A thought selected as a basis for action, untruly

Question by JW:

I have a concern about the overall argument of the Philosophy of Freedom.

Suppose the argument goes something like this. We are free just when our actions are permeated with thinking. Thinking is what insulates our actions from the causal nexus. For if an action has a cause, then it is not free. But in thinking we can find reasons for acting, concepts. 

What should we say about our thinking itself? It too should be capable of being free or unfree. When is it free? It is free when we understand the reasons for our thoughts, or the connections between them. This happens when we select a thought on the basis of its content. Is this process of selection free? Not necessarily. It depends how it is done. What if it is done untruly? Then we have a thought that is selected as a basis for action, untruly, and this provides the appropriate condition for the action to be free.

How can this be?

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                  • Why shouldn't I know that say "the service of the state" is the reason for my action, and yet feel uncomfortably compelled by it?

                    • The final sentence in the Preface is "Man must confront ideas as master; lest he become their slave."

                    • I think freedom originates within. A jailer can prevent us from doing what we want to do, but I can still plan my escape. I are not really enslaved unless they drive my motives out of my head and replace them with their own.

                      I see your question to be that if I fully know the motive I can still be compelled to obey it and not be free to do otherwise. The motive does have 2 parts; the thought of an immediate goal and the more permanent driving force of our make-up, character or disposition. These factors give the motive different strengths. If the motive is the result of pure reason it can be the strongest motive, stronger than the driving force of our existing make-up.

                      So we work from two sides. We can weaken unwanted motives by bringing them into consciousness and understanding them. Isn't that what psychiatrists used to do? And we can create strong motives from pure reason that hold the ideals that most inspire us. Human beings love nothing more than striving to fulfill their highest ideals.

                      Are we forced to obey our own motives that we create, know and love?

                    • Why shouldn't I fully know the motive, and yet feel compelled by it, or even be compelled by it? I fully know my gaoler, but I am compelled by him to stay in my cell.

                    • I see the point as being if you fully know the motive then you can choose to follow it or not. You will feel yourself to be master of your conduct. We are free when we follow this kind of motive, unfree when we follow unconscious, not understood motives.

                      Steiner presents this case in the last chapter of Truth and Science. The complete plan of TPOF is said to be found there.

                      Life is not the best if you are always choosing to perform your duty out of obligation rather than being motivated by the love for your objective. We are happiest and empowered by love when the motive is our highest ideal. POF 13-11

                      There are many sides of freedom which is to reach our highest human potential. Steiner breaks it down into 3 parts integrating ethics, creativity and science: Moral Intuition, Moral Imagination, and Moral Technique.

  • When is thinking free? It is free when we understand the reasons for our thoughts, or the connections between them.

    “What I observe, in studying a thought-process, is my reason for bringing these two concepts into a definite relation. Introspection shows that, in linking thought with thought, I am guided by their content not by the material processes in the brain.” "Many people today find it difficult to grasp the concept of thought in its purity (pure or free thinking)." POF 3.6 Guided By Content Of Thought

    This happens when we select a thought on the basis of its content. Is this process of selection free? Not necessarily. It depends how it is done. What if it is done untruly?

    “I do not know off-hand why, for perception, thunder follows lightning, but I know immediately, from the content of the two concepts, why my thought connects the concept of thunder with that of lightning. It does not matter for my argument whether my concepts of thunder and lightning are correct. The connection between the concepts I have is clear to me, and that through the very concepts themselves.” POF 3.5 Know Content Of Concept

    In chapter 3 on thinking Steiner describes pure thinking or the thinking process free from outside influence, bias and even the specific event being thought about. I see it as thinking in universal concepts without perceptual content, such as the universal concept triangle that includes all particular triangles.

    When we want to think about real events like thunder and lightning another aspect of thinking comes up. Do we have the correct concepts of thunder and lightning? Chapter 5 on knowing the world discusses how to find the concept that corresponds to the perception, it is another aspect of free thinking, the emancipation of knowing.

    I have the impression free thinking is something that can be deepened and broadened. I see Chapter 3 as the basic level describing a free thinking process within the realm of universal concepts. We also have the before and after process. Chapter 5 discusses the before, whether the concepts we are thinking about correspond to the event we are thinking about. Chapter 12 discusses the after, the translation of the universal concepts arrived at (chap. 3) into a specific goal of action.

    Faulty thinking can occur 1. in scientific thinking in understanding the event, 2. in pure thinking to arrive at the principle to base the action on (moral intuition), 3. in the translation of the universal principle into a specific goal (moral imagination), and 4. scientific knowledge to understand how to alter the laws currently active in the event without doing harm (moral technique).

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© Tom Last 2017