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The Philosophy Of Freedom

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"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.


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  • (Und Deutsch kann ich auch.)  Ich muss mich jetzt beeilen.

  • I'm looking forward to the discussions.

    Dennis

    • I look forward to your contributions. A lot of reference material is on the site, including many translations and German editions.

This reply was deleted.

NEW TRANSLATION PROJECT

READABILITY IMPROVED  - GRADE LEVELS To GRADE ?

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

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom edited by Tom Last (see below)
Number of Words: 00
Reading Grade Level: 00.00  (Grade ?)

2. THE DESIRE FOR SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE

What kind of scientific knowledge is desired?
2.0 Unify 'I' And World
2.1 Materialism
2.2 Spiritualism
2.3 Realism
2.4 Idealism
2.5 Materialistic Idealism
2.6 Indivisible Unity
2.7 Opposition To World Originates In 'I'
2.8 Feeling Nature Within
2.9 Knowing Nature Within
2.10 Something More Than 'I'
2.11 Description Of Consciousness
2.12 Facts Without Interpretation

Two souls, alas, dwell within my breast,
Each withdraws from and repels the other.
One is bound to earth with primal, passionate zest,
Clinging with every fiber of its being;
The other soars, spurning the dust,
Ever wings its voyage to lofty meadows of the blest.
(Faust I, lines 1112-1117)

2.0 Unify 'I' And World
[1] With these words Goethe expresses a characteristic deeply rooted in human nature. The human being is not a self-contained whole. He always demands more than what the world itself offers. Nature gives us needs; among them are some left to our own activity to satisfy. Abundant are the gifts allotted us, yet more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be dissatisfied. A special case of this dissatisfaction is our desire for knowledge.

We look twice at a tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree appear first at rest and then in motion? Every look at the natural world raises questions. Every phenomenon we meet is a new problem to be solved. Every experience is a riddle. We observe a creature similar to the mother animal emerging from the egg, and we ask the reason for this similarity. We observe a living organism grow and develop to a certain degree of perfection, and we seek the underlying causes. Nowhere are we satisfied with what nature displays before our senses. Everywhere we search for what we call an explanation of the facts.

[2] The something more that we seek in things, exceeds what is given to us in immediate observation. What we add splits our entire existence into two parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We place ourselves over against the world as an independent being. The universe appears to us as two opposing sides: I and world.

[3] We erect this wall of separation between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness lights up within us. But we never lose the feeling we belong to the world, that a bond connects us to it, and that we are beings whose place is not outside, but within the universe.

[4] This feeling produces the striving to build a bridge over the opposition. And in the final analysis the entire spiritual striving of humankind consists in the bridging of this antithesis. The history of the spiritual life is a continuous quest for the unity between ourselves and the world. This aim is pursued equally by religion, art and science. The religious believer is dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance. He seeks in the revelations granted him by God, the solution to the world problems which his ‘I’ sets before him. The artist seeks to embody into his material the ideas of his “I” in order to reconcile what lives in him with the outer world. He, too, feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearance and seeks to build into it that something more which his “I”, transcending mere appearance, contains. The thinker seeks the laws at work in the world of phenomena. He strives to penetrate with thinking what he experiences in observation. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we find again the unity from which we have separated ourselves. We will see later this goal can only be reached when the task of scientific research is understood on a deeper level than is often the case.

The whole of what I have described here is found historically in the contrast between the one-world view, or Monism, and the two-world view, or Dualism. Dualism only pays attention to the separation between 'I' and World brought about by human consciousness. All its efforts consist in a futile struggle to reconcile these two sides, which it calls Mind and Matter, Subject and Object, or Thought and Appearance. The Dualist feels there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but it is not capable of finding it.

The Monists, so far, are not in a much better position. They have tried three different solutions. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists; or else they claim that Mind and Matter are inseparably united even in the world’s simplest entities, so it is not surprising to find these two forms of existence present in the human being, since after all, they are never found apart.

