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Chapter 4 Comparative Study Outline

9/28/2015 Added the worldview to each topic point. For more on the worldviews go here.
9/25/2015 Revised

Compare the Experience of Outer Truth with that of Inner Truth
Chapter 4 The World As Perception

Aspect Observed state of things

The Philosophy Of Freedom
Chapter 4
Chapter 4 The World As Perception

 Case 1


 Case 2


 4.0 Empiricism

Of the 7 world-outlook moods, chapter 4 is Empiricism. Its ideas are based on real experience of whatever shows itself in the external world. The ideas of the previous chapter were an experience of the inner thoughts of thinking. It ended with a question of how to correctly apply these inner thoughts to the world. In this chapter thinking reacts to the world and applies thought in the immediate formation of our perception. In this mood we accept our perception of the world as what experience offers.

 4.0 Reactive Thinking

The beginning of each chapter begins with a recap of the previous chapter. The products of thinking are concepts and ideas. What a concept is cannot be expressed in words. Words can do no more than draw our attention to the fact that we have concepts.

 Comparative study

Concept of the object
When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation and an ideal element is added to the object. He regards the object and its ideal complement as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of perception, only the ideal counterpart remains. This latter is the concept of the object. The wider the range of our experience, the greater the number of our concepts.

Concepts combine
Concepts are not found in isolation. They combine to form an ordered and systematic whole. For example, the concept "organism" combines with "lawful development" and "growth". Other concepts formed from single objects merge completely into a whole. All concepts I form about particular lions merge into the universal concept "lion." In this way, all the individual concepts link together to form a closed conceptual system within which each has its particular place. Ideas are not qualitatively different from concepts. They are fuller in content, more saturated, more comprehensive concepts.


I make thinking my starting-point, and not concepts and ideas, which must first be gained by means of thinking. What I have said about the self-sustaining and self-determined nature of thinking cannot simply be transferred to concepts.
Concepts cannot be derived from observation. This is apparent from the fact that the maturing human being only slowly and gradually builds up the concepts that correspond to the objects in his environment. Concepts are added to perception.

 4.1 Materialism

Materialism is also called physicalism, the view that all that exists is ultimately physical. The physical world makes a raw impression upon us. 4.1 begins with a walk through fields and then describes the mental process as "generalizing relationships" that remains within the experience of the physical world.

 4.1 Explaining observed phenomena

Walking through the fields, you hear a rustling noise a few steps ahead, and on observing the ditch-side where it occurs, see the grass moving, then you will probably turn towards the spot to learn what produced the noise and movement. As you approach there flutters in the ditch a partridge. And with this your curiosity is satisfied: you have what we call an explanation of the phenomena.

Describe the mental process that we perform in response to observation.

 Comparative study

Generalized relationship
In life we have countless experiences of disturbance among small stationary bodies, accompanying the movement of other bodies among them, and have generalized the relationships between such disturbances and such movements, we consider this particular disturbance explained as soon as we find that it represents an example of this relationship.

Conceptual Search
When I hear a noise, I first seek the concept that fits this observation. My thinking makes it clear that the noise is an effect. Only when I combine the concept of effect with the percept of the noise am I led to go beyond the particular observation and seek a cause. The concept of “effect” calls up that of “cause”, and I then seek the causative object, which I find in the partridge.


When people demand of a "strictly objective science" that it should take its data from observation alone, then they must demand that it renounce all thinking. For thinking, by its very nature, goes beyond what is observed.

 4.2 Spiritism

Spiritism is interested in what underlies the physical world. The physical world expresses the underlying non-material spiritual. This spiritual (or ideal) is discovered in the spiritual activity of thinking. The spiritual nature of thinking is described as transcending the distinction of subject and object and it is not the subject, but thinking, that makes the reference.

 4.2 The thinker

We now move from thinking to the being who thinks. It is through the thinker that thinking and observation are combined. Human consciousness mediates between thinking and observation. When thought is directed upon the observed world we have consciousness of objects; when it is directed upon ourselves we have self-consciousness. Human consciousness must be at the same time self-consciousness, because it is a consciousness which thinks.

 Comparative study

Thinking transcends subject and object
It is important to note here that it is only by means of thought that I am able to determine myself as subject and contrast myself with objects. Therefore thinking must never be regarded as a merely subjective activity. Thinking transcends the distinction of subject and object. It forms these two concepts just as it does all others.

Thinking subject
When, I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this reference as something merely subjective. It is not the subject, but thinking, that makes the reference.


This is the basis for the dual nature of the human being: we think, and our thinking embraces ourselves along with the rest of the world; but we also, by means of thinking, define ourselves as individuals in contrast with the objective world.

