Chap.1 Tom's Draft 10-8-2009

Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 10/08/2009 - 8:47pm.

Translation process
First Draft: Tom's draft mainly focused on meaning written for clarity.
Second Draft: John's draft is mainly to work out the phrasing but will also look at meaning.
After others have a chance to comment this draft will go to John as the basis for his draft.
Please add any comments to this draft to improve meaning or phrasing.


Chapter glossary
natural lawfulness
uniformity of natural law
compatible
determinism
characterological disposition
scientific thinking
necessity
Gemut
motive
mental picture
mind
knowing doer: one who acts out of knowledge
conditional causality



Revised October 8, 2009

Conscious Human Action
Chapter 1

1.0 The Question Of Freedom
[1] Is the human being free in thinking and action, or irresistibly compelled by natural lawfulness? Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The idea of free will has found plenty of both enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents. There are those who, with a high moral tone, label as narrow-minded anyone who denies the obvious fact of freedom. Opposed to them are others who consider it the peak of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe that the uniformity of natural law is broken in the field of human action and thought. One and the same thing is just as often proclaimed to be humanity's most precious possession as it is to be its worst illusion. Endless subtle distinctions have been used to explain how human freedom can be compatible with determinism in nature, because the human being is so clearly a part of nature. No less effort has been put into explaining how this delusion has arisen. That we are dealing here with one of the most important questions of life, religion, conduct and science must be obvious to anyone whose character is not totally devoid of depth.

note: natural lawfulness covers more lawful realms than laws of nature.
note: I like the opening sentence meaning but wonder if our goal is to be an "agent".
note: could use a chapter glossary at beginning of chapter. This is a technical reading comprehension point.

1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
A sad indication of the superficiality in contemporary thinking can be found in a book that aims to develop a ‘new faith’ from the results of recent scientific research, and which contains nothing on this question but these words:

“There is no need to go into the question of free will. The supposed freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every reputable philosophy. The determination of moral value in human conduct and character remains untouched by this question.” (David Friedrich Strauss, Old and New Belief)

While I do not consider Strauss’s book as particularly significant, I quote this passage because I believe it expresses the only view that most of our contemporary thinkers are able to reach concerning this question. Everyone who has advanced beyond an elementary education in science seems to know that freedom cannot consist of willfully choosing one or the other of two possible actions. There always exists, so we are told, a quite specific reason to explain why we carry out just one particular action from among several possibilities.

note: Freedom Of Indifferent Choice? I have added the "?" before but dropped it. The topic is "Freedom Of Indifferent Choice"

1.2 Freedom Of Choice
[2] This seems obvious. Yet the main attacks of today’s opponents of freedom are directed entirely against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines are gaining ever wider acceptance, says:

That everyone is at liberty to desire or not to desire, as they please, which is the real proposition concealed in the dogma of free will, is denied as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapters." (The Principles of Psychology)

1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Own Nature
Others start from the same standpoint when fighting the concept of free will. The seeds of all such arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. What he brought forward so clearly and simply against the idea of freedom has since been repeated countless times, usually cloaked in such hairsplitting and theoretical doctrines that the straightforward train of thought, which alone matters, is hard to recognize. Spinoza writes:

”I call free that which exists and acts out of the pure necessity of its nature; I call compelled that existence and activity determined in an exact and fixed way by something else. For example, God is free, although with necessity, because He exists solely out of the necessity of His own nature. In the same way God knows Himself and everything else freely, because it follows solely out of the necessity of His nature that He knows everything. You see, then, that I locate freedom not in a free decision, but in a free necessity.”

[3] ”But let us come down to created things which are all determined by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way. To see this more clearly let us imagine a very simple case. A stone, for example, receives a certain momentum from an external cause that makes contact with it, so that afterward, when the impact of the external cause has ceased, the stone necessarily continues to move. The continued motion of the stone is compelled by the external impact and not by any necessity within the stone’s own nature, because [the continued motion] has to be defined by the thrust of an external cause. What is true here for the stone, is true for everything else, no matter how complex and multifaceted it may be. Everything is determined with necessity by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way.”

