chp 1 Tom's comments to John's revised second draft

Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 10/29/2009 - 4:11pm.

note: I was going to post this in a comment to John's journal but thought it wouldn't be noticed. We will need to find an order to this.

Tom's comments in red.
John purple.

Chapter 1: Conscious Human Action

The Question of Freedom
Beginner pointed out at the end of this comment that Steiner's usage of Wesen included "essence".
Is the human being a spiritually free essence in thought and action, or inescapably controlled by natural laws? I like this as the thought "free spiritual essence" is very lofty and is a great contrast to being controlled, but this debate doesn't seem to exist. Who is claiming to be a pure spiritual essence? Wesen as essence may apply elsewhere. Spiritual being seems to relate to the phony spiritualists while essence is something loftier. Only a pure spiritual (non-material) essence could escape control by natural law.

Is the human being a nonmaterial free essence in thought and action, or inescapably controlled by natural laws? This form seems to fit today's science debate, discussing the existence of something nonmaterial but not going as far as all the speculative spiritual nut cakes.

[1] Is the human being a free individual in thought and action, or inescapably controlled by natural laws?
Chapter 14
Is free individuality possible at all or are we controlled by groups?
The use of individual here is a creative solution to our problem. But it raises an issue about the difference between Part I Theory of Freedom and Part II Reality of Freedom. Chapter 1 and Chapter 14 show this relationship. Chapter 14 discusses the free individual (reality of freedom) while Chapter 1 discusses the spiritually/intellectually free being.

But we will want to bring back Steiner's original opening to POF, which preceds chapter 1 and begins:
I believe I am indicating correctly one of the fundamental characteristics of our age when I say that, at the present day, all human interests tend to center on human individuality. An energetic effort is being made to shake off every kind of authority. Nothing is accepted as valid, unless it springs from the roots of individuality. Everything which hinders the individual in the full development of his or her powers is thrust aside. So in this spirit "individual" would fit in the opening question. This brings the opening POF question alittle more down to earth which may be part of what we are trying to do to fit our times better.

Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The idea of free will ["The idea of freedom of the human will
"...correct German that helps distinguish our initial look for freedom in the "will"]  has found both enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in abundance. Some, with a high moral tone, label as narrow-minded anyone who denies the obvious fact of freedom. Others who oppose them consider that it is the peak of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe that the uniform continuity of natural law is broken in the field of human action and thought. One and the same thing is proclaimed to be humanity's most precious possession as often as it is called 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. It must be obvious to anyone who is not wholly superficial in character that we are dealing here with one of the most important questions of life, religion, conduct and science.


1.1 Freedom of Indifferent Choice
A sad indication of the superficiality in contemporary thinking of contempory thinking [it is the thinking activity that is superficial] 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. ...into the question of the freedom of human will. 
..correct German that helps distinguish our initial look for freedom in the "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)

I do not quote this book because I consider it to be particularly significant, but I believe this passage expresses the only view that most contemporary thinkers can reach on this question. Everyone who claims to have [this is in the German and expresses the rebel] advanced beyond elementary science classes seems to know that
free will freedom [freiheit: why change this to free will?] cannot consist of indifferently choosing one or the other of two possible actions. ...cannot consist of choosing, entirely at will, one or the other of two possible actions.

"Everyone who claims to have advanced beyond elementary science classes seems to know that freedom cannot consist of choosing, entirely at will, one or the other of two possible actions."
[in other words freedom is not found in literal "free will"]

using "indifferently" here is to remove meaning from the text
(ganz nach Belieben), which may be removing a key to understanding this section.
ganz: wholly, entirely
nach Belieben: at one’s pleasure, at will, just as you like, as you wish, like you want, at one’s discretion, at one’s leisure
We have a choice between:
1. choosing at will
2. choosing as you want

The freedom in 1.1 is making a choice without having a reason, so it is not
"choosing as you want" because then your desire would be the reason for your choice.

Strauss presents freedom as literally "free will", a will that is free to choose without being controlled by any reason; indifferent choice. A choice without a reason would consist of just willing and action. It would be "entirely at will". Steiner agrees that a reason exists. Then the discussion continues by examining several possible reasons for action.


There is always, so we are told, a quite specific reason to explain why we carry out one particular action from among several possibilities.

