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A Progressive Philosophy Of Freedom


ABOUT  Welcome to the new website design. This website, since 2005, examines Rudolf Steiner's early work (pre 1900 before he turned to theosophy) when he presented a way of life called Ethical Individualism based on a Science Of Freedom. “this book occupies a position completely independent of my writings on actual spiritual scientific matters... What I have said in this book may be acceptable even to some who, for reasons of their own, refuse to have anything to do with the results of my researches into the spiritual realm.” Rudolf Steiner, "The Philosophy of Freedom", 1918 Preface to the Revised Edition 

STUDY COURSE  The study course is self-directed study of a variety of relevant content collected over the years. Begin at any time. See the Study Course sidebar links. If you would like to be notified when a newly produced Philosophy Of Freedom video is posted register to this website.

CONTACT  You are welcome to get involved with a comment or blog post. Or email me your ideas or role you would like to play; featured writer, art, research, news, content suggestions, etc. -Tom

The Philosophy Of Freedom lays the foundation for a progressive social and political life.

A progressive stands for progress that improves the human condition rather than maintaining things as they are. Being a progressive does not refer to any external institution, it is a state of mind. It is an attitude through which a person, aware of himself or herself as one among a valued global community of individuals, comes nearest to living up to the ideal of human worth and dignity.

Essential to human dignity is freedom; freedom of thought, morality and action. The ethical individualist is a self-determining free individuality who acts out of knowledge.

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A series of short videos (maybe 75) are being produced for a study course that will discuss each chapter in The Philosophy Of Freedom. A new video is completed each week. To be notified when a new video is posted subscribe to the website. 

Each chapter theme is presented by animated characters who express a variety of views.  All are invited to participate by posting questions and comments.

Featured Study Group Video

Chapter One Conscious Human Action

The Philosophy Of Freedom book text.

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“And one may well feel that if the soul has not at some time found itself faced in utmost seriousness by the problem of free will or necessity it will not have reached its full stature.”
-Rudolf Steiner, in the Preface to The Philosophy of Freedom

SCRIPT
1.0 THE QUESTION OF FREEDOM
Welcome to the study group.
I will start with a brief introduction to Chapter One, Conscious Human Action.
The Philosophy Of Freedom begins with the question, Are we free in our thought and action, or inescapably controlled by necessity?

The common belief is that we are free, at least some of the time.
Freedom is implied in many of the things we say, and many of the attitudes we take.
Suppose tomorrow is a holiday.
You are considering what to do.
You can climb a mountain or read a book.
You can fix your bicycle or go to the zoo.
At this moment you are watching this video.
You are free to stop now or continue to watch, right?

Many scientists consider free will to be an illusion.
Science sees no reason why the uniformity of natural law would be broken in the field of human action and thought.
The fact that we are physical creatures in a physical world subjects us to well established natural laws, including cause and effect.
Free will is an illusion that results from not being aware of the hidden causes that determine our action.
Laws of behavior are established by natural factors such as genes, brain chemistry, and hormones.
Behavior is also conditioned by social factors such as upbringing and cultural experience.
According to science, the causes that determine human behavior are far too complex to ever understand.
Between us and our action is natural law.

But if we are automatons, we would simply do whatever we were pre-programmed to do.
Without free will we cannot hold people morally accountable for their actions.
How can we judge others if they are not responsible for their actions?

Moralists believe we must have free will in order to do righteous acts.
The divine creator gave us free will. Its as simple as that!
The downside of such a resolution is that it is not based upon knowledge. It is faith.
Free will is to be used to choose between good and evil.

According to moralists, the real choice we have is to obey divine laws or not obey them.
If we are unsure of what to do, we have spiritual leaders who will tell us what pleases or displeases the god who rules the world.
Between us and our action is divine law.

Others use endless distinctions to explain how human freedom can be compatible with natural or divine determinism.
The only thing that could actually support the strong free will that is commonly believed in is self-origination.
The reasons (laws) for why we act do not originate in nature or god, they originate in our self.
Between us and our action is a law that we originate.

The Philosophy Of Freedom tackles the age-old question of freedom in a new and unique way.
As the title of Chapter One states, we are interested in "conscious" human activity.
By retrospectively examining our thoughts related to the deed, we can find the ideas that guide our action.
And if these ideas originate from the world of our ideals, where only we can determine them, then our actions are free.
We originate an ideal principle from the world of our ideals and creatively translate it into a clear picture of what we want to bring about.
What we have envisioned determines our action.
This is important for without self-determination there can be no individual growth or personal responsibility.

The history of the discussion of free will is rich and remarkable.
Hundreds of explanations of what it means to be 'free' have been distinguished.
Lets start by asking each of our panel members; What kind of freedom do you value the most?
What is the freedom that you are striving for?

