Chapter 10 Philosophy of Freedom Steiner

Revised 05/14/2009
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 10
Freedom Philosophy and Monism


Ethics of Authority: Conduct derived from a system of ethical principles that regulate life based on the authority of others, or the inner voice of conscious, or as our own idea.

Question: To what moral authority do we submit ourselves?

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Chapter 10 Discussion Forum
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Summary 1
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Chapter 10 Summary 1

The naive human being seeks to act morally in response to motives derived from without --from other persons or a Higher Being in whom he believes.  At his highest level, the source of his motives is an inner voice. At this level, his conception of moral behavior becomes identical with that of Medaphysical Realism, which conceives of man's volition as impelled from an unknown source outside himself. Both conceptions preclude the possibility of inner freedom. But the form of Monism presented in this book renders wholly tenable the conception of man as a potentially free spirit, willing partly in freedom during the lower stages of his development and capable of attaining ultimately to complete self-determinism on the basis of his own moral intuitions.


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10.0 Authoritative Moral Principles
The naïve man is ready to allow his basis for action to be dictated to him as commandments by any man whom he considers wiser or more powerful than himself, or whom he acknowledges for some other reason to be a power over him. In this way there arise, as moral principles, the authority of family, state, society, church and God.

10.1 Mechanical Necessity
If the hypothetically assumed entity is conceived as in itself unthinking, acting according to purely mechanical laws, as materialism would have it, then it must also produce out of itself, by purely mechanical necessity, the human individual with all his characteristic features. I believe myself free; but in fact all my actions are nothing but the result of the material processes which underlie my physical and mental organization.

10.2 Absolute Spiritual Being
Another possibility is that a man may picture the extra-human Absolute that lies behind the world of appearances as a spiritual being. In this case he will also seek the impulse for his actions in a corresponding spiritual force. To this kind of dualist the moral laws appear to be dictated by the Absolute, and all that man has to do is to use his intelligence to find out the decisions of the absolute being and then carry them out.

10.3 Infer The True Reality
As in materialism, so also in one-sided spiritualism, in fact in any kind of metaphysical realism inferring but not experiencing something extra-human as the true reality, freedom is out of the question.

10.4 Necessity Of Imposed Principles
Metaphysical as well as naïve realism, consistently followed out, must deny freedom for one and the same reason: they both see man as doing no more than putting into effect, or carrying out, principles forced (imposed) upon him by necessity.

10.5 Accept Moral Principle
Whoever is incapable of producing moral ideas through intuition must accept them from others.

10.6 Obey External Compulsion
If anyone asserts that the action of a fellow man is done unfreely, then he must identify the thing or the person or the institution within the perceptible world, that has caused the person to act.

10.7 Partly Free
According to the monistic view, then, man's action is partly unfree, partly free. He finds himself to be unfree in the world of percepts, and he realizes within himself the free spirit.

10.8 Higher Thoughts
The moral laws which the metaphysician who works by mere inference must regard as issuing from a higher power, are, for the adherent of monism, thoughts of men.

10.9 Developing Being
Monism sees in man a developing being, and asks whether, in the course of this development, the stage of the free spirit can be reached.

10.10 Discover Self
Monism knows that Nature does not send man forth from her arms ready made as a free spirit, but that she leads him up to a certain stage, from which he continues to develop still as an unfree being, until he comes to the point where he finds his own self.

10.11 Free Moral World Conception
Monism frees the truly moral world conception both from the mundane fetters of naïve moral maxims and from the transcendental moral maxims of the speculative metaphysician.

10.12 Being Free Is Morality
Morality is for the monist a specifically human quality, and spiritual freedom the human way of being moral.


Textbook
Freedom Philosophy and Monism


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10.0 Authoritative Moral Principles
[1] The naïve man, who acknowledges as real only what he can see with his eyes and grasp with his hands, requires for his moral life, also, a basis for action that shall be perceptible to the senses. He requires someone or something to impart the basis for his action to him in a way that his senses can understand. He is ready to allow this basis for action to be dictated to him as commandments by any man whom

"Someone who is very narrow minded still puts his faith in some one person."
he considers wiser or more powerful than himself, or whom he acknowledges for some other reason to be a power over him. In this way there arise, as moral principles, the authority of family, state, society, church and God, as previously described. A man who is very narrow minded still puts his faith in some one person; the more advanced man allows his moral conduct to be dictated by a majority (state, society). It is always on perceptible powers that he builds. The man who awakens at last to the conviction that basically these powers are human beings as weak as himself, seeks guidance from a higher power, from a Divine Being, whom he endows, however, with sense perceptible features. He conceives this Being as communicating to him the conceptual content of his moral life, again in a perceptible way -- whether it be, for example, that God appears in the burning bush, or that He moves about among men in manifest human shape, and that their ears can hear Him telling them what to do and what not to do.