TO BE CONTINUED

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New Readable Preface - The Goal Of Knowledge

NEW TRANSLATION PROJECT

READABILITY IMPROVED  1 GRADE LEVEL To GRADE 11

1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path translated by Michael Lipson
Number of Words: 1425
Reading Grade Level: 12.30 (Grade 12)

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom edited by Tom Last (see below)
Number of Words: 1402
Reading Grade Level: 11 .07  (Grade 11)

THE GOAL OF KNOWLEDGE

What is the goal of knowledge?
0.0 Striving For Freedom
0.1 Seeking Truth Within
0.2 Empowered By Truth
0.3 Knowledge Springs From Inner Life
0.4 Advancing In Knowledge Our Own Way
0.5 Neither Recognition Nor Agreement Expected
0.6 Living The Principles
0.7 Practicing Pure Thinking
0.8 A Wholistic Approach To Science, Art, And Philosophy
0.9 A Science Of Freedom
0.10 Reaching The Human Ideal
0.11 Using Ideas For Human Goals
0.12 Master Of Ideas

0.0 Striving For Freedom
[1] I BELIEVE one of the fundamental characteristics of our age is that human interest centers in the culture of 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 that 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 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 his right to express, in the creations of his art, what is unique in him. And there are playwrights who write in dialect rather than conform to the standard diction grammar demands.

[2] No better expression for these phenomena can be found than this, 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 it coincides with a vital interest of our individuality.

0.1 Seeking Truth Within
[3] Truth, too, will be sought in our age only in the depths of human nature. Of the following two well-known paths described by Schiller, it is the second that will today be found most useful:

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 in the outer world;
The healthy heart mirrors the world within.
Bulwer

Truth that comes to us from outside always bears the stamp of uncertainty. Each one of us is only convinced of truth when he recognizes it within his own inner life.

0.2 Empowered By Truth
[4] Truth alone can give us certainty in developing our individual powers. He who is tormented by doubts finds his powers weakened. If baffled by a world full of riddles, he can find no goal for his activity.

0.3 Knowledge Springs From Inner Life
[5] We no longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of truths that we do not fully understand. What is not understood goes against our individuality, that wants to experience everything in the depths of its inner core. The only knowledge that satisfies us is the kind that submits to no external norm, but springs from the inner life of the personality.

0.4 Advancing In Knowledge Our Own Way
[6] Nor do we want the kind of knowledge encased in rigid academic rules, and stored away as valid for all time. Each of us considers himself justified to start from his own life experiences, from the facts closest to hand, and advancing from there to knowledge of the whole universe. We strive for certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.

0.5 Neither Recognition Nor Agreement Expected
[7] Nor should the teachings of science be presented in a way that implies its acceptance is compulsory. None of us would give a scientific work a title like Fichte once did: “A Crystal Clear Report to the General Public on the Actual Nature of the Latest Philosophy. An Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.” Today, no one should be compelled to understand. We expect neither recognition nor agreement from anyone who is not driven to a certain view by his own particular needs. We do not want to cram facts of knowledge into even an immature human being, a child. We try to develop the child's capacities in such a way that he no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but wants to understand.

0.6 Living The Principles
[8] I am under no illusion as to the characteristics of the present time. I know how many flaunt a manner of life that lacks all individuality and follows only the prevailing fashion. A stereotypical and impersonal attitude is prevalent everywhere. But I also know that many of my contemporaries strive to conduct their lives in the direction of the principles I have suggested. To them I dedicate this book. It is not meant to offer the "only possible" way to Truth, but to describe the path taken by one for whom truth is central.

0.7 Practicing Pure Thinking
[9] At first the reader is lead into abstract regions, where thought must draw sharp outlines to reach clearly defined positions. But the reader is also led from arid concepts into concrete life. I am fully convinced that to experience life in all its aspects, one must soar into the realm of concepts. Whoever is limited to the pleasures of the senses misses the sweetest joys of life. The oriental sage requires his disciples to live a life of resignation and asceticism for years before imparting his wisdom to them. The West no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices to attain knowledge. It does require, however, a sincere willingness to prepare for science by withdrawing oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and enter the world of pure thought.

0.8 A Wholistic Approach To Science, Art, And Philosophy
[10] There are many regions of life. A specific field of science develops for each one. But life itself is a unity, and the more the sciences immerse themselves in separate fields, the more they distance themselves from the vision of the world as a living whole. It is essential to have one higher science. A wholistic science seeks in the separate sciences the principles for leading man back to the fullness of life. The aim of the scientific specialist's research is to gain knowledge of the world and how it works. The aim of this book is philosophical: science itself is to become a living whole. The various branches of science are preparatory stages on the way to the all-inclusive science intended here.

A similar relationship governs the arts. A composer works on the basis of the theory of composition. This theory is an accumulation of principles of what one needs to know in order to compose music. In composing, the rules of theory serve life, that is, theory serves actual reality.

