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Tom Last's Posts (160)

4. The World As Perception

4. The World As Perception

Compare Ideal Element with External Object

"When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation. An ideal element is added to the object, and the observer regards the object and Ideal complement as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of observation, only the Ideal counterpart remains. This is the concept of the object." TPOF 4.0

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.


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 element is added to the object, and the observer regards the object and Ideal complement as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of observation, only the Ideal counterpart remains. This is the concept of the object.

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.


STEP #61 (4.1)
Compare Generalize Relationships with Conceptualize Relationships

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
Observation: 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.


Conceptualize Relationships
Ideal Element: A closer analysis leads to a very different description. When I hear a noise the first thing I do is search for the concept that fits this observation. My thought makes it clear that the noise is an 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. I can never gain the concepts “cause” and “effect” by mere observation, no matter how many cases I observe.

Strictly Objective Science
Representation Of World: 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..

STEP #62 (4.2)
Compare Thinking Consciousness with Thinking Reference

Thinking Consciousness
Observation: 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.

Thinking Reference
Ideal Element: 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.

Embrace And Contrast Self With World
Representation Of World: The basis for the dual nature of the human being is that 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.

STEP #63 (4.3)
Compare Pure Observation with Establish Conceptual Relationship

Pure Observation
External Object: All we would be aware of before our thought became active is the pure content of observation. The world would appear 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 Relationship
Ideal Element: 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.

Conceptual Relationships Not Merely Subjective
Representation Of World: We will not be tempted to believe the relationships between observations established by thought only have subjective validity, if we recall that in no circumstance can the activity of thought be considered merely subjective.

STEP #64 (4.4)
Compare World-Picture Contradictions with World-Picture Corrections

World-Picture Contradictions
External Object: 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. He believes phenomena exists and occurs just as he observes it. He clings to this belief until further perceptions contradict the earlier ones.

Definition Of Percept
The term “percept” is the immediate conscious apprehension of objects through observation. This includes sense-data, feelings and also thought as it first appears to our consciousness. It is the observed object, not the process of observing.

World-Picture Corrections
Ideal Element: 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.

Continuous Corrections
Representation Of World: The picture we form of the world needs to be continually corrected with each new perception.

STEP #65 (4.5)
Compare Mathematical with Qualitative Determination Of Perception-Picture

Perception-Picture Dependent On Place Of Observation
External Object: 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 is dependent on my place of observation and changes when I change my place of observation.

Perception-Picture Dependent On Bodily And Mental Organization
Ideal Element: My perception-picture is dependent on my bodily and mental organization. We only perceive vibrations as sound if we have normally constructed ears. The perception-picture of the color blind only has shades of light and dark. The fact that a red surface appears to me red depends on the structure of my eye.

Mathematical And Qualitative Determination Of Perception-Picture
Representation Of World: We are forced to make continual corrections to our observations. The dependency of my perception-picture on my place of observation is "mathematical," and its dependency on my organization is "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.

STEP #66 (4.6)
Compare Percept Exists While Perceived with Object Exists As Collection Of Percepts

Percept Exists While Being Perceived
External Object: 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.

Object Exists As Collection Of Percepts
Ideal Element: 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.

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.

Percept Partly Determined By Subject’s Organization
Representation Of World: 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.

STEP #67 (4.7)
Compare Myself As Observer with My Idea-Image

Myself As Observer
External Object: 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.

My Idea-Image
Ideal Element: When the tree disappears from my field of vision, an aftereffect 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.

Idea Within Me
Representation Of World: 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. By noticing the connection between the observation of the object and the changes that occur in me, I then speak of having an idea.

STEP #68 (4.8)
Compare Idea Inserts Itself Before Object with Object Is Unknowable

Idea Inserts Itself Before Object
External Object: The failure to recognize the relationship between idea and object has led to the greatest misunderstandings. 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.

Only Ideas Exist
Ideal Element (Berkeley): Knowledge of the world is limited to my ideas because 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.