TEXT
1.0 The Question Of Freedom
[1] IS man free in action and thought, or is he bound by an iron necessity? There are few questions on which so much ingenuity has been expended. The idea of freedom has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their moral fervour, label anyone a man of limited intelligence who can deny so patent a fact as freedom. Opposed to them are others who regard it as the acme of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe that the uniformity of natural law is broken in the sphere of human action and thought. One and the same thing is thus proclaimed, now as the most precious possession of humanity, now as its most fatal illusion. Infinite subtlety has been employed to explain how human freedom can be consistent with determinism in nature of which man, after all, is a part. Others have been at no less pains to explain how such a delusion as this could have arisen. That we are dealing here with one of the most important questions for life, religion, conduct, science, must be clear to every one whose most prominent trait of character is not the reverse of thoroughness.



SCRIPT
1-1 FREEDOM OF INDIFFERENT CHOICE
Moderator: The Philosophy Of Freedom begins with the question, Are we free in our thought and action, or inescapably controlled by necessity?
I do not believe we can settle the question of freedom by philosophical argument, so please include your experience in our discussion.
I will start by asking each of you; What kind of freedom do you believe is worth striving for?

Materialist: If it made any sense, the freedom I would value is the "Freedom Of Indifferent Choice".
When you are given a choice between carrying out action A or action B, there will always be a reason (cause) that determines the action (effect).
In my lab we are doing market research trying to identify the true cause of human action so we can predict behavior.
We ask people to report the reasons for their actions.
What we find is that the subjects answer to why they act is seldom correct, so we begin by disregarding most of this data.
Further research has verified determinism, there is always a reason that determines the subject's action.
With one exception.
And this is why the alternative to causal determinism, the “Freedom Of Indifferent Choice”, is worse.
If things are not caused, they are un-caused and random.
To escape from determinism, a free man would have to be un-caused and act without a cause or reason.
The free man would be threat to society, an erratic and jerking phantom who acts without any rhyme or reason at all.

Moderator: Yes, we agree a reason always exists for human action. This is obvious.
But what is the reason?
Let's examine the various reasons for why we act.
And of course a Zombie's erratic random behavior is not free will.
Do you have anything else, Mr. Science?

Materialist: Another less extreme example of the Freedom Of Indifferent Choice that we have found is apathy.
Some prefer to let others make decisions for them and always ask themselves what someone else would do.
They typically cruise along, unconcerned, taking on the characteristics of the leader.
These are the people we can easily manipulate with marketing techniques.

Spiritist: Yes, you can manipulate people for profit.
But without a will of their own, the follower lacks any morality and character that can be considered their own.
The social consequences are severe when passivity, submissiveness, and even numbness lead to a lack of social responsibility in economic, environmental, and political issues.

In its proper place though, indifference will support freedom.
There is also an indifference that leaves the will free from all prior consideration or inclination.
In this case, The Freedom Of Indifference consists in freedom from everything, the will remains un-caused.
For the moment, the power of the self suspends the act of will from all determinants.
The mind is kept in a state of indifference, until there has been opportunity for proper deliberation.

Serving as an unbiased juror, I must be indifferent to the outcome of the case.
I withhold my decision remaining neutral and impartial until the final jury deliberations.
By being conscious, and not acting on every impulse, there is room for the self to make a free choice.

1-2 FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Spiritist: I will continue on with the freedom I think is most important, the "Freedom Of Choice".
Those who wish to control us always attack free choice in many ways such as suppressing the vote.
When I make a free choice, I am the cause.
What is the reason for why I act?
I am the reason.
I am the one who chooses according to my own preferences and desires.

Moderator: But who are you? Are you your wants and desires?
Observe your desires and see if you are free to desire or not desire as you please.

Realist: I know you love chocolate. Are you free to not desire chocolate?

Materialist: Marketing science can create desires in people which then control their choices.

TEXT
1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
It is one of the sad signs of the superficiality of present-day thought, that a book which attempts to develop a new faith out of the results of recent scientific research (David Friedrich Strauss: Der alte und neue Glaube), has nothing more to say on this question than these words:

"With the question of the freedom of the human will we are not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the name. The determination of the moral value of human conduct and character remains untouched by this problem."

It is not because I consider that the book in which it occurs has any special importance that I quote this passage, but because it seems to me to express the only view to which the thought of the majority of our contemporaries is able to rise in this matter. Every one who has gown beyond the kindergarten-stage of science appears to know nowadays that freedom cannot consist in choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of two possible courses of action. There is always, so we are told, a perfectly definite reason why, out of several possible actions, we carry out just one and no other.

1.2 Freedom Of Choice
[2] This seems quite obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present days the main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, in fact, whose doctrines are gaining ground daily, 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 negatived as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapters" (The Principles of Psychology, Part IV, chap. ix, par. 2I9).

SCRIPT
1-1 FREEDOM OF INDIFFERENT CHOICE
Moderator: The Philosophy Of Freedom begins with the question, Are we free in our thought and action, or inescapably controlled by necessity?
I do not believe we can settle the question of freedom by philosophical argument, so please include your experience in our discussion.
I will start by asking each of you; What kind of freedom do you believe is worth striving for?

