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A Progressive Philosophy Of Freedom

FREEDOM  Rudolf Steiner tackles the age-old question of freedom in a new and unique way. He shows that, by considering our own activity of thinking, we can realize the reasons for why we act. And if these reasons are taken from the realm of our ideals, our actions are free, because only we determine them.

ABOUT  Welcome to the new website design. This website, since 2005, examines Rudolf Steiner's early work (pre-1900 before he turned to the language of theosophy to explain things) 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.

PROGRESSIVE PHILOSOPHY
In a 1918 lecture (link) Rudolf Steiner states that the purpose of his Philosophy of Freedom is to lay the foundations of ethical individualism and of a social and political life.

It is a progressive philosophy that supports improving the human condition rather than maintaining things as they are. Being 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.

Philosophy Of Freedom Projects

New Translation Project

What is needed is an easier to read Philosophy Of Freedom. I like all 9 English translations of The Philosophy Of Freedom that range from more literal (hard to read) to more liberal (less accurate). Whats needed is to publish one that is in between, just right, that maintains the quality standard of the others but is much easier to read. The addition of topic headings that relate to the chapter title will also help.

New Translation Project: Revise the 1916 Hoernle English translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom to make it easier to read. The 9 previous translations will be posted here. Progress toward a new translation is here. The finished book will be available free online and sold at cost in print. Regular contributors will likely get a mention in the book. Post suggestions in the comment box.

COMPARE THIS WITH YOUR FAVORITE TRANSLATION AND SEE IF IT IS CLEARER ENGLISH. (this original preface is located at the end of all translations as an appendix except for the Hoernle.)
The Goal Of Knowledge. First draft of Preface:

0. PREFACE The Goal Of Knowledge
0.0 Culture Of Individuality
[1] I BELIEVE I am indicating correctly one of the fundamental characteristics of our age when I say that, at the present day, all human interests tend to center in the culture of human individuality. An energetic effort is being made to shake off every kind of authority. Nothing is accepted as valid, unless it springs from the roots of individuality. Everything which hinders the individual in the full development of his powers is thrust aside. The saying “Each one of us must choose his hero in whose footsteps he toils up to Olympus” no longer holds for us. We allow no ideals to be forced upon us. We are convinced that in each of us, if only we probe deep enough into the very heart of our being, there dwells something noble, something worthy of development. We no longer believe that there is a norm of human life to which we must all strive to conform. We regard the perfection of the whole as depending on the unique perfection of each single individual. We do not want to do what anyone else can do equally well. No, our contribution to the development of the world, however trifling, must be something that, by reason of the uniqueness of our nature, we alone can offer. Never have artists been less concerned about rules and norms in art than today. Each of them asserts their right to express, in the creations of their art, what is unique in them. There are dramatists who write in dialect rather than conform to the standard diction which grammar demands.
[2] No better expression for these phenomena can be found than this, that they result from the individual’s striving towards freedom, developed to its highest pitch. We do not want to be dependent in any respect, and where dependence must be, we tolerate it only on condition that it coincides with a vital interest of our individuality.

0.1 Path Of Inner Truth
[3] Truth, too, will be sought in our age only in the depths of human nature. Of Schiller’s two well known paths, the second will be preferred today:

We both seek truth; you in outer life,
I in the heart within. Each of us are sure to find it.
The healthy eye can track the creator through the world;
The healthy heart mirrors the world within.

0.2 Inner Truth Empowers
[4] Truth that comes to us from outside always bears the stamp of uncertainty. Only truth that appears
within ourselves will convince us.
Only truth can give us confidence in developing our individual powers. These powers are weakened in anyone tormented by doubts. If we are baffled by a world full of riddles, we cannot find a goal for our creative activity.

0.3 Understood Truth
[5] We no longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of truths without having the insight to fully understand. But what is not clearly understood goes against what is individual in us, that wants to experience everything in its deepest inner core. The only knowing that satisfies us is the kind that submits to no outer norm, but springs from a person's own inner life.

0.4 Advancement Of Knowledge
[6] Nor do we want the kind of knowledge that has become frozen once and for all in rigid academic rules, and stored away in Encyclopedias as valid for all time. Each of us claims the right to start from the facts we know, from our personal experience, and from there advance to knowledge of the whole universe. We strive for certainty in knowledge, but each in his or her own way.

