Act I Scene 1 Philosophy of Freedom

The Philosophy of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner
Act 1 Conscious Human Action
Scene 1 Student poses the question of freedom to Dr. Steiner. A discussion ensues with friends; Materialist Scientist, Spiritist Monk, Realist Worker, and Idealist Professor.

Student: Dr. Steiner, I have a question.
Is the human being free, or compelled by natural laws?

Dr. Steiner: Religion believes you can't be held morally responsible unless you have free will.
Science insists the uniformity of natural law is not broken in the area of human action and thought.
Moralists require freedom in able to choose between good or evil.
Scientists deny freedom in order to fit the human being within a lawful universe.
The question of freedom is one of the most important questions for life, religion, conduct and science.

Student: Here is my question about freedom. Yes, I agree Dr. Steiner. It is a very important question. Let me apply my question of freedom to a real situation.
If I arrive at two paths on the road, one to my right and one to my left, am I free to choose between one path or the other?

Materialistic Scientist: The ability to neutrally choose between one or the other of two possible courses of action --without the existence of a determining reason-- is the Freedom of Indifferent Choice.

Student: If freedom is an "undetermined" Choice between two actions, then only random chance qualifies as freedom --like flipping a coin?

Materialistic Scientist:
Let me explain. We live in a lawful universe, all our actions are determined by causes.
The freedom to make an "indifferent" choice --without a cause-- has been recognized as an illusion by science.
So there is no need to go into the question of free will, it just doesn't exist.

Dr. Steiner: It is obvious that our action will be the result of a cause.
But the existence of a cause for an action does not end the free will debate.
How can we approach the question on a deeper level than this?

Spiritist Monk: Introspective observation will tell us more.

Student: Can't we be the "cause" and determine our own action?
Then the reasons for our action would be determined by our own preferences.
This seems to be the most common understanding of Free Choice.

Spiritist Monk: Yes, but introspection reveals that desire underlies our preferences.
Our choices are determined by our desires.
Introspection also reveals that we are not free to desire or not desire, as we please.
Choice, then, is determined by our desire of which we have no control.
We are not free if we are controlled by our desire nature.

Student: Isn't our desire a part of who we are as an individual?
I have a desire to express my own nature, it is an unavoidable need.
I am unique with my own characteristics and qualities that make up my nature.

Dr. Steiner: According to Spinoza, if the necessity to act is solely ours and not created by something else, then it is a "free" necessity.
That would mean freedom is not found in free decision, but rather in free necessity, the Free Necessity Of Our Own Nature.

Student: Yes, freedom is to exist and to act solely out of my own nature and not be compelled by external causes to act in a fixed way.

Realist Worker: But our nature, for the most part, is a creation of external causes.
We are the product of the natural world; genetics and biological urges.
We are also the product of our society; upbringing and social conditions.
Natural urges drive how we react to the external world.
This brings about conflicting passions.
We see what should be done, but are unable to moderate our passions and instead do the worse.

Student: That means hidden causes working deep within our nature control what we think and do.

Dr. Steiner: There are times when human beings may know nothing of the real causes that control them.
But there is a difference when we are conscious of the reasons that motivate us.

Student: Could you give an example of the difference in being conscious of the reasons that motivate us?

Dr. Steiner: The warrior holds his ground on the battlefield regardless of the desire to flee.
The diplomat enters complex negotiations regardless of the desire for revenge.
The research scientist remains factual in the laboratory regardless of the desire for a certain result.

Dr. Steiner: There is a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I do something.

Student: Yet the diplomats of a particular country may all think and act alike.

Idealist Professor: If a group of people all think and act the same, it would indicate they are controlled by outside influences, by their life circumstances.

Student: How can we free ourselves from the influences of the outside world?

Idealist Professor: When given an idea some will act on it while others won't.

Student: Why is this?

Idealist Professor: It is our character that makes us different from others.
An idea is turned into a motive of action only if our character wants it and accepts it.

Student: Our character determines us from within and not from without.
Then we are free, that is, Free From External Influences.

Idealist Professor: Maybe not, because we do not turn ideas into motives arbitrarily, but rather according to the "necessity" of our character.
That is, we are anything but free.

Our character has established tendency's and inclinations that we will likely follow.

Dr. Steiner: Here again, no consideration is given to the difference between motives that I allow to influence me only after I have become fully conscious of them, and those that I follow without having any clear knowledge of them.
Student: This leads to a new question.
What is the significance of knowing the reasons for one’s action?

Dr. Steiner: We will discuss this question next.
I have invited Mathematist, Rationalist Lawyer, Psychologist, and Pneumatist Psychic to join the discussion.

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