page contents

The Philosophy Of Freedom

WELCOME

"The purpose of The Philosophy Of Freedom is to lay the foundations of ethical individualism and of a social and political life." Rudolf Steiner

Ethical individualism is a humanist world-view that recognizes that the most cherished human dignity is to live according to one's own freely chosen values.


New Translation Project

I'm revising the Hoernle translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom to make it more readable, 11th-12th grade level, and will be regularly posting the new revisions on the front page. You are welcome to post your suggestions on improving the readability in the comment box below the new chapter translations. Chapter links are below. Links to existing translations are here for reference.

The new translation will be available free online and published at cost as a group project.

PART I : THEORY
The Theory of Freedom


0. THE GOAL OF KNOWLEDGE
1. THE CONSCIOUS HUMAN DEED
2. THE SCIENTIFIC IMPULSE
3. THINKING AS A MEANS OF
GAINING KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD

4. THE WORLD AS PERCEPTION
5. OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD
6. HUMAN INDIVIDUALITY
7. ARE THERE ANY LIMITS TO KNOWLEDGE?

New Readable Chapter 4 - The World As Perception

NEW TRANSLATION PROJECT

COMPARE THE NEW TRANSLATION BELOW TO YOUR FAVORITE TRANSLATION - Which is more readable?

READABILITY IMPROVED 00  

1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path translated by Michael Lipson
Number of Words: 00
Reading Grade Level: oo

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom - New translation (see below)
Number of Words: oo
Reading Grade Level: oo

4. THE WORLD AS PERCEPTION

What is a perception?
4-0 Reactive Thinking
4.1 Conceptual Search
4.2 Conceptual Reference
4.3 Conceptual Relationships
4.4 Correction Of My Picture Of World
4.5 Mathematical And Qualitative Perception-Picture
4.6 Subjective Perception-Picture
4.7 Idea: After-effect Of Observation
4.8 Idea: Caused By Unknown Thing-In-Itself
4.9 Idea: What My Organization Transmits
4.10 Perceived World Is A Projection Of Soul Qualities
4.11 External Perception Is My Idea
4.12 Sense Perception Of My Organism

4.0 Reactive Thinking
[1] Concepts and Ideas are formed by thinking. What a concept is cannot be expressed in words. Words can only draw our attention to the fact we have concepts. When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation. An Ideal element is added to the object, and the observer regards the object and Ideal complement as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of observation, all that remains behind is its Ideal counterpart. This is the concept of the object.

The wider the range of our experience, the larger the number of our concepts. Concepts are never found in isolation. They combine to form an ordered and systematic whole. The concept “organism”, for example, links up with those of "development according to law," "growth," and others. Concepts formed of single objects merge together into a unity. All concepts I form of particular lions merge in the universal concept "lion." In this way, all the single concepts unite to form an enclosed, conceptual system in which each has its special place. Ideas are not qualitatively different from concepts. They are filled with more content, are more complex and more comprehensive concepts.

I must emphasize here that my point of departure is thinking, not concepts and Ideas, which are first gained by means of thinking. Thinking precedes concepts and Ideas. Consequently, what I have said about the nature of thought, that it is self-supporting and determined by nothing but itself, cannot simply be transferred and applied to concepts. (I make special mention of this here, as this is where I differ with Hegel, who regards the concept as the primary and original element.)

[2] Concepts cannot be drawn from observation. This is evident from the fact the growing human being only slowly and gradually builds up the concepts that correspond to the objects in his environment. Concepts are added to observation.

4.1 Conceptual Search
[3] A popular contemporary philosopher, Herbert Spencer, describes the mental process that takes place in response to observation as follows:

[4] “While wandering through fields in September you hear a rustle a few steps ahead, and see the grass moving by the side of the ditch. You will probably approach the spot to find out what caused the noise and the movement. As you approach, a partridge flutters in the ditch. Seeing this, your curiosity is satisfied; you have what you call an explanation of the phenomena.