1.2 Freedom of Choice
[2] This seems absolutely obvious. [You added a word for effect? I think it goes to far] Yet the main attacks of today’s opponents of freedom are directed entirely only [because we use "entirely" in the previous sentence must it be replaced here?] against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines views [I liked doctrines for other reasons but the correct translation seems far from this, "lives in views".]   are gaining ever wider acceptance, says:

“That everyone is at liberty to desire or not, as they will/ as they choose/arbitrarily, [thi
s continues the free will discussion, the freedom to "will" what we desire or not] which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of freewill, is refuted by everyone's own introspective observation as much as by the contents of the preceding chapters.” [*] (The Principles of Psychology, 1855)

[* Herbert’s original: That every one is at liberty to desire or not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of free-will, is negatived as much by the internal perception of every one as by the contents of the preceding chapters.”]

Do you want to include cross-referencing such as 12.11 [18] here?] No,.. there are really cross-references for lots of POF, though not this specific.

1.3 Free Necessity of One's Own Nature
Others who refute/dispute the concept of freewill start from the same standpoint. [refute links with previous section better. Refute is combative but not something you experience in the external world where you "fight" and have "combat", like "train of thought" "hair-splitting" "cloaked" "seeds" ]

the concept of freewill free will [we are making a distinction between freedom and will so two words seem better.] 

The seeds of all such arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. What he brought forward against the idea of freedom so clearly and simply has since been repeated countless times, usually cloaked in such hair-splitting and theoretical doctrines that it is hard to recognize his crucial
train of thought. is hard to recognize the simple train of thought which is what really matters. [with "crucial" alone we miss the lesson about simple course of thought being what matters].. Spinoza writes:

Tom: We are in Realism (external world) so you find words like combat/fighting
[Refuting means to overthrow or overturn the argument of another. It is totally combative.    Disputing is also possible, even contesting. Stylistically fighting is too immature here – it sounds too much like an unruly rabble. ]

“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 afterwards, 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 continuing 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 moving 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 infant 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 becoming preoccupied with memories of something else.” (Letter of October or November, 1674)

[5] Because this view is so clearly and precisely 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 initiator 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 baby child  is not free when it desires milk and that the drunk is not free who says things he later regrets. 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 actions 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 an infant child who desires milk? It is no doubt best to seek the solution of a problem where the conditions are simplest. But the inability 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 infant child to cry for milk. German Kind: usually means "child". Doesn't infant and baby make the contrast with mature adults too great so not as effective?

1.4 Free from External Influences
[6] Eduard von Hartmann asserts in his Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness that the human will depends on two main factors: motives and character. If we see 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 bear in mind But if we take into consideration that different people allow [I don't see any grounds to use "allow". German: machen is "make". other translators use make or adopt.]

allow: to let happen
adopt: to take in and make one's own [this says it best]
make: bring about

But if we take into consideration that different people adopt an idea as a motive of action only if their character is such that a particular idea arouses a desire in them,...

an idea
/ a mental image to become a motive of action only if their character is such that a particular idea arouses / permits [do we permit an idea to arouse feelings which implys we permit feelings, -feelings happen- this is confusing] a particular idea to arouse 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 / the disposition/inclinations of our character; which means that we are anything but free.”

"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 character [characterological disposition], which means we are anything but free.”

could we use both? in chp 9 the characterological disposition is clearly explained but in 1.4 people wouldn't know what it means, but for reference it should be named.

Hartman says the will depends on motive and character.
can merely an "inclination" be considered a necessity?
characterological disposition decribes the entity that controls us as a "necessity".

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


1.5 Action [Result of / Resulting from] Conscious Motive,  Action Resulting From Conscious Motive
[Meaning? ‘action result of’ is meaningless! ‘Action as a Result of conscious motive’???]

[7] This leads straight to the standpoint from which the subject will be considered here. Is the question of freedom exclusively a question of the will? And if not, what other question needs to be linked to it?
Can the question of the freedom of our will be asked exclusively by itself, in a one-sided way? And if not, what other question needs to be linked to it?

