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Study Group 3 January Discussion Topics

The Philosophy Of Freedom
by Rudolf Steiner


December 30, 2021

14.0 The Question Of Free Individuality
[1] The view that the human being is an independent, free individuality seems to be contradicted by the fact that, as human beings, we make our appearance as members of a natural whole (race, tribe, nation, family, male or female) and we are active within a social whole (state, church, and so forth). We express the general characteristics of the community to which we belong, and what we do is defined by the position we hold within a larger social group.

[2] Given all this, is individuality even possible? Can we consider a human being an individual at all, if he grows out of one group and fits in as a member of another group?

14.1 Group Type
[3] The characteristics and function of each part of a whole are defined by the whole. An ethnic group is a whole, and all the members of an ethnic group have the characteristic traits that are conditioned by the nature of the tribe. How the single member is constituted and his general behavior will be determined by the character of the ethnic group. This is why the physiognomy and behavior of the individual has a typical quality. If we ask why a particular thing about a person is like this or like that, we are directed away from the individual person and toward his group type. The type is used to explain why something in the individual appears in the form we observe.

14.2 Emancipation From Type
[4] However, the human being frees himself from what is typical. When experienced properly, our common qualities as members of the human race do not restrict freedom and should not by artificial means be made to do so. The human being develops qualities and activities of his own for reasons that can only be found in himself. The typical factors serve him only as a means to develop his own individual nature. He uses the characteristics given by nature as material, and gives them a form that expresses his own individuality. If we look to the laws of type to explain the expressions of human individuality we will seek in vain. We are dealing with an individual, and individuals can be explained only individually. When a human being has advanced to the point of emancipation from what is typical, and we still want to explain everything about that person in terms of type, then we have no sense for what is individual.

January 6, 2022

14.3 Judge According To Character
[5] One can never completely understand a human being if one’s judgment is based on concepts of the type. The tendency to judge according to type is most persistent where differences of sex are involved. Man sees in woman, and woman in man, nearly always too much of the general characteristics of the other sex, and too little of what is individual in the other. Positions in society are not always determined by the individual character of each person, but by what is generally considered to be the natural role and needs of a man or a woman. Our activity in life should be determined by our individual abilities and inclinations, not solely by the fact of being a man or a woman. No one should be the slave of the typical, to the general idea of manhood or womanhood.

14.4 Occupational Choice
As long as men debate whether women are suited to this or that profession “according to their natural disposition,” no progress will be made on the so-called women question. What lies in a woman's nature to strive for had better be left to the woman herself to decide. If it is true that women are suited only to the occupations that they are now in, then they are unlikely to have it in them to attain any other on their own. But they must be allowed to decide for themselves what is and what is not appropriate to their nature. To all who fear a social upheaval should women be accepted as individuals rather than as members of their sex, it must be said that a social structure in which the status of half of humanity is beneath the dignity of a human being is itself in great need of improvement.

January 13, 2022

14.5 Free Self-Determination
[6] Whoever judges people according to their typical characteristics stops short at the boundary line beyond which people begin to be individuals whose activity is based on free self-determination. What lies below this boundary line can naturally become the subject of academic study. The characteristics of race, ethnicity, nation and sex are the subjects of specific branches of study. Only a person who wishes to live as nothing more than an example of a type could possibly fit the general picture that emerges from this kind of academic study. None of these branches of study are able to reach the unique character of the single individual. Determining the individual according to the laws of his type ends, where the region of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.

14.6 Free Thinking
In order to have the full reality, the human being connects his conceptual content with perception by means of thinking. No one can fix this conceptual content once and for all, and hand it over to humanity in a finished form. Each individual must gain his concepts through his own intuition. How an individual is to think cannot be derived from some general concept of a type. It depends entirely on the individual himself.

14.7 Find Innermost Core
Nor is it possible to tell from general human traits what concrete goals an individual will choose to pursue. Anyone who wishes to understand the single individuality must find his way to the innermost core of his particular being, and not stop short at the level of typical characteristics. In this sense each human being is a separate challenge.

14.8 Individual Views And Actions
And every kind of study that concerns itself with abstract thoughts and general concepts of the type is only a preparation for the knowledge we gain when an individuality tells us his way of viewing the world. And preparation for the knowledge we gain from the content of his acts of will.

January 27, 2022

14.9 Knowing An Individuality
Whenever we feel we are dealing with a person who is free of the stereotypical thinking and instinctive willing of a type, we must refrain from calling up any of our mind's preconceptions if we want to understand him. Knowledge consists in combining concepts with the perception by means of thinking. In the case of everything else, the observer gains his concepts through his intuition. But if we are to understand a free individuality we must receive into our mind those concepts by which he defines himself, in their pure form (without mixing in our own conceptual content). Those who immediately mix their own concepts into every judgment of others can never reach an understanding of an individuality. Just as the free individuality emancipates himself from typical characteristics, so must our method of knowing an individual emancipate itself from the method used to understand type.

14.10 Free Spirit In Community
[7] A person can be considered a free spirit within a community only to the degree he has emancipated himself, in the way indicated, from the characteristic traits of his type. No human being is all type; none is all individuality. But every person gradually emancipates a greater or lesser part of his being from the animal-like life of the species, and from the controlling decrees of human authorities.

14.11 Ethical Conduct
[8] In the part of his nature where he is unable to win this freedom, he remains a member incorporated into the natural and social organism. In this regard, he lives by imitating others, or by obeying their commands. Only the part of his conduct that springs from his intuitions has ethical value in the true sense.

14.12 Moral Contribution To Humanity
This is his contribution to the already existing total of moral ideas. All moral activity of humanity has its source in individual ethical intuitions. One can also say that the moral life of humanity is the sum total of what free human individuals have produced through their moral imagination. This is the creed of Monism. Monism looks upon the history of the moral life, not as the education of the human race by a transcendent God, but as the gradual living out in practice of all concepts and ideas that spring from the moral imagination.

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