The explanation, please notice, amounts to this: Throughout life you have had countless experiences that a disturbance among small stationary bodies, is accompanied by the movement of other bodies among them. Because of having generalized the relationship between disturbances and movements, you consider this particular disturbance explained as soon as you find it to be an example of just such a relationship" (First Principles, Part I, par. 23).

A more precise analysis leads to a very different description from what Spencer gives. When I hear a noise the first thing I do is search for the concept that fits this observation. Only when I have this concept am I led beyond the noise itself. Whoever does not reflect on the event simply hears the noise and is content to leave it at that. But my thought makes it clear to me that a sound must be the effect of something. Only when I connect the concept of effect with the perception of the noise am I inclined to go beyond the single observation and look for its cause. The concept “effect” calls up the concept “cause”.

My next step is to look for the object that acts as the cause, which I find to be a partridge. But I can never gain the concepts “cause” and “effect” by mere observation, no matter how many cases I observe. Observation calls up thought, and thought shows me how to link separate experiences together.

[5] If one demands a “strictly objective science” that draws its data only from observation, then one must also demand that it renounce all thinking. Because thought, by its very nature, goes beyond what is observed.

4.2 Conceptual Reference
[6] We must now pass from thought to the being who thinks. For it is through the thinker that thought is combined with observation. The human mind is the place where concept and observation meet and unite. This is, in fact, what characterizes human consciousness. It mediates between thought and observation.

In observation the object appears as given, in thought the mind experiences itself as active. It regards the thing as the object and itself as the thinking subject. When thought is directed to the observed world we have consciousness of objects; when thought is directed to itself we have self-consciousness. Human consciousness must of necessity be also self-consciousness, because it is a thinking consciousness. For when thought contemplates its own activity, the subject makes its own essential nature an object of study. Subject and object are here one and the same.

[7] It is important to note here that it is only by means of thinking that I am able to define myself as subject and contrast myself with objects. For this reason, thinking should never be regarded as a merely subjective activity. Thinking is above the distinction of subject and object. It produces these two concepts just as it produces all others. When I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this referring as a purely subjective activity. It is not the subject, but thought, that makes the reference.

The subject does not think because it is a subject; rather, it appears to itself as subject because it can think. The activity of thinking consciousness, exercised by a human being as a thinker, is therefore not merely subjective. In fact, it is an activity that is neither subjective nor objective; it transcends both concepts. I should never say that I, as an individual subject, think. The truth is that I, as subject, exist only by the grace of thought. Thought takes me out of myself and relates me to objects. But it also separates me from the objects by setting me over against them, to face them as subject.

[8] This is the basis for the dual nature of the human being: he thinks. His thought encompasses himself and the rest of the world. But also, by means of thought, he defines himself as an individual in contrast with the objective world.

4.3 Conceptual Relationships
[9] The next step is to ask ourselves: How does the other element—which we have so far simply called the ‘observed object’—enter our consciousness where it comes into contact with thought?

[10] To answer this question, we must remove from our field of observation all thought that has already been brought into it. For at any moment the content of our consciousness is always pervaded with concepts in a variety of ways.

[11] Let us imagine a being with fully developed human intelligence originates out of nothing and has the world in front of him. All this being would be aware of, before its thought became active, is the pure content of observation. The world would appear to this being as a chaotic aggregate of disconnected sense-data: colors, sounds, touch, warmth, taste and smell; followed by feelings of pleasure and pain. This aggregate is the content of pure, thought-free observation. Facing it stands thought, ready to begin its activity as soon as it can find a point of engagement. Experience shows that it soon does. Thought is able to draw connecting threads from one sense-datum to another. It unites specific concepts with these elements, and in this way establishes a relationship between them. We have already seen how a noise we encounter is brought into relationship with another observation by characterizing the first as an effect of the second.

[12] We will not be tempted to believe these relationships established by thought only have subjective validity, if we recall that in no circumstance can the activity of thought be considered merely subjective.