0.5 Cultivate Desire To Know
[7] Nor should the teachings of science be presented in a form that implies its acceptance is compulsory. None of us would give a scientific work a title like Fichte once did: “A Crystal Clear Report for the General Public on the True Nature of the Latest Philosophy. An Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.” Today, no one should be compelled to understand. We demand neither acceptance nor agreement from those who are not moved to a certain view by their own particular, individual needs. We do not want to cram facts of knowledge into even an immature human being, a child. We try rather to develop the child’s capacities in such a way that the child no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but wants to understand.

0.6 Application Of The Principles Of Individuality
[8] I am under no illusion concerning the characteristics of the present time. I know how much a stereotypical attitude, lacking all individuality, is prevalent everywhere. But I know just as well that many of my contemporaries strive to orient their lives in the direction of the principles I have indicated. To them I would dedicate this book. It is not meant to be the "only possible" way to Truth, but is meant to describe the path taken by one for whom truth is central.

0.7 Practice Of Pure Thinking
[9] This book at first leads the reader into more abstract regions, where thought must draw sharp outlines if it is to reach clearly defined positions. But the reader is also led from the realm of these arid concepts into concrete life. I am fully convinced that if existence is to be experienced in all its aspects, one must raise oneself up into the ethereal realm of concepts. Whoever appreciates only the pleasures of the senses misses the sweetest enjoyments of life. Oriental sages make their disciples live a life of resignation and asceticism for years before imparting their wisdom to them. The Western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation to attain scientific knowledge, but it does require a sincere willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life and enter the realm of pure thought.

0.8 Wholistic Science, Art And Philosophy
[10] There are many realms of life and for each there develop specific sciences. But life itself is one, and the more deeply the sciences are immersed in their separate fields, the more they distance themselves from viewing the world as a living whole. There must be a kind of knowing that seeks in the separate sciences the elements that lead back once more to the fullness of life. The aim of the scientific specialist is to become aware of the world and gain insight into how it works. The aim of this book is philosophical: science itself is to be instilled with the life of an organic whole. The various branches of science are preparatory stages on the way to this wholistic science. A similar relationship governs the arts. The composer's work is based on the theory of composition. This theory is an accumulation of principles that one has to know in order to compose. In composing, the rules of theory serve life itself, serve reality. In exactly the same way philosophy is an art. All real philosophers have been artists in the conceptual realm. Human ideas become their artistic materials and scientific method their artistic technique. Abstract thinking takes on concrete individual life. Ideas turn into life-forces. Then we do not merely have knowledge about things, but have made knowledge into an actual self-governing organism. Our consciousness, alive and active, has lifted itself above a mere passive reception of truths.

0.9 The Question Of Freedom
[11] The main theme of my book concerns these questions: How philosophy, as an art, is related to freedom; what freedom is; and whether we do, or can, participate in it. All other scientific discussions are included only because they throw light on this question. In my view, the question of freedom is the most immediate concern of the human being. These pages offer a "Philosophy of Freedom".

0.10 Science For Humanity
[12] All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity, if it did not strive toward raising the value of existence for the human personality. The true value of the sciences is seen only when we have shown the importance of their results for humanity. The ultimate goal of the individuality cannot be the cultivation of any single faculty, but only the development of all capacities dormant within us. Knowledge has value only in so far as it contributes to the all-around development of the whole of human nature.

0.11 Ideas To Serve Human Goals
[13] Therefore, this book does not regard the relationship between science and life in such a way that human beings must bow down before the world of ideas and devote their powers to its service. On the contrary, it shows that we should take possession of the world of ideas to use them for our human goals, which go beyond those of mere science.

0.12 Confront And Experience Idea
[14] One must be able to confront an idea and experience it; otherwise one will fall into its bondage.

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How to approach The Philosophy of Freedom?

I've been trying to read the Philosophy of Freedom on and off for a few years, but until now I've never really made what I would say is a serious effort to penetrate the materials. For instance, I don't get too concerned if I've catch myself having zoned out several times during the same passage. Rather, I move on and hope that it will sink in by osmosis ... somehow. 

This approach hasn't been an entire failure because I keep coming back to this text, and every once in awhile I'll read something that makes my heart soar and inspirers me to keep going. This morning, for example, I was listening to one of the last few chapters (thank you, Dale Brunsvold) and the description how the "free spirit" singles out an appropriate action reminded of what Thomas Aquinas said about Angels; namely, that each angel is his own specie. Utterly unique and irreplaceable. And just for a moment, I caught a glimpse of whom we are being asked to become. 

Just for a moment.

On the other hand, the approach I've taken is not working entirely well so I'm soliciting suggestions as to how to proceed differently as part of a serious study. In the extreme, I could spend a year on the first 5 or 6 chapters alone, and still feel that the text is much more profound than I'm realizing.