Can the question of the freedom of our will..[I wanted to condense the German
"question of the freedom of the will" down to " question of free will" but think the long version helps to make the distinction between freedom and will.

einseitig: one-sided, unilateral, lopsided,
narrow- mindedness or one-sidedness is a major theme in the book and I think should be mentioned rather than implyed.

[The first question here is a critical turning point so deserves very careful wording.
Frage nach der Freiheit unseres Willens überhaupt einseitig für sich gestellt werden?

Can the question of free will be posed narrowly by itself?
Can the question of free will be posed on its own without being merely one-sided?
Can the question of freedom be directed exclusively to the will?
Can the question of freedom be directed exclusively to the will?]

[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 those from blind inpulse. from one done from/ made 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 the indivisible whole that is the human being has always been torn in two. The doer has been separated from the knower, while the one who matters the most has been overlooked: the knowing doer who acts out of known motives. ...the knowing doer who acts out of knowledge.
I think the meaning has expanded from knowledge of motives to knowledge in general, a transition sentence between section 1.5 and 1.6.

note: "knowing doer" sticks with you. [OK]

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 actions according to purposeful aims and deliberate decisions.

[11] Nothing is gained by such assertions. For the question is whether reason, purpose and decisions merely exercise the same kind of control 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 the onset of hunger and thirst, then I must obey it and my freedom is an illusion.


1.7 Free to Do as One Wants
[12] Another claim is made that freedom 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.”


[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 a motive has influenced me, but whether any motives exist other than those that control 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 that I think is unreasonable is forced upon me because of my character, or the circumstances prevailing in my environment, then I will have to be glad if I cannot do what I want.

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

[the discussion is about a decision, carrying it out and making it within.]
....but 'how I come to make the decision' ---google found 1.
    but 'how the decision arises' within me. --google 2
   but 'how the decision emerges' within me. --google 5
....but 'how the decision comes about' within me. ---google found phrase 22,300
....but how the decision is made within me.

originates, comes into being, emerge, arise, occur
originate: come into being [sounds like something original]
emerge: come out from concealment, come into existence [sounds like it already exists then emerges]
established: brought about or set up or accepted; especially long established [sounds like tradition]

[Noted. Emergence is a very new scientific study. Emerging means coming into being in this context. Therefore comes about, arises, is made are all applicable options here. In this PSYCHISM instance, is made echoes the made earlier in the paragraph, but is established reads better here.]

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 successfully identified a similarity isn't "something similar" more common and clear?  to human behaviour among animals, they believe they have touched on the most significant question of the science of humanity.

opinion: a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty

There is an example
[this sounds too casual] of the misunderstandings resulting from this view opinion   [a misunderstanding can not result from just holding a view, it involves other things] in Paul Rée’s book The Illusion of Free Will, which says the following about freedom:

An example of the misunderstandings this opinion leads to is shown in Paul Rée’s book The Illusion of Free Will, which says the following about freedom:

the opinion leads to misunderstanding

“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 be nonexistent. An explanation is then given that the will, which 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 leave the animal kingdom now and proceed to consider the human being. Everything is the same here.”] This has already been said above.

Here too human actions in which there is consciousness of their the motives ["their" motives isn't used like this in referring to action-motive] are simply ignored, for Rée declares that “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 these words:   

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

Doch genug der Beispiele, welche beweisen, daß viele gegen die Freiheit kämpfen, ohne zu wissen, was Freiheit überhaupt (at all) ist. computer: But enough of examples which prove that many argue against freedom, without knowing what freedom is. ...Yet enough of the examples which prove that many fight against the freedom, without knowing, what freedom is at all.

[16] Enough! These examples are ample proof that many know absolutely nothing about the freedom that their arguments dismiss. [this is too explosive]
But enough of examples proving that many fight against freedom while knowing absolutely nothing of 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 its 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 anything, including what it means to have knowledge of an action. When we fully understand/ realize[erkennen] what thinking in general means it will be easy to see clearly  the role thinking plays in human action.

When we realize the general meaning of thinking
it will be easy to see clearly the role thinking plays in human action.

Thinking "in general" would be described throughout chapter 3.
3-2 I am conscious, in the most certain way, that the concept of a thing is formed by my activity,

We can't work from some grand definition of special Steiner words to determine all usage, though this is a consideration, because the average reader won't know what we mean. This is how Poppelbaum and his "Steinerism" messed up the translation. We want to convey the truth of POF, not someones idea of what is Steiner's view (which he perhaps developed later to help his submissive followers the theosophists have a clue) or the German view.

