A Progressive Philosophy Of Freedom

ABOUT  Welcome to the new website design. This website, since 2005, examines Rudolf Steiner's early work (pre 1900 before he turned to theosophy) when he presented a way of life called Ethical Individualism based on a Science Of Freedom. “this book occupies a position completely independent of my writings on actual spiritual scientific matters... What I have said in this book may be acceptable even to some who, for reasons of their own, refuse to have anything to do with the results of my researches into the spiritual realm.” Rudolf Steiner, "The Philosophy of Freedom", 1918 Preface to the Revised Edition 

STUDY COURSE  The study course is self-directed study of a variety of relevant content collected over the years. Begin at any time. See the Study Course sidebar links.

STUDY GROUP  You are invited to participate in a unique online study group. A panel of animated characters will go through the book chapter by chapter and present the views given in each chapter. If you would like to be notified when a newly produced Philosophy Of Freedom video is posted register to this website.

CONTACT  You are welcome to get involved with a comment or blog post. Or email me your ideas or role you would like to play; featured writer, art, research, news, content suggestions, etc. -Tom

The Philosophy Of Freedom lays the foundation for a progressive social and political life.

A progressive stands for progress that improves the human condition rather than maintaining things as they are. Being a progressive does not refer to any external institution, it is a state of mind. It is an attitude through which a person, aware of himself or herself as one among a valued global community of individuals, comes nearest to living up to the ideal of human worth and dignity.

Essential to human dignity is freedom; freedom of thought, morality and action. The ethical individualist is a self-determining free individuality who acts out of knowledge.

How The Study Group Works

“With the opinions that one risks, it is like pieces that one pushes forward on the board; they can be taken, but they have initiated a game that will be won.” Goethe

STUDY GROUP Study the Philosophy Of Freedom with a panel of animated characters along with any humans who participate. The study group consists of a moderator and an animated panel of 12 who will go through the book chapter by chapter and present the views given in each chapter. All others are invited to participate by posting questions and comments at the bottom of the page.

CURRENT DISCUSSION VIDEO This weeks featured discussion video is "The 12 World-Outlooks". Next up is chapter 1 "Conscious Human Action".  Again, I am seeing the need for another Philosophy Of Freedom introduction post about the books aim. Each chapter addresses the relationship between our ideas and the real world. I should briefly look at this. In chapter 1, for example, our thoughts are connected to the world when we act. Cognition connects our thoughts to the world when we perceive and conceive etc.

Featured Study Group Discussion Video

Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom

10/1 revised Chapter 4, added Chapter 5
9/30 revised Chapter 3. Added Chapter 4
I felt the need to produce a video summary of Part 1 of The Philosophy Of Freedom for the study group. Here is the first draft of the script. As usual it is becoming longer than hoped. I will summarize the first 7 chapters.


Do we have free will?
Most of us believe we do, at least some of the time.
If I want to write a sentence, I will my fingers to type on the keypad.

Others say we are not free, but in fact, we are controlled by hidden factors, such as genes, upbringing, culture, current situation, unconscious activity, past experiences, etc.
Our sense of freedom is an illusion.
They say the illusion of freedom occurs because we do not know the real reasons that determine our action.
Obviously, we are not free if we do not know why we act.

All “human” motives contains thought.
This is the concept or idea that rules the action.
When we know the idea that guides our deed it is ours, and we are conscious of our freedom.
But what does it mean to know?
What is the origin of our ideas?
By learning about the knowing process, we advance toward freedom.


Our world-view determines the way we pursue knowledge.
We have a desire to explain everything in the terms of our world-view, whether it be Materialism, Spiritism, Realism or Idealism.
If we are a Materialist, we look to the material world and its processes to explain everything.
If we are a Spiritist, we try to explain everything in terms of the underlying spiritual.
A one-sided view refuses to look at the world from all sides.
Broad-mindedness is necessary to penetrate into the truth of the world.

The demand to explain the world comes from our desire to unite our thought-content with the perceived world-content.

While we are observing the world, we feel something more of it within that presses toward manifestation.
We feel something arising within that corresponds to the outer world.
This is our guide.
An element is discovered within that reveals itself as belonging not only to the self, but also to the world.
This element is the concept that corresponds to our observation.
What is at first dimly felt is fully grasped in conceptual clarity.


What does it mean to think?
First, we are free to think or not think.
Second, it requires effort to think.

The purpose of my reflection is to produce pure concepts that are universal and known in the same way by all thinkers.
For example, the pure concept “triangle” comprises all triangles.
Since it is universal it does not contain the particularity of specific triangles, yet it contains the essence of all triangles.

If we wish to know what is happening we need to discover the concepts that correspond to the event.
I add to the observed event a second process that takes place in the conceptual sphere.
When I have discovered the corresponding concepts of an event, I can predict what will happen.