[2] The highest stage of development of naïve realism in the sphere of morality is that where the moral commandment (moral idea) is separated from every being other than oneself and is thought of, hypothetically, as being an absolute power in one's own inner life. What man first took to be the external voice of God, he now takes as an independent power within him, and speaks of this inner voice in such a way as to identify it with conscience.


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10.1 Mechanical Necessity

[3] But in doing this he has already gone beyond the stage of naïve consciousness into the sphere where the moral laws have become independently existing standards. There they are no longer carried by real bearers, but have become metaphysical entities existing in their own right. They are analogous to the invisible "visible forces" of metaphysical realism, which does not seek reality through the part of it that man has in his thinking, but hypothetically adds it on to actual experience. These extra-human moral standards always occur as accompanying features of metaphysical realism. For metaphysical realism is bound to seek the origin of morality in the sphere of extra-human reality. Here there are several possibilities. If the hypothetically assumed entity is conceived as in itself unthinking, acting according to purely mechanical laws, as materialism would have it, then it must also produce out of itself, by purely mechanical necessity, the human individual with all his characteristic features. The consciousness of freedom can then be nothing more than an illusion. For though I consider myself the author of my action, it is the matter of which I am composed and the movements going on in it that are working in me. I believe myself free; but in fact all my actions are nothing but the result of the material processes which underlie my physical and mental organization. It is said that we have the feeling of freedom only because we do not know the motives compelling us. “We must emphasize that the feeling of freedom is due to the absence of external compelling motives, , . . Our action is necessitated as is our thinking." (Ziehen, Guidelines of Psychological Psychology)


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10.2 Absolute Spiritual Being
[4] Another possibility is that a man may picture the extra-human Absolute that lies behind the world of appearances as a spiritual being. In this case he will also seek the impulse for his actions in a corresponding spiritual force. He will see the moral principles to be found in his own reason as the expression of this being itself, which has its own special intentions with regard to man. To this kind of dualist the moral laws appear to be dictated by the Absolute, and all that man has to do is to use his intelligence to find out the decisions of the absolute being and then carry them out. The moral world order appears to the dualist as the perceptible reflection of a higher order standing behind it. Earthly morality is the manifestation of the extra-human world order. It is not man that matters in this moral order, but the being itself, that is, the extra-human entity. Man shall do as this being wills. Eduard von Hartmann, who imagines this being itself as a Godhead whose very existence is a life of suffering, believes that this Divine Being has created the world in order thereby to gain release from His infinite suffering, Hence this philosopher regards the moral evolution of humanity as a process which is there for the redemption of God. "Only through the building up of a moral world order by intelligent self-conscious individuals can the world process be led towards its goal. . . , True existence is the incarnation of the Godhead; the world process is the Passion of the incarnated Godhead and at the same time the way of redemption for Him who was crucified in the flesh; morality, however, is the collaboration in the shortening of this path of suffering and redemption."

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10.3 Infer The True Reality
Here man does not act because he wants to, but he shall act, because it is God's will to be redeemed. Whereas the materialistic dualist makes man an automaton whose actions are only the result of a purely mechanical system, the spiritualistic dualist (that is, one who sees the Absolute, the Being-in-itself, as something spiritual in which man has no share in his conscious experience) makes him a slave to the will of the Absolute. As in materialism, so also in one-sided spiritualism, in fact in any kind of metaphysical realism inferring but not experiencing something extra-human as the true reality, freedom is out of the question.

