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Chapter 1 slides for tuesday study group

 What does Truth And Science say?


All of existence is regulated by laws.
Human cognition can discover these laws.
Human cognition includes the processes of thinking, perception, conception and forming ideas.


The laws that determine human action are our moral ideals.
These are the goals we set and strive to achieve by taking action.
Our aims, goals, and tasks we set for ourselves in life are laws that regulate our behavior.


Because our action is determined by laws and because we can know theses laws makes self-determination possible.
Our conduct is truly ours when we know why we act, when we know the moral concepts and ideas that guide our action.


When we know why we act, when we know the idea that guides our action, we are free.
When we do not know why we act, we are not free.

There are many known and unknown influences for why we act.
The task of self-development is to transform compelled behavior into fully known self-determined action.
We gain knowledge by means of the cognitive processes.
This means that the way to develop freedom is to develop our cognitive abilities
By developing our cognitive abilities we become one who acts out of knowledge, a knowing doer.
The imancipation of knowing (free thinking) is the path to freedom.



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 uniformity of natural law is broken 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 determinism 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.


astrology, tarot cards, premonitions, forms of intuition


This chapter debates several kinds of freedom
Why a science of freedom? "The purpose of The Philosophy Of Freedom is to lay the foundations of ethical individualism
and of a social and political life."


No one free.


Everyone free.


Does the philosophy of freedom accept divine forces, supernatural events, or a spiritual world?


Is self-determination freedom compatible with determinisn? If the cause of action is an intuitive impulse? Pure reason?


Life: social and political, need to brainwash the unfree masses 
Religion: God's will (divine determinism)
Conduct: hold one responsible 
Science: Laws broken?

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.

     1.0 “The importance of the question of freedom felt by anyone with any depth of character.”
     1.1 "sad sign of the superficiality of today's thought" "grown beyond elementary science"


"new faith" based on scientific research (science of freedom)

the will is free because it is not determined by any "reason"
the choice is "indifferent", or a random choice
indifference is not a factor of morality


There is always a reason when choosing among already existing possibilities: choose A or B
This is the cause and effect found in the physical world

There is always a reason (causality)

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]."


A person is free when they make choices according to their own preferences and desires.
Analysis of consciousness (introspective observation) shows we are not free to desire or not

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    1. If we are not free, what are the forces keeping us fettered? Do we not understand our wishes
    • According to the physicalists or "scientific materialists", our inner sense or experience of "free will" is only an illusion, as it is not logically conceivable for the human being, who is part of nature, to also be free from the very laws of nature. The so-called "illusion" of free will says that it is not possible for us to be a part of nature, but yet free to break her laws at will. It is presumed to be as absurd to think that we could flap our arms like a bird, and break the law of gravity whenever we felt like it.

      The laws of physics (gravity, etc.), chemistry (strong and weak chemical bonds), brain physiology, and so on, are examples of all the laws which fetter us, according to this view. Even if I have a thought "I'm going to pick up this book now", and then my hand move to pick up the book, my inner sense and feeling of having the freedom of will to initiate this action is only an illusion, as there would be a chain of cause and effect of brain chemistry, and so on, which presumably could explain what caused my thought, and then my arm to move in response.

    • Later in chapter 1 it gives examples of understanding our wishes but being unaware of the origin of thought that determined the wish. We have to originate the idea by creating it or by making an outside idea our own by rethinking it.

      • Can you cite the quote in chapter 1 that explains how we can understand our wishes? To me, this is a fundamental issue in understanding thought. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The wish (desire) or the thought about it? 

        • Our desire is a response to thought so thought comes first. See:
          1.10 Driving Force Of The Heart
          1.11 Idealizing The Loved One
          1.12 Seeing The Good

          We originate a wish (desire to act) in practical reason.

          Basic desire comes from our conditioned and fixed characterological disposition. We try to reach our feelings into the ideal (POF 6.8 True Individuality) so our wish (desire) originates in pure thinking. An impulse to act from universal thinking is stronger than an impulse to act from our set character. “The highest level of individual life is that of conceptual thought without reference to any definite perceptual content. We determine the content of a concept through pure intuition on the basis of an ideal system.” (POF 9.4)

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© Tom Last 2017
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