John's Third Draft of Chapter 1 [2]

Submitted by John Ralph on Thu, 10/28/2010 - 4:35pm.
Chapter 1 [2] third draft [1894 text]  JR Work in Progress @ 20110104
Steiner’s emphasis in itlalics
John’s latest changes in purple

 

Chapter 1 [1894 Chapter 2]
Conscious Human Activity
[reference to the chapter on the activity of thinking]
Conscious Human Action
 
1.0 The Question of Freedom
[1] Is the human being free in thinking and action, or inescapably controlled by natural laws? Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The idea of freedomhas 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 uniformity/universality of natural law breaks down in the field of human action and thinking. One and the same thing is proclaimed to be humanity's most precious possession as often as it is called our most harmful illusion. Endless insignificant 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. Anyone whose character is not utterly superficial will feel 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 of 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 freedom of the human 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)
This book is not quoted here because I consider it to be particularly significant, but because I believe this passage expresses the only view most contemporary thinkers can reach on this question. Everyone who claims to have advanced beyond elementary science seems to know that freedom cannot consist of neutrally choosing, entirely at will, one or the other of two possible actions. There is always, so we are told, a quite specific reason that explains why we carry out one particular action from among several possibilities.
1.2 Freedom of Choice
 [2] This seems obvious. Yet the main attacks of today’s opponents of freedom are only directed against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, whose opinions gain ever wider acceptance, says:
 “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 negative [negated] as much by the internal perception of every one as by the contents of the preceding chapters.” (The Principles of Psychology, 1855)
1.3 Free Necessity of One's Own Nature
Others who refute the concept of free will take the same starting point. 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 complicated theoretical formulations that it is hard to recognize the plain and essential line of thinking. Spinoza writes:
“If something that exists and acts out of the pure necessity of its own nature I call it free; if its existence and activity are determined in an exact and fixed way by something else I call it compelled. 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. So you see 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 the stone necessarily continues to move after the impact of the external cause has ceased. 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. 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 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 he says things of his own free will that, when sober again, he will wish he had not 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 own 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 originator of it. But in so doing they overlook the causes driving them, which they must obey unconditionally. The error in this line of thinking is soon discovered. Spinoza and all who think like him overlook 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 freewhen it desires milk and that a 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 group 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 soldier on the battlefield, a research scientist in the laboratory or a diplomat involved in complex negotiations be rankedin 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 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 compels me in the same sense as the organic process which causes a child to cry for milk.
1.4 Free from External Influences
[6] Eduard von Hartmann asserts in his ‘Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness’ that 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 towards them. But if we take into consideration that different people adopt an idea as a motive of action only if their characteris such that a 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 so arbitrarily, but rather according to our established character; which means that we are anything but free.”
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 Resulting from Conscious Motive
[7] This leads straight to the standpoint from which the topic will be considered here. Can the question of freedom be directed only one-sidedly towards the will? And if not, what other question needs to be brought together with it?
[8] If there is a difference between conscious and unconscious motives of action, then a conscious motive will result in an action that must be judged differently to one that follows blind impulse. Our first question will consider this difference. The result of this line of 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 most has been overlooked: the knowing doer who acts out of knowledge.
1.6 Free When Controlled by Reason
[10] It is claimed 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 exert the same kind of control over a person as animal passions. If a rational decision emerges in me without any effort on my part and with the same urgent need as hunger or thirst then I must obey it and my freedom is an illusion.
1.7 Free to Do as One Wants
[12] Another claim is that freedom does not mean being able to determine what one wants, but being able to do what one wants. This thought has been clearly articulated by poet and philosopher Robert Hamerling:
“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 the capacity to want something without a reason, without a motive? But what does wanting mean other than having reasons for doing or trying to do this rather than that? To want something without a reason, 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 most powerful of its motives. 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.” (Atomistics of the Will)
[13] Here too, only motives in general are discussed without considering a difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me and I am compelled to follow it because it proves to be ‘most powerful’ one, 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 compelled by the motive to do it? The 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 by my character, or the circumstances prevailing in my environment, then I wouldsurely have to be glad if I cannot do what I want.
[14] What matters is not whether I am able to carry out a decision once it is made, but how I arrive at the decision.
1.8 Unconditioned Will
[15] The capacity for rational thinking fundamentally distinguishes human beings from all other living beings. We share the capacity for activity with other organisms. A concept of freedom that applies to the actions of human beings gains nothing from a hunt for analogies in the animal kingdom. Modern natural science loves such analogies. When scientists have successfully identified among animals something similar to human behaviour, they believe they have touched on the most significant question of human science. This standpoint leads to misunderstandings such as this example from Paul Rée, whowrites 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 a stone in motion are external and visible, while the causes that determine a 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. Then an explanation is 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.]” (The Illusion of Free Will)
Here too human actions in which there is consciousness of the motives 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 actions exist – not a donkey's actions, to be sure, but human actions – where a motive that has become conscious stands between us and the action. Rée demonstrates his blindness again, a few pages later:  
“We do not perceive the causes that determine our will, and so we believe it is not causally determined at all.”
[16] But these are examples enough to prove that there are many who know absolutely nothing of the freedom they argue against.
1.9 Thinking about Reasons
[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 we think about its motives first? This leads us to the question of the origin and significance of thinking. Once we know what thinking in general means, it will be easy to see clearly the role that thinking plays in human action. Hegel is right when he says that “it is thinking that turns the soul, which animals also possess, into spirit.” It is also thinking that gives human action its distinguishing signature.
1.10 Motives Shaped by Thinking
[18] There is no intention to imply that all our actions proceed only from calmly reasoned deliberation. I am not suggesting that only actions that follow abstract judgments are, in the highest sense, ‘human’. But the moment our conduct rises beyond the satisfaction of purely animal desires our motives are always shaped by thinking.
Love, compassion, and patriotic loyalty are driving forces for actions that refuse to be dissipated into unemotional conceptual reasoning. It is said that this is where heart-felt sensibility prevails. No doubt. But the heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of actions. Motives are established earlier. Compassion enters my heart only after the awareness[mental impression]of a person arousing compassion appears in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the head.
1.11 Idealistic Mental Impressions
Love is no exception to this. If it is not merely the expression of the raw sexual drive, then it depends on the conscious awareness we form of the loved one. The more these thoughts are idealistic, the more blissful is our love. Even here, thought is the father of feeling.
1.12 TheIdea of Good Qualities/Virtues
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 virtues/good qualities/merits of the loved one. There are many who pass by these virtues without noticing them. One person sees them and just because of this, love inwardly awakens. What has this person done other than become aware [produce a mental impression] of something that hundreds of others have failed to see? Others do not love because they lack that awareness [mental impression].
[19] Whatever approach we choose to take to this subject, it becomes increasingly clear that an investigation into the origin of thinking is necessary before examining the nature of human action. So I will turn to this question now.
 
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