Object (thing-in-itself) Is Unknowable
Ideal Element (Kant): Kant 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.

Knowledge Of The World Limited To Mental Representations
Representation Of World: Our ideas are the only things we experience directly and learn to know directly. At the very beginning of all philosophy, it is necessary to state explicitly that all knowledge that goes beyond ideas is open to doubt. --Kantian view

STEP #69 (4.9)
Compare Object Is Motion with External Object Lost

Object Is Motion In External World
External Object: Physics
Outside our organism we find vibrations of physical bodies and of the air perceived by us as sound. What we call sound is nothing more than a subjective reaction of our organism to these motions in the external world. The same external stimulus applied to different senses evokes different sensations. Our sense-organs can transmit only what occurs within them, and transmit nothing from the external world.

External Object Lost On Way To Psyche
Ideal Element: Physiology And Psychology
The external process undergoes a series of transformations through the nerves to the brain. What the subject perceives are always only modifications of his own psychical states and nothing else. The psyche constructs things out of the various sensations transmitted to it by the brain. The final stage of the process, the representational idea of the object, is the very first thing to enter my consciousness. The external object has been completely lost on the way to the brain and through the brain to the human psyche.

Our Organization Determines What We Perceive
Representation Of World: Physics, physiology and psychology 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.

STEP #70 (4.10)
Compare External Object Is Colorless with Color Projected Onto Object

External Object Is Colorless
External Object: 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. The object, then, is colorless.

Color Projected Onto Object
Ideal Element: 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.

Perceived World Created By Psyche
Representation Of World: 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.

STEP #71 (4.11)
Compare The External Percept Is My Idea with Ideas Cannot Act On Each Other

The External Percept Is My Idea
External Object: 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. 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.

Web Of Ideas Cannot Act On Each Other
Ideal Element: If I go through each step of the act of cognition once again, the cognitive act described reveals itself as a web of ideas that, as such, cannot possibly act on each other. The full impossibility of the described line of thought reveals itself. 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.

Confuses External And Internal Observations
Representation Of World: There is a gap between external and internal observations. The method of external observation ends with the process in the brain. 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.

STEP #72 (4.12)
Compare Objective Reality with Subjective Reality

Objective Reality
External Object: Naive Realism accepts that one's own organism has objective existence. To be consistent, the theory that “The world is my idea” would mean our organism would be a mere complex of ideas. This removes the possibility that the content of the perceived world is solely a product of our mental organization. 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.

Subjective Reality
Ideal Element: The Critical Idealism says the world is my idea. This truth apples to every cognizing being. The world around me is present only as an idea. It is there only in relation to something else, to the one who depicts it, namely, myself. My eye that sees the sun, and my hand that feels the earth, are my ideas just like the sun and the earth.

Collapse Of “The world is my idea” Theory
Representation Of World: 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, his theory can no longer use those percepts as a secure foundation for his theory.

Next Chapter
Critical Idealism is unable to gain insight into the relationship between percepts and ideas. It cannot find what must already be present in the object before it is perceived. To do this, we must find another way to approach this question.

Read more…

Revised 10/17/17

3. Thinking As A Means Of Forming A View Of The World

Compare Thinking with Observation

"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." TPOF 3.0

Spectator Watches
Observation: As a spectator, I remain completely without influence over the course of an observed event. The event takes place independent of me. As long as I remain a mere spectator, I cannot tell in advance what will happen. I must wait to see what will happen, and can only follow it with my eyes.

Thinker Predicts
Thinking: The situation is different when I begin to reflect on my observation. The purpose of my reflection is to establish concepts of the event. The conceptual process depends on me. It requires my active involvement for it to take place. After I discover the concepts that correspond to the event, I can predict what will happen.

Observation And Thinking
Forming A View: Thought plays the leading role in forming a view of events.
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: observation and thinking. 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.

