page contents

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom

New Revised Edition

last revised 2/12/2017

The Philosophy Of Freedom
by Rudolf Steiner
New 2016 Edited Edition

Knowledge of Freedom




0.0 Striving For Individuality
[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 from fully developing his powers is thrust aside. The saying “Each one of us must choose his hero in whose footsteps he toils up to Mount Olympus” no longer holds true 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 one asserts the right to express, in the creations of his art, what is unique in him. Just as there are playwrights who write in slang 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 Path Of Inner Truth
[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 reflects the world within.

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 heart.

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

0.3 Understood Truth
[5] We no longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of truths that we do not wholly understand. What is not clearly understood goes against our individuality, that wants to experience everything in the depths of its inner core. The only knowing 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 From Experience
[6] Nor do we want the kind of knowledge that has been encased in rigid academic rules, and stored away as valid for all time. Each of us claims the right to start from the facts we know, from our own direct experience, and from there advance to knowledge of the whole universe. We strive for certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.

0.5 Driven By Individual Need To Understand
[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, individual needs. We do not want to cram facts of knowledge into even an immature person, 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 Of Individual Truth
[8] I have no illusions as to the characteristics of the present time. I know how much a stereotypical attitude, lacking all individuality, is prevalent everywhere. Many flaunt a way of life that follows only the current cultural trends. 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 he shares with them his knowledge. 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 entering the realm of pure thought.

0.8 A Wholistic Science
[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 move away from seeing the world as a living whole. It is essential to have a wholistic knowing that 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 wholistic 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  merely know about things, but have made knowing 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 questions which are the most intimate that concern humanity. These pages offer a "Philosophy of Freedom."

0.10 A Science Of Humanism
[11] All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity, if it does not elevate the existential value of human personality. The true value of the sciences is seen only when we are shown the importance of their results for humanity. 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 us. Knowledge has value only by contributing to the all-around development of the whole of human nature.

0.11 A Science Of Ethics
[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 should take possession of the world of Ideas to use them for his human aims. 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.



1.0 The Question Of Freedom
[1] Is a human being free in his thinking and action, 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 can be compatible 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 opinion 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 arbitrary choosing, entirely at will, between two courses of action. There is always, so we are told, 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 the analysis of consciousness, as well as by 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 essence of all the relevant arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. His clear and simple argument 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 have. The reason it appears to be freedom is because human beings are conscious of their desires, but do not know 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 opinion 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 argument is easy to find. Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that 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 known to me in full transparency, 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, because 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 our characterological disposition. 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 a clear knowledge of them.

1.5 Action Resulting From Conscious Motive
[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 having knowledge of the motives of 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 Free When Controlled By Reason
[10] It is said 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 argument 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 capacity: 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 thought 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 Freedom Of A Spontaneous Unconditioned 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. The will, they tell us, is indeed the cause of the donkey’s turning around, but is itself unconditioned; 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 Self-Determined Reason For 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 when the reasons are known? This leads us to the question: What is the origin of our thoughts and what does it mean to think? For without knowledge of the thinking activity of the mind, it is impossible to form a concept of what it means to know something, including what it means to know the reason for 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] By no means should it be said that 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 human in the highest sense. 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 explained away with cold intellectual concepts. It is said that here the heart-felt sensibility prevails. No doubt. But the heart and its sensibility do not create the motives of action. Motives are present 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 Idealizing The Loved One
Love is no exception. Whenever love is not merely the expression of the sexual drive, it depends on the thoughts we form of the beloved. 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
It is said that 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. What he has done is form a perception-picture that includes the good qualities that others have ignored. Others do not experience love because they lack the perception-picture.

[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.



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 Striving For Knowledge
[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 we have received, yet more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be dissatisfied. A special case of this dissatisfaction is our desire to know.

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 ask the reason for this similarity. We observe a living being grow and develop to a certain degree of perfection, and seek the underlying causes. Nowhere are we satisfied with what nature displays before our senses. We look everywhere for what we call an explanation of the facts.

[2] The something more 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: Self 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 makes us strive to bridge the opposition. And in the final analysis the entire spiritual striving of humankind consists in bridging 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 problem which his Self sets before him. The artist seeks to embody into his material the Ideas of his Self, in order to reconcile the spirit that 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 Self, transcending mere appearance, contains. The thinker seeks the laws at work in the world of phenomena. He strives to penetrate with thinking what he learns by observing. 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 usually 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 pays attention only to the separation between Self and World brought about by human consciousness. Its whole effort is 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 is incapable of finding it.

Monism pays attention only to the unity and tries either to deny or to slur over the opposites, present though they are. Neither of these two points of view can satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees in Mind (Self) and Matter (World) two essentially different entities, and cannot therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions? The most absurd hypotheses have been propounded to answer these questions. 

The position of the Monists, so far, has not been much better. 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 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.

2.1 Materialism
[5] Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin by forming thoughts about the phenomena of the world. So Materialism starts with thoughts about Matter and material processes. In doing so, it already has two different kinds of facts before it: the material (physical) world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist tries to understand thought by regarding it as a purely material process. He believes thinking takes place in the brain in much the same way digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he attributes mechanical, chemical, and organic processes to Matter, so he credits it in certain circumstances with the ability to think. He overlooks that all he has done is shift the problem to another place. The Materialist attributes the power of thinking to Matter, instead of to himself. And this brings him back to his starting point. How does Matter come to reflect upon its own nature? Why is it not perfectly content to be the way it is, and simply go on existing as it is? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the identifiable subject, from his own Self, and instead occupies himself with the nebulous and indeterminate nature of Matter. Here the same problem comes up again. The materialistic viewpoint cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism
[6] What of the Spiritualistic view? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) any independent existence and conceives it as merely a product of Mind (the Self). He considers the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. From all that it achieves by its own spiritual effort, the physical world is never found. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to produce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do this either in knowledge or in action, as long as it regards its own nature as exclusively spiritual. It seems as if the Ego had to concede that the world would be a closed book to it, unless it could establish a non-spiritual relation to the world.

2.3 Realism
If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and acquire experience. Without experience Mind can have no content. Similarly, when we carry out actions, we have to realize our intentions on the real, practical level with the help of material things and forces. In other words, we are dependent on the external world.

2.4 Idealism
The most extreme Spiritualist or, better said, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “Ego.” What he accomplished is a magnificent thought-structure of the world without any content of actual experience. As little as it is possible for the Materialist to do away with the Mind, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do away with the external world.

2.5 Paradox Of Materialistic Idealism
[7] A curious variant of Idealism is the view of F. A. Lange presented in his widely read “History of Materialism.” Lang accepts that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena in the world, including our thought, to be the product of purely material processes. Conversely, he also accepts that Matter and its processes are the product of thinking.

"The senses give us only sense-effects... the effects that things have on them, not true copies, and certainly not the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular movements within it.”

This would mean our thinking is produced by material processes, and material processes are produced by our thinking. When translated into concepts, Lange’s philosophy is a conceptual paradox. This makes it an equivalent to the tale of the bold Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[8] The third form of Monism is the one that finds, even at the simple level of the atom, Matter and Mind already united. But nothing is gained by this either, for here again the question that actually originates in our consciousness is shifted to another place. How does the simple entity come to manifest itself in two different ways when it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Polarity Of Consciousness
[9] Contrary to all these points of view is a fact that must be emphasized. It is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the basic and primal polarity. It is we, ourselves, who break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as “Self” in opposition to the “World.” Goethe has given classical expression to this in his essay “Nature”, even though his way of speaking may sound at first completely unscientific. “Living in the midst of her (nature), yet are we strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays not her secrets.” But Goethe also knows the other side: “Human beings are all within her, and she in each of them.”

2.8 Feeling Nature
[10] It is true we have estranged ourselves from Nature, yet at the same time we feel we are within Nature and belong to her. It can only be that the outer workings of Nature live in us too.

2.9 Knowing Nature Within
[11] We must find the way back to her. A simple reflection can show us the way. While it is true we have torn ourselves away from Nature, we must have retained something of her in our own being. We must seek out this essence of Nature in us, and then we will discover our connection with her once more. Dualism fails to do this. It considers the human mind a spiritual entity entirely foreign to Nature and attempts somehow to attach it on to Nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link. We can find nature outside us only if we have first learned to know her within us. What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide. This marks out our path of inquiry. We will not speculate about how Nature and Mind interact. Instead, we will probe into the depths of our own being, to find there the elements we retained in our flight from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than ‘I’
[12] The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem. We must reach a point where we can say, “Here we are no longer merely ‘I’, here is something more than ‘I’.

2.11 Description Of Conscious Experience
[13] I expect some who have read this far will not find my presentation to be in accordance with "the present standing of scholarship." I can only reply that so far I have not been concerned with scientific results of any kind, but rather with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness. The inclusion of a few statements about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World have been used only to clarify the actual facts. For this reason, I have not found it necessary to use terms such as 'Self', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. in the precise way that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Of Everyday Life Without Interpretation
Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions of scholarship. So far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life. To object that the above discussions have not been scientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. I am not concerned with how scholarship has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it from moment to moment.



3.0 Reflective Thinking
[1] WHEN I observe how a billiard ball, when struck, transfers its motion to another ball, I remain completely without influence over the course of this observed event. The direction and velocity of the second ball is determined by the direction and velocity of the first. As long as I remain a mere spectator, I can say nothing about the motion of the second ball until after it has happened. The situation is different when I begin to reflect on the content of my observation. The purpose of my reflection is to establish the concepts of the event. I connect the concept of an elastic ball with other concepts of mechanics, and take into account the special circumstances of this event. I try, in other words, to add to the process that takes place without my participation, a second process that takes place in the conceptual sphere. The conceptual process depends on me. This is shown by the fact that I can remain content with the observation, and not make the effort to search for concepts if I have no need of them. But if the need is present, then I am not content until I have brought the concepts ball, elasticity, motion, impact, velocity, etc., into a certain connection with each other so they apply to the observed event. As certain as it is that the observed event takes place independently of me, it is just as certain that the conceptual process is dependent on my active involvement for it to take place.

Seek the concepts that correspond to an event
[2] We will discuss later whether this thinking activity of mine really expresses my own independent being, or whether physiologists are right in saying I cannot think as I wish, but must think in the way determined by the thoughts and thought-connections that happen to be present in my mind at any given moment. (Theodor Ziehen, Principles of Physiological Psychology). At this point we only wish to establish the fact we constantly feel compelled to seek for concepts and connections of concepts that relate in a specific way to the objects and events given independently of us. Whether this thinking activity is really ours, or whether we carry it out according to an unalterable necessity, is a question we will leave aside for now. That it initially appears to be our activity is undeniable. We know for certain the corresponding concepts are not given at the same time and together with the objects. That I am myself the active one in the conceptual process may an illusion, but to immediate observation it appears so. The question is: "What do we gain by finding a conceptual counterpart to an event?"

We can predict what will happen
[3] There is a far reaching difference in the way the details of an event relate to one another before, and after, the discovery of the corresponding concepts. Mere observation can follow the parts of a given event as they occur, but their connection remains obscure without the help of concepts. I see the first billiard ball move toward the second in a certain direction and with a certain velocity. What will happen after the impact I cannot tell in advance. I must wait to see what will happen, and can still now only follow it with my eyes. Suppose someone, at the moment of impact, obstructs my view of the field where the event is taking place. As a mere spectator, I will know nothing of what happens next. The situation is very different if, before my view is obstructed, I have already discovered the concepts corresponding to the details of the event. In that case I can predict what will happen, even when I am no longer able to observe it. There is nothing in a merely observed object or event that reveals anything about its connection to other objects and events. This connection only becomes evident when observation is combined with thought.

[4] Observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all human spiritual striving, insofar as one is consciously striving. Everyday common sense as well as the most complicated scientific research, rest on these two fundamental pillars of our mind. Philosophers have proceeded from various primary antitheses, such as the contrast between Idea and Reality, Subject and Object, Appearance and Thing-in-itself, Ego and Non-Ego, Idea and Will, Concept and Matter, Force and Substance, the Conscious and the Unconscious. However, it is easy to show that the contrast between observation and thought must precede all others, as the most important antithesis for the human being.

