Cnapter 00 The Aims of All Knowledge Second Draft

Submitted by John Ralph on Sun, 03/06/2011 - 12:57pm.

1894 Edition: Chapter 1 JR Work in Progress @ 20110307

[The author draws some general insights from observations of his contemporary society, and declares the aim of this book. The common goal of the specialised sciences is linked to solving the question of human freedom in the art of philosophy.]
 
There are no such things as applied sciences, only applications of science.
- Louis Pasteur
 
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Chapter 00
The Aims of All Knowledge
What are the ultimate goals of knowledge?
 
A Characteristic of Our Time
[1] I find that people’s personal interests are a sure indicator of one of the defining characteristics of our age, and I would say that today these mostly revolve around the veneration of human individualisation. Strenuous efforts are made to shake off any kind of authority. Authentic individuality has become the only worthwhile basis for just about everything. Whatever stands in the way of personal self-realization is brushed aside. The days are gone when “each one must choose a hero, in whose footsteps to struggle up Mount Olympus”. No personal ideals can be imposed on anyone else; we are convinced that something noble and worth developing lives in each one of us, if we dig deeply enough into the very foundations of our being,. We no longer believe that everyone should measure their achievements against a single human standard. For us, the perfection of the whole depends on the unique perfection of each individual. Rather than achieve what can just as well be done by anyone else, we want our contribution to world development, however small, to be determined entirely by our own uniqueness. Artists have never been less concerned about rules and conventions in art than they are today. Each one asserts the right to express their own unique creativity. Some dramatists even write in regional slang, rather than conform to standardised pronunciation and grammar. [Translator’s Note: there is a much wider variation in vocabulary and usage in German regional dialects than, for example, British and American English.]
 
Individual Certainty
 [2] All this stems from an overriding passion for greater individual freedom; I cannot find a better way of expressing what these observations reveal. None of us like to be a dependent; we will only endure any kind of dependency, if we must, as long as it remains consistent with our individual interests.
 
[3] Such an age as ours can only search for truth in the depths of our own human nature. The second of Schiller’s two seminal paths suits us very well today:
 
We both look for the truth, you out in life, I inwardly
In human hearts; each of us certainly will find it.
 
If the eye is healthy, it will chance on the Creator outwardly;
If so the heart, it will reflect the world within with certainty.
 
Truth that comes to us from the outside is always etched with uncertainty. We prefer to trust what appears to be true within ourselves.
 
 
[4] The effective development of our individual forces requires a certainty that can only come from truth. When we are tortured by doubts, our forces are paralysed. We cannot find a clear purpose for our creative work in a world that only confuses us.
 
[5] We no longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief requires us to accept truths that we do not quite understand. Because we want to experience everything in the depths of our own individuality, we reject what does not fit into our own understanding. We gain no satisfaction from knowledge dictated by external standards; only what arises meaningfully from our personal inner activity satisfies us.
 
A Democracy of Personal Opinions
[6] We do not want bulky compilations of frozen knowledge that has been codified and sanctioned for all and eternity. If we are to scale the heights of the universe, we insist on the right to begin from our own first-hand experiences. So that we can be certain of what we know, we each prefer to make our own way.
 
 [7] Scientific theory should no longer be dictated to us, as if to compel our unconditional acceptance. Nobody would title a scientific paper as Fichte once did: ‘The Reality of the Latest Philosophy Made Plain as Day for the General Public – An Attempt to Force the Reader to Agree’. Nobody should be forced to agree. An individually considered personal opinion is the most acknowledgement to be expected today. We do not like to cram accepted knowledge into our children before they have reached maturity; nowadays we prefer to develop each child’s own talents, so that there will be no need to force them to accept it, as they will want to accept it.
 
A Path to Truth
[8] I hold no illusions about the character of my age. I recognise how often individuality becomes lost in increasingly widespread clichéd stereotypes. But I know equally well that many of my contemporaries are seeking to establish a meaningful direction to their lives along the lines I have suggested here. It is to these individuals that I would like to dedicate this book. You will not be led along the ‘only’ viable path to truth; one who is committed to the truth will describe to you the path he chose to take.
 
 [9] At first the text will guide the reader through quite abstract concepts, where boundary lines must be clearly mapped out in thought, to arrive at positions of certainty. From these arid concepts, the reader will be led into the tangible realities of life. I am convinced that we need to ascend into the ethereal heights of abstraction, if our life experience is to penetrate all corners of existence. Whoever only understands how to savour sensory experiences does not know life’s greatest delicacies. Before Eastern sages will impart their personal wisdom, they demand that their pupils endure years of abstinence and austerity. The Western scientific world no longer expects such austere or devotional practices, but it does require a willingness to step back from life’s immediate impressions for a while, and enter the world of pure thought.
 
Philosophy as a Creative Art
 [10] The facets of life are manifold. Specialized sciences have been developed for each one. However, life itself is a unity and the more the sciences restrict their fields of work, the more they lose sight of the living world. A unifying knowledge must be sought within the specialized sciences, that will give us the elements we need to lead humanity back to the fullness of life. Through their specialized knowledge, researchers methodically seek to develop an awareness of the world and it how it works; the aim of the philosophy in this book is to develop science into an organic and living whole. The one-dimensional sciences are preliminary stages for this ultimate convergent science.
 
A comparison can be drawn in the arts. Composers base their creative work on the principles of musical composition. These principles constitute a body of knowledge, which are a prerequisite for composing. Through the creative process, the principles of composition become alive, an actual reality. In exactly the same way, philosophy is a creative art. All genuine philosophers have been conceptualizing artists. Human ideas were their artistic medium, and scientific principles their artistic technique. Abstract thinking becomes tangible reality in the life of an individual human being. Ideas become forces to take hold of life. When we take the initiative to raise our consciousness beyond passively accepted truths, we are not only well informed, but we make knowledge into an organic self-determining reality.
 
 [11] How can philosophy, as an art, make a contribution to human freedom? What is freedom? Are we already practising it, or can we develop it? These are the principle questions I have taken up in this book. In my view, they are humanity’s most intimate and immediate concern, and any other scientific matters are only introduced to clarify them. These pages offer a ‘Philosophy of Freedom’.
 
The Ultimate Purpose of Knowledge
[12] The whole of science would be no more than the satisfaction of idle curiosity if its efforts did not enhance the significance of each human life. The sciences only demonstrate their true value when their achievements are beneficial for humanity. Our ultimate aim as individuals can never be the refinement of one single faculty; it can only be the development of every sleeping talent in us. The value of knowledge lies in its ability to develop the whole of human nature in all possible ways.
 
[13] This book does not advocate a relationship of science to life where we bow down before an idea and devote our energies to it; when the world of ideas enables us to create meaningful goals for humanity, it gains a purpose that extends beyond the purely scientific.
 
[14] Each human being must confront an idea as its master, or else become its slave.
 
 
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Notes about this draft by John Ralph
100 year anniversary by Tom Last