lower" senses with those drives that activate the higher senses; his example of the latter is "social propriety" or "tact." It's not entirely clear how the perception of a higher order phenomena should lead to a "mainspring of morality" as pedestrian as tact, but it does invite us to consider the degree to which social order may be maintained through the apprehension of higher order objective truths.

The second "element" of human life is feeling--feelings become attached to perceptions just as willful desires do. Pity, shame, pride, honor, remorse, revenge, etc., can all in their turn become mainsprings for moral action of one kind or another.

The third "element," or level of life is the level of "thinking and mental picturing." Our mental pictures, especially those we can call up in memory become powerful as sustained mainsprings for moral action. When these pictures become "models" for action through repeated associations with similar kinds of perception, we can call them "practical experience."

The highest element of life is conceptual thinking without regard to a specific content of perception (italics mine). When we can summon up a concept through pure intuition (which, we remember, Steiner characterizes as the conscious experience of spiritual content) and have this concept become the core of willful activity, we can say that the mainspring of our moral action is pure thinking. If too, we want to equate pure thinking to reason, we can call the mainspring of this moral act "practical reason."

More on motives of moral acts
Having discussed the motives and mainsprings of willed actions, Steiner turns his focus to moral acts and the 1) mental pictures and 2) concepts that serve as their motives. He rejects the standard utilitarian idea that "pleasure" is a motive to action, because at the point of motives, there is no "pleasure" in existence, but only the mental picture of the pleasure to be attained.

According to Steiner, "egoism," is the name of the principle by which one seeks to attain personal pleasure as the consequence of one's acts, and the egoistic desire (which come in varying degrees) can serve as the mental picture which moves a person to act. From this point, concepts also play a role in sustaining the action, as they link the action to a pre-existing moral landscape that generally conditions the ways in which one acts. The "conceptual content" may be less immediate than the desire-motive, but it makes the performance of the action intelligible in a larger inner-life context. When we act consistently with the conditions of our inner life, we can be said to be obeying our conscience.

Moral progress
"It signifies moral progress," says Steiner, "when a person no longer simply takes the commandment of an outer or inner authority as the motive of his action but rather when his striving is for insight into the reason why one or another maxim of action should work in him as a motive (144)." This progress here is the movement from authority-based moral action to free action based on acquired moral insight.

A person who has made this progress has sought and attained knowledge of the "needs" of moral life. Steiner lists these as:

1) the greatest possible good of all mankind

This need is something that may be a matter of personal interpretation depending on life conditions and knowledge

2) cultural progress (which seems to refer to moral development in the historical world)

This kind of progress comes with a cost as "development" in history necessarily involves the destruction or abandoning of older forms

3) the realization of "individual goals of morality grasped intuitively."

This "third" need is especially interesting because it shows the importance of personal development--the importance of forming high ideals and living up to them, not by internal violence, but by "pure intuition." Within this "need" we can identify another kind of process taking place, and take note of the differences between actions that are made with a "moral" end in mind, and actions that "spring" from intuition and can later be seen to have had a clear moral origin. There are times when we act with the greatest good in mind, and other time when we act with human progress in mind, but the "highest" moral acts are those that emerge directly from our conceptual intuition.

A principle of ethical morality
Steiner has now identified both the highest disposition of character (pure thinking), and the highest motive for moral activity (conceptual intuition). The combination of these two things indicates an elevated definition of ethical freedom. Our most morally ethical actions are those that spring from purely ideal, or spiritually intuitive motives.

It goes to reason that people who lack the capacity for moral intuition are not capable of free moral activity. They will act under some compulsion from external, or even internal forces (whether these be conditioned responses, dogma, brainwashing, etc.) to execute moral acts.

Steiner suggests that this kind of moral activity is the "antithesis" to the Kantian principle of ethical morality that is often called "the categorical imperative," which Steiner summarizes as "(a)ct in such a way that the basic tenets of your action can be valid for all men." Steiner believes that this imperative is "the death of all individual impulse to action."

Reconciling moral and personal motives
Following his surprising assertion that Kant's categorical imperative is the "antithesis" of moral activity, Steiner goes on to state that in performing authentic moral acts, we should not worry about what might hold true for "all men" but only what holds true for us.