[5] Whatever principle we wish to establish, we must either prove we have observed it somewhere, or we must express it in the form of clear thought that can be rethought by others. Every philosopher setting out to explain his fundamental principles must express them in conceptual form, and so use thought. By doing so he indirectly admits his philosophical activity already presumes thought, which is taken for granted. Nothing is being said yet about whether thought or something else is the main factor in the development of the world. But it is clear from the start that, without thought, philosophers can gain no knowledge of this development. Thought may only play a supporting role in the occurrence of world-events, but it surely plays a leading role in forming a view of these events.

[6] As for observation, we need it because of the nature of our organization. Our thought about a horse and the object “horse” are two things that appear to us separate from each another. The object is accessible to us only through observation. As little as we can formulate a concept of a horse by merely staring at it, just as little can we magically conjure up the object horse by merely thinking of it.

3.1 Observation Of Thought
[7] In sequence of time, observation actually comes before thought. For even thought we must first learn to know by means of observation. It was essentially a description of an observation when, at the beginning of this chapter, we showed how thought is kindled by an objective process (billiard event) and goes beyond what is given, transcending the event. It is through observation that we first become aware of whatever enters the circle of our experience. The content of our sensations, perceptions, opinions, our feelings, acts of will, dreams and imaginations, memory images, concepts and Ideas, illusions and hallucinations, are all given to us through observation.

The everyday state
[8] As an object of observation thought differs essentially from all other things. The observation of a table or a tree occurs as soon as these objects enter the horizon of my experience. Yet I do not, at the same time, observe my thought about these things. I observe the table, and I carry on a process of thought about the table, but I do not at the same moment observe this thought-process. If I want to observe the table while at the same time observe my thoughts about it, I have to remain in a place outside any activity of my own.

The exceptional state
While the observation of things and events, and thinking about them, is the everyday state that occupies my normal life, the observation of the thoughts themselves require entering an exceptional state. It is important to understand the exceptional state, because we are going to compare thought, as an object of observation, to all other observed things. When observing our thought-process, we must be sure to apply the same method we use to study any other object in the world. But in the normal course of our study of other things, we do not usually reflect upon our thought-processes as well.

3.2 Concept Formed Through My Activity
[9] Someone might object that what I have noted here about thinking is equally true of feeling and all other activities of the mind. For example, a feeling of pleasure is also kindled by the object and it is this object I observe, not the feeling of pleasure.

Concept established by my activity
This objection does not hold, because a concept established by thinking is related to what is observed in a completely different way than a pleasure is. I am definitely aware that a concept of a thing is formed by my own activity, while pleasure just happens to me. Pleasure is aroused by an object in the same way as a change is caused in an object by a stone falling on it. To observation, a pleasure is given, in exactly the same way as the event that causes it. It is not the same with concepts. I can ask why an event arouses a feeling of pleasure in me. But I certainly cannot ask why an event calls up a certain set of concepts in me. The question would simply make no sense.

Learn about event, not myself
When I am reflecting about an event, I am not concerned with how it affects me. I learn nothing at all about myself by knowing the concepts corresponding to the observed change in a pane of glass caused by a stone thrown against it. But I learn a great deal about my personality when I know the feeling that an event arouses in me. If I say of an observed object, “This is a rose,” I say nothing about myself. But if I say of the rose, “It gives me a feeling of pleasure,” I characterize not only the rose, but also myself in my relationship to the rose.

3.3 Thinking Contemplation Of Object
[10] There can be no question, then, that thought and feeling are not on the same level when compared as objects of observation. The same could easily be shown for all other activities of the human mind. Unlike thought, they belong in the same category as other observed objects and events. It is part of the unique nature of thinking that it is an activity directed solely on the observed object, and not on the personality who is engaged in the thinking. This is evident even in the way we express our thoughts about an object, in contrast to the way we express our feelings or acts of will. If I see an object and recognize it as a table, I do not normally say, “I am thinking of a table”, but rather, “This is a table.” Yet I could certainly say “I am pleased with the table.” In the first case I am not interested in expressing my relationship with the table, but in the second case it is just this relationship that I am drawing attention to. If I say, “I am thinking of a table,” I have already entered into the exceptional state described above. From this position something always present in our mental activity is observed, although normally it is not noticed.

Full attention on object
[11] The unique nature of thought is that the thinker forgets thinking when actually doing it. What occupies his attention is not thought, but rather the object he is observing while he is thinking.

While thinking, do not notice thinking
[12] The first thing we notice about thought is that it is the unobserved element in our normal mental life.

[13] The reason why we do not notice the thinking that goes on in our everyday mental life is none other than this: thinking is our own activity. What I do not originate appears as something ‘objectively there’ in my field of observation. I see myself before something that is not of my doing. It confronts me. I must accept it before I begin my thinking-process. While I am reflecting on the object, I am absorbed in it, my attention is focused on it. To focus the attention on the object is, in fact, to contemplate it by thought. This is thinking contemplation. My attention is not directed toward my activity, but rather toward the object of this activity. In other words, when I think, I do not see the thinking I am producing. I only see the object I am thinking about, which I did not produce. 

3.4 Thinking Contemplation Of Thought
[14] I am in exactly the same position when I enter the exceptional state and reflect on my own thinking. I can never observe my present thought. Only afterward can the past experience of my thought-process be made into the object of fresh thoughts.

Reflect on past thought
If I want to observe my present thought-process, I would have to split myself into two persons: one to think, and the other to observe this thinking. This I cannot do. I can only accomplish it in two separate acts. The thought to be observed is never the current one actively being produced, but another one. For this purpose, it makes no difference whether I observe my own earlier thoughts, or follow the thought-process of another person or, as in the above example of the motion of billiard balls, set up an imaginary thought-process.

Create, then contemplate
[15] There are two things that do not go together: productive activity and confronting this activity in contemplation. It is not possible to create and contemplate at the same time. This is recognized even in the First Book of Moses. In the first six days God is represented as creating the world, and only after the world is there is it possible to contemplation it: "And God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good." The same applies to our thinking. It must first be there before we can observe it.

3.5 Know Thought Directly And Intimately
[16] There is a reason why it is impossible to observe the thought-process while it is presently taking place. It is the same reason that makes it possible for us to know it more directly, and more intimately than any other process in the world.

Know thought directly
It is just because we produce the thought-process through our own creative activity, that we know the characteristic features of its course, and the details of how the process has taken place. What can be discovered only indirectly in all other fields of observation,— the factually corresponding context and the connection between the single objects—in the case of thought is known to us in an absolutely direct way.

Know content of concept clearly
Without going beyond the observed phenomena, I cannot know why thunder follows lightning. But I know immediately, from the content of the two concepts, why my thought connects the concept of thunder with the concept of lightning. The point being made here does not depend on whether I have the correct concepts of lightning and thunder. The connection between those concepts that I do have is clear to me, and is so through the concepts themselves.

3.6 Thinking Guided By Content Of Thought
[17] This transparent clarity of the thought-process is completely independent of our knowledge of the physiological basis of thought. I am speaking here of thought when we make our own mental activity the object of observation. For this purpose I am not concerned with how one physical process in my brain causes or influences another while I carry on a line of thought. What I observe in studying a thought-process is not what process in my brain connects the concept lightning with the concept thunder. I observe my reason for bringing these two concepts into a certain relationship. Introspection shows that in linking thought with thought I am guided by the content of my thoughts. I am not guided by physical processes in the brain.

Pure thinking
In a less materialistic age this remark would of course be entirely unnecessary. But today—when there are people who believe that once we know what matter is, we will know how matter thinks—it is necessary to point out that we can discuss thought without entering the field of brain physiology. Most people find it difficult to grasp the concept of pure thinking. Anyone who counters the idea of thinking I have developed here with the assertion of Cabanis' that "the brain secretes thoughts as the liver does gall or the salivary ducts saliva . . .", simply does not know what I am talking about. Such a person is trying to find thought in the brain by the normal method of observation, in the same way we approach other objects in the world. But, as I have shown, thought cannot be found in this way because it eludes normal observation.

Willingness to enter the exceptional state
Whoever is unable to enter the exceptional state I have described cannot transcend Materialism and become conscious of what in all other mental activity remains unconscious. If someone lacks the willingness to look at thought from this position, then one can no more discuss thought with him than one can discuss color with someone born blind. But he should certainly not imagine that we consider physiological processes to be thinking. He fails to explain thought because he simply does not see it.

3.7 Know Thought With Absolute Certainty
[18] For everyone who has the ability to observe thought—and with the willingness, every normal person has this ability—this observation is the most important that can be made. What he observes is his own creation. He is not facing something that is, at first, unfamiliar to him. He faces his own activity. He knows how it comes about. He clearly sees into its conditions and relationships. He gains a secure point of reference from which he can seek, with a reasonable hope of success, the explanation for all other world phenomena.

Know my thought with absolute certainty
[19] The feeling of having found such a firm foundation caused the founder of modern philosophy, Rene Descartes, to base the whole of human knowledge on the principle, "I think, therefore I am." All other things, all other events, are there independent of me. I do not know whether they are truth, or illusion, or dream. There is only one thing I know with absolute certainty, for I myself bring it to its sure and undisputed existence: my thought. Perhaps it has another ultimate source. Perhaps it comes from God or from somewhere else, I cannot be sure. I am sure of one thing, it exists because I produced it myself. Descartes had no justification for giving his principle any other meaning than this. All he had a right to assert was that it is only in thinking that I grasp myself, standing within the world-whole, in the activity that is the most my own.

My thought content defines my existence
What the added words "therefore I am" is intended to mean has often been debated. It only makes sense on one condition. The simplest statement I can make about a thing is that it is, that it exists. What kind of existence it has cannot be more closely defined at first sight, in the first moment it appears within the range of my experience. Each object must first be studied in its relationship to other things, before we can determine the way it exists. An experienced event may be a series of perceptions, but it could also be a dream, a hallucination, and so on. Within only a brief moment, I am unable to say in what way it exists. I cannot read the kind of existence from the event itself, but I can learn this when I consider the event in relation to other things. But even then, I learn nothing more than how it relates to these other things.

My search reaches firm ground only when I find an object, from which I can derive the reason of its existence from the object itself. This I am, as a thinker; for I give to my existence the defining, self-supporting content of my thought activity. From here I can go on to ask: "Do other things exist in the same, or in some other way?"

3.8 Remaining Within Realm Of Thought
[20] When we make thought an object of observation, we add something to the rest of the world's observed content that normally escapes our notice. But we do not change the method of observation, which is the same as we use for other things. We increase the number of observed objects, but not the number of methods.

Remaining within the realm of thought
A process is overlooked when we observe other things. This process mingles with world-events and intermixes with the observation process itself. Something is present that is different from every other kind of process, and is not taken into account. But when I observe my thinking, there ceases to be an unnoticed element present. For what hovers in the background is, again, nothing but thought. The observed object is qualitatively the same as the activity directed upon it. This is another special characteristic of thought. When we observe thought, we are not compelled to do so with the help of something qualitatively different. We can remain within the same element; the realm of thought.

Remain within the familiar when thinking about thinking
[21] When I weave a web of thoughts around an object given independently of me, I go beyond my observation. Then the question becomes: What right do I have to do this? Why don’t I just passively let the object make its impression on me? How is it possible for my thought to be related to the object? These are questions everyone who reflects on his own thought-processes must ask. All these questions vanish when we think about thinking itself. We then add nothing unfamiliar to our thought, and so there is no need to justify such an addition.

3.9 Create Thought Before Knowing It
[22] Schelling says: "To know Nature is to create Nature." Anyone who takes these words of the daring Nature philosopher literally, must renounce forever all hope of gaining knowledge of Nature because, after all, Nature already exists. To re-create it over again, one must know the principles according to how it originated. From the Nature that already exists, one would have to copy the conditions of existence, and apply them to the Nature one wished to re-create. But this copying, which has to precede the re-creating, is to already have a knowledge of Nature, and remains this even if no re-creation follows. To create a Nature different from what already exists, one would have to create it without applying prior knowledge of existing Nature.