In the same way philosophy is an art. All genuine philosophers have been artists in the conceptual realm. For them, human ideas become their artistic material and the wholistic method of science their artistic technique. Abstract thinking takes on an individual life of its own. Ideas become powerful forces in life. We no longer have merely a knowledge about things, but have made knowledge into a real self-governing organism, ruled by its own laws. Our actual working consciousness has lifted itself above a mere passive reception of truths.

0.9 A Science Of Freedom
[10] The main theme of my book concerns these questions: How philosophy, as an art, relates to freedom; what freedom is; and whether we do, or can, participate in it. Scientific discussions are included because it is science, at long last, that will throw light on these most immediate human questions. These pages offer a "Philosophy of Freedom."

0.10 Reaching The Human Ideal
[11] Science is nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity, if it does not elevate the existential value of human personality. The sciences attain true value only by showing that their results have significance for man. The ultimate aim of an individuality cannot be the cultivation of only a single capacity. Rather, it must be the development of all the potential that slumbers within him. Knowledge has value only by contributing to the all-around development of the whole of human nature.

0.11 Using Ideas For Human Goals
[12] This book does not regard the relationship of science to life in such a way that the human being must bow down before the world of ideas and devote his powers to its service. On the contrary, it shows that he takes possession of the world of ideas to use them for his human goals. These extend beyond those of mere science.

0.12 Master Of Ideas
[13] One must confront an idea as master, experiencing it; otherwise one falls into its bondage.

END

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New Readable Chapter 1 - The Conscious Deed

NEW TRANSLATION PROJECT

According to the readability tool this new revised translation is much more readable. While the popular Lipson edition, and others, requires the reading skills of Grade 13 (college), this edited version can be read at a high school Grade 11 skill level. I see no loss of essential content by making it more readable. It mostly involves shortening the sentences, adding some words where needed, and removing wasted words. If they read Shakespeare in high school, they could read a more important The Philosophy Of Freedom edited to the high school reading level with topic headings included.

I do recall hearing some anthroposophy spiritual dogma that you are not developed enough to read The Philosophy Of Freedom until age 21. This is bunk. They are projecting something else relating to a religious experience of Christ. Students do math in high school including calculus, and philosophical thinking, and they do art, so I think a high school senior is capable of the conceptual thinking in The Philosophy Of Freedom.

I don't know why the translators have been so literal repeating the terrible old German style of writing in The Philosophy Of Freedom. Steiner disagrees with complicated writing as shown below (1.3). "it is usually enclosed in complicated theoretical doctrines that make it difficult to recognize the simple line of thought, which is all that matters."

READABILITY IMPROVED 2 GRADE LEVELS TO GRADE 11

1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path translated by Michael Lipson
Number of Words: 2942  
Reading Grade Level: 13.00 (Grade 13)

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom edited by Tom Last (see below)
Number of Words: 2816  
Reading Grade Level: 11..09  (Grade 11)

1. THE CONSCIOUS HUMAN DEED

What is the conscious human deed?
1.0 The Question Of Freedom
1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
1.2 Freedom Of Choice
1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Nature
1.4 Conduct According To Character
1.5 Knowledge Of The Reason
1.6 Controlled By Reason
1.7 Freedom To Do What One Wishes
1.8 Unconditioned Impulse Of Will
1.9 Knowledge Of The Action
1.10 Driving Force Of The Heart
1.11 Idealized Love
1.12 Seeing The Good

1.0 The Question Of Freedom
[1] Is a human being free to act and think, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law? Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The idea of freedom has many enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents. Moral zealots accuse anyone of stupidity who denies so obvious a fact as freedom. Scientific thinkers oppose them. They say its just ignorance for anyone to believe the universality of natural law suspends itself in the field of human action and thought. The same thing is as often called humanity's most precious possession as its worst illusion. Endless distinctions are used to explain how freedom is consistent with the laws working in nature. Man, after all, is a part of nature. No less effort has gone into explaining how this delusion could arise. The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct, and science is felt by anyone with any depth of character.

1.1 Freedom Of Indifferent Choice
One sad sign of the superficiality of today's thought is David Friedrich Strauss's book (The New and the Old Belief). It intends to construct a “new faith” from the results of scientific research, yet has only this to say on the question of freedom:

"We are not concerned with the question of free will. The supposedly 'indifferent' freedom of choice has always been recognized as an empty illusion by every reputable philosophy. An indifferent choice is not a factor in determining the moral value of human conduct and character."