POF is a complete structure of thought (a product independent thinking) so we should find its word definitions within itself. Referring to Steiner's later mission work for others needs to be done very cautiously as skeptics rather than followers.

Hegel is right when he says that “only thinking turns the soul, which animals also possess, into spirit.” It will also be thinking that gives human action its distinguishing features.

[erkennen does not mean understand. This distinction may seem obscure and unnecessary to the English reader, but it is significant to the German reader therefore to the author.]

1.10 Action Springs from the Heart
I certainly do not intend to imply that all our actions flow only from the sober deliberations of our reason. Actions that follow from abstract judgment alone are far from being the only actions that I would call human in its highest sense. But the moment our conduct lifts itself above the satisfaction of purely animal desires, our motives are always shaped by thoughts.

Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for actions that cannot be reduced to cold concepts of the understanding. [yes they can be reduced to cold concepts]
Liebe, Mitleid, Patriotismus sind Triebfedern des Handelns, die sich nicht in kalte Verstandesbegriffe auflösen lassen.

[This is dynamism so we are dealing with forces that "do not let"]
Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for actions that do not let themselves (Lin) be reduced to cold concepts of the understanding.

Man sagt: das Herz, das Gemüt treten da in ihre Rechte (rights).
comes into its rights
steps there into its rights

It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility comes into its own.
It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility holds sway.
hold sway: To have a controlling influence; dominate.

It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility comes into its own.
It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility
has its influence.

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 taken up in the realm of the heart. Compassion enters my heart only after the mental image of a person arousing compassion appears in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the head.

German: Vorstellung image is a more vague term
– but everyone understands it! Picture limits Vorstellung because it cuts out all the other phenomenal sensations that we can hold in the mind, e.g. a song. So does image but not so severely. Steiner did not mean just pictorial mental appearances so image remains preferable as a compromise. Anything to avoid mental representation!
Vorstellung: idea, perception, conception, imagination, performance, show, belief
Most English readers will not have realised (erkennen!) how rich the German concept of Vorstellung really is. I hope that we are able to exorcise this ghost in our translation. What Lipson has done is his own incursion into the issue of untranslatability. He are not bound to follow his lead here, especially if we can bring out Steiner’s actual meaning, which I suggest has not yet been discovered by English readers. One native German speaker told me “it’s what you imagine. It is your imagination.” Obviously, in English my imagination of New York may simply be fantasy. The ambiguity is clear, but this ambiguity also lies at the heart of Steiner’s argument for the reality of thinking. This mental picture business has led English readers down a long and winding side-track as I have painfully experienced in my first encounters with PoF. As a non-pictorial thinker by nature, it was years before I woke up to this. So I know I have a bias on this one.
As far as meaning goes, mental picture is an impoverished compromise, no matter how neat it looks in an English translation. I do not have a definitive English equivalent to offer for Vorstellung. The nearest remains imagination.
Shall we open a Journal on Vorstellung so early? I noticed that it was too early to make progress in the Journal about Erkennen so I am hesitating and just making a note here.
I suggest we leave it open for now and see how our own thinking develops later. It does not seem necessary to get stuck here. Later chapters will help us.]

1.11 Love of Another / Love as Motive
Love is no exception to this. If it is not merely the expression of the sexual drive, then it depends on the mental images 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.

[Is this section the tap root of Steiner’s assertions later in Chapter 9? If not then we leave out the word motive. If it is then it is a good signpost.]

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 image of something that hundreds of others have failed to see? Others do not love because they lack the mental image.

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

[this version has the confidence and light humor without using "want" --a word with issues]
We can consider the subject from whatever point we like,
it only becomes ever clearer that an investigation into the origin of thought is required before questioning the nature of human action.

He just presented 12 views on the topic and you could say he feels confident he has made his case taking on all comers.

[Sensational phenomena of the seeing mind?]
[‘From whatever point we want’ has got to be a wee joke on those who do not believe we have the liberty to want as we like. I think it should stay. Those who dropped it were not laughing...]


======== end of Chapter 1 =========