Dive straight into thinking
[23] What is impossible with Nature—creation prior to knowledge—we achieve in the act of thought. If we wait to think until we already know it, we would never think at all. We must resolutely dive straight into thinking and only afterward, by introspective analysis, gain knowledge of what we have done. We ourselves first create the thought-process, which we then make the object of observation. All other objects are there without any activity on our part.

Think, before we can observe thought
[24] Someone could easily counter my contention that we must think before we can observe thought, with the claim of an equally valid contention, "We must digest before we can observe the process of digestion." A similar objection was made by Pascal to Descartes, claiming one could just as well say, "I walk, therefore I am." Certainly I must also go straight into digesting and not wait until I have studied the physiological process of digestion. But this could only be compared with the analysis of thought if, after digesting, I did not analyze it by thought, but were to eat and digest it. There is good reason for the fact that digestion cannot become the object of digestion, but thought can very well become the object of thought.

[25] There is then no doubt, that in thinking we consider world-events from a point that requires our presence if anything is to happen. And this is exactly what is important. The reason why things seem so puzzling is because I am so uninvolved in their coming about. I simply find them before me. But with thought I know how it is brought about. This is why there can be no more authentic starting-point for the study of any world-event than thought.

3.10 Thought Is Self-Supporting And Self-Subsisting
[26] Here I will mention a widespread error concerning thought. It is often said that, "We never experience thought as it truly is, in its real nature. Thought-processes connect our observations with one another, and weave them together with a network of concepts." But they say, "These thoughts are not at all the same as what our analysis later extracts from the objects we observe, and make into the object of study. What we first unconsciously weave into things", so we are told, "is something entirely different from what we then consciously draw back out."

Thought not altered by observing it
[27] Those who hold this view do not realize it is impossible to escape from thought. I cannot get outside thought when I want to contemplate it. If one makes a distinction between thought before and after becoming conscious of it, one should not forget this distinction is purely external and irrelevant to our discussion. I do not in any way alter a thing by thinking about it. I can imagine that a being with different sense organs and a differently functioning intelligence would have a very different idea of a horse than mine. But I cannot imagine that my own thought becomes something else because I observe it. I myself observe what I myself produce. We are not discussing how my thought appears to an intelligence other than mine, but how it appears to me. In any case, the idea another mind forms of my thought cannot be truer than the one I form myself. If the thought-process is not my own, but instead the activity of a different being, my idea of this being's thought will occur in a certain way. But I could not know the real nature of what another being's thought was like in itself.

[28] I can see no reason why I should consider my thought from any other point of view than my own. I contemplate the rest of the world by means of thought. Why should I make an exception for the contemplation of my thought?

Thought principle of self-subsistence
[29] With this, I think I have sufficiently justified making thought the starting-point in my approach to understanding the world. When Archimedes invented the lever, he thought he could use it to lift the whole cosmos out of its hinges, if he could only find a secure point of support to set his instrument. He needed something that was self-supporting, not dependent on anything else. In thought we have a principle of self-subsistence, it is composed by means of itself. From this principle let us attempt to understand the world. Thought can be grasped by thought. The only question is whether we can grasp anything else by means of thought.

3.11 Impartial Consideration Of Thinking
[30] So far I have spoken of thought without considering what conveys it; human consciousness. Most of today’s philosophers would object that there must be consciousness before there can be thought. According to them, “We should start from consciousness rather than thought. There would be no thought without consciousness.” To this I would reply that to understand the relationship between thought and consciousness, I must think about it. This requires I start with thought.

In response one can say, “When the philosopher wishes to understand consciousness, he makes use of thought, and to that extent thought comes first. But in the normal course of life thought arises within consciousness, so consciousness does precede thought.” If this answer were given to the creator of the world, when it was about to create thought, then it would no doubt be entirely justified. Of course thought cannot arise before there is consciousness. For the philosopher, however, it is not a question of creating the world, but of understanding it. He is in search of the starting-point, not for creating, but for understanding the world.

I find it odd that a philosopher is criticized for being concerned first and foremost with the correctness of his principles. They expect him to turn immediately to the objects he wishes to understand. The world-creator, before everything else, had to know how to find a vehicle for thought. But the philosopher has to find a secure foundation for understanding what already exists. What good does it do to start with consciousness and subject it to our thinking, without first knowing whether thoughtful contemplation can offer insight into things?

Impartial Examination Of Thinking
[31] We must first examine thinking in a completely impartial way, without reference to a thinking subject or a thought object. For in subject and object we already have concepts formed by thinking. There is no denying that thinking must be understood before anything else can be understood. Anyone who denies this overlooks the fact that he, as a human being, does not belong to the beginning of creation, but to its end. To explain the world by means of concepts, we cannot start from the earliest elements of existence. We must begin with the nearest element given to us, what is most intimately ours. We cannot, with a leap, take ourselves back to the beginning of the world, and begin our analysis there. Instead, we must start from the present moment and see whether we can advance from the later to the earlier.

Start with last thing produced in the world-process: thought
As long as Geology spoke of catastrophe fables to explain the present condition of the earth, it groped in darkness. Only when it began to investigate those processes that are still active in the earth today, and from these reason backward to draw conclusions about the past, did it gain secure ground. Likewise, Philosophy will get nowhere as long as it is based on all kinds of principles such as atom, motion, matter, will, the unconscious, and so on. It will remain suspended in the air. The philosopher can reach his goal only when he takes the last thing in time as the first in theory. His starting-point must be what comes into existence last. And the absolutely last thing produced in the world-process is thought.

3.12 Rightness Of Thought
[32] There are people who say we cannot know for certain whether our thought is right or wrong. So our starting-point remains a doubtful one. This is as sensible as saying it is doubtful whether a tree in itself is right or wrong. Thought is a fact and it is meaningless to speak of a fact as being right or wrong.

Application of thought
At most I can have doubts about whether thought is rightly applied. In the same way I can have doubts whether a certain tree will provide the right wood suitable for the intended purpose of a tool being made. It is the task of this book to show how far the application of thought to the world is a right application or a wrong one.

Rightness of thought
I can understand someone doubting whether we can know the world by means of thought. But I find it incomprehensible how anyone can doubt the rightness of thought, when it is considered by itself.

Addition (1918)
[1] The preceding discussion points to the importance of the significant difference between thinking and all other activities of mind. This difference reveals itself to unprejudiced observation. Anyone who does not strive to see the facts without preconception, will be tempted to raise objections. Such as: “When I think about a rose this only expresses a relationship between my ‘I’ and the rose. It is the same when I feel the beauty of the rose. A relationship exists between ‘I’ and object in thinking. And in exactly the same way, a relationship exists between ‘I’ and object in feeling, and in perceiving.”

This objection fails to take into account that only in the activity of thinking does the ‘I’, or Ego, know itself to be completely at one with the activity. The Ego stands within the activity of thinking right into all its branches and ramifications. With no other activity is this so completely the case. For example, when pleasure is felt it is easy for a careful observer to distinguish to what extent the Ego knows itself to be active, and to what extent it is passive. This observation of feeling shows that the Ego is passive. The feeling merely happens to the Ego. And this applies to all other activities of the mind. But we must not confuse “having thought-images” with working out ideas by means of thinking. Thought-images can arise in the mind in a dreamy way, or as vague intuitions. This is not thinking.

“True,” someone might say, “but if this is what you mean by thinking, then thinking contains willing. And in that case we are dealing not only with thinking, but also the will to think.” This, however, would simply justify us in saying: Genuine thinking must always be willed. This fact is taken for granted in our previous characterization of thinking. Though the true nature of thinking requires that it always be willed, there is a more important point. The point here is that everything willed appears before the Ego, as it takes place, as an activity completely its own and under its own supervision. Precisely because this is the essential nature of thinking as defined here, it shows itself to the observer as willed through and through. To make an objective appraisal of thinking requires one to master all the relevant facts. Then one will recognize that this mental activity has the unique character as described.

[2] A person highly valued as a thinker by the author of this book has raised an objection. He said one cannot speak of thinking as I have done here, because what we believe we observe as active thinking is only an appearance. In reality, one only observes the results of an unconscious activity underlying thinking. Only because this unconscious activity is not observed, does the illusion arise that the thinking we observe exists independently. In the same way, a rapid succession of electric sparks deceives us into believing we see motion.

This objection is also based on an inexact view of the facts. It overlooks that it is the Ego itself that, standing within thinking, observes its own activity. To be deceived, as we are by the rapid succession of electric sparks, the Ego would have to be outside thinking. Now we could say instead: “Anyone who makes such a comparison willfully deceives himself. It is like someone claiming that a light perceived to be in motion is lit by an unknown hand at every point where it appears.” —No, the plain facts are there if one looks. Thinking is an activity produced within the Ego and clearly supervised by the Ego. In order to invent a hypothetical activity as the basis of thinking, one must first blind himself to these facts.

If he does not willfully blind himself, he must recognize that all these "hypothetical additions" to thinking lead him away from its real nature. Unprejudiced observation shows that only what is found within thinking can be regarded as belonging to it. It is impossible to discover the cause of thinking by going outside the realm of thought.



4.0 Reactive Thinking
[1] Concepts and Ideas are formed by thinking. What a concept is cannot be expressed in words. Words can only draw our attention to the fact we have concepts. When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation. An Ideal counterpart is added to the object, and the observer regards the object and Ideal counterpart as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of observation, only the Ideal counterpart remains. This is the concept of the object.

Concepts and Ideas
The wider the range of our experience, the larger the number of our concepts. Concepts are never found in isolation. They combine to form an ordered and systematic whole. For example, the concept “organism”  links up with others such as "development according to law" and "growth." Other concepts, formed from single objects, merge together into a unity. All concepts I form of particular lions merge in the universal concept "lion." In this way, all the single concepts unite to form an enclosed, conceptual system in which each has its special place. Ideas are not qualitatively different from concepts. They are filled with more content, are more complex and more comprehensive concepts.

I must emphasize here that my starting-point is thinking, not concepts and Ideas, which must first be gained by thinking. Thinking precedes concepts and Ideas. Consequently, what I have said about the nature of thought, that it is self-supporting and determined by nothing but itself, cannot simply be transferred and applied to concepts. (I make special mention of this here, as this is where I differ with Hegel, who regards the concept as the primary and original element.)

[2] Concepts cannot be drawn from observation. This is evident from the fact the growing human being only slowly and gradually builds up the concepts that correspond to the objects in his environment. Concepts are added to observation.

4.1 The Response Of The Mental Process To Observation
[3] A popular contemporary philosopher, Herbert Spencer, describes the mental process that takes place in response to observation as follows:

[4] “While wandering through fields in September you hear a rustle a few steps ahead, and see the grass moving by the side of the ditch. You will probably approach the spot to learn what caused the noise and the movement. As you approach, a partridge flutters in the ditch. Seeing this, your curiosity is satisfied; you have what we call an explanation of the phenomena.

Generalize relationships
The explanation, please notice, amounts to this: Throughout life you have learned through countless experiences that a disturbance among small stationary bodies, is accompanied by the movement of other bodies among them. Because of having generalized the relationship between disturbances and movements, you consider this particular disturbance explained as soon as you find it to be an example of just such a relationship" (First Principles, Part I, par. 23).

Conceptualize relationships
A closer analysis leads to a very different description from what Spencer gives. When I hear a noise the first thing I do is search for the concept that fits this observation. Only when I have this concept am I led beyond the noise itself. Whoever does not reflect on the event simply hears the noise and is content to leave it at that. But my thought makes it clear to me that a sound must be the effect of something. Only when I connect the concept of effect with the perception of the noise am I inclined to go beyond the single observation and look for its cause. The concept “effect” calls up the concept “cause.”