4.4 Correction Of My Picture Of World
[13] Our next task is to discover, by thoughtful reflection, how the immediately given sense-data—the pure, relationless aggregate of sensory objects—is related to our conscious subject.

[14] Because of the various ways of using words, it seems necessary for me to come to an understanding with the reader on the meaning of a word that I will use from now on. The word is percept. I will use the word “percept” to refer to “the immediate objects of sensation” mentioned above, insofar as the conscious subject becomes aware of them through observation. It is the observed object, not the process of observing, that I call “percept”.

[15] I do not choose the term “sensation,” because sensation has a specific meaning in Physiology narrower than my concept of “percept”. I can call an inner feeling a percept, but not a sensation in the physiological use of the term. When I become aware of an inner feeling it becomes a percept for me, and I can then gain knowledge of it. And the way we gain knowledge of our thought-processes, through observation, is to first notice thought. Then thought too, may be called a percept.

[16] The unreflective, naive person regards his percepts, as they first appear, to have an existence completely independent of him. When he sees a tree, he believes right away that it is standing there on the spot where his look is directed having the shape, color and details just as he sees it. From this naive standpoint, if a person sees the sun appear in the morning as a disc on the horizon, and then follows the course of this disc, he believes the phenomenon exists and occurs just as he observes it. He clings to this belief until further perceptions contradict the earlier ones. A child, with no experience of distance, reaches for the moon, and does not correct its first impression until it conflicts with later ones.

Every widening of the circle of my perceptions makes me correct my picture of the world. We see this in everyday life, as well as in the intellectual development of humanity. The picture which the ancients made of the relation of the earth to the sun and other celestial bodies, had to be changed by Copernicus, because the ancient picture did not agree with new, previously unknown perceptions. A man who had been born blind said, after an operation performed by Dr Franz, that the picture he had formed of the size of objects before his operation was a very different one. It was formed on the basis of a blind man’s perceptions of touch. He had to correct his touch percepts with his new visual percepts.

4.5 Mathematical And Qualitative Perception-Picture
[17] Why are we forced to make continual corrections to our observations?

[18] A simple reflection provides the answer to this question. When I stand at one end of a tree-lined avenue, the trees at the far end appear smaller and closer together than those where I am standing. My perception-picture changes when I change my place of observation. Therefore, the way things appear to me is determined by a factor that has to do, not with the object, but with myself as the observer. It is all the same to the avenue where I stand. But the picture I have of it, depends to a great extent on my standpoint. In the same way, it makes no difference to the sun and solar system that human beings happen to observe them from the earth. But the perceptual-picture human beings have is determined by the fact that they inhabit the earth.

This dependency of our perception-picture on our place of observation is the easiest to understand. It becomes more difficult when we realize the dependency of our perceptual world on our physical and mental organization. The physicist teaches us that in the space where we hear a sound, there are vibrations of the air. And in the body where the sound is emitted there are vibrations of its parts. We only perceive these vibrations as sound if we have normally constructed ears. Without them the whole world would remain forever silent.

The physiologist teaches us there are people who perceive nothing of the wonderful display of colors surrounding us. Their perception-picture only has shades of light and dark. Others fail to perceive just one particular color, such as red. Their picture of the world lacks this color tone, and is different from the average person. I would like to call the dependency of my perception-picture on my place of observation "mathematical," and its dependency on my organization "qualitative." The first determines the relative sizes of my percepts and distances between them, the second their quality. The fact that a red surface appears to me red—this qualitative determination—depends on the structure of my eye.

more added each day....

Read more…
Comments: 1

The Human Ideal

Wise ones throughout history have given humanity a picture of the Human Ideal to strive for, such as religious saints like Jesus in the Gospels or Ayn Rand's selfish individualist. Rudolf Steiner presents to the world a new Human Ideal for our age. Part I of the book describes THE FREE THINKER while Part II describes THE FREE SPIRIT. The Human Ideal is when they are united.