How can it be that our actions can stem from motivations particular to ourselves yet also claim to be purely, objectively ideal actions? It's possible, Steiner says, when we consider the difference between motives to action, and the perceptible content of an action. The ego is always looking at the perceptible content of an action, but does not have to be determined by it--accordingly there is a difference between the concept formed about an action (and its result) and the motive to action itself. When a person decides to do a positive act for the good of society or the world, he or she will think about it, forming a "cognitive concept" of the action and its outcomes. The "moral concept" of the act is not something that the ego can take ownership of--it adheres to the morality of the act from an ideal standpoint. The actor seems to experience points of contact with the moral content of an act in two ways: 1) in intuiting the ideal moral quality of the act and 2) and in choosing the manner in which he or she carries out the act.

Again, owing to circumstances in life, people differ in their capacities for moral intuition--the degree to which we allow an objectively real morality come to life in our activity, in spite of the multitude of choices available to us, is the degree to which we exercise "ethical individualism."

Love and moral acts
In this section Steiner offers a radical way of thinking about the connection between action, freedom, morality, and love.

He distinguishes between the kind of ethical acts that are historically or culturally constructed, and those that appear authentically, from the core of intuition as the fruits of love. Mundane lawful acts that appear to emerge from the deepest source of ethical rectitude are most often the results of cultural conditioning, and as such are not really free--they are more like programmed responses that seek to fulfill the standards of good religious morality, or good progressive righteousness. The person who executes these acts is only functioning as "a higher kind of automaton."

In contrast to this we have authentic moral acts:

"Only when I follow my love for the object is it I myself who acts. I act on this level of morality not because I acknowledge a master over me, nor outer authority, nor a so-called inner voice. I acknowledge no outer principle for my action because I have found within myself the basis for my actions: love for the action. I do not test intellectually whether my action is good or evil; I carry it out because I love it (149-50)."

Thus our most ethical acts are not done in response to, or with the expectation of meeting, externally defined norms or standards, but emerge freely from within.

Free acts and criminal acts
Steiner entertains an objection to the idea that the freest and highest moral acts are those that come from the deep core of intuitive individuality. If, the objection goes, a person only does what suits him or her, regardless of religious or ethical norms, then there seems to be no difference between good and criminal acts.

The problem with the logic that bad deeds are as real and individualized as good deeds is that it fails to recognize the difference between pure intuition (the source of good acts) and blind drives (the source of criminal acts).

The blind drive which leads to a criminal act is, in fact, not free. When a person responds to a blind drive that leads to the commission of a crime, he or she is actually acting in a way consistent with the non-ideal and unindividuated mass of humanity--responding to the lowest, most common, and most coarse denominator of the human species.

"What is individual in me is not my organism with its drives and feelings, but rather the unified world of ideas which lights up within this organism (151)."

Accordingly criminal acts are not just as free as good acts--they are, by Steiner's understanding, decidedly unfree.

"A person is free only insofar as he is in a position at every moment in his life to follow himself (152)."

The free human being
Freedom does not ignore the laws of morality, it conforms to the--but an act that "includes" the laws of morality is of a higher order than a law that is "dictated" by them. In this sense, Steiner maintains, the bare concept of duty excludes inner freedom, because it appeals to submission not free action--again, the freest actions are those that spring from ethical individualism.

A truly free moral community is not bound together by moral laws. It is bound together by the fact that each member of that community lives freely in the world of ideas that all humanity shares--the world of thought that is alive in all of us.

Our individuality stems from the fact that our intuitions of the ideal world differ from those of our fellow human beings. We are free individuals when we acknowledge and honor the fact that others belong to the same world of ideas, but may have different intuitions of that world.

"To live in the love for one's actions, and to let live in understanding for the other's willing, is the basic maxim of free human beings. They know no other "ought" than that which their willing brings itself into intuitive harmony; what they shall will in a certain case, this their capacity for ideas will tell them (154)."

The freedom of the indwelling spirit
Steiner observes that the ability of human beings to live together in society derives from their shared participation in the spiritual world. We seek each other's approval and company in the realm of free spiritual activity.

Behaving morally and ethical simply because we are compelled to do so is not free morality or ethics. It may be the general belief of systems of the world that behaving morally is a duty not a free act, but if we do act morally under compulsion, this activity is not free.