Perhaps the middle ground is that I plow through, making sure that I don't leave a section until I have at least attempted to penetrate it seriously, but don't allow myself to get stalled indefinitely.

Then there is the question of which other texts and exercises (Jügen Strube's thought exercises as well as making the effort to write our own chapter summaries) to incorporate as we go along.

I realize that everyone has to find the way that works best for him or her, but I would be curious to hear what approaches have worked for others in this group.

regards,
susan
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Why Being Human Matters, for the People of Gaza and the World

"Love depends on the thoughts we form of the loved one. And the more we idealize the loved one in our thoughts, the more blessed is our love. Thought is the father of feeling." Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy Of Freedom chapter 1

By Stephanie Van Hook
Common Dreams

Dr. Mona El-Farra, recently made headlines on Democracy Now! with her plea to end the military assault on Gaza with one powerful statement: “We are human beings.” She is, of course, absolutely right. Human beings live in Gaza, and it seems like nothing could be more obvious. Of course, what she is really saying is something much deeper. She’s saying, that to the people in Gaza, it seems like we have somehow forgotten that human beings are there.

For insight into these questions, we might first explore the basic dynamic of conflict escalation. Conflict, in itself, is not at issue — it’s the image we have of the human beings with whom we engage in conflict. Michael Nagler, maintains in his book, that conflict escalates increasingly toward violence — according to the degree of dehumanization in the situation. Violence, in other words, doesn’t occur without dehumanization.

Dehumanization is a backdrop making violence possible — both directly, like a bomb, and structurally, like exploitation. By constantly imprinting that negative image of the human being in our minds, even if we don’t perpetuate direct violence, we certainly can’t deny that we live under the institutions that inflict violence on others for us, be it corporations, the military or the police.

The most urgent struggle of today is to reclaim the human image and restore its dignity.

We may need to draw strength from our imaginations as we resist dehumanization, keeping our eyes on the problem without demeaning the person. But what greater purpose can the imagination serve than to help us do that? Carol Flinders affirms that it is one of the most powerful tools of our nature when she writes, “Imagination seems to be a vital component of genuine nonviolent resistance, for it allows us to hold on to a positive view of ourselves no matter what the world tells us we are.”

Mowing The Grass 
Jafar M Ramini Salem-News.com

(LONDON) - Today is Sunday and in the West it is a day of leisure. A popular activity is tending well-manicured gardens, enjoying the peace and quiet and mowing the grass.

Mowing the grass in Israeli military speak has a different connotation altogether. ‘Mowing the grass’ is a recognized Israeli military strategy as defined by Professor Efraim Inbar and Dr Eitan Shamir, both of the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

The grass they have in mind, particularly in Gaza, is every living thing and every standing structure.

Professor Inbar and Dr Shamir are not bashful about this strategy. They say: ‘Against an implacable, well-entrenched, non-state enemy like the Hamas, Israel simply needs to “mow the grass” once in a while in order to degrade enemy capabilities.’

Just conjure up the image of a gardening nursery stocked to the brim with many plants, from tiny saplings to mature, not to say elderly, trees. Now change the plants to human beings. Because, horrifying as it may look or sound, this is exactly what has been happening in, around and over Gaza for the last four weeks.

This is not a new policy. It has nothing to do with accusing Hamas of capturing the three Israelis squatters without a shred of evidence. It has nothing to do with ineffective rockets fired from Gaza. It is an unwavering Israeli military policy of land theft and resources and genocide in Palestine.

Abhorrent, I know. But for this madness to stop it is incumbent on the American people to call upon their government to stop supplying Israel with state-of-the-art armory, blanket political and diplomatic cover and huge amounts of money. No matter what.

This video is a speech by an American Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Christopher Hedges. He is not muzzled by Zionism, Congress or the corporate media. He calls it as it is. Please listen.

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Comments

  • I am preparing the 1923 Metaxa, 1988 Stebbing, and 1992 Stebbing translations of POF to post so I have all 9 English translations online for the translation project. I will also give the translator's background which influences their work and will comment on each one's strengths.

  • I may stop making videos for a while to work on another project. That would be to do a revised Hoernle translation of the Philosophy Of Freedom that is easier to read.

  • Each study group member expresses a different world-view. Added brief descriptions to the World Outlook page.

  • Added a new page link to the "Book Text" page called Conflict Between Heart and Intellect

  • Added a basic observation of thinking exercise here.

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