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10.4 Necessity Of Imposed Principles
[5] Metaphysical as well as naïve realism, consistently followed out, must deny freedom for one and the same reason: they both see man as doing no more than putting into effect, or carrying out, principles forced (imposed) upon him by necessity. Naive realism destroys freedom by subjecting man to the authority of a perceptible being or of one conceived on the analogy of a perceptible being, or eventually to the authority of the abstract inner voice which it interprets as "conscience"; the metaphysician, who merely infers the extra-human reality, cannot acknowledge freedom because he sees man as being determined, mechanically or morally, by a "Being-in-itself".

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10.5 Accept Moral Principle
[6] Monism will have to recognize that naïve realism is partially justified because it recognizes the justification of the world of percepts. Whoever is incapable of producing moral ideas through intuition must accept them from others. In so far as a man receives his moral principles from without, he is in fact unfree. But monism attaches as much significance to the idea as to the percept. The idea, however, can come to manifestation in the human individual. In so far as man follows the impulses coming from this side, he feels himself to be free.

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10.6 Obey External Compulsion
But monism denies all justification to metaphysics, which merely draws inferences, and consequently also to the impulses of action which are derived from so-called "Beings-in-themselves". According to the monistic view, man may act unfreely-when he obeys some perceptible external compulsion; he can act freely, when he obeys none but himself. Monism cannot recognize any unconscious compulsion hidden behind percept and concept. If anyone asserts that the action of a fellow man is done unfreely, then he must identify the thing or the person or the institution within the perceptible world, that has caused the person to act; and if he bases his assertion upon causes of action lying outside the world that is real to the senses and the spirit, then monism can take no notice of it.

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10.7 Partly Free
[7] According to the monistic view, then, man's action is partly unfree, partly free. He finds himself to be unfree in the world of percepts, and he realizes within himself the free spirit.

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10.8 Higher Thoughts
[8] The moral laws which the metaphysician who works by mere inference must regard as issuing from a higher power, are, for the adherent of monism, thoughts of men; for him the moral world order is neither the imprint of a purely mechanical natural order, nor that of an extra-human world order, but through and through the free creation of men. It is not the will of some being outside him in the world that man has to carry out, but his own; he puts into effect his own resolves and intentions, not those of another being. Monism does not see, behind man's actions, the purposes of a supreme directorate, foreign to him and determining him according to its will, but rather sees that men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends.

Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals. What appears as the common goal of a whole group of people is only the result of the separate acts of will of its individual members, and in fact, usually of a few outstanding ones who, as their authorities, are followed by the others. Each one of us has it in him to be a free spirit, just as every rose bud has in it a rose.

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10.9 Developing Being
[9] Monism, then, in the sphere of true moral action, is a freedom philosophy. Since it is a philosophy of reality, it rejects the metaphysical, unreal restrictions of the free spirit as completely as it accepts the physical and historical (naïvely real) restrictions of the naïve man. Since it does not consider man as a finished product, disclosing his full nature in every moment of his life, it regards the dispute as to whether man as such is free or not, to be of no consequence. It sees in man a developing being, and asks whether, in the course of this development, the stage of the free spirit can be reached.

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10.10 Discover Self
[10] Monism knows that Nature does not send man forth from her arms ready made as a free spirit, but that she leads him up to a certain stage, from which he continues to develop still as an unfree being, until he comes to the point where he finds his own self.


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10.11 Free Moral World Conception
[11] Monism is quite clear that a being acting under physical or moral compulsion cannot be a truly moral being. It regards the phases of automatic behavior (following natural urges and instincts) and of obedient behavior (following moral standards) as necessary preparatory stages of morality, but it also sees that both these transitory stages can be overcome by the free spirit. Monism frees the truly moral world conception both from the mundane fetters of naïve moral maxims and from the transcendental moral maxims of the speculative metaphysician. Monism can no more eliminate the former from the world than it can eliminate percepts; it rejects the latter because it seeks all the principles for the elucidation of the world phenomena within that world, and none outside it.


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10.12 Being Free Is Morality
Just as monism refuses even to think of principles of knowledge other than those that apply to men (see Chapter 7), so it emphatically rejects even the thought of moral maxims other than those that apply to men. Human morality, like human knowledge, is conditioned by human nature. And just as beings of a different order will understand knowledge to mean something very different from what it means to us, so will other beings have a different morality from ours. Morality is for the monist a specifically human quality, and spiritual freedom the human way of being moral.