 4.3 Realism

Realism is interested in the real world, the world that is spread out around us. We can see it and think about it. 4.3 removes all thought that we have added to observation to reach the real; pure unthinking perception.

 4.3 The observed object

Next, we ask how the other element, which until now we have characterized merely as the object of observation, enters consciousness where it encounters thinking.

 Comparative study

Unthinking perception
If we could eliminate from our field of observation everything that thinking has already brought into it, we would have the content of pure, thought-free observation. The world would appear as a mere chaotic aggregate of sense-data, colors, sounds, sensations of pressure, of warmth, taste, smell, and, lastly, feelings of pleasure and pain.

Conceptual relationships
Thinking is able to draw threads from one element of observation to another. It joins specific concepts to this data and thus thus establishes relationships between them.


If we recall that the activity of thinking should never be considered subjective, we will not be tempted to believe that the relationships established by thinking have merely subjective validity.

 4.4 Idealism

Idealism looks for meaning by finding a progressive tendency in the external world. Empirically in 4.4, this progressive tendency is found in the continuous correcting of our picture of the world. “Every extension of the circle of my percepts compels me to correct my picture of the world.”

 4.4 The observed object and the subject

What is the relationship between the above-mentioned immediately given content of observation—the pure, relationless sense-data —and the conscious subject? The term “percepts” is the conscious apprehension of objects through observation. This includes sense-data, feelings and also thought as it first appears to our consciousness.

 Comparative study

Things exist exactly as perceived
The unreflective person regards his percepts, just as they first appear to him, to be things that have an existence wholly independent of the human being. When he sees a tree he believes that it stands in the form that he sees it, with the colors of all its parts, etc., there on the spot to which his gaze is directed.

Correction of my picture of world
Every extension of the circle of my percepts makes me correct my picture of the world. The ancient picture of the relation of the earth to the sun, had to be replaced by that of Copernicus, because the ancient picture did not agree with new, previously unknown percepts.


Senses will correct each other. For example, a blind man's sense of touch percepts were corrected by visual percepts after gaining sight.

 4.5 Mathematism

Mathematical thinking wants to explain things in a calculated form. In 4.5 the perceptual scene is described from a point of observation as a mathematical percept-picture.

 4.5 Correction of our observations

Why are we compelled to continually correct our observations?

 Comparative study

Mathematical Percept-Picture
My perceptual scene depends on my point of observation and changes as I change my position. If I stand at the end of an avenue, the trees at the other end appear to me smaller and closer together than those where I am standing.

Qualitative Percept-Picture
My perceptual world is dependent on my bodily and mental organization. The perceptual picture of the color blind lacks colors. This qualitative determination depends on the structure of my eye. Others are blind only to one color. Their world lacks this color tone.


I should like to call the dependence of my perceptual world on my point of observation "mathematical," and its dependence on my organization "qualitative." The former determines proportions of size and distances of my percepts, the latter their quality. The fact that I see a red surface as red —this qualitative determination— depends on the structure of my eye.

 4.6 Rationalism

The rationalist is interested in the ideas that are active in the world and are read from sense perception. In perception, what is valid is only what is real to my senses. What we know is read only from my subjective "qualitative" sense perception. In 4.6 what is real is the percept-picture produced by my senses. It exists in relation to my conscious mind.

 4.6 Subjective character of percept-picture

My percepts, then, are in the first instance subjective. The recognition of the subjective character of our percepts may easily lead us to doubt whether there is any objective basis for them at all. The moment we realize the importance of a subject for perception, we are no longer able to believe in the existence of a world apart from a conscious mind.

 Comparative study

Percepts only exist during the act of being perceived
So long as the world is not actually perceived by me, or does not exist in my mind, it must either have no existence at all or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit. The objects of my perceptions exist only through me, and that only in as far as, and as long as, I perceive them. They disappear with my perceiving and have no meaning apart from it. If I strip a table of its shape, extension, color, etc. —in short, of all that is merely my percepts— then nothing remains over. Apart from my percepts I know of no objects and cannot know of any.

Existence of things apart from perception
An objection can be made that, even if figure, color, tone, etc. do not have existence other than within my act of perception, there must still be things that are there without my act of perception, they are there without my consciousness and to which my conscious perceptual pictures are similar. The response to this is that a color can only be similar to a color, a figure similar to a figure. Our perceptions can only be similar to our perceptions, but not to any other things.


Subjective "character" of percept-picture
There is nothing to object to in this claim, as long as it remains merely a general consideration of how the percept is "partly" determined by the organization of the subject.

 4.7 Psychism

Psychism is about how ideas are bound up with a person who is capable of having ideas. In 4.7, perception, the discussion shifts to the subject who is “something stable in contrast with the ever coming and going flux of percepts”.