I do not consider the book important. I quote this passage because it expresses the only view our thinking contemporaries seem able to reach on this question. Everyone who has grown beyond elementary science is certain of one thing about freedom. It cannot consist in neutrally choosing, entirely at will, between two courses of action. There is always a specific reason why a person carries out one action from among several possibilities.

1.2 Freedom Of Choice
[2] This seems obvious. Yet opponents of freedom still direct their main attacks against freedom of choice. Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines are growing in popularity, says,

"That everyone is at liberty to desire or not to desire, as he pleases, is the essential principle concealed in the dogma of free will. This freedom is refuted by internal observation and the contents of the preceding chapter [on psychology]."

1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Nature
Others begin from the same point when attacking free will. The seeds of all the arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. What he presented in clear and simple language against the idea of freedom has been repeated countless times. Though it is usually enclosed in complicated theoretical doctrines that make it difficult to recognize the simple line of thought, which is all that matters. Spinoza writes in a letter of October or November 1674,

"I call free all that exists and acts out of the necessity of its nature. I call it unfree, if its existence and activity are determined in an exact and fixed way by something else. For example, God is free, even though he exists in a necessary way, because he exists solely out of the necessity of his own nature. Similarly, God knows himself and all other things freely, because it follows solely from the necessity of his nature to know all. I locate freedom, not in free decision, but in free necessity.

[3] "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 the impact of an external cause. Of necessity, the stone continues to move after the impact. The continued motion of the stone is compelled, for it is due to the external impact, and not to the necessity of the stone's own nature. What applies here to the stone, applies to everything else, no matter how complex and many-sided. Everything is determined by external causes with the necessity to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way.

[4] "Now please assume the stone, while in motion, thinks and knows it is striving to the best of its ability to continue in motion. The stone is only conscious of its striving and by no means indifferent. It will be convinced it is free and continues in motion, not because of an external cause, but because it wills to do so. This is just the human freedom everyone claims to possess. The reason it appears to be freedom is because human beings are conscious of their desires, but ignorant of the causes that determine those desires. Thus the child believes it freely desires milk, the angry boy freely demands revenge, and the coward flight. The drunken man believes he says things of his own free will that, when sober again, he will wish he had not said. Since this bias is inborn in everybody, it is difficult to free oneself from it. Experience teaches us often enough people are least able to moderate their desires. When torn by conflicting passions they see the better and pursue the worse. Yet they still regard themselves as free, because they desire some things less intensely. And some desires can be easily inhibited by recalling a familiar memory that often preoccupies one's mind."

[5] Because this view is clearly and directly expressed, its easy to detect the basic error. Of necessity, the stone continues to move after an impact. With the same necessity, a human being is supposed to carry out an action when driven by any reason. Because he is only conscious of his action, he looks upon himself as the free originator of it. However, he overlooks the causes driving him that he must obey unconditionally.

The error in this line of thought is easy to find. Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact a human being is not just conscious of his action. He can also become conscious of the causes that guide his action. Anyone can see a child is not free when it desires milk, as is the drunk who says things he later regrets. Both know nothing of the causes working deep within their organism that exercise irresistible control over them. Is it right to group such actions together with those of a human being who is not only conscious of his actions, but also of the reasons that motivate him?

Are human actions really all of one kind? Should the deeds of a soldier on the battlefield, a scientist in the laboratory, or a diplomat involved in complex negotiations be ranked in the same scientific category as those of a child craving milk? It is true the best way of seeking the solution to a problem is where the conditions are simplest. But the inability to see distinctions causes endless confusion. There is a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. This is an obvious truth. Yet the opponents of freedom never ask whether a motive of action I recognize and understand, compels me in the same way an organic process causes a child to cry for milk.

1.4 Conduct According To Character
[6] Eduard von Hartmann, in his Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness, says that human willing depends on two main factors: motives and character. If we look at human beings as all alike, then their will appears determined from outside, by the situations they encounter. But people are different. A human being will adopt an idea as the motive of his conduct, only if his character is such that this idea arouses a desire in him to act. If we keep in mind people are different then their will appears determined from within and not from outside.

Now, the human being believes he is free, independent of outside motivation. He must first make the idea imposed on him from outside into a motive, according to his character. But according to Eduard von Hartmann, the truth is he is not free,

"Even though we first adopt an idea as a motive, this is not done arbitrarily. An idea is turned into a motive according to the necessity of the disposition of our character. We are anything but free."

Here again, the difference between motives is ignored. There are motives I allow to influence me only after I have consciously made them my own, and others I follow without any clear knowledge of them.