My next step is to look for the object that acts as the cause, which I find to be a partridge. But I can never gain the concepts “cause” and “effect” by mere observation, no matter how many cases I observe. Observation calls up thought, and thought shows me how to link separate experiences together.

[5] If one demands a “strictly objective science” that draws its content from observation alone, then one must also demand that it renounce all thinking. Because thought, by its very nature, goes beyond what is observed.

4.2 The Thinker
[6] We must now pass from thought to the being who thinks. For it is through the thinker that thought is combined with observation. Human consciousness is the place where concept and observation meet, and are connected to each other. This is, in fact, what characterizes human consciousness. It mediates between thought and observation.

Thinking consciousness
In observation the object appears as given, in thought the mind experiences itself as active. It regards the thing as the object and itself as the thinking subject. When thought is directed to the observed world we have consciousness of objects; when thought is directed to itself we have self-consciousness. Human consciousness must of necessity be also self-consciousness, because it is a thinking consciousness. For when thought contemplates its own activity, the subject makes its own essential nature an object of study. Subject and object are here one and the same.

Thinking reference
[7] It is important to note here that it is only by means of thinking that I am able to define myself as subject and contrast myself with objects. For this reason, thinking should never be regarded as a merely subjective activity. Thinking is above the distinction of subject and object. It produces these two concepts just as it produces all others. When I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this referring as a purely subjective activity. It is not the subject, but thought, that makes the reference.

The subject does not think because it is a subject; rather, it appears to itself as subject because it can think. The activity of thinking consciousness, exercised by a human being as a thinker, is therefore not merely subjective. In fact, it is an activity that is neither subjective nor objective; it transcends both concepts. I should never say that I, as an individual subject, think. The truth is that I, as subject, exist only by the grace of thought. Thought takes me out of myself and relates me to objects. But it also separates me from the objects by setting me over against them, to face them as subject.

[8] This is the basis for the dual nature of the human being: he thinks. His thought embraces himself along with the rest of the world. But also, by means of thought, he defines himself as an individual in contrast with the objective world.

4.3 The Observed Object
[9] Next, we must ask ourselves: How does the other element—which we have so far simply called the ‘observed object’—enter our consciousness where it comes into contact with thought?

Thought-free observation
[10] To answer this question, we must remove from our field of observation all thought that has already been brought into it. For at any moment the content of our consciousness is always pervaded with concepts in a variety of ways.

[11] Let us imagine a being with fully developed human intelligence originates out of nothing and has the world in front of him. All this being would be aware of, before its thought became active, is the pure content of observation. The world would appear to this being as a chaotic aggregate of disconnected sense-data: colors, sounds, touch, warmth, taste and smell; followed by feelings of pleasure and pain. This aggregate is the content of pure, thought-free observation.

Establish conceptual relationships
Facing it stands thought, ready to begin its activity as soon as it can find a point of engagement. Experience shows that it soon does. Thought is able to draw connecting threads from one sense-datum to another. It unites specific concepts with these elements, and in this way establishes a relationship between them. We have already seen how a noise we encounter is brought into relationship with another observation by characterizing the first as an effect of the second.

[12] We will not be tempted to believe these relationships established by thought only have subjective validity, if we recall that in no circumstance can the activity of thought be considered merely subjective.

4.4 The Conscious Subject
[13] Our next task is to discover, by thoughtful reflection, how the immediately given sense-data—the pure, relationless aggregate of sensory objects—is related to our conscious subject.

[14] Because of the various ways of using words, it seems necessary for me to come to an agreement with the reader on the meaning of a word that I will use from now on. The word is percept. I will use the word “percept” to refer to “the immediate objects of sensation” mentioned above, insofar as the conscious subject becomes aware of them through observation. It is the observed object, not the process of observing, that I call “percept.”

[15] I do not choose the term “sensation,” because sensation has a specific meaning in Physiology narrower than my concept of “percept.” I can call an inner feeling a percept, but not a sensation in the physiological use of the term. When I become aware of a feeling it becomes a percept for me, and I can then gain knowledge of it. And the way we gain knowledge of our thought-processes, through observation, is to first notice thought. Then thought too, may be called a percept.

World-picture contradictions
[16] The unreflective, naive person regards his percepts, as they first appear, to have an existence completely independent of him. When he sees a tree, he believes right away that it is standing there on the spot where his look is directed having the shape, color and details just as he sees it. From this naive standpoint, if a person sees the sun appear in the morning as a disc on the horizon, and then follows the course of this disc, he believes the phenomenon exists and occurs just as he observes it. He clings to this belief until further perceptions contradict the earlier ones. A child, with no experience of distance, reaches for the moon, and does not correct its first impression until it conflicts with later ones.

World-picture corrections
Every widening of the circle of my perceptions makes me correct my picture of the world. We see this in everyday life, as well as in the intellectual development of humanity. The picture which the ancients made of the relation of the earth to the sun and other celestial bodies, had to be changed by Copernicus, because the ancient picture did not agree with new, previously unknown perceptions. A man who had been born blind said, after an operation performed by Dr Franz, that the picture he had formed of the size of objects before his operation was a very different one. It was formed on the basis of a blind man’s perceptions of touch. He had to correct his touch percepts with his new visual percepts.

4.5 The Perception-Picture
[17] Why are we forced to make continual corrections to our observations?

Perception-picture dependent on place of observation (mathematical)
[18] A simple reflection provides the answer to this question. If I stand at one end of a tree-lined avenue, the trees at the far end appear smaller and closer together than those where I am standing. My perception-picture changes when I change my place of observation. Therefore, the way things appear to me is determined by a factor that has to do, not with the object, but with myself as the observer. It is all the same to the avenue where I stand. But the picture I have of it depends to a great extent on my standpoint. In the same way, it makes no difference to the sun and solar system that human beings happen to observe them from the earth. But the perception-picture human beings have of the sun and solar system is determined by their living on the earth.

Perception-picture dependent on my physical and mental organization (qualitative)
This dependence of the perception-picture on our place of observation is the easiest to understand. It becomes more difficult when we learn how our perceptual world is dependent on our physical and mental organization. The physicist teaches us that in the space where we hear a sound, there are vibrations of the air. And in the body where the sound is emitted there are vibrations of its parts. But we only perceive these vibrations as sound if we have normally constructed ears. Without them the whole world would remain forever silent.

The physiologist teaches us there are people who perceive nothing of the wonderful display of colors surrounding us. Their perception-picture only has shades of light and dark. Others fail to perceive just one particular color, such as red. Their picture of the world lacks this color hue, and is different from the average person. I would like to call the dependency of my perception-picture on my place of observation "mathematical," and its dependency on my organization "qualitative." The first determines the relative sizes of my percepts and distances between them, the second their quality. The fact that a red surface appears to me red—this qualitative determination—depends on the structure of my eye.

4.6 The Subjective Perception-Picture
[19] My perception-pictures, then, are at first subjective. The recognition of the subjective character of our percepts can easily lead us to doubt whether anything objective underlies them at all. We know that a percept, for example the color red or a certain musical tone, is only possible thanks to a specific structure of our organism. From this we can easily be led to believe that the percept, apart from our subjective organization, ceases to be. If not for our act of perceiving it as an object, it has no existence at all.

Nothing exists other than my subjective perception-picture
This view found its classic expression in George Berkeley, who was convinced that when we realize how significant the human subject is for the percept, we can no longer believe in a world that exists apart from a conscious mind. He says:

"Some truths are so near and so obvious to the mind man need only open his eyes to see them. One such truth is this important one: The whole choir of heaven and all things of the earth—in a word, all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world—have no subsistence outside the mind. Their sole existence is being perceived or known. Consequently, as long as they are not actually perceived by me, or exist in my mind or in that of some other created spirit, they either have no existence or subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit." (Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, Part I, Section 6.)

From this point of view, nothing remains of the percept if we consider it apart from being perceived. There is no color when none is seen, no sound when none is heard. Outside the act of perception, categories such as extension, form, and motion exist just as little as color and sound. Nowhere do we see extension and form alone. They are always bound up with color or other qualitative elements unquestionably dependent on our subjectivity. If these disappear when we cease to perceive them, then extension and form, which are bound up with them, must disappear also. 

I can only know my subjective perception-picture
[20] The objection can be made that, even if figure, color, sound, and so forth do not existence outside the act of perception, there must still be something else there. Something must exist independently of our consciousness and be similar to our conscious perception-pictures. The Berkeleyan response would be to say: A color can only resemble a color and a figure can only resemble a figure. Our percepts can only resemble our percepts, and nothing else.

Even what we call an object is nothing but a collection of percepts connected in a certain way. If I strip a table of its figure, extension, color, etc.—in other words everything that is only my percept—then nothing is left. Carried to its logical conclusion, this view leads to the assertion: The objects of my perception are there through me, and only insofar and as long as I am perceiving them. They disappear with the perceiving and have no meaning without it. Other than my percepts, I know of no objects and cannot know of any.

[21] To the claim that we can know only our percepts, no objection is made as long as it is only meant as a general fact that the percept is partly determined by the organization of the perceiving subject. It would be very different if we were able to determine the exact role our perceiving plays in bringing about a percept. We would then know what happens to the percept during the act of perception. And we could also determine what properties it has before it is perceived.

4.7 Self-Perception
[22] This leads us to turn our attention from the perceived object to the perceiving subject. I do not only perceive other things; I also perceive myself.

Aware of myself as the observer
Self-perception first reveals that I am the enduring element in a continuous coming and going of perception-pictures. The awareness of myself can come up in my consciousness at any time, while I am having other perceptions. However, when I am absorbed in the perception of a given object I am, for the moment, aware only of this object. The awareness of myself can be added to this. I am then not only conscious of the object, but also of my own personality, standing over against the object and observing it. I not only see a tree; I know it is I seeing it.

After-effect of observation: an image-idea
I also know something goes on in me while I am observing the tree. When the tree disappears from my field of vision, an after-effect of this process remains: an image of the tree. This image has become associated with my Self during my observation. My Self has become enriched; a new element has been added to its content. I call this element my idea (Vorstellung) of the tree.

I would never be in a position to speak of ideas if I did not experience them by being aware of my Self. Percepts would come and go; I would simply let them pass by. Only because I perceive my Self, and notice that with each perception the content of my Self, too, is changed. By noticing the connection between the observation of the object and the changes that occur in me, I then speak of having an idea. 

4.8 Perception Of Ideas
[23] I perceive ideas in my Self in the same way I perceive colors, sounds, etc. in other objects. From this point of view, I can now make the further distinction of calling these other objects that confront me the outer world, while the content of my Self-observation I call my inner world.

Our ideas of objects are thrust into the foreground
The failure to recognize the relationship between idea and object has led to the greatest misunderstandings in modern philosophy. The perception of a change in me, the modification my Self undergoes, is thrust into the foreground, while the object causing this modification is completely lost sight of. As a consequence it is said: We do not perceive the objects, but only our ideas. I know nothing, so it is claimed, of the object of my observation; the table itself. I know only of the change that is going on within me while I am perceiving the table.

This view should not be confused with the Berkeleyan view mentioned previously. Berkeley upholds the subjective nature of my perceptual content, but he does not say I can know only my own ideas. He limits my knowledge to my ideas because, in his view, there are no objects other than ideas. What I see as a table no longer exists, according to Berkeley, when I cease to look at it. This is why for Berkeley my percepts are created directly by the power of God. I see a table because God calls forth this percept in me. For Berkeley nothing is real except God and human spirits. What we call the "world" is present only within spirits. What the naive person calls the outer world, or physical nature, does not exist according to Berkeley.

I can know only my ideas, not the thing-in-itself that causes them
Berkeley’s view stands in contrast to the currently prevailing Kantian view. This also limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas. But it does not do so because of a conviction that nothing other than ideas exist. Rather, the Kantian view believes we are organized in a way that we can learn only of the changes undergone by our own Self, not the things-in-themselves that cause them. This view draws a conclusion on the fact I can know only my ideas. According to the Kantian view, the reason we know only our ideas is not that no reality exists independent of these ideas. It is because the human subject cannot receive such a reality into itself directly. The mind can only through "the medium of its subjective thoughts imagine it, think it, cognize it, or perhaps fail to cognize it" (O. Liebmann, Analysis of Reality, p. 28). Kantians believe their view expresses something absolutely certain, something immediately evident without any need of proof.

