What Is Ethical Individualism?
The leading principle of the Ethical Individualist, above all others, is to express his ethical content in action. What is our ethical content?
Ethical ideals such as "Do good to others" are universal. To be applied to life they need to be translated into clear and specific goals of action with the imagination. We envision how we should conduct ourselves, who we want to become and how to make the world a better place. These life objectives make up our ethical content. (see TPOF 9.7)
If we want to change ourselves or the world we need to express our ethical content in action. This is Ethical Individualism. Our highest pleasure is to realize our idealistic goals in life. (see TPOF 13.11)
To bring change the Ethical Individualist wears four hats; that of a scientist, a philosopher, an artist, and a technician.
We have plenty of knowers.
And we have plenty of doers.
But the one who matters the most is the knowing doer, the one who acts out of knowledge.
This is the Ethical Individualist.
The Ethical Individualist feels a part of each life situation he meets.
But does not allow himself to be determined by it.
He acquires knowledge of a situation by using the method of science —observational analysis— to discover the laws at work.
The Ethical Individualist knows how to think scientifically.
He also uses thinking in regard to ethics.
The Ethical Individualist sees a certain value in all ethical principles.
And always asks in each case whether this or that principle is the more important.
To select an ethical principle, he uses the method of philosophy —pure reason.
The philosophical method uses universalized or generalized concepts of things rather than the specific details.
This prevents outside influences from controlling the thinking.
The philosophical method works with pure concepts.
By thinking in pure concepts, knowledge is acquired by means of pure reasoning alone.
Pure reasoning intuitively selects the ethical principle to be applied.
Developing the ability to enter into pure reasoning is the key element in becoming a free thinking Ethical Individualist.
The Ethical Individualist is capable of rising to the level of pure reasoning.
At this level the conduct of the ethical individualist is not predetermined by his own character, or by an external authority.
The action is not a stereotyped one that merely follows rules, nor is it one that is automatically performed in response to an external stimulus.
Instead, it is an action determined purely and simply by its own ideal content.
The Ethical Individualist carries out a deed that originates solely within himself.
It is a free deed!
But before a universal ethical principle can be realized, it first needs to be imaginatively translated into a picture of a specific action.
This requires having imagination.
By creating idealistic imaginations he envisions a goal to strive for.
People who merely preach ethical codes without being able to turn them into a plan of action are morally unproductive.
The Ethical Individualist is imaginative and innovative.
The world the Ethical Individualist wishes to transform is already there and is functioning according to certain principles and laws.
Such as the laws for understanding the world and its people found in ecology, sociology, and psychology.
Violating these existing laws that hold things together may cause unnecessary disruption.
To avoid disruption, the Ethical Individualist studies the general scientific knowledge in his field of work.
With this knowledge he arrives at the best way to skillfully implement his idealistic imaginations.
He transforms the world without violating the natural laws already in place.
The Ethical Individualist acquires the technical knowledge needed to successfully carry out his goal.
The Ethical Individualist strives for sublimely great ideals because they have become the content of his own being.
They are his intuitions and are the driving forces that empower his will against all obstacles.
He wants them, because the translation of his intuitions into reality is his highest pleasure.
He does not regard his ethical task as a matter of duty, but rather to follow his love for the goal.
The Ethical Individualist is completely self-empowered.
In The Philosophy of Freedom Steiner describes the three essential capabilities he calls moral intuition, moral imagination, and moral technique.
--Moral Intuition is the ability to intuitively select an ethical principle to apply for a particular life situation.
--Moral Imagination is the ability to imaginatively translate a universal ethical principle into a specific picture of the action to be carried out.
--Moral Technique is the ability to transform the world according to one's ethical imaginations without violating the natural laws by which things are connected.
Those who aspire to become a self-empowered Ethical Individualist, will find ways to train their mind in scientific thinking, pure reasoning, imaginative thinking, and acquire any technical skills needed in their field of work.
Your decisions will be better if you apply these 4 skills: scientific inquiry, idealistic inspiration, creative imagination and technical research.
We call this Ethical Individualism.
The first skill is scientific inquiry, with it we can make informed decisions.
The Scientist relies on attentive observation and conceptual thinking skills to understand what is happening.
In billiards we universalize the situation by connecting the concept of an elastic ball with the concepts motion, impact, and velocity.
With universal conceptual thinking the scientist can understand how things work.
We construct a conceptual model in our mind that corresponds to the observed event.
In this way we can predict what will happen.
When we predict an unfavorable future of budget problems, we may want to change it.
To change something you need to be motivated.
For motivation we look to Skill 2, idealistic inspiration.
With it we are inspired by our ideals.
Personal bias is not an ideal.
Bias makes us narrow-minded and one-sided so we unfairly favor one group or point of view over others.
Unbiased idealism is possible.
The philosopher rigorously pursues unbiased truth just as the scientist does, with the use of conceptual thinking.
With conceptual thinking we can make unbiased ethical decisions.
Our example is a workplace situation where we observe that Jack the manager is upset with Julie the receptionist.
What should you do?
My friendship with Jack could cause me to unfairly take his side.
To overcome bias we use conceptual thinking to select the right ethical ideal that will guide our action.
We first add general concepts to construct a conceptual model of the situation in our mind.
By universalizing the situation with general concepts like "manager" and "worker" we avoid triggering personal emotional bias.
We add that the manager's behavior should be termed "bullying".
Conceptually, we have a manager who is bullying a worker.
The situational concepts meet our various ideals in the conceptual realm.
Pure reason now reflects on the conceptual content.
You've got it!
Thinking leads to an empowering insight, an "intuition" to protect our co-worker from harm.
We call this experience Moral Intuition.
Even though your ethical decision has universal characteristics, it remains an "individual" decision because our life situations are different, and the depth of each ones thinking is different.
We now have our inspiring guiding principle, next we need to decide what specific action to take.
Skill 3 is creative imagination.
A decision is better if we envision a clear goal.
The ideal principle we selected in the previous step, "protect from harm", needs to be imaginatively translated into a specific goal of action.
We call this Moral Imagination.
But artistic creativity seems mysterious.
Not really, we can all have creative ideas when we place a pure, unclothed concept at the center of our focus.
This sparks creativity to add detail.
You've got an idea!
The idea is to offer donuts to Jack and Julie to calm the situation.
Having envisioned our goal we are driven by love, our love for the objective to protect Julie from harm.
The power of love overcomes our fear and we act.
We conclude with skill 4, technical research.
A decision is better if when we carry it out we do no harm.
We need a plan for how to skillfully implement our goal into the world.
We call this Moral Technique.
The world that we want to change already exists, and operates according to natural and social laws.
Unnecessary disruptions are caused by violating the laws of nature.
Unnecessary disruptions are caused by violating the existing social customs that hold things together.
To avoid disruption technicians study the existing science in their field.
The workers did some research to learn about the work place and the rights of workers.
They convinced management to provide training to prevent workplace bullying.
All workplace bullying stopped.
Your decisions will be better using the skills of the scientist, the philosopher, the artist, and the technician.