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Chapter 10 Summary 2

Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Monism
Chapter Ten is a brief but potent essay on the nature of Monism as a philosophy of inner freedom. I think it's unfortunate that in reaching a conclusion to this lengthy philosophical argument, Steiner would choose a term whose meanings are so fluid that they often refer to their own opposites. As a philosophy, Monism is usually used to describe a thought system that opposes dualism or pluralism. Against those who argue, for example, that there is a distinction between a perceiving subject and a perceived object, or that there is a difference between body and soul, spirit and matter, etc., a Monist will argue that these distinctions are false, and that the difference is resolved in some higher unity. In my own opinion, (I may be wrong) Steiner is actually arguing for a dialectical synthesis between the perceiver and the perceived, between the subject and the object, between mind and body, etc. He has already referred to this synthesis as "thinking." To now say that the synthesis is also Monism is only a partial step to get past the "naive" dualism, but Steiner, in his many, many books and lectures is anything but a Monist. (In a later chapter in this book specifically dealing with Monism, he will refer to the world as a "unity," but in his own cosmologies and studies of nature, reality is anything but homogeneous--it is wildly diverse with a multiplicity of spirits, angels, elementals; in short, a variety of natural, sub-natural, and super-natural beings).

So, I think the best way to look at these later chapters is to bracket out the word "Monism" (and try to become acquainted with the great variety of philosophical monisms) and concentrate on the thing he is critiquing, which, once again, is naive realism and the dualism that informs it.

In the opening pages he traces a kind of hierarchy of development. Naive people will seek to follow a trustworthy person. More "advanced" people will follow the norms of a society of civilization. More advanced people will seek truth from "higher," i.e., spiritual, powers," and the most advanced people will act upon the moral idea as an impulse that comes from within the conscience, and not from any external authority.

At the point where moral ideas are "generated" by the free self and not treated as commandments to obey, they appear to be entities unto themselves--as if moral ideas were accessed rather than invented--and have an identity of their own, completely independent of the thinking subject.

Monism as Inner Freedom
"Both naive and metaphysical realism, to be consistent," Steiner writes, "must deny our inner freedom for one and the same reason, because they see in man only the one who executes or carries out principles forced upon him by necessity (165)."

Naive realism denies freedom by forcing submission to some authority, whether real, or symbolic, or even conscience-based. Metaphysical realism denies inner freedom because (a la Kant) it sees the human being as being so far removed from the external authentically free "thing in itself" that man is really just "mechanistically or morally determined" by that thing.

The monist, Steiner asserts, sees that naive realism is partially correct, inasmuch as it validates perception as a means of acquiring truth--which is to say, it validates the notion that ideas can be acquired--whether from the outside (unfreely) or from intuition (freely). But monism (this kind of monism, anyway) rejects the metaphysical idea that truth can be gained from an abstract external thing that compels us to act in any way.

For the monist, the activities of human beings are both free and unfree; unfree in the world of perception, and free in the world of thought (spirit).

Monism, Morality and Freedom
The final section in Chapter Ten recapitulates Steiner's argument that no imposed or coerced code of morality can be truly free. "The moral commandments," he writes, "which the merely inference-drawing metaphysician has to regard as flowing from a higher power, are, for the believer in monism, thoughts of men (166)." Our mission in life is not, Steiner says, to satisfy the will or intentions of a higher power, but to achieve the purposes of the the free spiritual self as it unfolds.

"Each of us is called upon to become free spirit, just as each rose seed is called upon to become a rose (167)."

Monism is thus a "philosophy of inner freedom," and understands the human being to be constantly "self-developing."

The thing that seems difficult to nail down in this chapter is the reconciling what appears to be a precise kind radical subjectivity, i.e., the inherent freedom of the self, with a very ambiguous definition of monism, which in this case is merely a reality in which there is no distinction between subject and object. The difficulty comes from the fact that in Steiner's hundreds of later writings and lectures, he states quite clearly that we are constantly under the influence of external spirit beings, spirit impulses, thoughts, passions, etc., all of which have an objective identity of their own. This reality, which Steiner's own work proves clearly that he believes, seems to undermine his own definition in this work of a monistic nature in which the human is capable of acting freely without external influence.

Indeed, his reference to "nature" is interesting and if not contradictory, is at least a bit conflicted. "Monism knows that nature does not release man from her arms already complete as a free spirit, but rather she leads him to a certain stage from which, still as an unfree being, he develops himself until he comes to the point where he finds himself (167)."