“The first fundamental principle the philosopher must clearly grasp is the recognition that our knowledge does not initially go beyond our ideas. Our ideas are the only things we experience directly and learn to know directly. The fact that we experience ideas directly means not even the most radical doubt can rob us of our knowledge of them. On the other hand, all knowledge that does go beyond my ideas—taking ideas here in the widest sense to include all psychical processes—is open to doubt. At the very beginning of all philosophy, it is necessary to state explicitly that all knowledge that goes beyond ideas is open to doubt.”

4.9 Our Organization
Volkelt's book on Immanuel Kant’s Theory of Knowledge begins with the statement given above. What is presented here as if it were an immediate and obvious truth, is really the result of the following thought process. "Naive common sense believes that things, just as we perceive them, also exist outside our minds. Physics, physiology and psychology, however, teach us that for perception to take place our organization is necessary. Consequently, we cannot know anything about external objects other than what our organization transmits to us. What we perceive as objects are modifications that occur in our organization, not the things themselves." This line of reasoning has been characterized by Eduard von Hartmann as leading inevitably to the conviction that we can have direct knowledge only of our ideas (see Hartmann’s “Basic Problem of Theory of Knowledge”, p.16-40).

Physics and physiology show the perceived object is what my physical organization transmits to me
Because outside our organism we find vibrations of physical bodies and of the air perceived by us as sound. This view reasons that what we call sound is nothing more than a subjective reaction of our organism to these motions in the external world. In the same way color and warmth are only modifications of our organism. Our percepts of warmth and color are the effects of processes in the external world. These external processes are entirely different from what we experience as warmth and color. When these processes stimulate the nerves in my skin, I perceive warmth. When they stimulate the optic nerve, I perceive light and color. Light, color, and warmth, then, are the way the nerves of my sense organs react to outside stimuli. Even the sense of touch does not transmit to me the objects of the outer world, but only conditions in myself.

The physicist thinks of bodies as consisting of infinitely small parts called molecules. These molecules are not in direct contact with each other, but have certain distances separating them. Between them is empty space. Across this space they act on each other by forces of attraction and repulsion. When I place my hand on an object, the molecules of my hand never touch the molecules of the object. There always remains a certain distance between object and hand. What I feel as the resistance of the object, is nothing other than the effect of the force of repulsion its molecules exert on my hand. I remain completely external to the object. All I perceive is its effect on my organism.

[24] An extension of this idea is the Specific Nerve Energies theory, proposed by J. Müller (1801- 1858). According to this theory, each sense-organ has the peculiar quality of reacting to all external stimuli in only one specific way. Stimulation of the optic nerve results in perception of light. It does not matter whether the nerve stimulation is due to what we call light, or to mechanical pressure, or to an electric current. Conversely, the same external stimulus applied to different senses evokes different sensations. This seems to indicate that our sense-organs can transmit only what occurs within them, and transmit nothing from the outer world. The senses determine the percepts, each according to its own nature.

[25] Physiology further shows there can be no direct knowledge even of the effects objects have within our sense-organs. When the physiologist follows the processes that take place in the body, he finds the effects of external motion already transformed within the sense organs in a variety of ways. We see this most clearly in the eye and the ear. Both are very complicated organs that alter the external stimulus considerably, before conveying it to the corresponding nerve. From the peripheral nerve-ending, the already changed stimulus is transmitted further to the brain, and here the central organ is stimulated. From this, it is concluded that the external process undergoes a series of transformations before it enters consciousness.

What finally takes place in the brain is connected to the external stimuli by so many intermediate processes, any similarity between the two is out of the question. What the brain finally transmits to the human psyche is neither external processes, nor processes in the sense-organs, but only processes inside the brain. Yet even these are not perceived directly by our inner being. What we finally have in consciousness are not brain-processes at all, but sensations. My sensation of red has absolutely no similarity to the process taking place in the brain when I sense red. The redness that occurs in the mind is an effect, and the brain process is its cause. This is why Hartmann says (The Basic Problem of Epistemology), "What the subject perceives are always only modifications of his own psychical states and nothing else."

Psychology shows the perceived object is an idea formed by my mental organization
When I have sensations, however, they are still far from being grouped into what I perceive as "things." After all, only single sensations can be transmitted to me by the brain. Sensations of “hard” and “soft” are transmitted to me by the sense of touch; color and light by the sense of sight. Yet all these are found united in one object. This unification, then, can only be brought about by our psychical nature. The psyche constructs things out of the various sensations transmitted to it by the brain. My brain conveys to me the single sensations of sight, touch and hearing by entirely different pathways. The psyche then combines the sensations to form the idea “trumpet.” This final stage of the process (the idea of the trumpet) is the very first thing to enter my consciousness. In this result nothing can any longer be found of what exists outside me and made the original impression on my senses. The external object has been completely lost on the way to the brain and through the brain to the human psyche.

4.10 The External World Is A Projection Of My Psyche
[26] It would be hard to find in the history of human intellectual life an edifice of thought built up with greater ingenuity, and yet, on closer analysis, collapses into nothing. Let us look more closely at the way it has been constructed. The theory begins with what is given in naive consciousness, the thing as perceived. Then it shows that none of the qualities found in it would exist for us if we had no sense organs. No eye—no color. So color is not yet present in what affects the eye. The color first arises through the interaction of the eye with the object. The object, then, is colorless. But the color is not present in the eye either. In the eye there is a chemical or physical process that is conducted by the nerve to the brain, where it sets off another process. The process in the brain is not yet the color. The color is produced in our psychical nature by the brain process. But even here I am still not conscious of it. It is first projected outwards by our psyche onto a spatial body in the external world. Here, finally, I see the color, as a quality of this body.

Qualities of object are not attributed to conscious object
We have come full circle. We have become conscious of a colored object. That comes first. Now the thought-operation begins. If I had no eyes, the object would be colorless for me. So I cannot attribute the color to the object. I go looking for it. I look for it in the eye,—in vain; in the nerve,—also in vain; in the brain,—again in vain.

Qualities of object are found in the psyche
Finally, I look for it in the psyche. Here I find it, but unconnected with the spatial body. I only find the colored object again—there, at the place where I started. The circle is closed. The theory leads me to believe that what the naive person thinks is existing outside him in space, is really a creation of my own psyche.

4.11 The External Percept Is My Idea
[27] As long as one stops here, everything seems to fit perfectly. But we must go over it again from the beginning. Up to now I have been dealing with an object—the external percept. As a naive person, I had an an entirely false view of it. I thought the percept, just as I perceive it, had objective existence. Now I realize it disappears as I represent it to myself in the act of perceiving. The external percept is no more than a modification of my mental condition.

Do I still have the right to take it as a starting point for my reflections? Can I say it has an effect on my psyche? Previously I believed the table had an effect on me, and brought about an idea of itself in me. From now on I must treat the table as itself an idea. But then to be logically consistent, my sense organs and the processes going on in them must also be only subjective manifestations. I have no right to speak of a real eye, only of my idea of the eye. The same would apply to the nerve paths and the brain process. And even to the process that occurs within the psyche itself, by which things are supposedly constructed out of the chaos of various sensations.

If the external percept is my idea, it cannot act on my senses
If I go through each step of the act of cognition once again, assuming the correctness of the first circular line of thought, the cognitive act described reveals itself as a tissue of ideas. Ideas, as such, cannot possibly act on each another. I cannot say: My idea of the object acts on my idea of the eye, and the result of this interaction is my idea of color. But I do not need to. For as soon as it is clear to me that my sense organs and their activity, and my nerve and psychic processes, are also known to me only through perception, then the full impossibility of the described line of thought reveals itself. It is true to say: For me there is no percept without the corresponding sense organ. But it is just as true to say: There is no sense-organ without a percept of it.

From the percept of a table I can pass to the eye that sees it, to the nerves of the hand that touch it. But what takes place within these I can learn, once again, only through perception. Then I soon notice there is no trace of similarity between the process taking place in the eye and what I perceive as color. I cannot deny my color percept just because I can point out the process taking place in the eye during this perception. Nor can I find the color in the nerve and brain-processes. All I do is connect new percepts located within my organism to the first percept, which the naive person locates outside his organism. I simply pass from one percept to the next.

Confuses external observations with internal observations
[28] In addition, there is a gap in the whole chain of reasoning. I can follow the processes in my organism up to those in my brain. My assumptions, though, become more and more hypothetical the closer I come to the central processes in the brain. The method of external observation ends with the process in the brain. More precisely, it ends with what I would observe if I examine the brain using the instruments and methods of Physics and Chemistry. The method of internal observation, or introspection, begins with the sensations, and continues up to the construction of things out of the material of sensation. At the point of transition from brain process to sensation, there is a break in the method of observation.

[29] The way of thinking just described, known as Critical Idealism, stands in contrast to the position of naive common sense, known as Naive Realism. The Critical Idealist makes the error of characterizing one kind of percept as an idea, while accepting the other kind in exactly the same way as the Naive Realist, whom he claims to have refuted. He sets out to prove that our percepts are representational ideas, while naively accepting the percepts belonging to his own body as objectively valid facts. What is more, he fails to see he is confusing two fields of observation, between which he can find no connecting link.

4.12 The Bodily Organism Has Objective Existence
[30] Critical idealism can only refute Naive Realism if it accepts, in naive-realistic fashion, that one's own organism has objective existence. As soon as the Idealist realizes the percepts of his own organism are exactly the same kind as those Naive Realism assumes to have objective existence, he can no longer use those percepts as a secure foundation for his theory. He would, to be consistent, have to regard his own organism also as a mere complex of ideas. But this removes the possibility of thinking that the content of the perceived world is a product of our mental organization. One would have to accept that the idea "color" was only a modification of the idea "eye." So-called Critical Idealism cannot be proved without borrowing the assumptions of Naive Realism. The apparent refutation of Naive Realism is achieved only by uncritically accepting its basic assumptions as valid in another area.

[31] This much, then, is certain: Investigation of the field of perception cannot prove the correctness of Critical Idealism, and, consequently, cannot strip percepts of their objective character.

Investigation of the field of perception cannot strip percepts of their objective character
[32] But even less can the principle, "The perceived world is my idea" be claimed as obvious in need of no proof. Schopenhauer begins his main work, The World as Will and Idea, with the words:

"The world is my idea—this truth applies to every living and cognizing being, although the human being alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. And when he really does this, he will have attained to philosophical self-knowledge. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he knows no sun and no earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, and a hand that feels the earth. The world around him is present only as an idea. It is there only in relation to something else, to the one who depicts it, namely, himself. If ever a truth could be declared a priori, it is this one; for it expresses the most general form of all possible and thinkable experience. A form that is more universal than all others, than time, space, or causality, for all these presuppose it …” (The World as Will and Idea, Book I, par. I.)

Only real senses can have ideas as modifications
This whole theory, based on the principle “The world is my idea” collapses in the face of the fact, noted above, that the eye and hand are percepts just as much as the sun and the earth. In Schopenhauer’s terms, and using his style of expression, one could respond: My eye that sees the sun, and my hand that feels the earth, are my ideas just like the sun and the earth. Put in this way, it is immediately clear Schopenhauer’s proposition cancels itself out. For only my real eye and my real hand could have the ideas of sun and earth as their modifications—my ideas “eye” and “hand” could not. Yet it is only in terms of these ideas that Critical Idealism is entitled to speak.

[33] Critical Idealism is completely unable to gain insight into the relationship between percepts and ideas. It cannot begin to make the distinction we indicated earlier, between what happens to the percept during the act of perception, and what must already be present in it before it is perceived. To do this, we must find another way to approach this question.