1.5 Knowledge Of The Reason
[7] This leads straight to the standpoint from which the subject will be considered here. Should the question of free will be posed narrowly by itself, in a one-sided way? And if not, what other question must it necessarily be linked?

[8] If there is a difference between a conscious and an unconscious motive of action, then the conscious motive will result in an action that must be judged differently than one that springs from blind urge. Our first question will concern this difference. The position we must take on freedom itself will depend on the result of this investigation.

[9] What is the significance of knowing the reasons for one's action? Too little attention has been given to this question because we always split in two what is an inseparable whole: the human being. The doer is set apart from the knower, but the one that matters most is lost sight of—the knowing doer, the one who acts out of knowledge.

1.6 Controlled By Reason
[10] A view has been expressed that man is free when his reason rather than his animal cravings control his action. Or freedom means to determine one’s life and action according to purpose and deliberate decision.

[11] Nothing is gained by assertions of this kind. For the real issue is whether reason, purpose, and decision exercise the same compulsion over a human being as his animal cravings. If, without my involvement, a rational decision occurs in me with the same necessity as hunger or thirst, then I must obey it. My freedom is an illusion.

1.7 Freedom To Do What One Wishes
[12] Another view puts it this way: To be free does not mean being able to will what one wishes, but being able to do what one wishes. The philosopher-poet Robert Hamerling has given very clear-cut expression to this thought in his Atomistik des Willens:

“The human being can certainly do what he wishes, but he cannot will as he wishes, because his will is determined by motives! — He cannot will as he wishes? Let us look at these words more closely. Do they make any sense? Is free will to mean the ability to will something without reason, without motive? But what else does willing mean, other than having a reason for doing or striving for this rather than that? To will something for no reason and with no motive would mean to will it without wanting it. The concept of willing is inseparable from that of motive. Without a determining motive the will is an empty ability: only through the motive does it become active and real. It is, therefore, correct to say the human will is 'unfree' to the extent its direction is always determined by the strongest motive. But it is absurd to contrast this 'unfreedom' with a possible 'freedom of will' that amounts to being able to will what one does not want.”

[13] Here again only motives in general are discussed, without taking into account the difference between conscious and unconscious motivations. If a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act because it proves to be the "strongest" from among other motives, 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 forced by the motive to do it? The primary question is not whether I can or cannot do something once the motive has influenced me, but whether all motives work with inescapable necessity. If I am forced to will something, then I may be completely indifferent as to whether I can also do it. And if, because of my character and the circumstances prevailing in my environment, a motive is forced on me that I find unreasonable, then I would be glad if I am unable to do it.

[14] The question is not whether I can carry out a decision once made, but how the decision comes about within me.

1.8 Unconditioned Impulse Of Will
[15] What distinguishes humans from all other living things is rational thinking. Activity we have in common with other creatures. Seeking analogies for human action in the animal kingdom does not help to clarify the concept of freedom. Modern science loves such analogies. When scientists succeed in finding among animals something similar to human behavior, they believe this has something to do with the most important question of the science of man. To what misunderstandings this view leads is seen, for example, in Paul Rée’s book, The Illusion of Free Will. Rée says the following on the subject of freedom:

"It is easy to explain why it appears to us the movement of a stone is by necessity, while the will of the donkey is not. The causes that set the stone in motion are external and visible. But the causes that determine the donkey's acts of will are internal and invisible. Between us and the place where they occur is the donkey’s skull... We cannot see the determining cause, and so believe it does not exist. They agree an impulse of will is certainly the cause of the donkey’s turning around, but then they claim the will itself is not conditioned; it is an absolute beginning.”

Here too, human actions in which there is consciousness of the reasons is ignored. Rée explains: “between us and the place where they occur is the donkey’s skull.” As these words show it has not dawned on Rée that there are actions, not of the donkey but of the human being, where between us and the deed lies the motive that has become conscious. A few pages later Rée demonstrates the same blindness when he says: “We do not perceive the causes that determine our will and so believe it is not causally determined at all.”

[16] But enough of examples proving many argue against freedom without knowing what freedom really is.

1.9 Knowledge Of The Action
[17] Obviously, an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. But what are we to say of the freedom of an action, if we know the reasons for carrying it out? This leads us to the question: What is the origin of our thoughts and what does it mean to think? For without recognizing the minds activity of thinking, it is not possible to form a concept of knowledge about anything, including knowledge of an action. When we have a general understanding of what it means to think, it will be easy to see clearly the role thinking plays in human action. As Hegel rightly says,

"It is thinking that turns the soul, common to us and animals, into spirit."

