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The Philosophy Of Freedom


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

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Anthroposophical Medicine Is Not An Alternative Medicine

Anthroposophical medicine is not an “alternative medicine” --it doesn't aim to replace conventional medicine. It supplements “material science” with aspects of “spiritual science”. Anthroposophic medicine includes homeopathic high water dilutions, flower and herbal remedies, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, art therapy, music therapy, curative eurythmy (movement), and other harmless practices that many people say makes them feel better.

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Should We Trust Our Gut Feelings?

Gut feelings
Sometimes we make decisions after careful deliberation, but often we make decisions simply because it feels right. Call it a hunch, a gut feeling, or an instinct—what they all have in common is that we don’t know why we feel the way we do, yet the feeling can be so compelling, it moves us to act.

Should we listen to our gut feelings and make decisions based on feelings we don't understand or should we stop to think and make a deliberate decision?

Feeling tells us about ourselves, thinking tells us about the world
The relationship between thinking and feeling is complicated. We begin with how we react to a life event. While passively facing a life situation we are immediately hit with a feeling response of like or don't like. When we think about the situation it is different, it is not passive but requires conscious activity that takes effort. Our immediate feeling reaction tells us about ourselves. To objectively learn about the actual life situation requires that we think. Philosophy Of Freedom (POF) 3.2

Fear that something isn’t right
Our gut feeling can tell us that we don't like something, that “something isn’t right”. This sense of foreboding can irrationally warn us of something that threatens our survival like a roller-coaster ride, or it can be the unconscious bias of our cultural conditioning that warns us of gay marriage or of different races, or the fear can reflect the unconscious bias of our narrow-minded ideology.

Selective memory
We tend to overestimate the reliability of gut feelings. The best example is a gambler who is absolutely certain he will win based on nothing but a feeling. His selective memory quickly forgets the ninety percent of the time he loses, but vividly remembers the one time it worked.

Understanding feelings
Sometimes a gut feeling is subconsciously recognizing a conflicting pattern within our environment that we should be aware of, or sorting out a complex situation. But until we have a conscious understanding and test our assumptions we cannot be sure.

Feeling can alert us to something, but as it first appears feeling is an incomplete reality until it is understood. POF 8.3  Unless we think, or observe more closely to understand the reasons behind a feeling, it is more of a nuisance that can mislead us. There are lots of people who are constantly making wrong decisions about everything in their life because they have a gut feeling.

Education Of Feeling
The feelings of experts in a particular field are fundamentally different from ordinary gut feelings and are more reliable. As we gain knowledge in a field, we develop an immediate feeling sense for truth that reflects that knowledge. POF 6.11

Can we distinguish trustworthy intuitions from irrational feelings and biases?
Gut feeling, hunch, sixth sense, instinct, intuition—we use a number of terms to denote the fuzzy sense when we know something without being able to explicitly state how or why. Is there a way to distinguish trustworthy intuitions from irrational feelings and biases?

Old Eastern clairvoyance
By intuition we do not mean the old Eastern all-knowing clairvoyance. If you go to parts of India you will find people who will look at your face and tell you everything about yourself, what has happened to you and what will happen to you. Perhaps they have the remnants of a long lost clairvoyance from before the Age Of Reason, or perhaps they are frauds?

Intellectual intuition
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom defines intuition not as a feeling, but as a thought. “The form in which thought first appears in consciousness we will call 'Intuition'.” POF 5.10  This is why we call it “intellectual intuition”, it is found in the experience of thinking, but only when pure concepts are produced in that experience.

Concepts are not vague like feelings, but clear and fully comprehensible. When our intuition gives us the concept that corresponds to what we are observing, we have the essential nature of that thing in full clarity. Rather than a hunch, with intellectual intuition we act out of knowledge.
Cognitive satisfaction
The goal of knowledge is cognitive satisfaction. POF 7.2  We pose questions based on a feeling of “dissatisfaction” with what we observe in the world. We observe that our child is upset and seek the cause by asking, “Why is the child upset?” We experience a feeling of “satisfaction” only when our questions are sufficiently answered. In this way our pursuit of knowledge is guided by our individual feelings. The feeling of disharmony, that “something isn’t right” is the beginning of the pursuit of knowledge.