[4] ”Now please assume that the stone, while in motion, thinks and knows that it is striving to the best of its ability to continue moving along. This stone is conscious only of its own striving to which it is not at all indifferent, and it will believe that it is absolutely free to continue to move for no other reason than its own will to continue. Yet this is the human freedom that everybody claims to possess, and it consists entirely of the fact that people are conscious only of their desires and ignorant of the causes that determine them. Thus the child believes it freely desires milk; the angry boy believes he freely demands revenge; and the coward believes he freely chooses to run away. A drunk believes that he says things of his own free will that, when sober again, he will wish he hadn’t said; and since this bias is inborn in everybody, it is difficult to free oneself from it. Even though experience teaches us often enough that people can moderate their desires least of all, and that when moved by two opposing passions they see the better and pursue the worse; yet they still consider themselves free because they desire some things less intensely, and there are some desires that can be easily inhibited by preoccupying oneself with memories of something else." (1674, Letter of October or November)

[5] Because this view is so clearly and definitely expressed it is easy to uncover its fundamental error. Human beings are supposedly compelled to carry out an action when driven to it by any cause with the same necessity as a stone that carries out a specific movement after an impact. It is only because human beings are conscious of their action that they regard themselves as the free originator of it. But in so doing they overlook the causes driving them, which they must obey unconditionally. The error in this train of thought is soon discovered. Spinoza and all who think like him are overlooking the fact that human beings can be conscious, not only of their actions, but also of the causes that guide them. Anyone can see that a child is not free when it desires milk, or that the drunk is not free who says things and later regrets it. Neither knows anything of the causes, working deep within their organism, that exercise an irresistible control over them. But is it right to lump such actions together with those of human beings who are conscious, not only of their actions, but also of the causes of their actions? Are the actions of human beings really all of one kind? Should the acts of a warrior on the battlefield, a research scientist in the laboratory or a diplomat involved in complex negotiations be placed in the same scientific category as those of a child who desires milk? It is no doubt  best to seek the solution of a problem where the conditions are simplest. But the lack of ability to see distinctions has often caused endless confusion. There is certainly a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. At first sight this seems to be an entirely obvious truth. Yet the opponents of freedom never ask themselves whether a motive of action that I recognize and understand is to be designated as a compulsion for me in the same sense as the organic process which causes the child to cry for milk.

1.4 Free From External Influences
[6] Eduard von Hartman asserts in his Phenomenology of Moral Conscious that the human will depends on two main factors: motives and character. If we look upon people as all alike, or at least having negligible differences, then their will appears to be determined from outside by the circumstances that come to meet them. But if we keep in mind that different people let an idea become a motive of action only if their character is such that the particular idea arouses a desire in them, then the human being appears to be determined from within and not from outside. But because an idea, given to us from outside, must first be adopted as a motive according to our character, we believe that we are free and independent of external influences. However, according to Eduard von Hartmann the truth is that,

“Even though we must first adopt an idea as a motive ourselves, we do not do this arbitrarily, but rather according to the necessity of our characterological disposition; which means that we are anything but free.”

Here again, the difference between those motives that I allow to influence me only after I have consciously made them my own, and those that I follow without having any clear knowledge of them, is absolutely ignored.

note: I wonder is we can get away with using the word idea rather than "mental picture" in section 1.5. The same Vorstellung will need to be mental picture later.

1.5 Action Result Of Conscious Motive
[7] This leads straight to the standpoint from which the subject will be considered here. Can the question of free will be posed narrowly by itself? And if not, what other question needs to be connected to it?

[8] If there is a difference between a conscious and an unconscious motive of action, then the conscious motive will result in an action that must be judged differently than one done out of blind impulse. Our first question will consider this difference. The results of this inquiry will then determine the approach we need to take toward the question of freedom itself.

[9] What does it mean to have knowledge of the motives of one's actions? Too little attention has been given to this question because unfortunately we have always torn in two the indivisible whole that is the human being. The doer has been separated from the knower, while the one who matters the most has been overlooked: the knowing doer.

note: "knowing doer" sticks with you.

1.6 Free When Controlled By Reason
[10] It is said that human beings are free when they are controlled only by their reason and not by animal passions. In other words, freedom means being able to determine one’s life and action according to purposeful aims and deliberate decisions.

[11] Nothing is gained by such claims. For the question is just whether reason, purpose and decisions exercise the same kind of compulsion over a person as animal passions. If, without any effort on my part, a rational decision emerges in me with the same urgent need as when hunger and thirst happen to me, then I must obey it and my freedom is an illusion.

note: I read that being in "control" is very important to people.

1.7 Free To Do As One Wants
[12] Another expression is: To be free does not mean being able to determine what one wants, but being able to do what one wants. This thought has been very clearly expressed by poet and philosopher Robert Hamerling in his Atomistics of the Will:

”The human being can certainly do what he wants, but he cannot determine what he wants, because his will is determined by motives! He cannot determine what he wants? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they make any sense? Is free will, then, being able to want something without having grounds, without a motive? But what does wanting mean other than having grounds for doing or trying to do this rather than that? To want something without grounds, without a motive, would be to want something without wanting it. The concept of wanting is inseparable from the concept of motive. Without a determining motive the will is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real. Therefore, it is entirely correct that the human will is not ‘free’ to the extent that its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But, in contrast to this ‘unfreedom’, it is absurd to speak of a possible "freedom" of the will that amounts to having the ability to want what one does not want.”

note: do we really need page numbers to these old books?