5.0 Critical Thinking
[1] The preceding discussion has shown that it cannot be proven that our percepts are ideas by examining the content of our observation. This proof is supposedly established by the following argument: "If the perceptual process takes place according to naive-realistic assumptions about our psychological and physiological constitution, then we are not dealing with things-in-themselves, but only with our ideas of things." However, if Naive Realism, when consistently thought through, leads to results that directly contradict its assumptions, then these assumptions must be discarded as an unsuitable basis of a world-view. It is certainly inadmissible to reject the assumptions and yet accept as valid what results from them. The Critical Idealist does this when he uses the line of argument above as the basis for his claim “the world is my idea.” (Eduard von Hartmann gives a detailed account of this line of argument in The Fundamental Problems of Epistemology.)

[2] The truth of Critical Idealism is one thing, the persuasiveness of its proof is another. How things stand with respect to the correctness or otherwise of Critical Idealism, will become clear in the course of our discussion. But the power of its proof to convince is zero. If one builds a house and the ground floor collapses while the first floor is being built, then the first floor collapses with it. Naive Realism is related to Critical Idealism as ground floor is to first floor.

[3] For one who believes the whole perceived world is only an imagined one, an ideal world called up in the mind by unknown things, the problem of cognition will not be concerned with the ideas that exist only in the psyche. Instead, it will focus on the unknown things that lie beyond the reach of his consciousness and exist independent of him. He asks: "How much can we learn about things indirectly, since they are not accessible to our direct observation?" From this standpoint he is not concerned with the connection of his conscious perceptions, since in his view they disappear as soon as he turns his senses away from them. He is concerned with their causes, which are no longer accessible to consciousness and exist independently of him.

Looked at from this point of view, our consciousness acts like a mirror whose images of specific things disappear the moment its reflecting surface is not turned towards them. If we do not see the things themselves but only their reflections, then we must learn about them indirectly by drawing conclusions from the behavior of their reflections. This is the standpoint of natural science. It uses percepts only as a means to obtain information about the material processes standing behind them. For it, only material processes truly exist. If the philosopher, as Critical Idealist, admits real existence at all, then his sole aim is to gain knowledge of this real existence indirectly by means of ideas. His interest skips over the subjective world of ideas and instead is focused on what causes him to have these ideas.

[4] The critical idealist can go so far as to say: “I am enclosed within my world of ideas and cannot escape from it. If I think there is something behind my ideas, this thought, too, is nothing more than an idea." An Idealist of this type will either deny the thing-in-itself entirely, or at least say it has no significance for human minds. Since we can know nothing about it, it is as good as non-existent.

[5] To this type of Critical Idealist, the whole world appears as a disordered dream. Any attempt to gain knowledge of it would be simply meaningless. For him there can be only two kinds of people: (1) biased ones who take their own dream fabrications as reality, and (2) wise ones who see through the nothingness of this dream world, and gradually lose all desire to trouble themselves with it.

From this vantage point, even one's own personality can become a mere dream phantom. Just as during sleep there appears among my dream-images an image of myself, so in waking consciousness the idea of my own Self is added to the idea of the external world. I then have in mind not my real Self, but only my idea of my Self. Whoever denies the existence of real things, or the possibility of knowing anything about them, must also deny the existence, or at least the knowledge, of his own personality.

This leads the Critical Idealist to the declaration, "All reality is transformed into a wonderful dream, without a life that is dreamed about or a mind that is having the dream—into a dream that is held together within a dream of itself.” (Fichte, The Vocation of Man.)

[6] For the person who believes our immediate experience of life is nothing but a dream, it does not matter whether he assumes nothing exists behind this dream, or whether he relates his ideas to actual things. In either case, life itself must lose all scientific interest for him. Science is meaningless to those who believe that the universe accessible to us is limited to a dream. However, for those who believe themselves able to reason from ideas to things, the task of science will be to inquire into the nature of these “things-in-themselves.”

The first of these theories of the world may be called Absolute Illusionism. The second is called Transcendental Realism* by its most consistent advocate, Eduard von Hartmann.

[7] These two views have this in common with Naive Realism; they all seek to establish a foothold in the world by investigating percepts. But nowhere in this realm can they find a firm base.

* [Note by Rudolf Steiner: In the context of this world-view, knowledge is called “transcendental” because it is believed that nothing can be asserted directly about the things-in-themselves. One must make indirect inferences from the subjective, which is known, to the unknown, which lies beyond the subjective (the transcendent). According to this view, the thing-in-itself exists beyond the realm of what is immediately accessible to our cognition; in other words, it is transcendent. However, our world can be related transcendentally to what is transcendent. Hartmann's theory is called Realism because it proceeds from the subjective, the mental, to the transcendent, the real.]

5.1 The Awakened State Of Thinking
[8] One of the most important questions for the adherent of Transcendental Realism must be: "How does the Ego produce the world of ideas out of itself?" A world given to us as ideas that will disappear as soon as we close our senses to the external world, can still kindle a serious striving for knowledge by providing the means for investigating indirectly the world of the self-existing Self. If the things of our experience were "ideas," then everyday life would be like a dream, and knowledge of the true situation would be like waking. Our dream-images, too, interest us only as long as we are dreaming, and so do not recognize them as dreams. But the moment we wake up, we no longer ask about the connections between our dream-images. Instead, we ask about the physical, physiological, and psychological processes that caused them.

In the same way, a philosopher who considers the world to be merely a picture in his mind, is not interested in how the details are interconnected. If he admits the existence of a real Ego at all, his question will not be how one of his ideas is related to another. Rather, he will ask what takes place in the psyche—that exists independently of his consciousness—when a certain flow of ideas passes through his consciousness. If I dream I am drinking wine that causes burning in my throat, and then wake up coughing (Weygandt, How Dreams Arise, 1893), the moment I wake up the dream sequence ceases to interest me. My attention is now directed only to the physiological and psychological processes through which the sore throat expresses itself symbolically in the dream.

Similarly, once the philosopher is convinced that the world given him consists of nothing but ideas, he will turn his interest from this world to the real psyche that exists behind it. The situation is far worse, to be sure, for the Illusionist who denies the existence of an Ego behind the "ideas," or at least regards this Ego to be unknowable.

We might very easily be led to such a view by observing that, in contrast to the dreaming state, there is the waking state. The waking state enables us to see through the dreams and relate them to real events. But there is no state that stands in a similar relationship to waking consciousness. Those who take this view fail to see that there is, in fact, something that relates to mere perceiving, in the same way our waking experience relates to dreaming. This something is—thinking.

5.2 Thought That Applies To The World
[9] The naive person cannot be accused of failure to see this. He accepts life as it is, and considers things to be real in the form they present themselves to him in experience. However, the first step to go beyond this standpoint can only be to ask: “How does thought relate to perception?” It makes no difference whether or not the percept that is given to me continues to exist in the same form before and after my depiction of it. If I wish to say anything about it, I can do so only with the help of thought. If I say “the world is my idea” I have expressed the result of a thought-process. If my thought does not apply to the world, then my result is false. Between a percept and every kind of judgment about it there intervenes thinking.

5.3 World Connects With Corresponding Concept
The reason why thought is generally overlooked during the contemplation of things has already been given (see Chapter 3). It is because we direct our full attention to the object we are thinking about, and not at the same time to our thinking itself. For this reason the naive mind treats thought as something that has nothing to do with things. Thinking stands completely apart from things and makes its theories about them. The theory that the thinker draws from the phenomena of the world is not considered as something integral to the things, but as something that exists only in the human head. For the naive, the world is complete without this theory. The world with all its substances and forces is supposed to be fixed and finished; and the human being makes himself a picture of this finished world.

Those who think like this should be asked: “By what right do you declare the world to be complete without thought? Does not the world cause thoughts in human minds with the same necessity as it causes blossoms on plants? Plant a seed in the soil. It puts forth root and stem. It unfolds into leaves and blossoms. Place the plant before you. It connects itself to a specific concept in your mind. Why does this concept belong any less to the whole plant than leaf and blossom?”

You reply: “The leaves and blossoms are there without a perceiving subject, while the concept only appears if a human being stands before the plant.” Quite true. But blossoms and leaves, too, only appear on the plant if there is soil in which the seed can be planted, and light and air in which leaves and blossoms can unfold. In just the same way the concept of a plant only arises when a thinking being approaches the plant.

5.4 Process Of Becoming
[11] It is entirely arbitrary to regard the sum of what we experience of a thing through perception alone, as a totality, a complete whole, while regarding what results from thoughtful contemplation as something incidental, that has nothing to do with the thing itself. If I am given a rosebud today, the picture that is there for my perception is finished, complete, but only for the present moment. If I put the bud in water, tomorrow I will get a very different picture of the object. And if I watch the rosebud without interruption, I will see today's state gradually change into tomorrow's through countless intermediate stages. The picture presented to me at any one moment is only a chance section taken from an object that is in a continuous process of becoming. If I do not put the bud in water, a whole series of states lying within it as potential will not develop. Or I may be prevented tomorrow from observing the blossom further, and will then have an incomplete picture of it.

[12] To declare the appearance of a thing revealed at a chance moment; "this is the thing" would be a biased judgment that clings to external features.

5.5 Indivisible Existence of Concept With Object
[13] Neither is it justifiable to declare the sum of a thing's perceptual appearances to be its full reality. It is conceivable that a mind could receive the concept at the same time as, and inseparably connected with the percept. It would never occur to such a mind that the concept did not belong to the object. It would attribute to the concept an existence indivisibly bound up with the object.

[14] Let me make myself clearer with an example. If I throw a stone horizontally through the air, I see it at different points, one after the other. I connect these points to form a line. In mathematics I learn to know various kinds of lines, one of them is the parabola. I know the parabola to be a line produced when a point moves according to a certain well-defined law. If I analyze the conditions under which the thrown stone moves, I find that the line of its flight is identical with the line I know as a parabola. The fact that the stone moves in a parabola is a consequence of the conditions given and follows necessarily from them. The form of the parabola belongs to the whole of the phenomenon, just as much as any of its other features.

The hypothetical mind described above, which does not have to take the roundabout route of thinking, would be given more than a sequence of visual impressions at different locations. At the outset it would also be given the parabolic form of the line of flight, inseparably united with the phenomenon. For us, the parabolic trajectory can only be added by thinking about the phenomenon.

[15] It is not due to the objects that they appear to us at first without their corresponding concepts, but to our mental organization. In the comprehension of an object or event, our whole being functions in such a way that the elements making up the reality of every real thing come to us from two sides—from perception and from thought.

[16] How I am organized to comprehend things has nothing to do with the nature of the things themselves. The divide between perception and thought only exists from the moment I, the observer, confront the objects. Which elements belong to the object, and which do not, cannot depend at all on the way I obtain my knowledge of these elements.

5.6 Isolate And Grasp Single Concepts
[17] Man is a limited being. First of all, he is a thing among other things. His existence is in space and time. Because of this, only a limited part of the whole universe can ever be given to him. But this limited part is linked in all directions with other things, both in time and in space. If our existence were so united with things that every world event was at the same time our event, there would be no distinction between us and the things. But then, too, there would be no individual things for us. Everything that happens would pass continuously one into the other. The cosmos would be a unity, a whole complete in itself. The stream of events would not be interrupted at any point.

Due to our limitations things appear to us as separate objects, when in fact they are not separate at all. For example, the individual quality of red never exists in isolation. It is surrounded on all sides by other qualities to which it belongs, and without which it could not exist. For us, however, it is necessary to isolate certain sections of the world, and to consider them on their own. Our eye can grasp only single colors one by one out of a multicolored whole. Our mind can grasp only single concepts out of an interconnected conceptual system. This separating-off is a subjective act. It is due to the fact that we are not identical with the world-process, but are individual things among other things.

5.7 Self Definition Through Thought
[18] The important question now is to define the relation of ourselves, as things, to all other things. This defining must be distinguished from merely becoming aware of our self. For self-awareness is based on perception, just like our awareness of any other thing. The perception of myself shows me a number of qualities that I bring together into the whole of my personality. In the same way I bring together the qualities yellow, metallic shine, hard, etc. into the unity “gold.” Self-perception does not take me beyond the region of what belongs to my self. So self-perception must be distinguished from self-definition by means of thinking.

