Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 2 Desire For Knowledge


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RUDOLF STEINER FOR ALL
Summary of Chapter 2, Desire For Knowledge, of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom discussing the pursuit of knowledge.

2-0 Desire For Knowledge
2.1 Materialism
2.2 Spiritualism
2.3 Realism
2.4 Idealism
2.5 Materialistic Idealism
2.6 Indivisible Unity
2.7 Contrast Self With World
2.8 Nature Within
2.9 Knowing Nature Within
2.10 Something More Than 'I'
2.11 Description Of Consciousness
2.12 Facts Without Interpretation

2-0 Desire For Knowledge
Why are we always searching for what we call the explanation of the facts?
What drives us to search for knowledge?
As children we saw only the sense perceptible aspects of the whole.
We easily and naturally absorbed the surrounding environment through our senses.
We felt ourselves to be one with nature.
Thought, however, is an integral part of the full reality.
So we can say the child has access to only half of what the world consists of.
Only later, when we have grown up sufficiently to develop thoughts, do we have access to the thought aspect of reality.
But then the mental process splits our world into two halves: the outer perceived-world and our inner thought-world.
We become conscious of contrasting with the world.
Now the universe appears to us as two opposing sides: Self and World.
Our childhood unity is lost and we experience a gulf between us and the world.
We now confront the world as individuals separate from the world.
But we never lose the feeling that we belong to the world, that the universe is a unity embracing both self and world.
This feeling makes us strive to bridge the separation.
The history of our spiritual and intellectual life is a continuing search for the unity between ourselves and the world.
Religion, art and science all pursue this same goal.
The religious believer is dissatisfied with the world of mere phenomena.
He seeks the solution to the mysteries of the world that his self presents him with by accepting the revelations granted by God.
But blind faith in a religion of revelation leads to a dogma of revelation.
Then knowledge cannot be gained, only faith in some one or some thing.
The artist seeks to incorporate the ideas of his self into his material to reconcile what lives within him with the outer world.
He also feels dissatisfied with the world as it appears and seeks to mold into it that something more that his self, transcending the world of phenomena, contains.
The artist, using feeling and sensitivity to create, may become absorbed in activity without worrying about the causes that drive it.
Without thinking the artist cannot know the scope and justification of his work.
The thinker seeks the laws of phenomena, striving to penetrate with thinking what he experiences through observation.
He may believe that one should stick merely to pure experience and only observe, describe, and systematically order.
This leads to a dogma of experience that cannot discover important factors that are not yet given within direct experience.
Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content do we restore the unity to the world lost for us during childhood.
Thoughts are not just in our heads.
They are an integral part of everything.
I first grasp the thought that corresponds to the thing in all its clarity.
And then ask: How does this thought connect within the wholeness of my thought world?
My need for knowledge is only satisfied when I incorporate this thought into the harmony of my whole world of thought.
The relationship I have described here between the self and the world is found historically in two contrasting world conceptions; the one-world theory called Monism, and the two-world theory of Dualism.
Dualism directs its attention on the separation between the self and the world brought about by human consciousness.
All its efforts are an ineffectual struggle to reconcile opposing polarities, which dualism may call mind and matter, or subject and object or thought and phenomenon.
The dualist feels that there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but is incapable of finding it.
Monism directs its attention only to the unity and tries either to deny or blur any differences actually present.
Monists have tried to solve the problem in three different ways.
Some monists deny mind and become materialists.
Others deny matter, seeking salvation as spiritualists; yet others claim that mind and matter are indivisibly united, even in the simplest substance.
Neither monism or dualism can satisfy our desire for knowledge, because they do not do justice to the facts.
We will see later that a deepening of the powers of intuition is required if we are to gain insight into the innermost core of the world.
Lets examine in more detail the way that several world conceptions try to reconcile our inner thought-world with the outer perceived-world.

2-1 Materialism
Materialism directs its attention on the physical world.
It is self-refuting because it takes its start from “thoughts” about the physical world.
In doing so, the materialist sets up two different sets of facts: his thoughts about the physical world and the physical world itself.
The one-sided materialist has to explain thoughts as purely physical processes.
His belief is that thinking takes place in the brain, much like digesting takes place in our metabolic organs.
He credits matter, under certain conditions, with the capacity to think; but he can’t say how.
This shifts the fundamental riddle of thinking from being a precisely focused subject, his own thinking self, to being something somehow placed out in the physical world.
Materialism moves away from the study of actual thinking to something vague and complex located in the brain.
The materialistic view cannot solve the problem; it can only shift it to another place where it cannot even be addressed.

