Chapter 14 Philosophy of Freedom Steiner

Revised 05/17/2009
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 14
Individuality And Type


Ethical Individual: A person develops qualities and activities of their own, and the basis for these we can seek only in the person themself. What is generic in a person serves only as a medium in which to express their own individual being.

Question: Since we bear the general characteristics of the groups to which we belong, is individuality possible?

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Chapter 14 Discussion Forum
Rita Stebbing
Summary 1
Summary 2
Content
Textbook
Author's Addition

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Chapter 14 Summary 1

Membership of the individual in human biological and social groups does not prevent the development of inner freedom. Out of the very qualities inherent in these groups, he molds his own unique personality. The development of the human individuality in the full sense of the word is a very slow process. The percept human being, visible before our eyes, does not correspond completely with the concept human being, drawn from the world of concepts, until the individual we perceive with our eyes has risen to the level of the free spirit.     
 


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14.0 Group Member
A person bears the general characteristics of the groups to which he belongs.

14.1 Group Characteristics
If we ask why some particular thing about a person is like this or like that, we are referred back from the individual to the genus.

14.2 Generic Medium For Individual Expression
A man develops qualities and activities of his own, and the basis for these we can seek only in the man himself. What is generic in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individual being.

14.3 Individual Capacities And Inclinations
A man's activity in life is governed by his individual capacities and inclinations, whereas a woman's is supposed to be determined solely by the mere fact that she is a woman.

14.4 Individual Social Decision
What a woman, within her natural limitations, wants to become had better be left to the woman herself to decide.

14.5 Unique Characteristics
Determining the individual according to the laws of his genus ceases where the sphere of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.

14.6 Intuitive Conceptual Content
The conceptual content which man has to connect with the percept by an act of thinking in order to have the full reality cannot be fixed once and for all and bequeathed ready-made to mankind. The individual must get his concepts through his own intuition.

14.7 Individual Concrete Aims
It is not possible to determine from the general characteristics of man what concrete aims the individual may choose to set himself.

14.8 Individual View And Action
And every kind of study that deals with abstract thoughts and generic concepts is but a preparation for the knowledge we get when a human individuality tells us his way of viewing the world, and for the knowledge we get from the content of his acts of will.

14.9 Emancipation Of Knowing
If we are to understand a free individuality we must take over into our own spirit those concepts by which he determines himself, in their pure form (without mixing our own conceptual content with them).

11.10 Emancipation Of Being
Only to the extent that a man has emancipated himself in this way from all that is generic, does he count as a free spirit within a human community.

14.11 Intuitive Conduct
Only that part of his conduct that springs from his intuitions can have ethical value in the true sense.

14.12 Acceptance By Communities
It is from individual ethical intuitions and their acceptance by human communities that all moral activity of mankind originates.


Textbook
Individuality And Type


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14.0 Group Member
[1] The view that man is destined to become a complete, self-contained, free individuality seems to be contested

"Is individuality possible at all?"
by the fact that he makes his appearance as a member of a naturally given totality (race, people, nation, family, male or female sex) and also works within a totality (state, church, and so on). He bears the general characteristics of the group to which he belongs, and he gives to his actions a content that is determined by the position he occupies among many others.

[2] This being so, is individuality possible at all? Can we regard man as a totality in himself, seeing that he grows out of one totality and integrates himself into another?


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14.1 Group Characteristics
[3] Each member of a totality is determined, as regards its characteristics and functions, by the whole totality. A racial group is a totality and all the people belonging to it bear the characteristic features that are inherent in the nature of the group. How the single member is constituted, and how he will behave, are determined by the character of the racial group. Therefore the physiognomy and conduct of the individual have something generic about them. If we ask why some particular thing about a man is like this or like that, we are referred back from the individual to the genus. The genus explains why something in the individual appears in the form we observe.

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14.2 Generic Medium For Individual Expression
[4] Man, however, makes himself free from what is generic. For the generic features of the human race, when rightly understood, do not restrict man's freedom, and should not artificially be made to do so. A man develops qualities and activities of his own, and the basis for these we can seek only in the man himself. What is generic in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individual being. He uses as a foundation the characteristics that nature has given him, and to these he gives a form appropriate to his own being. If we seek in the generic laws the reasons for an expression of this being, we seek in vain. We are concerned with something purely individual which can be explained only in terms of itself. If a man has achieved this emancipation from all that is generic, and we are nevertheless determined to explain everything about him in generic terms, then we have no sense for what is individual.

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14.3 Individual Capacities And Inclinations
[5] It is impossible to understand a human being completely if one takes the concept of genus as the basis of one's judgment. The tendency to judge according to the genus is at its most stubborn where we are concerned with differences of sex. Almost invariably man sees in woman, and woman in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little of what is individual. In practical life this does less harm to men than to women. The social position of women is for the most part such an unworthy one because in so many respects it is determined not as it should be by the particular characteristics of the individual woman, but by the general picture one has of woman's natural tasks and needs. A man's activity in life is governed by his individual capacities and inclinations, whereas a woman's is supposed to be determined solely by the mere fact that she is a woman. She is supposed to be a slave to what is generic, to womanhood in general.

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14.4 Individual Social Decision
As long as men continue to debate whether a woman is suited to this or that profession "according to her natural disposition", the so-called woman's question cannot advance beyond its most elementary stage. What a woman, within her natural limitations, wants to become had better be left to the woman herself to decide. If it is true that women are suited only to that profession which is theirs at present, then they will hardly have it in them to attain any other. But they must be allowed to decide for themselves what is in accordance with their nature. To all who fear an upheaval of our social structure through accepting women as individuals and not as females, we must reply that a social structure in which the status of one half of humanity is unworthy of a human being is itself in great need of improvement.