By observing thought and the thinking process we can learn what thinking is.
What I observe in studying a thought process is not what brain process connects one thought with another, but my reason for bringing them into a relationship.
While thinking, I am guided solely by the content of my thoughts.

In mathematics pure conceptual thinking is the common practice.
With pure concepts one can remain within thinking.
What is to be known results from thinking itself, and in the same way for every thinker.

Conceptual thinking is self-supporting; not dependent on anything else.
Pure conceptual thinking:
1. Takes place in the sphere of universal concepts
2. Is guided by the content of the concepts.

Pure conceptual thinking is free thinking.
It exists on the level of pure concepts, liberated from biological and characterological control.
It is free of bias.
Freedom occurs most purely at this level, when we are freely forming ideas out of ego activity.
There is only one single concept of "triangle."
It will, however, be grasped by each one in its own individual way.
A free deed has its origin in pure conceptual thinking.

How do we know if our thinking is correct?
We can understand our thinking with transparent clarity through itself.
The question remains whether we can understand anything else with thought.
To understand the world we apply our thought-content to the perceived world-content.
How do we know if our thoughts are rightly applied?
The task of the “Philosophy Of Freedom” is to show how far the application of thought to the world is right or wrong.


Chapter 3 shows how we can understand our thinking with transparent clarity through itself.
In chapter 4 we look at the immediate application of thought to the world in the perception process.

No matter how long or how intensely we observe an object, the object does not tell us what it is; this our thinking does.
Since childhood, we have gradually built up concepts of the objects that surround us, such as the concept “tree”.
At any moment the content of our consciousness will already be interwoven with concepts in the most varied ways.
These concepts are added to our observations in the perception process.

When I see a tree, my thinking immediately reacts and adds the concept “tree” to the observation.
When the tree disappears from my field of vision, an after-effect of this process remains, a memory-picture of the tree.
I retain this memory-picture as my experience of the tree.
The next time I encounter a tree my existing memory-picture may insert itself between myself and the world blocking me of having a new experience of the tree.
Perception triggers our memories and we relive our past experience.

In normal experience, thinking appears through our psyche-physical organization.
Rather than a fresh look at the world, we insert dubious personal opinions and judgments.
This is perception bias, not real thinking.

Non-thinkers do not critically examine their experience, whether that experience is of an event in the world, a deed, a feeling, or an opinion.
Living the unreflective life, first impressions quickly flicker past before we have decided anything about them.
Non-thinkers passively observe the stream of experience that passes before their consciousness.
Life is without reflection, and therefore, is simply non-critical.
What follows is a description of a brief moment in the unreflective life.
It consists of a sequence of pictures that pass before consciousness in an unconnected way.

I am conscious of the mental picture of having worked hard today; immediately joining itself to this is a mental picture of being able, with good conscience, to take a walk; but suddenly there appears the perceptual picture of the door opening and of the mailman entering. The mailman appears, now sticking out his hand holding a letter, now opening his mouth, now pulling back his hand. At the same time the mouth opens, I have an auditory impression; “it is starting to rain outside”.

The mailman disappears from my consciousness, and a sequence of pictures occur: picking up scissors, opening the letter, criticism of illegible writing, visible images of diverse written characters, diverse imaginations and thoughts associated with them; then the mental picture appears again of having worked hard today and the perception, accompanied by ill humor, of the rain continuing.

This disappears from my consciousness, and a mental picture appears of a problem at work that I believed was resolved,… it was not actually resolved!; following quickly are the mental pictures: freedom of will, empirical necessity, responsibility, value of virtue, absolute chance, incomprehensibility, etc. These all join together with each other in the most varied and complicated way; and so it continues.

This everyday experience is the form of reality in which reflection plays no part at all.
Living the unreflective life we passively accept the happenings of daily life.


When we reflect on our relationship to the world we become aware that we form a part of that relationship by having ideas and retaining memory pictures.
This draws out attention away from the outside world and to our inner world.

Psychology considers memory pictures as a representation of the real world created by our own psychological condition.
These mental pictures insert themselves between the observer and what exists outside in the world.
The world is no longer seen through the intervening world of mental pictures.
How can we know anything of the outside world if a picture called up in our mind inserts itself between the outside world and ourselves?

If all I experience are "mental pictures", then my everyday life would be like a dream.
The world is then merely a product of my mind.
But we cannot remain in this dream unless we intentionally close our mind to our desire for knowledge.
It is the deepening of thinking that will awaken us from this dream.

When I, as thinker, approach a plant, the plant connects itself with a concept in my mind.
The world causes thoughts in my mind with the same necessity as it causes the blossom on a plant.
Plant a seed in the earth.
It puts forth root and stem, it unfolds into leaves and blossoms.
Set the plant before yourself and it connects itself, in your mind, with a definite concept.
This concept belongs to the whole plant as much as the leaves and blossoms.
The concept of a plant appears when a thinking consciousness approaches the plant.