"Whether one controls this non-freedom through physical means or through moral laws, whether a person is unfree because he follows his unlimited sexual drive, or because he is bound in the fetters of conventional morality is, from a certain standpoint, a matter of complete indifference (155)."

Even in a world of enforced order and political correctness, we are still capable of attaining true freedom, when the "deeper being" that dwells in us expresses him or herself in an authentically free way. This "free spirit" is the "purest expression" of man's nature.

Free Spirit
In the final pages of chapter nine, Steiner returns to the ideas of "perception" and "concept" in order to support the assertion that "the intellectual and moral life of the human being lead us to his twofold nature: perceiving (direct experience) and thinking."

He then links free moral activity (the dominant subject of chapter nine) to his earlier notions on the primacy of thinking to show that free spirit, which he calls the "purest expression of man's nature," also helps to heal and "bridge" our divided natures. The division between "perception" and "concept" is made whole not only through the process-act of thinking, but through the unifying autonomy of free moral action.

This then leads to the way we, as objects of perception, can transform ourselves through free moral acts.

"The plant will transform itself because of the objective lawfulness lying within it; the human being remains in his unfinished state if he does not take up the stuff of transformation within himself and transform himself through his own power (157)."

Freedom, duty, and morality

Free spirituality, Steiner tells us, is the "human being's last stage of development." Free spirituality trumps duty as a human value, because it does not derive from compulsion. As before, he makes the contrast between duty and freedom, comparing it to the difference between a "merely law-abiding and a free morality."

He points out that every "rule" we have come to obey as law was once the spiritual intuition of a free being expressing morality, not a fettered person trying to impose morality on other fettered people. As Steiner puts it:

"The free person acts morally because he has a moral idea; but he does not act so that morality will arise. Human individuals, with their moral ideas belonging to their being, are the prerequisite of a moral world order (160)."



Chapter 9 Notes

Another book title used for Rudolf Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom is The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The original German title is Die Philosophie der Freiheit. (The book is also available titled Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path.) The difficulty in translating the German word Freiheit into English is examined below by Michael Wilson from his introduction to The Philosophy of Freedom.

Spiritual Activity
FREEDOM is not an exact equivalent of the German word Freiheit, although among its wide spectrum of meanings there are some that do correspond. In certain circumstances, however, the differences are important. Steiner himself drew attention to this, for instance, in a lecture he gave at Oxford in 1922, where he said with reference to this book,

"Therefore today we need above all a view of the world based on Freiheit -- one can use this word in German, but here in England one must put it differently because the word 'freedom' has a different meaning -- one must say a view of the world based on spiritual activity, on action, on thinking and feeling that arise from the individual human spirit." -Rudolf Steiner

When describing any kind of creative activity we speak of a "freedom of style" or "freedom of expression" in a way that indicates an inner conquest of outer restraints. This inner conquest is the theme of the book, and it is in this sense that I believe the title The Philosophy of Freedom would be understood today.

When Steiner questioned the aptness of this title, he expressed the view that English people believed that they already possessed freedom, and that they needed to be shocked out of their complacency and made to realize that the freedom he meant had to be attained by hard work.

While this may still be true today, the alternative he suggested is now less likely to achieve this shock than is the original. I have not found that the title The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity gives the newcomer any indication that the goal of the book is the attainment of inner freedom.  -Michael Wilson



You must be doing some real study

You must be doing some real study of the book because your questions are about some of the difficult terms a reader has to sort out. These terms are usually better explained in other parts of the book. Avoid the thought that he is describing some far off mystical experience as the spiritualists love to do. You can figure out the terms by doing a search  for it elsewhere or by seeing it within the useage context. Once understood it is not far from recognizing the experience within yourself.

More on concepts is in the opening of chapter 4. Through thinking, concepts and ideas arise. What a concept is cannot be expressed in words. Words can only draw our attention to the fact that we have concepts.

psyche-physical organization: This is just referring to our psychological and physical make-up. By observing this we become self-aware, self-perception. We are conscious of our "I" or ego. But when we practice pure conceptual thinking our "I" is in the conceptual sphere and is free from the psyche-physical organization. The conceptual thinking is guided by the pure concepts themselves (chp3) and not by desires or habitual thinking living in the psyche-physical organization.