STEP #49 (3.1)
Compare Everyday State with Exceptional State

Everyday State (observation of world object)
Observation: 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.
Involuntary Thought-Chain
Free flowing thought-chains are involuntary memories and associations that may fill the mind in everyday life. They are not sought or consciously directed.


Exceptional State (observation of thought)
Thinking: 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..

Same Method Used To Study World And Thought
Forming A View: 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.

STEP #50 (3.2)
Compare Passive Feeling with Active Thinking

Passive Feeling
Observation: While observing an object, such as a rose, a feeling of pleasure is kindled. We remain passive as the feeling just happens to us. A feeling of pleasure is given in the same way as the observed event. When I know the feeling an event arouses in me, I learn about my personality.

Active Thinking
Thinking: To form thoughts about the table, I must be active. I am definitely aware that forming concepts requires my activity. Concepts and ideas are brought forth by our attentive thinking effort. By knowing the concepts that correspond to an event I learn about the event.
Involuntary Thought-Chain
Free flowing thought-chains are involuntary memories and associations that may fill the mind in everyday life. They are not sought or consciously directed. This is not thinking.

Learn About Event, Not Myself
Forming A View: When I am reflecting on an event, I am not concerned with how it affects me. I learn nothing about myself by knowing the concepts that correspond to an event. But I learn a great deal about my personality when I know the feeling that an event arouses in me.

STEP #51 (3.3)
Compare Personal Reaction with Selfless Observation

Personal Reaction To Event
Observation: 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. I am not interested in expressing my personal reaction to the object; how I feel about it or how I will act.

Selfless Observation
Thinking: Rather than drawing attention to myself, my selfless attention is fully directed on the object. 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. The first thing we notice about thought is that it is the unobserved element in our mental life.

Thinking Observation (thinking contemplation)
Forming A View: 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. I confront it. 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 to contemplate it by thought. This is thinking contemplation.

STEP #52 (3.4)
Compare Confront Thought with Think About Thought

Confront 'Past' Thought
Observation: We use the same method of selfless observation for the study of thought that we use for the study of objects in the world. The difference is that to study thought we must enter the exceptional state to confront our 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.

Think About Thought
Thinking: I can never observe my present thinking while it is taking place. Only afterward can the past experience of my thought-process be made into the object of fresh thoughts. For fresh thinking to take place my full attention must remain on the object I am thinking about. So to think about thinking I must recall to mind what is now a past thought and place my full attention on it. It is the same whether I observe my own earlier thoughts, or follow the thought-process of another person, or set up an imaginary thought-process in the conceptual sphere.

Create, then contemplate
Forming A View: To think about our thinking requires two steps. First, I create a thought-process. Next, I become immersed in it with my full attention. 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 why we cannot contemplate our current thinking while it is taking place. Thought must first be there before we can contemplate it.

STEP #53 (3.5)
Compare Present Thought-Process with Known Thought-Process

Observation Of Present Thought-Process
Observation: The reason why it is impossible to observe the thought-process while it is presently taking place is because producing thought is a creative activity.

Known Thought-Process
Thinking: 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 Conceptual Connections
Forming A View: 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.

STEP #54 (3.6)
Compare Brain Physiology with Pure Thinking

Brain Physiology
Observation: The transparent clarity of thinking becomes known to us by observing our thought. It does not require any knowledge of the physiological basis of thought. How one physical process in my brain causes or influences another while I am carrying on a thought-process is irrelevant. In our Materialistic age, it is necessary to point out that we can discuss thinking without entering the field of brain physiology.

Pure Thinking - Pure Reason
Thinking: Most people find it difficult to grasp the concept of pure thinking such as occurs in mathematics and philosophy. What I observe in studying a thought-process is not what process in my brain connects the concept lightning with the concept thunder. What I observe is my "reason" for bringing these two concepts into a certain relationship. Observation 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.

Willingness To Enter The Exceptional State
Forming A View: 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.