Update 1


THE HUMAN IDEAL

presented in
RUDOLF STEINER'S
THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM


CHAPTER


THE FREE
THINKER 
The Knower


HUMAN 
BEING

elements of
cognition


THE FREE
SPIRIT
The Doer


CHAPTER

1. Conscious Human Action


 I KNOW WHY
I ACT

Will


I ACT
INDIVIDUALLY

14. The Individual
And The Genus

2. Why The Desire For
Knowledge Is Fundamental


I DESIRE
TRUTH

Feel


I DESIRE
THE GOOD

13. The Value Of Life

3. Thought As The
Instrument Of Knowledge


I THINK
UNIVERSALLY

Think


I THINK
IMAGINATIVELY

12. Moral Imagination

4. The World As Percept


I GIVE MEANING
TO THE WORLD

Perception


I GIVE PURPOSE
TO MY LIFE

11. World Purpose And Life Purpose

5. Our Knowledge Of The World


I KNOW THE
WORLD

Conception


I ACT
ETHICALLY

10. Monism And The Philosophy Of Freedom

6. Human Individuality


MY IDEAS 
ARE
REALITY-BASED

Idea


MY ACTIONS
REALIZE IDEALS

9. The Idea Of Freedom

7. Are There Any Limits To Knowledge?

 
THE WORLD IS
A WHOLE

Cognition

 
I AM PART OF
THE WHOLE

8. The Factors Of Life

How can we get along?  HARMONY OF INTENTIONS A moral misunderstanding, a clash of aims, is impossible between those who are free.

Read more…

Original Unrevised Edition

ONLY original, unrevised edition of "The Philosophy Of Freedom" available on Amazon, ($9.80). Trans. HOERNLE 1916.
FREE Download - Online
Warning: Kindle edition sold on Amazon not Hoernle.

Ethical Individualism


Learn more about Ethical Individualism here

Search this site

Translations

NEW GREEK translation PDF.
ITALIAN translation (bottom of the English translations page)

What's happening...

You need to be a member of The Philosophy Of Freedom to add comments!

Join The Philosophy Of Freedom

Comments

  • The translation continues at a slow pace. Suggestions are welcome. Everyday I am horrified at what a mess the book is as far as readability. The book is over a century old and nothing done to improve it or communicate the principles of Ethical Individualism in that time. Inexcusable. Or was it even suppression? It is a power to the free individual book leaders and institutions fear.

    • I finish the book. To me the aha! moment was in Chapters 13 to 15. I understood your study guides better. My conclusion at the end of the book, that it was a case for Monism as the foundation/base for the philosophy of freedom. I know I have to read the book again. The syntax in some of the sentences were unreadable at least for me. 

    • Sounds like you did much better than my first reading.

      Edit: I think the syntex is the biggest problem. This comes from German writing and literalist translations. It can be fixed.

    • I agree. When I read the Spanish version the syntax is good but the sentences are missing words and doesn't convey the message/intent correctly. 

      I realize the Spanish PoF is a translation from Lipson version.

This reply was deleted.

Latest Activity

Tom Last commented on Tom Last's blog post New Readable Chapter 4 - The World As Perception
"Science needs clear distinctions to verify theory with observation. More distinctions made in TPOF…"
Jul 16
Tom Last posted a blog post
NEW TRANSLATION PROJECT
COMPARE THE NEW TRANSLATION BELOW TO YOUR FAVORITE TRANSLATION - Which is m…
Jul 16
Tom Last commented on Tom Last's blog post New Readable Chapter 3 - Thinking As A Means Of Gaining Knowledge Of The World
"It took a month and I have a new translation draft of Chapter 3. This has to be one of the most dif…"
Jul 5
Tom Last commented on Tom Last's blog post New Readable Preface - The Goal Of Knowledge
"0.1 Seeking Truth Within [3] Truth, too, will be sought in our age only in the depths of human natu…"
Jun 20
More…

Ethical Activism


Learn more about Ethical Activism here.

Blog Archive


ETHICAL

INDIVIDUALIST


ETHICAL
HUMANIST

TOM LAST
Opinion

WATSUP?
Art & Humor