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Atheism United Posts Link To Our Blog Article

Rudolf Steiner's The Philosophy Of Freedom, published in 1894, is a humanist philosophy of knowledge and ethics based on the empirical observation of the mind. So it has value to anyone interested in science more so than blind belief, whether conservative or progressive, spiritualist or atheist, idealist or realist. This includes the secular, agnostic and atheist community, which has a strong interest in science. We have been using twitter, "Ethical Humanism" to reach this community. 

A new atheist online magazine called Atheism United posted a link to our recent blog post "First Impression Judgments Are An Error In Thinking". It is exciting to have attracted interest from the atheist community.

A recent poll shows a 13% decline in the U.S. in those who say they are "Religious" while Atheism is rising around the world. This decline would be expected in our age of science as "We no longer want to believe; we want to know." Philosophy Of Freedom 0.3

Well known atheists/agnostics include Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozaniak, John Lennon and Mark Twain.

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Common survival instincts
We all have survival instincts in common. We stay alive by obeying our needs for food, shelter and water. This promotes competition of the “survival of the fittest” where the weak are left behind.

Common social instincts
Gathering in families, tribes, clans, and nations increases everyone’s chance of survival. We get along by obeying social laws and constructing common social instincts.

Common moral code
As the size of the group increases it becomes more difficult to find common things they all share. This divisiveness is resolved with a common moral code from an Absolute power that no one can dispute.

The common moral code assigns value, worth, and legitimacy to our life. The truth is humans create moral codes, emphasize them, and eventually fight or oppress each other over them. The commands of duty cause the members to turn their backs on the “others” who do not obey the same moral code as themselves.

Obeying physical instincts and external moral codes will always lead to systems of oppression and war. Is there anything we have in common that will not end up causing conflict?

Common world of ideas
We share a common world of ideas. Philosophy Of Freedom 5.8“The concept of a triangle which my mind grasps is the same as the concept which my neighbor's mind grasps.” Without a common world of ideas there could be no philosophy, science or even language.

Within the world of ideas are universal ethical ideals. The “Golden Rule” that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself can be found historically in some form in almost every ethical tradition.

If we live by ideals individually selected from the common world of ideas and are not ruled by survival instincts or duty to external moral codes, a harmony of intentions is possible. By understanding the ideal intentions of others we realize we are all striving for the “good” in our own way.

“The world of ideas which inspires me is no other than the one that inspires my fellow human beings. I differ from my neighbor, not at all because we are living in two entirely different mental worlds, but because from our common world of ideas we receive different intuitions. He desires to live out his intuitions, I mine. If we both draw our intuitions really from the world of ideas, and do not obey mere external impulses (physical or moral), then we can not but meet one another in striving for the same aims, in having the same intentions. A moral misunderstanding, a clash of aims, is impossible between human beings who are free.” Philosophy Of Freedom 9.10

reference: Peter Kaufman

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First Impression Judgments Are An Error In Thinking

Common error in thinking
What is wrong with the way we think? One of the most common errors in the way people think is to judge something on a chance appearance, and conclude this is the thing.

First impression
We're all told about the value of making a good first impression. An interviewer, or a stranger, will form an impression of you, your character, your personality all within the first 60 seconds of meeting you. Or is it 30 seconds or just a few seconds?

A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly change those immediate impressions. Judgments based on appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated.

Job interview
A business manager interviews someone with a great business record, highly recommended by others and a good resume, but during the interview the guy seems uninspired. So the manager tells his colleagues, I don’t think we should hire this guy. Most people say that’s reasonable, but how can we say that we know the person? Typically an interview is a half hour. A lot of what goes on in the interview has little to do with future executive performance.

Limited observation is unscientific
We will carry away and retain this incomplete picture of the person unless we have further contact to get to know them better. This is an unscientific judgment based on a single encounter.

Limited thinking is unscientific
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom discusses how all living things are in a "process of becoming". Everything is constantly changing and moving through an infinite number of stages. A naive unthinking person does not take the unseen possibilities into consideration. A person convicted of a crime will always remain a criminal. The truth is we are all changing. “The picture which presents itself to me at any one moment is only a chance section out of the continuous process of growth in which the object is engaged.” POF 5.4

Unfoldment of human potential
Scientific thinking is able to go beyond mere observation and look at possibilities that lay within things if given the opportunity, such as what happens to a rose when given the proper water and light. A human being will flourish given the opportunities to unfold their potential. With thinking we can see and work with the process of becoming.