Just as, by means of thinking, I integrate a single perception of the external world into the context of the world whole, so do I also, by thinking, integrate the perceptions I have of my self into the order of the world-process. Self-perception confines me within certain limits, but my thought is not concerned with these limits. In this sense I am a two-sided being. I am enclosed within the sphere that I perceive as my own personality, but I am also the possessor of an activity that defines my finite existence from a higher sphere.

Thought is not individual like our sensing and feeling. It is universal. Thought receives an individual stamp in each separate person only because it becomes related to his individual feeling and sensing. Due to these particular colorings of the universal thought, people differ from each other. There is only one single concept of "triangle." It does not matter for the content of this concept whether it is grasped in A's consciousness or in B's. But the content of this concept will be taken hold of by each of the two minds in its own individual way.

5.8 In Thinking We Are The Universal Being
[19] This thought is opposed by a common preconceived opinion that is difficult to overcome. This prejudice prevents one from recognizing that the concept of a triangle that my mind grasps is the same as the concept that my neighbor's mind grasps. The naive person believes himself to be the creator of his concepts. He consequently believes that everyone has his own concepts. It is a basic requirement of philosophical thought to overcome this prejudice. The one single concept of "triangle" does not become many concepts of "triangle" because it is thought by many minds. Rather, the thought of many becomes a single whole.

[20] In thought, we have the element that integrates our particular individuality into a unity with the whole of the cosmos. When we sense and feel (perceive) we are isolated individuals; when we think, we are the Universal Being that pervades everything. This is the deeper meaning of our two-sided nature. We become conscious of a purely absolute principle revealing itself within us, a principle that is universal. However, we experience it, not as it streams from the center of the world, but only at a point on the periphery. Were we to know it at its source, we would understand the whole riddle of the universe the moment we became conscious. But we stand at a point on the periphery and find our own existence confined within certain limits. So we must learn about the region that lies beyond our own being with the help of thought. Thought is the universal cosmic principle manifesting itself in our minds.

[21] The desire for knowledge arises because the thought in us, reaches out beyond our separate existence and relates itself to the universal world-order. Beings without thought do not have this desire to strive for knowledge. Whenever they encounter other things, they have no questions. These other things remain external to such beings. In the case of thinking beings, the concept leaps up in response to the external thing. The concept is the part of a thing that we receive, not from outside, but from within ourselves. To match up, to unite the two elements, inner and outer, gives us knowledge.

[22] The percept, then, is not something finished and complete. It is one side of the total reality. The other side is the concept. The act of cognition is the synthesis of percept and concept. Only the percept and concept together make up the whole thing.

5.9 World Unity Found In Ideal Content
[23] The preceding discussion shows conclusively that it is futile to seek for any common element in the separate things of the world, other than the ideal content provided by thinking. All attempts to find world-unity must fail, other than this coherent ideal content which we gain by the conceptual analysis of what we perceive.

Neither a personal God, nor force, nor matter, nor the blind, idealess will (Schopenhauer), can be accepted by us as the universal world-unity. All these principles belong only to a limited field of our observation. Personality we perceive only in ourselves, force and matter only in external things. As for the will, it can only be seen as the active expression of our own limited personality. Schopenhauer wants to avoid making "abstract" thought the bearer of world-unity, and seeks instead what appears to him as something immediately real. This philosopher believes we misjudge the world as long as we regard it as an "external" world:

"In fact, the sought-after meaning of the world, which is merely my idea, or the transition from mere idea in the mind of the cognizing subject to whatever else it may be besides this, would never be found if the investigator himself were no more than a purely cognizing subject (an angel’s head with wings but no body). But he is rooted in that world. He finds himself in it as an individual. That is to say, his knowledge, which supports and determines the whole world as idea, is after all given entirely through the medium of a body, whose affections, as shown, are the starting point for the understanding of the world. For the purely cognizing subject, this body is an idea like every other idea, an object among objects. The movements and actions of his own body are known to him in the same way as the changes of all other observable objects. They would be just as strange and incomprehensible to him if their meaning were not made clear to him in an entirely different way.... 

To the cognizing subject, who becomes an individual only through his identity with the body, this body is given in two very distinct ways. First it is given as an idea for intelligent consideration, as an object among objects and subject to the same laws of these objects. Second, and at the same time, it is given in an entirely different way, as that element known directly by everyone and is described by the term ‘will’. Every true act of will is at once and without exception also a movement of the body. He cannot will an action without at the same time perceiving it as a movement of his body. The act of will and the action of the body are not two different, objectively known things linked by the tie of causality. Their relationship is not one of cause and effect. They are one and the same thing, but are given in two entirely different ways—once directly and once in perception for the intelligence to understand it.” (The World as Will and Idea)

With this analysis, Schopenhauer considers himself justified to see in the body the “objectivity” of the will. He is convinced that in the actions of the body he has a direct experience of reality, the thing-in-itself in the concrete. Against this analysis, we must point out that the actions of our body only come to our awareness through self-observation. The percepts we obtain of ourselves have no advantage over other percepts. If we wish to know their real nature, we can do so only by means of thought, by organizing them into the ideal system of our concepts and ideas.

5.10 Corresponding Intuition
[24] Rooted very deeply in the naive mind is the opinion that thinking is abstract, without any concrete content. At best, we are told, it supplies a "conceptual" counterpart of a unified world, but never the unity itself. Whoever believes this has never clearly recognized what a percept without its concept really is. Let us take a look at this world of perception by itself. It appears as a mere juxtaposition of elements in space and a sequence of changing elements in time, an aggregate of unconnected details. None of these things that come and go on the perceptual stage appears to have any connection with any other. Here, the world is a multiplicity of objects of equal value. None plays a more important part in the machinery of the world than any other.

If we are to recognize that this or that fact has greater significance than another, we must consult our thought. As long as we do not think, a rudimentary organ of an animal that has no significance for its survival, appears equal in value to the most important part of its body. The meaning of single facts, both in themselves and in their relation to other parts of the world, only becomes apparent when thought weaves its threads from one thing to another. This activity of thinking is filled with content. For it is only through a very specific, concrete content that I can know why a snail is at a lower level of development than a lion. Sight alone, the perception, provides me with no content that could inform me as to the degree of perfection of the organism.

[25] Thinking contributes this content to the percept from the world of concepts and ideas. In contrast to the content of perception given to us from outside, the content of thought appears within our minds. The form in which thought first appears in consciousness we will call "intuition." Intuition is to thoughts what observation is to percepts. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge.

Anything we observe in the world remains unintelligible to us, until the corresponding intuition arises within us which adds that part of reality missing in the percept. Full reality remains closed off to anyone without the ability to supply the relevant intuitions corresponding to things. Just as the color-blind sees only differences of brightness without color qualities, so the mind that lacks intuition sees only disconnected perceptual fragments.

[26] To explain a thing and make it understandable, means nothing other than to place it into the context from which it has been torn due to the nature of our organization, as already described. Nothing exists in isolation from the world-whole. All separateness has only subjective relevance for minds organized like ours. For us, the world-whole splits into above and below, before and after, cause and effect, object and idea, matter and force, object and subject and so forth. What appears to us in observation as separate details, become linked, item by item, through the coherent, unified system of our intuitions. By means of thought we fit together again into one whole all that perception has separated.

[27] The puzzling nature of an object is due to the separateness of its existence. However, this separation is brought about by us and can, within the conceptual world, be dispelled and returned to unity again.

5.11 Conceptual Connections Of Percepts
[28] Only through thinking and perceiving are things given to us directly. The question now arises: "Viewed in the light of our discussion, what is the significance of the percept?" We have learned that Critical Idealism’s proof of the subjective nature of percepts, collapses. But the fact that the proof is incorrect does not necessarily mean the theory itself is incorrect. Critical Idealism’s proof does not take its start from the absolute nature of thought. Rather, it is based on the fact that Naive Realism, when followed to its logical conclusion, contradicts itself. But how does the matter stand when the absoluteness of thought is recognized?

[29] Let us suppose a certain percept—red, for example—appears in my consciousness. Further investigation will show this percept to be connected to other percepts, such as a specific shape, and to certain percepts of temperature and touch. I call this combination of percepts “an object in the sense-perceptible world.” I can go on to ask: "What else is found in this section of space?" There I discover mechanical, chemical and other processes. I go further and study the processes that take place on the way from the object to my sense-organs. There I find processes of motion in an elastic medium that by their nature have nothing in common with the original percepts. I get the same result when I investigate the connections between the sense-organs and the brain. In each of these inquiries I gather new percepts, but the connecting thread that weaves through all these percepts dispersed in space and time, and binds them into one whole—is thought.

The vibrations in the air that transmit sound are given to me as percepts in just the same way as the sound itself. Thought alone links all these percepts to each other, and shows them in their mutual relationships. We cannot speak of the existence of anything beyond what is directly perceived, except what is recognized as the conceptual connections between percepts. These connections are discovered by thinking. Therefore, the relationship between the objects we perceive and ourselves as perceiving subject that goes beyond what is merely perceived—is purely ideal, that is, it is expressed only by means of concepts.

Only if it were possible to perceive how the object affects the perceiving subject, or—conversely—only if I could watch the construction of the percept by the subject, could we speak like physiology and the critical idealism based on it. Their view confuses a conceptual relationship (between object and subject) with a process we could speak of only if it were possible to perceive it. The proposition, "no color without a color-sensing eye" cannot be taken to mean that the eye produces the color, but only that a conceptual connection, knowable by thinking, exists between the percept "color" and the percept "eye."

Empirical science will have to determine, through research, how the properties of the eye and those of color relate to each other; how the organ of sight transmits the perception of colors, etc. I can track how one percept follows another and how they are related in space. I can then express this in conceptual terms. But I cannot perceive how a percept originates out of the non-perceptible. All attempts to find anything other than conceptual relationships between percepts must necessarily fail.

5.12 The Memory-Idea
[30] What, then, is a percept? Asked in this general way, the question is absurd. A percept always appears as a very specific, concrete content. This content is directly given and is completely contained in what is given. All that can be asked about this given content, is: "What is it apart from perception—that is, what is it for thought?" The question concerning the "what" of a percept can only refer to the conceptual intuition that corresponds to it.

Viewed from this perspective, the problem of the subjectivity of perception put forward by Critical Idealists, cannot be raised at all. Only what is perceived as belonging to the subject can be termed "subjective." To establish the connection between what belongs to the subject and what belongs to the object is not the task of any process that is “real” in the naive sense, that is, a process that can be perceived taking place. It is the task of thinking.

For us, then, something is "objective" when it is seen to be located outside myself as perceiving subject. The percept of myself as subject remains perceptible to me after the table now standing before me has disappeared from my field of observation. The observation of the table has caused a change in me that persists like myself. I preserve an image of the table which now forms part of my Self. I retain a lasting ability to reproduce an image of the table again, later. Psychology calls this image a “memory-idea.”

It is the only thing that can properly be called my idea of the table. For it is the perceptible change in me caused by the table when it was in my field of vision. It does not mean a change in some "Ego-in-itself" standing behind the perceived subject, but rather a change in the perceptible subject itself. The idea is, then, a subjective percept, in contrast to the objective percept that occurs when the object is present in the field of one’s vision. Falsely identifying the subjective percept as the objective percept leads to the misunderstanding of Idealism that “the world is my idea.”

[31] Our next task will be to define the concept of "idea" in detail. What we have said about it so far is not its concept. We have only described where in the perceptual field ideas are to be found. The exact concept of "idea" will also make it possible for us to obtain a satisfactory understanding of the relationship between the inner idea and outer object. This will take us across the boundary, where the relationship between the human subject and the object in the world is brought down from the purely conceptual field of knowledge into concrete, individual life. Once we know what to make of the world, it will be an easy task to orient ourselves within it. We can act with our full strength and conviction only when we understand the things to which we direct our activity.