STEP #55 (3.7)
Compare Certainty Of Observation with Certainty Of Thought

Certainty Of Observation
Observation: All other things, all other events, are there independent of me. I do not know whether they are truth, or illusion, or dream.

The observation of thought is different. Every normal person, if they are willing, has the ability to observe thought. This observation is the most important that can be made. What I observe is my own creation. All other things and events are there independent of me and are, at first, unfamiliar. With thought I know how it comes about and clearly see its conditions and relationships. All other things, all other events, are there independent of me. I do not know whether they are truth, or illusion, or dream.

Certainty Of Thought
Thinking: 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. It is only in thinking that I grasp myself, standing within the world-whole, in the activity that is the most my own

Certainty Of Existence
Forming A View: As a thinker, I define my reason for existence with the self-supporting content of my thought activity. From this firm point of knowing why I exist, I can ask: "Do other things exist in the same, or in some other way?

STEP #56 (3.8)
Compare Remain Within Observation with Remain Within Thought

Remain Within Observation
Observation: When we observe things in the world a process is overlooked. Two processes are involved in observing the world, the observation-process and the thinking-process. We may not notice it, but the thinking-process mingles with our observation of world-events and even intermixes with the observation process itself. 

It is different when we observe thought. Thought normally escapes our notice. When we observe thought we use the same method of observation that we use for other things. By observing thought we increase the number of observed objects, but not the number of methods.

Remain Within Thought
Thinking: 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. We can remain within the same element; the realm of thought.

Remain Within Thinking About Thinking 
Forming A View: When I weave a web of thoughts around an object given independently of me, I go beyond my observation. Then the question becomes: How is it possible for my thought to be related to the object? The question vanishes 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.

STEP #57 (3.9)
Compare Know Then Create with Create Then Know

Know Nature, Then Create
Observer: Nature already exists. If we want to create it again, we first have to know the principles of Nature. We have to observe the Nature that already exists to gain the knowledge needed to create it a second time. We copy the conditions of Nature’s existence in order to produce it again. We know Nature before we create it again.

Create Thought, Then Know
Thinker: What is impossible with nature—creating before knowing—we achieve with an act of thinking. We first create thought, then gain knowledge of it. If we wait to think until we already have knowledge, we would never think at all. We must resolutely dive straight into thinking and only afterward, by reflecting on our new insight, gain knowledge of what it all means.

Start With Thinking
Forming A View: 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 fundamental starting-point for the study of any world-event than thinking.

STEP #58 (3.10)
Compare Unconscious Thought with Independent Thought

Unconscious Thought
Observation: When we observe an object or event, thought unconsciously connects our observations with one another by weaving them together with a network of concepts. These unconscious thoughts are not the same as the conscious thoughts our analysis later extracts from the observed objects after we study them. What we first unconsciously weave into things is something entirely different from what we then consciously draw back out.

Independent Thought
Thinking: 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. We are not discussing how my thought appears to an intelligence other than mine, but how it appears to me. I can see no reason why I should consider my thought from any other point of view than my own.

Self-Supporting View
Forming A View: 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 we can 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.

STEP #59 (3.11)
Compare Start With Observation with Start With Thinking

Start With Observation
Observation: The researcher turns immediately to the objects he wishes to understand. Certainly we need to consciously observe the object of our study before thoughts about it arise. But what good does it do to start with the object and subject it to our thinking, without first knowing whether our thoughts will offer insight into things?

Start With Thinking
Thinking: What is the starting-point for understanding the world? We must first examine thinking in a completely impartial way, without reference to a thinking subject or a thought object. Does our thinking contain preconceptions, cognitive bias and so on? There is no denying that thinking must be understood before anything else can be understood.

Last In Time, First In Theory
Forming A View: A philosophy will go nowhere as long as it is based on all kinds of principles, ism’s and ideology. It will remain suspended in the air. The starting-point must be what comes into existence last. And the absolutely last thing produced in the world-process is thought.