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14.5 Unique Characteristics
[6] Anyone who judges people according to generic characters gets only as far as the frontier where people begin to be beings whose activity is based on free self-determination. Whatever lies short of this frontier may naturally become matter for academic study. The characteristics of race, people, nation and sex are the subject matter of special branches of study. Only men who wish to live as nothing more than examples of the genus could possibly conform to a general picture such as arises from academic study of this kind. But none of these branches of study are able to advance as far as the unique content of the single individual. Determining the individual according to the laws of his genus ceases where the sphere of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.

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14.6 Intuitive Conceptual Content
The conceptual content which man has to connect with the percept by an act of thinking in order to have the full reality cannot be fixed once and for all and bequeathed ready-made to mankind. The individual must get his concepts through his own intuition. How the individual has to think cannot possibly be deduced from any kind of generic concept. It depends simply and solely on the individual.

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14.7 Individual Concrete Aims
Just as little is it possible to determine from the general characteristics of man what concrete aims the individual may choose to set himself. If we would understand the single individual we must find our way into his own particular being and not stop short at those characteristics that are typical. In this sense every single human being is a separate problem.

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14.8 Individual View And Action
And every kind of study that deals with abstract thoughts and generic concepts is but a preparation for the knowledge we get when a human individuality tells us his way of viewing the world, and on the other hand for the knowledge we get from the content of his acts of will.

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14.9 Emancipation Of Knowing
Whenever we feel that we are dealing with that element in a man which is free from stereotyped thinking and instinctive willing, then, if we would understand him in his essence, we must cease to call to our aid any concepts at all of our own making. The act of knowing consists in combining the concept with the percept by means of thinking. With all other objects the observer must get his concepts through his intuition; but if we are to understand a free individuality we must take over into our own spirit those concepts by which he determines himself, in their pure form (without mixing our own conceptual content with them). Those who immediately mix their own concepts into every judgment about another person, can never arrive at the understanding of an individuality. Just as the free individuality emancipates himself from the characteristics of the genus, so must the act of knowing emancipate itself from the way in which we understand what is generic.

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14.10 Emancipation Of Being
[7] Only to the extent that a man has emancipated himself in this way from all that is generic, does he count as a free spirit within a human community. No man is all genus, none is all individuality; but every man gradually emancipates a greater or lesser sphere of his being, both from the generic characteristics of animal life and from domination by the decrees of human authorities.


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14.11 Intuitive Conduct
[8] As regards that part of his nature where a man is not able to achieve this freedom for himself, he constitutes a part of the whole organism of nature and spirit. In this respect he lives by copying others or by obeying their commands. But only that part of his conduct that springs from his intuitions can have ethical value in the true sense.

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14.12 Acceptance By Communities
And those moral instincts that he possesses through the inheritance of social instincts acquire ethical value through being taken up into his intuitions. It is from individual ethical intuitions and their acceptance by human communities that all moral activity of mankind originates. In other words, the moral life of mankind is the sum total of the products of the moral imagination of free human individuals. This is the conclusion reached by monism.


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Chapter 14 author's 1918 addition

[1] Immediately upon the publication of this book (1894), critics objected to the above arguments that, even now, within the generic character of her sex, a woman is able to shape her life individually, just as she pleases, and far more freely than a man who is already de-individualized, first by the school, and later by war and profession. I am aware that this objection will be urged today (1918), even more strongly. None the less, I feel bound to let my sentences stand, in the hope that there are readers who appreciate how violently such an objection runs counter to the concept of freedom advocated in this book, and who will judge my sentences above by a standard other than the de-individualizing of man through school and profession.

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Chapter 14 Summary 2

Individuality and Genus
In this last (and relatively short) formal chapter of the Philosophy of Freedom, Steiner takes up the issue of individuality and genus in the human being, and explains the degree to which humans are truly individual, or embedded in their generic identities.

By genus, Steiner is referring to race, gender, family lineage, "folk," religion, and nationality. Steiner maintains that people bear "the general characteristics" of the various groups to which belong, and that genus identity can answer the question of why people "appear in the forms" in which they appear. The collective qualities of genus function as a "medium" through which people express their particular being.

On the question of individuality, Steiner argues that the cultivation of intuition (including thinking, matters that are discussed in more detail in earlier chapters) allows a person to break free of the limitations of genus identity (whichever genus identity it happens to be) and to define him or herself as a true individual.

Taking note of the tyranny that social and gender identities can exercise on a person--in particular the case of women, who are constrained by constructed generic expectations--he asserts that "they must be allowed to determine for themselves what is in accordance with their nature (226)."

It is the task of each individual to break through the boundaries of their defining groups, and attain that intuition that enables them to become truly free, and truly unique. In turn, we must learn to understand the individuality of others, and not assess them according to their generic qualities. If we learn to do this, by entering into the individuality of the other, we increase our own ability to break free of the constraints of the generic. As Steiner puts it:

"People who immediately mix their own concepts into every judgment about another person can never arrive at an understanding of individuality (228)."

The degree to which a person can become individuated is, to Steiner, the degree to which he or she can become "a free spirit in the human community," and, by implication, a moral person living ethically for the sake of the human community.

"All moral activity of mankind springs from individual ethical intuitions and from their being taken up into human communities (229)."

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