 4.7 The subject

With this, our investigation is directed away from the object of perception and toward its subject. I am aware not only of other things but I also perceive myself. In contrast to the perceptual images that continually come and go, I am something stable and remain.

 Comparative study

Personality observes the object
When I am absorbed in the perception of a given object I am aware only of this object. The awareness of myself can be added to this. I am then conscious, not only of the object, but also of my personality observing the object. I do not merely see a tree, I also know that it is I who see it.

After-effect of observation: idea
When the tree disappears from my field of vision, an after-effect remains: a picture of the tree. My self has become enriched; a new element has been added to its content. This element I call my idea (Vorstellung) of the tree.


It is only because I am aware of my self, and notice that with each perception the content of the self is changed, that I am compelled to connect the observation of the object with the changes in the content of my self, and to speak of having an idea.

 4.8 Pneumatism

Pneumatism is the doctrine of the Spirit. In 4.8 we move to Berkeley's view that nothing is real except God and human spirits. With Kant, the spirit becomes the unknowable thing-in-itself.

 4.8 Relation between idea and object

Failure to recognize the relation between the idea and the object has led to the greatest misunderstandings in modern philosophy. The perception of an inner change, the modification that my self undergoes, has been thrust into the foreground, and the object causing this modification has been lost sight of altogether. The consequence of this is saying that we do not perceive objects, but only our ideas.

 Comparative study

Berkeley: Limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas because only ideas (spirits) exist
Berkeley limits my knowledge to my ideas because, on his view, there are no objects other than ideas. What I perceive as a table no longer exists, according to Berkeley, when I cease to look at it. This is why Berkeley holds that our percepts are created directly by the omnipotence of God. I see a table because God causes this percept in me. For Berkeley, therefore, nothing is real except God and human spirits. What we call the "world" exists only in spirits. What the naive man calls the outer world, or material nature, is for Berkeley non-existent.

Kant: Limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas because we cannot know the thing-in-itself
Berkeley's view has been replaced by Kant. Kant limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas. We are so organized that we can have knowledge only of the changes within our selves, not of the things-in-themselves that cause them. Because I can only know my ideas, the conclusion is drawn that the subject cannot have direct knowledge of reality. The mind can merely "through the medium of its subjective thoughts imagine it, conceive it, know it, or perhaps also fail to know it"


Kantians believe that their principles are absolutely certain, immediately obvious without the need any proof. Any knowledge that goes beyond our mental pictures—I use this expression in its widest sense, so that it includes all psychical events—is not safe from doubt.

 4.9 Monadism

The Monadist view is that a being, a monad, can build up existence in itself. Physics, Physiology, and Psychology teach us that our percepts are dependent on our organization. Objects that we perceive are actually changes that occur in our organization, not things-in-themselves. The external object is lost entirely on the way to the brain and through the brain to the soul. The percept is entirely built up by our organization.

 4.9 Percept is what organization transmits

Naive common sense believes that things, just as we perceive them, exist outside our minds. Physics, Physiology, and Psychology, however, teach us that our percepts are dependent on our organization, and that consequently we cannot know anything about external objects other than what our organization transmits to us. The objects that we perceive are thus modifications of our organization, not things-in-themselves. This line of thought leads to the conviction that we can have direct knowledge only of our own ideas.

 Comparative study

Outside our organism we find vibrations of particles and of air, which are perceived by us as sounds. 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 gives rise to different sensations. Our sense-organs can give us knowledge only of what occurs in themselves, but not of the external world. They determine our percepts, each according to its own nature.

The physiologist finds that, even in the sense-organs, the effects of the eternal process are modified in the most diverse ways. The external process undergoes a series of transformations through the nerves to the brain. What we finally have in consciousness are not brain processes at all, but sensations. My sensation of red has absolutely no similarity with the process which occurs in the brain when I sense red. The sensation, again, occurs as an effect in the mind, and the brain process is only its cause. What the subject experiences is therefore only modifications of his own psychical states and nothing else.
My brain conveys to me separately, and by altogether different pathways, sensations of sight, taste, and hearing that the soul then combines into the idea of a trumpet. This final stage of the process (the idea of the trumpet) is given to my consciousness as the very first.


The external object is lost entirely on the way to the brain and through the brain to the soul.

 4.10 Dynamism

The Dynamist looks for "forces" that dominate. In 4.10 the dynamic force is the soul where the color is found. This soul quality is transferred by the soul to the percept in the external world.

 4.10 Perceived world is a product of my mind

It would be hard to find in the history of human speculation another edifice of thought which has been built up with greater ingenuity, and which yet, on closer analysis, collapses into nothing. Let us look more closely at the way it has been constructed.

