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New Readable Chapter 6 - Human Individuality

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1995 Intuitive Thinking As A Spiritual Path translated by Michael Lipson
Number of Words: 1826
Reading Grade Level: 12.74

2016 The Philosophy Of Freedom - New (see below)
Number of Words: 1913
Reading Grade Level: 12.95

Last revised: 12/17/2016

6. HUMAN INDIVIDUALITY 

What is an idea?

6.0 Corresponding Concept Relates Self To The World
6.1 Sense Perception Of Motion
6.2 Conceptual Intuition Related To A Percept
6.3 Individualized Concept
6.4 Acquired Experience
6.5 Subjective And Objective Idea
6.6 Refer Percepts To Feelings
6.7 Two-Fold Nature: Thinking And Feeling
6.8 True Individuality
6.9 Point Of View
6.10 Intensity Of Feelings
6.11 Education Of Feelings
6.12 Living Concepts

6.0 Corresponding Concept Relates Self To The World
[1] Philosophers have found the main difficulty in explaining ideas is the fact that we are not identical with the external objects, yet our ideas must have a form that corresponds to them. But on closer inspection it turns out this difficulty does not really exist. We certainly are not identical with the external things, but we belong with them to one and the same world. That section of the world that I perceive to be myself as subject, is penetrated by the stream of the universal world process. With regard to my perception, I am at first confined within the boundary limits of my skin. But all that is contained within that boundary is part of the cosmos as a whole. Therefore, in order for a relationship to exist between my organism and an object outside me, it is not necessary for something from the object to slide into me, or make an imprint on my mind like a signet ring in wax.

The question, “How do I learn about the tree standing ten feet away from me?” is misleading. It springs from the view that the boundaries of my body are absolute barriers, through which information about external things filters into me. The forces at work inside my body are the same as those existing outside it. Therefore, I really am identical with the objects; not I as a percept of myself, but I in the sense that I am a part within the universal world process. The percept of the tree exists within the same whole as my Self. The universal world process produces equally the percept of the tree over there, and the percept of my Self here.

If I were a world-creator rather than world-knower, object and subject (percept and self) would come into existence in one act, since they are mutually conditioning elements. As world-knower, I can discover the common element in both—as two sides of one existence that belong together—only through thinking which relates them to each other by means of concepts.

6.1 Sense Perception Of Motion
[2] The most difficult to drive from the field is the so-called physiological evidence of the subjectivity of our percepts. If I exert pressure on the skin of my body, I perceive it as a pressure sensation. If the same pressure is applied to the eye it will be sensed as light, and as sound if applied to the ear. An electric shock is perceived by the eye as light, by the ear as sound, by the nerves in the skin as touch, and by the nose as the smell of phosphorus. What follows from these facts? Only this: I experience an electric shock (or pressure) and then a sensation of light, or a sound, or a certain smell, and so forth. If there were no eye, there would be no percept of light accompanying the percept of a mechanical disturbance in the environment; without an ear, no percept of sound, and so on. But what right have we to say that without sense-organs the whole event would not be there?

There are those who conclude from the fact that an electrical occurrence causes a sensation of light in the eye, that what we sense as light is only a mechanical process of motion outside our organism. They forget that they are only passing from one percept to another and not at all to something outside the range of perception.

Just as we can say the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in its environment as light, we can also say that a systematic change in an object is perceived by us as a process of motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse all the way around a rotatable disk, reproducing exactly the successive positions of the horse's body when it is galloping, then by rotating the disc I can produce the illusion of movement. I only need to look through an opening in a way that I see the successive positions of the horse at the right intervals. What I see is not twelve separate pictures of a horse, but the image of a single galloping horse.

[3] The physiological facts mentioned above add nothing to clarify the relationship between percept and idea. We must find another way to approach this relationship.

6.2 Idea: Intuition Related To A Percept
[4] The moment a percept appears in my field of observation, thought becomes active in me. A member of my thought-system, a specific intuition, a concept, unites with the percept. Then, when the percept disappears from my field of vision, what remains? What remains is my intuition, with its relationship to the specific percept that formed in the moment of perception. How vividly I can then later recall this reference to mind again, depends on how my mental and physical organism is functioning. An idea is nothing but an intuition related to a specific percept. It is a concept once linked to a certain percept, and retains this reference to the percept.

My concept of a lion is not built up out of my percepts of lions. But my idea of a lion is very much formed according to a percept. I can teach the concept of a lion to someone who has never seen a lion. But I cannot give him a vivid living idea of a lion without a percept of his own.