2-2 Spiritualism
What about Spiritualistic theory?
The one-sided spiritualist denies that matter (the world) has any independent existence and regards it as merely a product of mind (the self).
He imagines the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by mind out of itself.
The spiritual theory he works out for himself never contains the sense world.
It is as if he has to admit that the world remains closed to him unless he puts himself into
an unspiritual relationship to the world.
This world view finds itself in difficulties as soon as it tries to explain how any specific worldly phenomenon can be derived from mind.

2-3 Realism
The realist looks outward at the world and draws on this experience to really know the external world.
To the one-sided realist, without experience mind is without content.
Similarly, when something needs to be done, we have to translate our mind’s intentions into realities with the help of physical things and forces.
In other words, we are utterly dependent on an external world.

2-4 Idealism
The Idealist attempts to derive the whole world structure from the "Ego".
When he reflects upon the ego, he perceives it working in the conceptual elaboration of the world of ideas.
From this a magnificent, but abstract thought-picture of the world can be accomplished, though one that lacks any content of experience.
The one-sided idealist becomes imprisoned within his own thought activity.

2-5 Materialistic Idealism
Materialistic Idealism is a curious variation of idealism.
The materialists are considered right to declare that all phenomena, including our thoughts, are the product of purely material processes, yet paradoxically, matter and its processes are themselves a product of our thoughts.
How is this?
The senses give us only the effects of things, not the things themselves.
But among their effects we must include the brain itself.
In other words, our thinking is produced by the brain, and the brain is produced by our thinking.
This view is reminiscent of the brave Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up freely in the air by his own pigtail.

2-6 Indivisible Unity
The third form of monism sees an ultimate indivisible unit of matter as the primary building block of reality.
All observable changes can be reduced to changes in the configuration of these primary particles that constitute matter.
But nothing is gained here, for this merely transfers the chasm between the self and the world from being an issue of human consciousness to being a property of a basic substance.
Besides, if each simple substance were an indivisible unity, how could it manifest itself in two different ways; as thought and in the phenomena of the external world?

2-7 Contrast Self With World
Within all these points of view, we must emphasize the fact that we first encounter the basic and original polarity in our own consciousness.
The primal split is a result of human consciousness --and nothing else.
We are the ones who detach ourselves from nature and contrast ourselves with the world as self.

The poet Goethe expressed this in his essay “Nature”.
"Living in the midst of her (Nature) we are strangers to her.
She speaks to us ceaselessly, yet tells us none of her secrets."
But Goethe also knew the other side:
"Human beings are all within her and she is within all human beings."

2-8 Nature Within
The clue to the solution is found in our sense that we belong to the world.
It is true that we have estranged ourselves from the outer world of nature; yet at the same time we feel we are within nature and belong to her.
This must indicate something within us that is also a part of nature.
While I am seeing nature outside of me, it can only be something more of nature within me that is itself pressing toward manifestation.

2-9 Knowing Nature Within
How do we find the way back to nature again?
We must seek out this essence of nature within us, and then we will discover our connection with it again.
Dualism fails to do this.
It considers the human mind to be a non-material spirit totally alien to nature, and then tries to hitch it up somehow to nature.
No wonder that a connecting link cannot be found.
We can only find nature outside us after we first know it within us.
What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide.
This maps out our path of inquiry.

2-10 Something More Than ‘I’
The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem.
By penetrating to the depth of our own being an element is discovered which reveals itself to us as belonging not only to the self but also to the world.
Then we can say: Here we are no longer merely 'I', here is something that is more than 'I'.

2.11 Description Of Consciousness
I am aware that my remarks do not conform to 'the present state of science'.
I can only reply that, so far, I have not been concerned with scientific results, but rather with a simple description of what we all experience in our own consciousness.
While modern science ventures to know nature merely through manmade instruments, what cannot manifest itself to instruments can manifest itself within a human being.

2.12 Facts Without Interpretation
Up to this point it has only been a matter here of recording the facts of everyday experience.
The ordinary consciousness is unaware of the sharp distinctions made by science, such as the results derived from the technology of cognitive neuroscience.
The concern of this video is not how science has interpreted consciousness, but rather the way we experience it though our own introspective observation.