STEP #60 (3.12)
Compare Rightness Of Thought with Application Of Thought

Rightness Of Thought
Observation: Some say the problem with knowing the world by means of thinking is that we cannot be sure whether our thought is right or wrong. They argue over what thought is the correct thought.

Application Of Thought
Thinking: It is understandable that some will have doubts whether we can know the world by means of thought. But it does not make sense to doubt the rightness of thought, when the thought is considered by itself. Thought is a fact and it is meaningless to speak of a fact as being right or wrong. At most I can have doubts about whether thought is rightly applied. 

Study Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Forming A View: It is the task of The Philosophy Of Freedom to show us how far the application of thought to the world is a right application or a wrong one.

Next Chapter
In this chapter we learned how thought, as an object of observation, is different than all other activities of the mind and why it is a secure foundation for knowing the world. In the following chapters we will learn to what extent our application of thought to the world is right or wrong.

Read more…

Jonathan Westphal Neutral Monism

Jonathan Westphal has been a student of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom his whole life. This led him to develop ideas on neutral monism. Below is an article and a review of his latest book.

Neutral Monism
Jonathan Westphal December 16, 2016 Consciousness / Jonathan Westphal: The Mind-Body Problem / metaphysics of mind

Neutral monism has a fascinating history, from Mach and Chancey Wright (b. 1830 in Northampton MA, where I happen to live) through William James, the American New Realists, including E.B. Holt and Ralph Barton Perry, many of them very much Harvard figures, Bertrand Russell, from 1919 to 1927, to Moritz Schlick and A.J. Ayer.

There is a slightly overlooked aspect to the view that fits in with the post-Hegelian preoccupations of the time. Here are a few lines from Chauncey Wright’s Philosophical Discussions:

Our own mind is not “first known as a phenomenon of the subject ego, or as an effect upon us of an hypothetical outward world, its first unattributed condition would be, by our view, one of neutrality between the two worlds.” Rather, “The distinction of subject and object becomes … a classification through observation and analysis, instead of the intuitive distinction it is supposed to be by most metaphysicians.”

The neutral monist wants us to start with neutral data, some of them having to do with the objects of sense, such as colors and sounds and so on. But also included by neutral monists such as Mach are times and pressures! This sounds odd, but it is really a testament to Mach’s powerful philosophical naiveté. The naive approach paid off well for him in science too, and he was sensitive to things that other researchers missed or did not notice. An example is Mach bands. Mach’s photography of the shock wave shows the same cheerful empirical spirit. Another fine example is the difference in appearance of shapes under rotation. An eighth rotation of a square makes the horizontal distance across the square narrower, so that what is a perceived is more of a diamond than a square.

What did this approach do for the mind-body problem? Take as an example a neutral item the color that I see, like the pale green (a very New England colour) of the door to my left. Is this color physical or psychological? It is hard to say. The natural thought is that the color is paint, so that what you buy at the paint shop are colours. On the other hand what color you see is determined by all sorts of things having to do with the psychology and physiology of the one who is looking at it. The answer of Mach and the other neutral monists was that pro tem a colour is neither physical nor psychological. Asking which it is is a bit like asking whether I am looking at the first, or second or third. An object becomes the first or second or third only by being put in some sort of order, and, according to the neutral monists, though the neutral data such as colours retain their neutral character come what may, in one series of things they can be regarded as physical (for example in connection with the action of light on the coloured surface) and in another they can be regarded as psychological (for example the saturation of colours is often different in the left and right eye).

So where does this get us? Russell, rather surprisingly, having said that physical and psychological items are distinguished “only by their causal laws” (this is in “On Propositions”) allows that unperceived material things obey only physical laws, images obey only psychological laws, and sensations obey or can obey both. So for Russell during this period sensations are the only genuinely neutral elements. His view then is a sort of sandwich, with the genuinely neutral elements only in the middle. Yet if thoughts do not obey physical laws and unperceived material things obey only physical laws, how is this a genuinely neutral monism?