6.3 Idea: Individualized Concept
[5] An idea, then, is an individualized concept. And now we can understand how objects in the real world can be represented to us by ideas. The complete reality of a thing is revealed to us in the moment of observation out of the fitting together of concept and percept. By means of a percept, the concept acquires an individualized form, a relationship to this specific percept. In this individualized form, whose characteristic feature is its reference to the percept, it continues to exist in us as the idea of the thing.

If we encounter a second thing and the same concept combines with it, we recognize the second thing as belonging to the same kind as the first thing. If we encounter the same thing again a second time, we find in our conceptual system not only a corresponding concept, but also the individualized concept. This individualized concept refers to a characteristic of this particular object, and as a consequence, we recognize the object again.

[6] The idea, then, stands between the percept and the concept. It is the particularized concept that points to the percept.

6.4 Idea: Acquired Experience
[7] The sum of all the things I can form ideas of, I can call my “experience.” The greater the number of individualized concepts a person has, the richer their experience will be. A person lacking intuitive capacity is not able to acquire experience. He loses the objects once they are out of sight, because he lacks the concepts that he should bring into relationship with them. On the other hand, a person with a well-developed thinking capacity, but with poorly functioning perception due to imperfect sense-organs, will also be unable to gather experience. Such a person can, it is true, acquire concepts in various ways, but his intuitions lack the living reference to specific things. The unthinking traveler and the scholar absorbed in abstract conceptual systems are both incapable of acquiring a wealth of experience.

6.5 Subjective And Objective Idea
[8] Reality presents itself to us in the form of percept and concept, and the subjective representation of this reality is the idea.

[9] If our personality expressed itself only in cognition, the sum of all that is objective would be given in percept, concept and idea.

[10] However, we are not satisfied with simply relating a percept to a concept by means of thinking. We also relate it to our particular subjectivity, to our individual Ego. The expression of this individual relationship is feeling, which we experience as pleasure or pain.

6.7 Two-Fold Nature: Thinking And Feeling
[11] Thinking and feeling correspond to our two-fold nature, which we considered earlier. Thought is the element through which we participate in the universal process of the cosmos. Feeling is the element through which we withdraw into the narrow confines of our own being.

[12] Thought connects us to the world; feeling leads us back into ourselves and makes us individuals. If we were only thinking and perceiving beings, our whole life would pass by in unvarying indifference. If we could only know ourselves as “Self” through thought, we would be completely indifferent to ourselves. It is only because we experience self-feeling with self-knowledge, and pleasure and pain with the perception of objects, that we live as individuals whose existence is not consumed by our conceptual relation to the rest of the world. Besides our relationship to the world, we also have a special value for ourselves.

[13] One might be tempted to see in the life of feeling an element more richly filled with reality than the contemplation of the world by thought. The reply to this is that the life of feeling, after all, has this richer meaning only for my individual self. For the world as a whole, my feeling life can have value only if the feeling, as a percept of my self, becomes combined with a concept and in this roundabout way is integrated into the cosmos.

6.8 True Individuality
[14] Our life is a continuous swinging back and forth between participating in the universal world process and our own individual existence. The higher we ascend into the universal nature of thought, where eventually what is individual interests us only as an example, as an instance of a concept, the more we lose our individual character—as a specific, separate personality. The farther we descend into the depths of our personal life, and let our feelings resound with every experience of the outer world, the more we cut ourselves off from universal life.

A true individuality will be the one who reaches up with his feelings as high as possible into the region of ideals. There are people for whom even the most universal Ideas entering their heads still take on a subjective coloring that shows unmistakably their connection with the individual who thinks them. There are others whose concepts are expressed without any trace of individual coloring, as if they had not sprung forth from a person of flesh and blood at all.

6.9 Point Of View
The way we form our ideas already gives our conceptual life an individual stamp. After all, each of us has a standpoint from which to view the world. His concepts link up with his percepts. He thinks the universal concepts in his own special way. This determining factor results from the place we occupy in life, that is, from the range of percepts belonging to our environment. We call the conditions of individuality indicated here the milieu.

6.10 Intensity Of Feelings
[16] Another determining factor, distinct from the above, depends on our peculiar organization. Our organization is unique in its fully determined and well-defined details. Each of us attaches special feelings to his percepts, and do so in the most varying degrees of intensity. This is the individual element of our personality. It is what remains after we have taken into account all the determining factors in the milieu of our surrounding environment.

6.11 Education Of Feelings
[17] A feeling-life completely devoid of thought, must gradually lose all connection with the world. But because it is inherent in man to be a whole, his knowledge of things will go hand in hand with the education and development of his feeling-life.

6.12 Living Concepts
[18] Feeling is the means by which concepts first gain concrete life.

The End

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© Tom Last 2017