We shall call the form in which the concept first arises conceptual intuition.
Conceptual intuition can be described as intellectual seeing.
This is an intellectual intuition that gives us concepts and ideas.

Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge.
Our observation remains unintelligible without the corresponding concept.
We are unable to know which experience is important and which isn’t, and how it relates to the whole of reality.
By discovering the universally valid concept, we are given the actual driving and active principle in things.
Our separate observations become combined into a whole, bit by bit, through our coherent, unified conceptual system.
We advance from the world as it first appears to a conceptual knowledge of it that satisfies our reason.

Without the deeper penetration of reality by intuition, our thinking will just extract the concepts our perception bias has already added.
Full reality remains closed off to anyone without the intuitive ability to find corresponding concepts.
The deepening of knowledge depends on the powers of conceptual intuition.


to be continued

Read more…

Click on lower right corner for full screen viewing (recommended).

Sept. 25, video and script finished.

The Philosophy Of Freedom is divided into two parts.
Part 1 is entitled “Knowledge Of Freedom”. Part 2 is “Reality Of Freedom”.

In Part 1 we learn how to gain knowledge of an action.
By gaining knowledge of why we act, we can determine whether the action is free or not free.
In Part 2 we learn how to originate free action.
In both cases the approach taken is to examine our thinking processes.

In order to characterize an action, we need to discover the reason or motive of the action.
This is the rule or law that directs the action.
Are we controlled by inner laws of human nature, outer rules set down by someone else to act in a certain way, or do we lack any kind of motivation at all?
Hopefully, we are inspired by a motive that we freely originate.

Our action takes place in the world, so gaining knowledge of the laws that determines our action is done in the same way we gain knowledge of anything else in the world.
We seek the laws of our action just as science seeks to discover the fundamental laws of the universe.

The laws that science discovers depends on what is being observed, and are universally valid.

So the question of Part 1 that applies to gaining knowledge of an action and also applies to gaining knowledge of anything else in the world becomes, “How can we gain universally valid ideas that express the inner core of the world”?

In Part 2 we learn how to originate free action.

A free deed originates within our own world of ideas, where only we determine it.
We think out for ourselves the ethical principle that applies in each particular case.
Our reasons to act are absolutely original.
We determine the reasons with purely conceptual thinking.
The action is free because we determine the motive.
We determine the laws that guide our action.
Free action is based on individually valid ideas.
This is different than the universally valid ideas of science.
There are no universally valid moral decisions.

With this the question of Part 2 becomes, “How can we gain individually valid ideas that express the inner core of our being”?
This is different than the question of Part 1.
The question of Part 1 is:“How can we gain universally valid ideas that express the inner core of the world”?

The general ethical ideal we select needs to be imaginatively translated into a specific action.
If we select the general principle of "helping others", to translate the principle into a specific action we will need to envision what we want to bring about in the world.
To translate the principle into a specific action, we will need to envision what we want to bring about in the world.
We are inspired by our vision to create a new reality by helping others.
The realization of our ideals is the true joy of life.

Ethical ideas are different than scientific ideas in that they are 'not' determined by what is being observed.
If we perceive a dog, there is only one general concept 'dog'.
Ethical ideas are different in that they depend on us.
We take notice of the situation, but we do not allow our self to be determined by it.
On another day, we may decide to do something for our self.
In the same situation, we may decide to select a different ethical principle such as; "help my self".
We may envision ourselves going home, and getting in bed to get the rest we need.

In Part 1 we learn how to Know Reality.
We seek knowledge of what already exists.
This is achieved with reality-based knowledge made possible by having the ability to gain universally valid cognitive ideas of science.

In Part 2 we learn how to Create Reality.
Our actions create new realities.
This is achieved with ethically-based action made possible by having the ability to gain individually valid ethical ideas of action.

True freedom is achieved when they are united.
We are truly human when we are imaginatively creating a new world out of knowledge.

Read more…

Study Group Chapter Themes And Discussion Videos

These are the key ideas to be presented in the study group. Part 1 of The Philosophy Of Freedom (book text) is about knowing reality with reality-based knowledge while Part 2 is about creating reality with ethically-based action. Go to the Study Group link on the side bar to learn about the study group.