“Each one of us has it in us to be a free spirit, just as every rosebud is potentially a rose.' POF 10.8

reference: Eric Wargo, Samira Shackle

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Rudolf Steiner's article, "Theosophists" published in 1897 in his "Magazine for
Literature" Nr. 34, and reprinted in the collected edition "Steiner, Collected
Essays in Literature," pp. 194-96 . GA 32.

translated by Tom Mellett


A short time ago, Franz Hartmann published his translation of the profound Indian poem, the "Bhagavad Gita." This poem reveals the deepest experiences that the "chosen ones" had, those priest-like figures of a practical people living in extraordinary circumstances. As if in a dream, these priestly figures were granted solutions to whatever crucial questions might arise, and afterwards, any such answer would require their evaluation. Not by abstract thinking, which we Westerners are so dependent on now, but by means of mystical visions. It was indeed through intuition that these Eastern truth seekers sought to achieve their goals. It would be utter folly for us in the West if we wanted to imitate them. Our nature is different from theirs; and therefore we must find another way to reach the summit of knowledge, where we could enhance our style of life in freedom.

But the Theosophists don't think that way at all. They gaze upon the totality of European science and merely shrug their shoulders. They smile at the sobriety of reason and intellect, while they worship the Eastern way of seeking truth as the one and only way. Oh, it is really rich to observe the demeanor of superiority whenever you engage a Theosophist in conversation about the value of the more Western ways of knowing.

[The Theosophist says:] "All that is externality;" [or that such] "intellectuals circle round a thing, merely inspecting its surface"; or else: "we, however, live inside the object --- indeed, we even live inside God Himself; yes, we experience the divinity within us!" This is just a sampling of the expressions you get to hear. And you will hardly ever escape from them branding you as a "narrow-minded intellectual" if you, with only a few words, dare betray the fact that you might be able to think in the same way as they do by mean of [your] inferior Western science.

But, actually, it's not a good idea just to up and leave them as soon as they make such pronouncements. Rather, I advise anyone who meets with a Theosophist to stand fast, look him in the eye and with total sincerity, genuinely endeavor to glean something from the revelations of such a consummate "enlightened one" who radiates Eastern wisdom from "his inner being." You will of course hear absolutely nothing, nothing but hollow phrases lifted from the Eastern scriptures, without even a hint of content.

These "inner experiences" are nothing short of hypocrisy. After all, it's not much of a trick to pull phrases out of a profound literature and then use them to declare that the sum and substance of Western expertise is totally worthless. Yet, [in reality], how much depth, how much inwardness actually lies behind the supposedly superficial intellect, behind the external concepts of Western science, of which the Theosophists haven't the slightest idea!

But the way they speak of the highest knowledge --- which they do not possess --- the mystical way in which they assert incomprehensible foreign wisdom actually seduces a fair number of their contemporaries. Consider how the Theosophical Society has spread all over Europe, with adherents in every major city. And that the number of them who would rather indulge in abstruse gossip about their experience of the "divine within" than to acknowledge the clear, transparent conceptual knowledge of the West is not insignificant.

It also proves advantageous to the Theosophists that they are able to stay on good terms with the Spiritualists and other off-beat, like-minded seekers of the spirit. Oh, sure, they [the Theosophists] contend that these Spiritualists treat the phenomena of the spirit world as external; whereas, they themselves [the Theosophists] seek to experience such phenomena as strictly within as well as totally spiritual. But they are not above walking hand in hand with the Spiritualists when they deem such an alliance to help them wage war on the unfettered science, the straightforward science of the modern era, which is solely supported by reason and observation.

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Conceptual World Of Ideals

An important concept in The Philosophy Of Freedom is the existence of a universal world of ideals. Mathematics shows that there is a universal conceptual world of ideals we can perceive within and a particularized world that expresses those ideals without. Because we gain knowledge in two ways, thinking and observation, we face a duality. But thinking reconciles the separation when it adds the conceptual ideal, such as circle, to a particularized circle in the world. It is easy to see this in mathematics, but this also applies to everything else.

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What religion calls God, we call the Idea.

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  • Cartoon celebrates Iran nuclear agreement with a pair of doves with U.S. and Iranian flags on their chests crapping on Netanyahu's head. Netanyahu tried to prevent peace. Now Israel needs to give up their nukes for a nuke free Middle East.

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Gut feelings
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Tom Last posted a blog post
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Common survival instincts
We all have survival instincts in common. We stay alive by obeying our ne…
Tom Last posted a blog post
Common error in thinking
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