And this is why it is thinking that gives to human action its characteristic stamp.

1.10 Driving Force Of The Heart
[18] This is not meant to imply all our actions proceed only from the calm deliberations of our reason. I am not suggesting that only actions resulting from abstract judgment alone are, in the highest sense, “human”. But the moment our conduct rises above the satisfying of purely animal desires, our motives are always shaped by thoughts. Love, compassion, and patriotism are driving forces for deeds that cannot be analyzed away into dry concepts of understanding. People say this is where heart-felt sensibility prevails. No doubt. But the heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of action. Motives are given prior to being received into the hearts domain. Compassion appears in my heart after the thought of a person who arouses compassion occurs in my mind. The way to the heart is through the head.

1.11 Idealized Love
Love is no exception. Whenever love is not merely the expression of the sexual drive, it depends on the thoughts we form of the loved one. The more idealistic these thoughts are, the more blissful is our love. Here, too, thought is the father of feeling.

1.12 Seeing The Good
People say love makes us blind to the flaws of the loved one. But we can turn this around and say love opens our eyes to the good qualities of the loved one. Many pass by these good qualities without noticing them. One, however, sees them, and just because he does, love awakens in his heart. He has done nothing other than perceive what hundreds have failed to see. They do not experience love because they lack the perception.

[19] From whatever point we approach this subject, one thing becomes more and more clear. An investigation into the origin of our thoughts must come before we can answer the question concerning the nature of human action. So I will turn to this next.

End

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How Readable is The Philosophy Of Freedom?

I have seen the need for a more "readable" edition of the Philosophy Of Freedom. Readability has to do with removing waste words that can be eliminated without losing the meaning of the sentence. It means not overusing adverbs, using less difficult words, and shortening sentences. My first attempt at a better translation was to write more clearly in order to make the long sentences make sense. Then I discovered some tools that grade your writinging readability  and found that my new edition was not any more "readable" than the existing translations. It was a waste of time if that is the case.

All of the English translations, and probably the native German, are written for those who have the reading and comprehension skills of someone with 2 years of college, according to the online analysis tools. This is not OK if your objective is to make the Philosophy Of Freedom available to a wider readership.

I experimented and rewrote a paragraph readable at the high school grad level. Now this is what is needed. There is nothing inherent about The Philosophy Of Freedom that requires it be written at a level that you need to have completed 2 years of college to read it. This has only to do with the writer. Steiner's audience included accomplished German philosophers. Today's audience is the general public. Now the average American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level, yet The Philosophy Of Freedom is only available at the 14th grade level. Could this be a big part of the reason nobody reads it?

The readability level of the writing example above rates at the high school graduate level but would be at the 8th or 9th grade level with a simpler vocabulary. But the more difficult words are needed as they point to concepts of knowledge. The reader can focus on these and use a dictionary and the internet when outside help is needed. 

I used the readability tools to compare my recent editing (which I thought was more readable) with the popular Lipson and Wilson translations. All 3 of them require the reading ability of someone who has completed 2 years of college. Below is a more readable translation edited for the high school graduate. It uses 25% less words by removing waste words and has shorter sentences. Anything more difficult than this just won't work.

Today/2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom edited by Tom Last
Number of Words: 154 25% less words
Reading Grade Level: 11.83 (Complete high school)

"Is a human being free to act and think, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law? Few questions have been the focus of so much ingenuity. The idea of freedom has many enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents. Moral zealots accuse anyone of stupidity who denies so obvious a fact as freedom. Scientific thinkers oppose them. They say its just ignorance for anyone to believe the universality of natural law suspends itself in the field of human action and thought. The same thing is as often called humanity's most precious possession as its worst illusion. Endless distinctions are used to explain how freedom is consistent with the laws working in nature. Man, after all, is a part of nature. No less effort has gone into explaining how this delusion could arise. The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct, and science is felt by anyone with any depth of character."

Earlier in May/2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom edited by Tom Last
Number of Words: 187
Reading Grade Level: 14.30 (Complete 2 years of college)

"Is the human being free in action and thought, or compelled by the unyielding necessity of natural law? Few questions have expended so much ingenuity. The idea of freedom has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in large numbers. There are people who, in their moral zeal, declare it to be sheer stupidity to deny so obvious a fact as freedom. Standing against them are others who say it is naively unscientific for anyone to believe that the universality of natural law is suspended in the field of human action and thought. One and the same thing is as often proclaimed to be humanity's most precious possession as it is declared to be our worst illusion. Endless distinctions have been used to explain how human freedom can be compatible with Determinism; that is, a freedom consistent with the laws working in nature, of which man is, after all, a part. No less effort has gone into explaining how this delusion has come about. The importance of the question of freedom for life, religion, conduct and science can be felt by anyone whose character is not totally lacking in depth."