Part 1

Part 2



(universally valid cognitive ideas of science)


(individually valid ethical ideas of action)
0. Preface
1. Conscious Human Action
      A.Ethical Individualism Anchored In A Science Of Freedom (3 videos)
      B. Striving For Freedom (video coming soon)
14. Individuality And Genus
2. The Desire For Knowledge
13. The Value Of Life
3. Thinking As The Instrument Of Knowledge
12. Moral Imagination
4. The World As Perception
11. World Purpose And Life Purpose
5. Knowing The World
10. Freedom Philosophy And Monism 
6. Human Individuality
 9. The Idea Of Freedom
7. Are There Limits To Knowing?
 8. The Factors Of Life

The 12 World-Outlooks

12 WORLD-OUTLOOKS The structure of a Philosophy Of Freedom chapter is that it begins with an introduction to the chapter theme which is followed by 12 views of the theme. The reading is much easier if you know what world-outlook is being expressed. The views are numbered in the online text, and follow in order, 1. Materialism 2. Spiritism 3. Realism 4. Idealism 5. Mathematism 6. Rationalism 7. Psychism 8. Pneumatism 9. Monadism 10. Dynamism 11. Phenomenalism and 12. Sensationalism. These views are described in Rudolf Steiner's Human And Cosmic Thought.

Click on lower right corner for full screen viewing (recommended).

Welcome to the Philosophy Of Freedom study group where we will learn about ethical individualism.
We have brought together a diverse discussion panel to introduce you to a progressive philosophy of life.
The panel will go through the entire book chapter by chapter and discuss the main topics.
You are welcome to participate by posting your questions and comments in the comment box.
I am the group moderator and will attempt to deepen the conversation.

Now lets meet our panel.

I am a materialist.
As a scientist I try to explain everything by sticking to what I know, the material world and its laws.

I am a Spiritist.
The material world is only a manifestation of the world of mind.
By developing our powers, the Truth that we seek comes to us through our own inner activity.

As a Realist and repair man I recognize the external world.
The external world that surrounds me is something I can see and think about.

I am a professor with the world-view of Idealism.
The world has no meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency. I am interested in the world of ideas and ideals that give the world meaning and purpose.

These are the four basic world-views.
The other views are variations between these four.
Materialists direct their attention on the outer material-physical world.
Spiritists direct their attention on the world of spirit or Mind.
Realists on the external world that surrounds them.
And Idealists on the world of ideas.

I am a programming engineer with a world view of Mathematism.
Mathematical thinking taught me that if I focus and control my thinking I can arrive at the correct answer by following a logical sequence of thought.
I discovered that there are mathematical laws that apply as soundly in the phenomenal world as they do within the world of thought.

This is significant since these laws exist within their own right, independent of us, and apply to both worlds; they unify the mind and the world.

Rationalism is essential for a lawyer like myself; the world view of Rationalism.
If mathematical ideas are real in the world, why should not other ideas correctly apply to the world?
I accept ideas that are discovered in the world, outside myself.
Rational ideas are backed up by evidence found in the world.

I am a psychologist with the world-view of Psychism.
My interest is in people.
We must remember that ideas are bound up with some one who is capable of having ideas.
Ideas are connected with people.

I am a Pnuematist and psychic.
I seek forces beyond the material world.
Pneuma is a word for "spirit".
I believe there is an active spirit in the outside world.

I am a philosopher with the world-view of Monadism.
I am a self-conscious and completely self-dependent ego.
Truth is not revealed to outer observation so I do not accept anything as truth from the outside world.
I have conceptual powers to grasp the directing principle of things within myself.
All my experience, sensation, and knowledge is the result of my own inner activity.

My world-view is Dynamism.
I am an artist who believes that change and progress are brought about by dynamic forces.
I look for the forces and energies that are behind external phenomena.
Forces are dominate everywhere.

My outlook is Phenomenalism.
As a researcher I describe the appearance or observed features of what I experience.
Other than my observations, I have no right to say more about it.
I am not saying that what appears to me is the true world.
It is a world of phenomena.

I am a gourmet who loves to cook and my world-view is Sensationalism.
We have a world all around us.
But what we really have is what we have added to it, what we have thought into the world.
I peel off from my experience everything that comes from the understanding and reason, and accept only my sense impressions without interpretation.

Thank you panel.
Lets begin our discussion of The Philosophy Of Freedom with chapter 1, Conscious Human Action.

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Post General Questions and Comments Here

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  • Again, I am seeing the need for another Philosophy Of Freedom introduction post about the books aim. Each chapter addresses the relationship between our ideas and the real world. I should briefly look at this. In chapter 1, for example, our thoughts are connected to the world when we act. Cognition connects our thoughts to the world when we perceive and conceive etc.

  • To explain the difference between Part 1 and Part 2 of the Philosophy Of Freedom I posted a new chart with the key ideas to be presented in the study group.

  • A unique online study group has begun. Hope you can join.

  • I added two new pages; an effective way to study the Philosophy Of Freedom called Project Based Study and a fun study group process at Start A Study Group. These links will be on the side bar.

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10/1 revised Chapter 4, added Chapter 5
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I felt the need to…
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