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1895 Reviews Of Rudolf Steiner's The Philosophy Of Freedom

1893 photo of Rudolf Steiner

Two 1895 Reviews Of Rudolf Steiner's Die Philosophie der Freiheit
(The Philosophy Of Freedom)


p. 150 Die Philosophie der Freiheit. By Dr. Rudolf Steiner


DIE PHILOSOPHIE DER FREIHEIT. Grundzuge einer modernen Weltanschauung.
By Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Berlin: Emil Felber. 1894. Pp. 242.

The essential characteristic of the present age the author finds in the evident striving of individual culture to make itself the centre of all the interests of life. To bear the stamp of validity, a thing must have its origin deep in the roots of individuality. This, in a certain form, is the gospel of the development from within outwards which Goethe championed. Between heredity, tradition, iron-clad custom, and the independent mind filled with new ideas, a constant battle is fought the battle of knowledge against belief. Man, however, must not bow to the new idea lest he be what he was before, but must make himself master of it. The ground or reason for the translation of an idea into actual reality by the agency of the individual man can be found only in the man himself. For an idea to become an act, a man must will its transformation. But such a volition can spring solely from man himself. Man is the ultimate mover of his acts; he is free. /IK/IK.

Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 4, No. 5 (Sep., 1895) pp. 573-574
Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review
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Die Philosophie der Freiheit. Von DR. RUDOLF STEINER.
Berlin, Emil Felber, 1894.-pp. 242.

Freedom, the author asserts, is a fact that stares us in the face, and those who deny it do so through misunderstanding. It is obvious that an action is not free if the agent does not know why he does it, but how does the matter stand with reference to an action which is performed after the reasons for and against it have been considered? This involves an inquiry into the nature of Thought, for only when we know what Thought is can we tell what part it plays in human action. Thought is a principle which exists for itself, and from it arise Notions which are applied to the given element of experience. The latter element is the necessary consequence of individuality, and the function of Thought is to restore the unity of the Ego with the world which particularity has broken. Freedom can be understood by means of this analysis. In action, as in knowledge, there is a given element to which the mind adds conceptions of its own. Only, in this case, the given does not determine in any way the conceptions which the mind applies, and, as these conceptions constitute our motives to action, this means that our motives are not determined.

Monism is the doctrine that the world is given as a duality of subject and object, but becomes a unity through knowledge. Thought unites what sensation has separated. The distinction between subject and object is therefore not absolute and there is no thing-in-itself. Further, Monism means that experience cannot be transcended at all, and it therefore excludes the notions of End, World-Ruler, etc. All that exists is a multitude of particular persons and things forming somehow a unity. It is not made very clear why "Monism " should involve this, and no attempt is made to show how one can get at the notion of a multitude of individuals, if one is to keep entirely to experience on its phenomenal side. Yet the views thus assumed determine to a large extent the author's results. Since Monism excludes everything beyond experience, man's being is not dependent on any first principle or ground of all existence. He is therefore thrown upon himself; makes his own ends; and determines his own actions. " Monism," in short, necessarily involves freedom.

It is difficult to find out exactly what Dr. Steiner understands by ' freedom.' He defines it differently in different places, and involves himself in contradictions in attempting to answer objections. The best part of the book is the chapter on " The Worth of Life," which contains a thorough and suggestive criticism of Pessimism. It is a remarkable piece of writing, and Hartmann refers to it in his noteworthy article1 in the Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Philosophische Kritik (Band 106, Heft. I). In other parts of the work there are passages of value, but the book is too uncritical and dogmatic to be satisfactory as a whole. There is throughout a lack of thoroughness and cohesion.


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