1918 Addition
[1] The view I have outlined here can be regarded as one to which a person is naturally driven as soon as he begins to reflect on his relationship to the world. He then finds himself entangled in a thought-structure that unravels as fast as he builds it up. Merely to refute it theoretically is not enough.

We have to live through it in inner experience, so that insight into the aberration this way of thinking leads can enable us to find the way out. It must appear in any discussion of the relationship between man and the world. Not because we want to refute others whom we believe have an incorrect view of this relationship, but because it is necessary to understand the confusion every first reflection about this relationship is likely to lead. One needs to learn by experience how to refute oneself with regard to these first reflections. This is the point of view from which the preceding chapter was meant to be seen.

[2] Anyone who wishes to work out a way of looking at the relationship of man to the world, becomes aware of the fact that he creates this relationship, at least in part, by forming ideas about the things and events in the world. This draws his attention away from what is out there in the world, and directs it to his inner world, to his life of ideas. He begins to say to himself: “I cannot relate to a thing or an event unless an idea occurs in me.” Once this fact has been noticed, it is only one step to the opinion, “All I experience are my ideas. I know of a world outside me only to the extent it is an idea within me.” And with this, man abandons the naive attitude toward reality, which he assumes before he begins to think about his relationship to the world.

From the naive standpoint, he believes he is dealing with real things. Inner reflection drives him away from this view. It prevents him from looking out at the real world naive consciousness believes is there, spread out before us. Inner reflection turns his gaze toward his ideas. These ideas insert themselves between his own being and a real world of the kind believed in by the naive consciousness. Because of the intervening ideas, man can no longer see such a real world. He assumes he is blind to this reality. So the thought arises of a “thing-in-itself” that cannot be reached by our cognition.

There is no escape from this kind of thought as long as we continue to focus solely on the interaction man has with the world through the stream of his ideas. Yet we cannot remain at the naive standpoint if we do not wish to close our minds, artificially, to the desire for knowledge. The very existence of this desire for knowledge about man's relationship to the world shows that the naive standpoint must be abandoned. If the naive standpoint gave us anything that we could recognize as truth, we would not feel this desire for knowledge.

Yet we do not arrive at something else which could be regarded as truth by merely abandoning the naive standpoint, as long as we retain—without realizing it—the way of thinking it imposes. We fall victim to this kind of error if we think: “I only experience my ideas, and while I am firmly persuaded that I am dealing with reality, all that I am actually conscious of are my ideas of reality. I must therefore assume that genuine reality, the things-in-themselves, exist only outside the range of my consciousness. I know nothing of them directly, but they somehow come into contact with me and influence me to make a world of ideas arise in me.” Whoever thinks in this way is simply adding another imagined world, in thought, to the world already spread out before him. But in regard to this imagined world, he would really have to start his whole thought activity all over again. For, in relation to his own being, the unknown thing-in-itself is thought of in exactly the same way as the known world of the naive view.

There is only one way of escaping the confusion one falls into when critically assessing this naive standpoint. This is to notice that at the very core of everything we can perceptually experience, be it in the mind or outside in the world, there is something that can prevent the fate of an idea inserting itself between the observer and the thing observed. And this something is thinking. With regard to thinking, we can remain at the Naive Realistic standpoint of reality. If we fail to do so, it is simply because we have learned that for everything else we must abandon this standpoint. We overlook that what we have found to be true for everything else, does not apply to thinking. When we realize this, we open the way to the further insight that in thinking and through thinking, man comes to know the very thing to which he apparently blinded himself by inserting the stream of his ideas between the world and himself.

A critic highly esteemed by the author of this book has objected that this discussion of thinking remains at the level of a Naive Realism of thinking, such as would be the case if the real world and the imagined world were held to be one and the same. However, the author believes he has shown in this discussion that an unprejudiced study of thinking, inevitably leads to the recognition that applying Naive Realism to thinking is valid. And that Naive Realism, which is otherwise not valid, is overcome through knowledge of the true nature of thinking.



6.0 Corresponding Concept Relates Self To The World
[1] Philosophers have found the main difficulty in explaining ideas is the fact that we are not identical with the external objects, yet our ideas must have a form that corresponds to them. But on closer inspection it turns out this difficulty does not really exist. We certainly are not identical with the external things, but we belong with them to one and the same world. That section of the world that I perceive to be myself as subject, is penetrated by the stream of the universal world process. With regard to my perception, I am at first confined within the boundary limits of my skin. But all that is contained within that boundary is part of the cosmos as a whole. Therefore, in order for a relationship to exist between my organism and an object outside me, it is not necessary for something from the object to slide into me, or make an imprint on my mind like a signet ring in wax.

The question, “How do I learn about the tree standing ten feet away from me?” is misleading. It springs from the view that the boundaries of my body are absolute barriers, through which information about external things filters into me. The forces at work inside my body are the same as those existing outside it. Therefore, I really am identical with the objects; not I as a percept of myself, but I in the sense that I am a part within the universal world process. The percept of the tree exists within the same whole as my Self. The universal world process produces equally the percept of the tree over there, and the percept of my Self here.

If I were a world-creator rather than world-knower, object and subject (percept and self) would come into existence in one act, since they are mutually conditioning elements. As world-knower, I can discover the common element in both—as two sides of one existence that belong together—only through thinking which relates them to each other by means of concepts.

6.1 Sense Perception Of Motion
[2] The most difficult to drive from the field is the so-called physiological evidence of the subjectivity of our percepts. If I exert pressure on the skin of my body, I perceive it as a pressure sensation. If the same pressure is applied to the eye it will be sensed as light, and as sound if applied to the ear. An electric shock is perceived by the eye as light, by the ear as sound, by the nerves in the skin as touch, and by the nose as the smell of phosphorus. What follows from these facts? Only this: I experience an electric shock (or pressure) and then a sensation of light, or a sound, or a certain smell, and so forth. If there were no eye, there would be no percept of light accompanying the percept of a mechanical disturbance in the environment; without an ear, no percept of sound, and so on. But what right have we to say that without sense-organs the whole event would not be there?

There are those who conclude from the fact that an electrical occurrence causes a sensation of light in the eye, that what we sense as light is only a mechanical process of motion outside our organism. They forget that they are only passing from one percept to another and not at all to something outside the range of perception.

Just as we can say the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in its environment as light, we can also say that a systematic change in an object is perceived by us as a process of motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse all the way around a rotatable disk, reproducing exactly the successive positions of the horse's body when it is galloping, then by rotating the disc I can produce the illusion of movement. I only need to look through an opening in a way that I see the successive positions of the horse at the right intervals. What I see is not twelve separate pictures of a horse, but the image of a single galloping horse.

[3] The physiological facts mentioned above add nothing to clarify the relationship between percept and idea. We must find another way to approach this relationship.

6.2 Idea: Intuition Related To A Percept
[4] The moment a percept appears in my field of observation, thought becomes active in me. A member of my thought-system, a specific intuition, a concept, unites with the percept. Then, when the percept disappears from my field of vision, what remains? My intuition remains, with its relationship to the specific percept that formed in the moment of perception. How vividly I can then later recall this reference to mind again, depends on how my mental and physical organism is functioning. An idea is nothing but an intuition related to a specific percept. It is a concept once linked to a certain percept, and retains this reference to the percept.

My concept of a lion is not built up out of my percepts of lions. But my idea of a lion is very much formed according to a percept. I can teach the concept of a lion to someone who has never seen a lion. But I cannot give him a vivid living idea of a lion without a percept of his own.

6.3 Idea: Individualized Concept
[5] An idea, then, is an individualized concept. And now we can understand how objects in the real world can be represented to us by ideas. The complete reality of a thing is revealed to us in the moment of observation out of the fitting together of concept and percept. By means of a percept, the concept acquires an individualized form, a relationship to this specific percept. In this individualized form, whose characteristic feature is its reference to the percept, it continues to exist in us as the idea of the thing.

If we encounter a second thing and the same concept combines with it, we recognize the second thing as belonging to the same kind as the first thing. If we encounter the same thing again a second time, we find in our conceptual system not only a corresponding concept, but also the individualized concept. This individualized concept refers to a characteristic of this particular object, and as a consequence, we recognize the object again.

[6] The idea, then, stands between the percept and the concept. It is the particularized concept that points to the percept.

6.4 Idea: Acquired Experience
[7] The sum of all the things I can form ideas of, I can call my “experience.” The greater the number of individualized concepts a person has, the richer their experience will be. A person lacking intuitive capacity is not able to acquire experience. He loses the objects once they are out of sight, because he lacks the concepts that he should bring into relationship with them. On the other hand, a person with a well-developed thinking capacity, but with poorly functioning perception due to imperfect sense-organs, will also be unable to gather experience. Such a person can, it is true, acquire concepts in various ways, but his intuitions lack the living reference to specific things. The unthinking traveler and the scholar absorbed in abstract conceptual systems are both incapable of acquiring a wealth of experience.

6.5 Subjective And Objective Idea
[8] Reality presents itself to us in the form of percept and concept, and the subjective representation of this reality is the idea.

[9] If our personality expressed itself only in cognition, the sum of all that is objective would be given in percept, concept and idea.

[10] However, we are not satisfied with simply relating a percept to a concept by means of thinking. We also relate it to our particular subjectivity, to our individual Ego. The expression of this individual relationship is feeling, which we experience as pleasure or pain.

6.7 Two-Fold Nature: Thinking And Feeling
[11] Thinking and feeling correspond to our two-fold nature, which we considered earlier. Thought is the element through which we participate in the universal process of the cosmos. Feeling is the element through which we withdraw into the narrow confines of our own being.

[12] Thought connects us to the world; feeling leads us back into ourselves and makes us individuals. If we were only thinking and perceiving beings, our whole life would pass by in unvarying indifference. If we could only know ourselves as “Self” through thought, we would be completely indifferent to ourselves. It is only because we experience self-feeling with self-knowledge, and pleasure and pain with the perception of objects, that we live as individuals whose existence is not consumed by our conceptual relation to the rest of the world. Besides our relationship to the world, we also have a special value for ourselves.

[13] One might be tempted to see in the life of feeling an element more richly filled with reality than the contemplation of the world by thought. The reply to this is that the life of feeling, after all, has this richer meaning only for my individual self. For the world as a whole, my feeling life can have value only if the feeling, as a percept of my self, becomes combined with a concept and in this roundabout way is integrated into the cosmos.

6.8 True Individuality
[14] Our life is a continuous swinging back and forth between participating in the universal world process and our own individual existence. The higher we ascend into the universal nature of thought, where eventually what is individual interests us only as an example, as an instance of a concept, the more we lose our individual character—as a specific, separate personality. The farther we descend into the depths of our personal life, and let our feelings resound with every experience of the outer world, the more we cut ourselves off from universal life.

A true individuality will be the one who reaches up with his feelings as high as possible into the region of ideals. There are people for whom even the most universal Ideas entering their heads still take on a subjective coloring that shows unmistakably their connection with the individual who thinks them. There are others whose concepts are expressed without any trace of individual coloring, as if they had not sprung forth from a person of flesh and blood at all.

6.9 Point Of View
The way we form our ideas already gives our conceptual life an individual stamp. After all, each of us has a standpoint from which to view the world. His concepts link up with his percepts. He thinks the universal concepts in his own special way. This determining factor results from the place we occupy in life, that is, from the range of percepts belonging to our environment. We call the conditions of individuality indicated here the milieu.

6.10 Intensity Of Feelings
[16] Another determining factor, distinct from the above, depends on our peculiar organization. Our organization is unique in its fully determined and well-defined details. Each of us attaches special feelings to his percepts, and do so in the most varying degrees of intensity. This is the individual element of our personality. It is what remains after we have taken into account all the determining factors in the milieu of our surrounding environment.

6.11 Education Of Feelings
[17] A feeling-life completely devoid of thought, must gradually lose all connection with the world. But because it is inherent in man to be a whole, his knowledge of things will go hand in hand with the education and development of his feeling-life.

6.12 Living Concepts
[18] Feeling is the means by which concepts first gain concrete life.