1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path translated by Michael Lipson
Number of Words: 192
Reading Grade Level: 14.16 (Complete 2 years of college)

"Is a human being spiritually free, or subject to the iron necessity of purely natural law? Few questions have excited so much ingenuity. The idea of the freedom of human will has found both sanguine supporters and stiffnecked opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their moral zeal, cast aspersions on the intellect of anyone who can deny so obvious a fact as freedom. They are opposed by others who see the acme of unscientific thinking in the belief that the lawfulness of nature fails to apply to the area of human action and thinking. One and the same thing is explained equally often as the most precious possession of humankind and as its worst illusion. Infinite subtlety has been expended to explain how human freedom is consistent with the workings of nature of which, after all, human beings are also a part. No less effort has gone into the attempt from the other side to explain how such a delusion could ever have arisen. All but the most superficial thinkers feel that we have to do here with one of the most important questions of life, religion, conduct, and science."

1964 The Philosophy Of Freedom translated by Michael Wilson
Number of Words: 212
Reading Grade Level: 14.33 (Complete 2 years of college)

"Is man in his thinking and acting a spiritually free being, or is he compelled by the iron necessity of purely natural law? There are few questions upon which so much sagacity has been brought to bear. The idea of the freedom of the human will has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their moral fervor, 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 thinking. 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 the laws working in nature, of which man, after all, is a part. No less is the trouble to which others have gone 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 felt by anyone who includes any degree of thoroughness at all in his make-up."

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Is the exceptional state similar to witness observing?

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  • Question: When Steiner in Chapter 3 talks about the exceptional point of view, is he referring to the witness observer from spiritual traditions? Just a thought I had while reading. -JS

    From the internet, after I wade through all the spiritual gibberish of energies, beyond mind, and observing truth, witness observing is:

    1. aware of very subtle emotions, impulses, feelings in your body, and behaviors
    2. notice chatter of internal dialog
    3. notice when thoughts are arising
    4. notice the idea that we could spend some time with in quiet meditation
    5. notice that your mind thinks all by itself
    6. watch the images the mind projects

    This sounds to me more like pure unthinking observation described in chapter 4. Chapter 3 is more about “thinking” observation. But we can't be sure this is different because I think witness observing has a broad meaning.

    Chapter 3, along with the other chapters, are interesting as Steiner is talking about one thing --the observation of thinking-- but as he moves along he is describing deeper states.

    3.1 I observe a table and I carry out my thinking of a table.

    The first state is to look at a table and chat to ourselves about the table. This goes on at the same time. The reason it can go on at the same time is because our attention is not focused on the table or our thought. To think requires directing our attention to become completely focused on one thing.

    3.1 Whereas the observation of things and processes, and the thinking about them, are everyday occurrences making up the continuous current of my life, the observation of the thought-process itself is an exceptional attitude to adopt.

    We enter the exceptional state when we HOLD our attention on a PAST thought or thought process. Then we enter the exceptional state of THINKING ABOUT THINKING. Then we can STUDY the thought and produce new thoughts about it. Scientists and philosophers think about their thinking all the time, but in ordinary life people don't do it that much. If you are in what Steiner calls the materialism state you don't think about your thinking.

    3.6 Whoever cannot transcend Materialism lacks the ability to throw himself into the exceptional attitude I have described.

    In the witness observing list above they speak of observing thinking as it is happening. Steiner says this is impossible, that it is a two step process. First you think about or study something which will produce new thought. Then in step 2 you direct your attention on the new thought to study that.

    Steiner is describing putting your full attention on an object, such as STUDYING a table. In the background thoughts will appear about the table. Then in step 2 you direct your attention on the background thought to STUDY the thought. By doing this and introspectively thinking about your past thought, you are in the exceptional state by entering the realm of pure thought. This is not a day dreaming state but focused reflection. As Steiner moves through chapter 3 he describes the exceptional state on deeper and deeper levels.

    • Thank you for the explanation, actually gave me some clarity. I still think is the same but the "witness observer" (internal observation/thinking) I was referring is from the self development field and it does happen after the outer observation, reaction, or activity.  But like any abstract term it does have multiple meanings. I will keep reading PoF to comprehensibly understand Steiner words. I really appreciate your time.