I have tried to give an account in The Mind-Body Problem of the way in which the neutral monist deals with causal relations between mind and body. The neutral monists seem not to have been struck by this problem, contenting themselves with naturalistic dithyrambs about the oneness of things. But that does not tell you how a puncture in the stomach lining will give you the pain of the ulcer. What seems to me very significant is the overlap of two elements in the two different cases, here a searing. The pain is a searing one, but what the stomach acids do the lining of the stomach is searing too. Searing is something that can take a physical or psychological interpretation, and that is very interesting. The fiery aspect of searing can be seen physically on inspection of the ulcers. In connection with this sort of example I offer an account in the book of what causal relations must be for the neutral monist – I hope that readers will find it interesting.

I am also naturally very interested in the way in which images can turn into sensations. If we could get a grip on this, we would be able to understand the way in which a mental image could have an effect on the body. It is also very interesting that thoughts can become images, and the other way round, in hypnopompic and hypnogogic imagery at the borders of sleep.

A few words, as promised, about the difference between neutral monism and double aspect theories. Neutral monism has categorically physical things and categorically mental things in its ontology. If something is physical, and not psychological, it cannot be placed in a psychological series. With the double aspect theory, however, something can be viewed either as physical or as mental, either as extension or as consciousness, or whatever the “principle attributes” of matter and mind are. This difference between the two theories has an important corollary. With neutral monism there is psychophysical causation, as with interactionist dualism, but not so with with the dual aspect theory. True, we can look at a book under the aspect of economic position (it has a price of $15, say) or we can look at it under the aspect of subject matter (its subject is astronomy, say). But the economic object and the object of the subject matter do not interact. For they are the same thing, viewed under different and incompatible aspects. Double aspect theorists owe more to Spinoza, neutral monists to Leibniz and Hume.

To conclude, may I offer a big thank you to John Schwenkler and The Brains Blog for hosting a great discussion? I have had a lot of fun and learnt a lot. I hope that everyone has enjoyed it and benefited from it as much as I have. Cheers John!

Book Overview

Philosophers from Descartes to Kripke have struggled with the glittering prize of modern and contemporary philosophy: the mind-body problem. The brain is physical. If the mind is physical, we cannot see how. If we cannot see how the mind is physical, we cannot see how it can interact with the body. And if the mind is not physical, it cannot interact with the body. Or so it seems.

In this book the philosopher Jonathan Westphal examines the mind-body problem in detail, laying out the reasoning behind the solutions that have been offered in the past and presenting his own proposal. The sharp focus on the mind-body problem, a problem that is not about the self, or consciousness, or the soul, or anything other than the mind and the body, helps clarify both problem and solutions.

Westphal outlines the history of the mind-body problem, beginning with Descartes. He describes mind-body dualism, which claims that the mind and the body are two different and separate things, nonphysical and physical, and he also examines physicalist theories of mind; antimaterialism, which proposes limits to physicalism and introduces the idea of qualia; and scientific theories of consciousness.

Finally, Westphal examines the largely forgotten neutral monist theories of mind and body, held by Ernst Mach, William James, and Bertrand Russell, which attempt neither to extract mind from matter nor to dissolve matter into mind. Westphal proposes his own version of neutral monism. This version is unique among neutral monist theories in offering an account of mind-body interaction.

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What Are Cognitive Rights?

revised sept 7

Science Of Cognition: Cognition is how we acquire knowledge. The science of cognition can lead an individual to free thinking and self-determined action, or it can be misused by creating cognitive bias in the individual. Cognitive abuse has many names such as mind control, brainwashing, or marketing.

Cognitive Rights: Cognitive rights are an extension of the recognized human right of free thought to include free thinking. Free thought is the right of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, independent of others' viewpoints. Free thinking includes the right of the individual to pursue and acquire knowledge in their own way. The right of free thinking is violated when someone seeks to exploit an individual by manipulating cognition to change a person’s beliefs, behaviors or identity.