Does this mean that man is under compulsion from a nature that apparently has the power to "release" him, "lead" him, etc.? Where is man's freedom in this relationship with nature?

While the argument for a purely spiritual, intuitive freedom is elegant and compelling, Steiner's logic seems to either break down here, or suffer from a lack of clear explanation of what "monism" is really supposed to mean. If man is at once free and unfree, a monism that permits unqualified freedom can't really exist, right?

In the addenda to this chapter, Steiner fails to address this question, and instead rushes back to the idea of "thinking" being the bridge between the self and the object world. In the first addendum, he says that thinking about the contradiction between the universal (ideas) and the concrete (individual morality) is itself a "living concept." I can't help but see this as a kind of dodge. The second addendum jumps up to a more transcendent level, and places the life of ideas in contradistinction to materialism. This is ground on which Steiner is much more comfortable, talking about spiritual realms as a more authentic mode of reality than material phenomena. The chapter would have been much more satisfying if he had been a little more rigorous in defining monism.


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Chapter 10 author's 1918 addition

[1] In forming a judgment about the argument of the two preceding chapters, a difficulty can arise in that one appears to be faced with a contradiction. On the one hand we have spoken of the experience of thinking, which is felt to have universal significance, equally valid for every human consciousness; on the other hand we have shown that the ideas which come to realization in the moral life, and are of the same kind as those elaborated in thinking, come to expression in each human consciousness in a quite individual way. If we cannot get beyond regarding this antithesis as a “contradiction”, and if we do not see that in the living recognition of this actually existing antithesis a piece of man's essential nature reveals itself, then we shall be unable to see either the idea of knowledge or the idea of freedom in a true light. For those who think of their concepts as merely abstracted from the sense perceptible world and who do not allow intuition its rightful place, this thought, here claimed as a reality, must remain a “mere contradiction”. If we really understand how ideas are intuitively experienced in their self-sustaining essence, it becomes clear that in the act of knowing, man, on the edge of the world of ideas, lives his way into something which is the same for all men, but that when, from this world of ideas, he derives the intuitions for his acts of will, he individualizes a part of this world by the same activity that he practices as a universal human one in the spiritual ideal process of knowing. What appears as a logical contradiction between the universal nature of cognitive ideas and the individual nature of moral ideas is the very thing that, when seen in its reality, becomes a living concept. It is a characteristic feature of the essential nature of man that what can be intuitively grasped swings to and fro within man, like a living pendulum, between universally valid knowledge and the individual experience of it. For those who cannot see the one half of the swing in its reality, thinking remains only a subjective human activity; for those who cannot grasp the other half, man's activity in thinking will seem to lose all individual life. For the first kind of thinker, it is the act of knowing that is an unintelligible fact; for the second kind, it is the moral life. Both will put forward all sorts of imagined ways of explaining the one or the other, all equally unfounded, either because they entirely fail to grasp that thinking can be actually experienced, or because they misunderstand it as a merely abstracting activity.

[2] On page 147 I have spoken of materialism. I am well aware that there are thinkers — such as Ziehen, mentioned above — who do not call themselves materialists at all, but who must nevertheless be described as such from the point of view put forward in this book. The point is not whether someone says that for him the world is not restricted to merely material existence and that therefore he is no materialist; but the point is whether he develops concepts which are applicable only to material existence. Anyone who says, “Our action is necessitated as is our thinking”, has implied a concept which is applicable only to material processes, but not to action or to being; and if he were to think his concept through to the end, he could not help but think materialistically. He avoids doing this only by the same inconsistency that so often results from not thinking one's thoughts through to the end.

[3] It is often said nowadays that the materialism of the nineteenth century is outmoded in knowledgeable circles. But in fact this is not at all true. It is only that nowadays people so often fail to notice that they have no other ideas but those with which one can approach only material things. Thus recent materialism is veiled, whereas in the second half of the nineteenth century it showed itself openly. The veiled materialism of the present is no less intolerant of an outlook that grasps the world spiritually than was the self-confessed materialism of the last century. But it deceives many who think they have a right to reject a view of the world which takes spirit into account on the ground that the scientific view “has long ago abandoned materialism”.

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