Materialist: If it made any sense, the freedom I would value is the "Freedom Of Indifferent Choice".
When you are given a choice between carrying out action A or action B, there will always be a reason (cause) that determines the action (effect).
In my lab we are doing market research trying to identify the true cause of human action so we can predict behavior.
We ask people to report the reasons for their actions.
What we find is that the subjects answer to why they act is seldom correct, so we begin by disregarding most of this data.
Further research has verified determinism, there is always a reason that determines the subject's action.
With one exception.
And this is why the alternative to causal determinism, the “Freedom Of Indifferent Choice”, is worse.
If things are not caused, they are un-caused and random.
To escape from determinism, a free man would have to be un-caused and act without a cause or reason.
The free man would be threat to society, an erratic and jerking phantom who acts without any rhyme or reason at all.

Moderator: Yes, we agree a reason always exists for human action. This is obvious.
But what is the reason?
Let's examine the various reasons for why we act.
And of course a Zombie's erratic random behavior is not free will.
Do you have anything else, Mr. Science?

Materialist: Another less extreme example of the Freedom Of Indifferent Choice that we have found is apathy.
Some prefer to let others make decisions for them and always ask themselves what someone else would do.
They typically cruise along, unconcerned, taking on the characteristics of the leader.
These are the people we can easily manipulate with marketing techniques.

Spiritist: Yes, you can manipulate people for profit.
But without a will of their own, the follower lacks any morality and character that can be considered their own.
The social consequences are severe when passivity, submissiveness, and even numbness lead to a lack of social responsibility in economic, environmental, and political issues.

In its proper place though, indifference will support freedom.
There is also an indifference that leaves the will free from all prior consideration or inclination.
In this case, The Freedom Of Indifference consists in freedom from everything, the will remains un-caused.
For the moment, the power of the self suspends the act of will from all determinants.
The mind is kept in a state of indifference, until there has been opportunity for proper deliberation.

Serving as an unbiased juror, I must be indifferent to the outcome of the case.
I withhold my decision remaining neutral and impartial until the final jury deliberations.
By being conscious, and not acting on every impulse, there is room for the self to make a free choice.

1-2 FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Spiritist: I will continue on with the freedom I think is most important, the "Freedom Of Choice".
Those who wish to control us always attack free choice in many ways such as suppressing the vote.
When I make a free choice, I am the cause.
What is the reason for why I act?
I am the reason.
I am the one who chooses according to my own preferences and desires.

Moderator: But who are you? Are you your wants and desires?
Observe your desires and see if you are free to desire or not desire as you please.

Realist: I know you love chocolate. Are you free to not desire chocolate?

Materialist: Marketing science can create desires in people which then control their choices.

TEXT
1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
It is one of the sad signs of the superficiality of present-day thought, that a book which attempts to develop a new faith out of the results of recent scientific research (David Friedrich Strauss: Der alte und neue Glaube), has nothing more to say on this question than these words:

"With the question of the freedom of the human will we are not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been recognized as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the name. The determination of the moral value of human conduct and character remains untouched by this problem."

It is not because I consider that the book in which it occurs has any special importance that I quote this passage, but because it seems to me to express the only view to which the thought of the majority of our contemporaries is able to rise in this matter. Every one who has gown beyond the kindergarten-stage of science appears to know nowadays that freedom cannot consist in choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of two possible courses of action. There is always, so we are told, a perfectly definite reason why, out of several possible actions, we carry out just one and no other.

1.2 Freedom Of Choice
[2] This seems quite obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present days the main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, in fact, whose doctrines are gaining ground daily, 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 negatived as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapters" (The Principles of Psychology, Part IV, chap. ix, par. 2I9).

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New Video Index

The Philosophy Of Freedom book text.

VIDEOS FOR THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM STUDY COURSE

Part 1

KNOWING
REALITY
Part 2

CREATING
REALITY

REALITY-BASED KNOWLEDGE

(universally valid cognitive ideas of science)


ETHICALLY-BASED ACTION

(individually valid ethical ideas of action)

Ethical Individualism Anchored In A Science Of Freedom (3 videos)
Difference Between Part 1 and Part 2 (1 video)
Meet The Study Group Panel (1 video)

0. Preface
     STRIVING FOR INDIVIDUALITY (6 videos)
1. Conscious Human Action
    STRIVING FOR FREEDOM (2 videos, more to come...)
14. Individuality And Genus
      FREE INDIVIDUALITY
2. The Desire For Knowledge
    STRIVING FOR KNOWLEDGE
13. The Value Of Life
      STRIVING FOR ETHICAL IDEALS
3. Thinking As The Instrument Of Knowledge
    FREE THINKING
12. Moral Imagination
      CREATIVE ETHICAL ACTION
4. The World As Perception
    PERCEPTION BIAS
11. World Purpose And Life Purpose
      HUMAN DESTINY
5. Knowing The World
    CONCEPTUAL INTUITION
10. Freedom Philosophy And Monism 
      ETHICAL HUMANISM
6. Human Individuality
    INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATION OF REALITY
 9. The Idea Of Freedom
      FREE ACTION
7. Are There Limits To Knowing?
    REALITY-BASED KNOWLEDGE
 8. The Factors Of Life
      REALITY-BASED PERSONALITY

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  • The next study group video will be on Chapter 1, Conscious Human Action, section 1-3 Free Expression Of Our Nature and 1-4 Free From External Influences.

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