Evaluation Of Cognitive Environment: Each day people try to influence our thinking. This can be helpful in our pursuit of truth or it can be cognitive abuse depending on the cognitive environment. The question is whether the environment and methods used are respectful of individual cognitive rights or exploit and manipulate to serve the agenda of another.


1. Freedom Of Knowing Why You Act
2. Freedom To Pursue Knowledge
3. Freedom Of Thinking
4. Freedom Of Perception
5. Freedom Of Critical Thinking
6. Freedom Of Individual Ideas
7. Freedom To Cognize (know) Reality

8. Freedom To Cognize (know) Your Self
9. Freedom Of Action
10. Freedom Of Morality
11. Freedom Of Purpose
12. Freedom Of Imaginative Morality
13. Freedom To Pursue Happiness
14. Freedom Of Individuality

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The "Cognitive Rights Watch" Initiative

Rudolf Steiner's told us his purpose for writing The Philosophy Of Freedom. It is a science of freedom intended "to lay the foundations of ethical individualism and of a social and political life." How to accomplish this? As the result of internet censorship the public is questioning what are their rights to access knowledge. This brings up the subject of cognitive rights. Each of 14 chapters in The Philosophy Of Freedom discusses a cognitive process, how to attain freedom of cognition and barriers to that freedom. It is a science of freedom that can form the basis of cognitive rights. In this way the whole of the book can be presented as a solution to a serious problem of today. It is a need that only TPOF can fill properly. It is also something that could be done by only a few dedicated people who could start a cognitive rights initiative.

Take for example the ACLU and ADL. The ACLU works to inform and protect human rights. The Anti-Defamation League first defines "anti-semitism" and then works to inform and protect them from it. This is a way to inform people about the science of freedom and bases human rights,  not on inalienable rights from God or a list of things people don't like,  but on science.



Why Cognitive Rights?
The individual is empowered by truth.

(free thinking)


(free acting)

1. Freedom Of Knowing Why You Act
Problem: planting unconscious compulsions to act
Solution: become conscious of the motives of action


14. Freedom Of Individuality
opposition: conformity and group identity

2. Freedom To Pursue Knowledge
Problem: holding one-sided views
Solution: learn other views and find common ground

Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement


13. Freedom To Pursue Happiness
opposition: duty

3. Freedom Of Thinking
Problem: think in the way determined by the thoughts implanted in your mind
Solution: observation of thought, pure thinking


12. Freedom Of Imaginative Morality
opposition: traditional moral doctrines, moral norms

This is the right of creative situational ethics.

4. Freedom Of Perception
Problem: perception bias
Solution: recognize projection of implanted thought into perception


11. Freedom Of Purpose
opposition: mission and purpose imposed by nature, world purpose or others

5. Freedom Of Critical Thinking


10. Freedom Of Morality
Free to obey my own ethical principles. 
opposition: outside moral authority

6. Freedom Of Individual Ideas


9. Freedom Of Action
Free to act according to my own idea.

7. Freedom To Cognize (know) Reality


8. Freedom To Cognize (know) Your Self
opposition: group identity, uncognized feeling and willing

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Here is a chart of views gained on my recent video posted on YouTube. The video started off in the first day getting more views than any of the other 140 videos I have posted on YouTube. You can see the tall bars. Then suddenly the views stopped. YouTube controls the views you get by controlling how easy is is to find with search and recommendations. They even make it difficult for subscribers to be informed of new videos. The video criticized the censorship of Google and YouTube. So to prove me right Youtube censored my video. Many reports are confirming this is happening across the internet.

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Cognitive neuroscientists have discovered where in the brain “aha moments” occur and the gamma and alpha brainwave bursts involved. Combining this discovery with knowledge from psychology and philosophy may show why human freedom is possible.

The Philosophy Of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner (See Chapter 9.1 revised edition, online here )

Book: The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain by John Kounios and Mark Beeman, Read PDF article

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© Tom Last 2017