[13] Here too, only motives in general are discussed without considering the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act on it because it proves to be the “strongest” of its kind, then the idea of freedom ceases to have any meaning. Why should it matter to me whether I can do something or not if I am forced by the motive to do it? The primary question is not whether I can or cannot do something after the motive has influenced me, but whether any motives exist other than those that compel me with absolute necessity. If I must want something, then I may be completely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. If a motive is forced upon me because of my character or the circumstances prevailing in my environment, and which I think is unreasonable, then I would have to be glad if I could not do what I want.

[14] The question is not whether I am able to carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.

note: for some translators everything is arising.

Note: I did a study of the use of (cause, reason, motive, grounds) for action, and decided that Hoernle maintains these distinctions in the best way.

1.8 Unconditioned Will
[15] Rational thinking fundamentally distinguishes human beings from all other living beings. Activity we have in common with other organisms. Nothing is gained by seeking analogies in the animal kingdom to clarify a concept of freedom that applies to the actions of human beings. Modern natural science loves such analogies. When scientists have succeeded in finding something similar to human behaviour among animals, they believe that they have touched on the most significant question of the science of humanity. An example of the misunderstandings to which this view leads is seen in Paul Rée’s book The Illusion of Free Will, which says the following about freedom:

“It is easy to explain why the movement of a stone appears to come about by necessity, while the will of a donkey does not. The causes that set the stone in motion are external and visible, while the causes that determine the donkey's will are internal and invisible. Between us and the place of their activity is the skull of the donkey.….. The conditional causality is not seen so it is thought to not exist. An explanation is then given that the will, while it is the cause of the donkey’s turning around, is itself unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning (a first cause and not a link in a chain of events). But a presumption of this kind is contradicted by experience and the universal validity of the law of causality… Let us now leave the animal kingdom and proceed to consider the human being. Everything is the same here.”

note: I looked up this quote and added more of Ree's sentences because the freedom involved was unclear.

Here too, human actions in which there is a consciousness of the motives are simply ignored, for Rée declares, “Between us and the place of their activity is the skull of the donkey.” These words show that Rée has no clue that there are actions ---not a donkey's actions, to be sure, but human actions--- where a motive that has become conscious lies between us and the action. Rée demonstrates his blindness again, a few pages later, with the words:

”We do not perceive the causes that determine our will, and so we believe it is not casually determined at all.”

[16] But enough of examples proving that many argue against freedom without knowing at all what freedom is.

1.9 Knowledge Of The Motive
[17] It is obvious that an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. But what about the freedom of an action when the motives are known? This leads us to the question of the origin and significance of thinking. For without knowledge of the thinking activity of the mind, it is impossible to form a concept of what it means to know something, including what it means to have knowledge of an action. When we understand what thinking in general means, it will be easy to clearly see the role that thinking plays in human action. Hegel is right when he says that ”it is only thinking that turns the soul, which animals also possess, into spirit.” It will also be thinking that gives human action its distinguishing features.

1.10 Action Springs From The Heart
This certainly does not mean that all our actions flow only from the sober deliberations of our reason. Those actions that follow from abstract judgment alone are far from being the only ones that can be called human in its highest sense. But the moment our conduct lifts itself above the satisfying of purely animal desires, our motives are always shaped by  thoughts. Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for actions that do not let themselves be reduced to cold concepts of the understanding. It can be said that here is where heart-felt sensibility comes into its own. Of this there can be no doubt. But the heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of action. The motives are already established before being received into the heart’s domain. Compassion enters my heart only after the mental image of a person who arouses compassion appears in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the head.

1.11 Love Of Another
Love is no exception to this. If it is not merely the expression of the sexual drive, then it depends on the mental pictures we form of the loved one. The more idealistic are these mental pictures, the more blissful is our love. Even here, thought is the father of feeling.

1.12 Seeing Good Qualities
It is said that love makes us blind to the flaws of the loved one. But we can turn this around and say that love opens our eyes to the good qualities of the loved one. Many pass by without noticing these good qualities. One person sees them, and just because of this, love awakens within. What has this person done other than make a mental picture of something that hundreds of others have failed to see? Others do not love because they lack the mental picture.

From whatever point we consider the subject, it becomes ever clearer that an investigation into the origin of thought is required before questioning the nature of human action. Therefore I will now turn to this question.

note: "Seeing Good Qualities"  seeing, eyes,  relates to sensationalism.