 Comparative study

The external object is colorless
The theory starts with what is given to naive consciousness of things as perceived. Then it shows that everything found there would be non-existent for us if we had no senses. No eye —no color. So color is not yet present in in the stimulus that affects the eye. The object, then, is colorless. But neither is the color in the eye, for in the eye there is only a chemical, or physical, process which is conducted by the optic nerve to the brain, and there initiates another process.

Color found in soul, transferred to the external object
The color is found in the soul, but not attached to the object. It is transferred outward by the soul onto a body in the external world. There I finally perceive it, as a quality of this body. We have traveled in a complete circle. We are conscious of a colored object.


The color is found in the soul, but not attached to the object. We find the color attached to the object only by going to the starting point of this theory which is the initial perception of the thing. This theory leads me to identify what the naive person regards as existing outside of him, as really a product of my soul.

 4.11 Phenomenalism

The world is spread out around us. Phenomenalism does not claim this is the real world. It can only say it “appears” to me. In 4.11, what we are experiencing as a percept in the external world is not really a direct experience of world phenomena, it is phenomena produced by the perception process; our idea of the world. If this is true and applied to the perception process itself, then it makes sense that ideas cannot act on one another to produce a percept. This means the theory of critical idealism collapses.

 4.11 External percept is an idea

As long as we stay with this, everything seems to fit beautifully. But we must go over the argument once more from the beginning. My starting point has been the external percept. I thought that the percept, just as I perceive it, had objective existence. But now I notice that it disappears with my act of perception, that it is only a modification of my mental state. Do I still have any right to start from it in my arguments? From now on I must treat the table --which I used to believe affected me, and produced an idea of itself within me, as itself an idea. But from this it follows logically that my sense-organs, and the processes in them are also merely subjective, as are the other processes discussed.

 Comparative study

Pass from one percept to another
If, assuming the truth of the first circle of thought, I run through the steps of my cognitive activity once more, then the cognitive act reveals itself as a web of ideas that, as such, cannot act on one another. I cannot say that my idea of the object acts upon my idea of the eye and that out of this interaction emerges my idea of the color. As soon as it is clear to me that my sense organs and their activity, my nerve and soul process, can also only be given me through perception, the argument outlined reveals itself in its full absurdity. I only connect new perceptions within my organism to the first ones which the native person places outside his organism. I only pass from one percept to another.

Gap between external and internal observation
There is a break in the whole argument between external and internal observation. I can follow the processes in my organism up to those in my brain, even though my assumptions become more and more hypothetical the closer I come to the central processes of the brain. The method of external observation ends with what I would perceive if I could study the brain with the help of the instruments and methods of Physics and Chemistry. The method of internal observation, or introspection, begins with the sensations, and includes the construction of things out of the material of sense-data. At the point of transition from brain process to sensation, there is a break in the sequence of observation.


This theory, called Critical Idealism, --in contrast to the standpoint of naive common sense, called Naive Realism-- makes the error of characterizing one group of percepts as ideas, while naively accepting the percepts connected with one's own body as objectively valid facts. In addition, it fails to see that it confuses two fields of observation –external and internal-- between which it can find no connecting link.

 4.12 Sensationalism

Sensationalism allows validity only to sense-impressions. In 4.12 we move to the real eye and real hand that are the basis of the perception process.

 4.12 Relation of percept and idea

Critical Idealism can only refute Naive Realism by accepting, in naive realistic fashion, that one's own organism has objective existence. As soon as the Idealist realizes the complete similarity between the percepts connected with his own organism and those assumed by naive realism to exist objectively, he can no longer use the first kind of perceptions as a sure 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 regarding the content of the perceptual world as a product of the mind's organization. This much is certain: Analysis within the world of percepts cannot establish Critical Idealism, and, consequently, cannot strip percepts of their objective character.

 Comparative study

The perceptual world is my idea
The principle "the perceptual world is my idea" cannot be presented as obvious in itself and needing no proof. Schopenhauer begins his chief work, with the words: "The world is my idea —this is the truth which is valid with respect to every living and knowing being. It is clear that we know no sun and no earth, but always only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels the earth, the world that surrounds him is there only in idea. If any truth can be asserted a priori, it is this.”

Real eye and hand have the ideas sun and earth as modifications
This whole theory collapses by the fact that the eye and the hand are no less perceptions than the sun and the earth. For only my real eye and my real hand, --not my ideas "eye" and "hand"-- could have the ideas "sun" and "earth" as their modifications.


Critical Idealism is totally unable to gain an insight unto the relation of percept to idea. It cannot make the separation between what happens to the percept in the process of perception and what must be inherent in it prior to perception. We must therefore attempt this problem in another way.

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