      • So if a mechanical engineer reflects on his thinking process to see if it is objective or if a philosopher is thinking about his thinking to develop a new theory of knowledge they would both be "witness observers"? It seems like they would be "witness observers" but in addition also be "witness thinkers" or conscious thinkers. Like you called it "internal observation/thinking" or in POF it would be thinking observation or the contemplation of thinking.

        Steiner is constantly renaming things in the book as a way to expand the meaning. Though a science of freedom does need understood terms. This is the challenge of having a glossary"What a concept is cannot be expressed in words. Words can do no more than draw our attention to the fact that we have concepts." POF 4.0

        • Thank you for the example, it does make sense to me. While I'm reading all this ideas come to me. I'm reading three versions of the book simultaneously including the Spanish version to better understand the philosophy.

          • Whenever I don't understand the text I refer to another translation. Of the 9 translations there is always one translator who will translate it clearly. What would happen if you made an all-star translation that went line by line through the book and selected the best version from among the 9 translations? I have found the clearest translation of a single line may be in any 1 of the 9 English versions. If this was done from a point of overall knowledge of the book you would end up with an amazing edition that encompassed the best of all the translators.

            • Definitely a great project for when I finish the book. I can see how some of the sentences lose their meaning in the different translations.

          • You say "While I'm reading all this ideas come to me." That would be contemplation of the text. The reading of the text "kindles" ideas that come to you. Then, when you turn your attention to these ideas that were kindled, it is contemplation of thinking. These kindled ideas are now past thoughts that you turn your full attention to and think about. The process continues on...

            Except this is not normally the case. It is "exceptional" when this happens. Normally we go about life and observe things. Thoughts are kindled in our head as a running commentary of what we are observing. We may be aware of these thoughts in the background as we go about our day. Step 2 is not taken. We do not stop to go within and introspectively contemplate, with our full attention, the ideas that the world has kindled in us. You can't give your full attention to these inner thoughts while you are running around or you may cause an accident.

            "The Western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation for science, but it does require a sincere willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and to betake oneself into the realm of pure thought." POF 0.7

            • I get lost sometimes but I keep reading and at some point  I  feel "energize" reading the text.  I wouldn't have ever read the book this way if it wasn't for this website guidelines and explanations.

              • Steiner says the study of The Philosophy Of Freedom can be like reading strings of words without anything coming out of it, or, if you do it properly (thinking observation and thinking about thinking), you will have moments when it is like "the striking of steel on flint" (insight). This is the mystery of the book that is only known by those who reach this study experience. This is the thought-training that develops modern intuitive thinking suited for our scientific age.

                It is my view that the spiritual gurus of our age are found among the scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. The people who are trained to think. Innovation today, including ethics, is coming from the youthful tech community.

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ONLY original, unrevised edition of "The Philosophy Of Freedom" available on Amazon, ($9.80). Trans. HOERNLE 1916.
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NEW GREEK translation of The Philosophy Of Freedom PDF. More English translations here.

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  • Added 1918 German edition of Die Philosophie der Freiheit. There is a mystery associated with it. Hoernle incorporated Steiner's 1918 revisions into his 1922 English translation, which you would expect to match the 1918 German edition. But they don't match. Many additional revisions are in the 1918 German that it appears Hoernle was not aware of. Since the 1918 was published 4 years earlier how could Hoernle not be aware of them?

  • Early indications are that my new Philosophy Of Freedom translation will improve readability 2 grade levels, from Grade 13 to Grade 11. This is significant as it moves readability from college level to high school level. Yet, most people will hardly notice the difference, except they aren't getting confused as much, so the book hasn't being changed. It is even more thought provoking, in the right way. On to chapter 2.

  • I posted the 1922 Hoernle translation of the Philosophy Of Freedom that includes the 1918 additions.

  • Thank you publishers and translators
    I would like to thank all the publishers and translators who have made Rudolf Steiner's "The Philosophy Of Freedom" available to the world. Each translation adds a slightly different perspective of the book allowing the reader to check other translations for help to understand a particular passage.

  • F. Rittlemeyer asked Rudolf Steiner why he never touched upon occult topics before his fourtieth year? Steiner replied, "I first had to attain a certain position in the world. People could say of my present writings (occult) that they are 'mad'. Then, however, there are my earlier works, (philosophy) which cannot be ignored."

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