Module 0.5 Will To Understand

Science Of Freedom Workbook
Text: "The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Topic 0.5 The Goal Of Knowledge, original preface

0.5 Recognition Of Truth
[7] Nor should the teachings of science be presented in a way to imply that its acceptance is compulsory. None of us would give a scientific work a title like Fichte once did: “A Crystal Clear Report to the General Public on the Actual Nature of the Latest Philosophy, An Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.”

Today, no one should be compelled to understand. We expect neither recognition or agreement from anyone who is not driven to a certain view by his own distinct individual need. We do not want to cram facts of knowledge into an immature person, or even a child.

We try rather to develop the child's capacities in such a way that his understanding no longer depends on our compulsion, but on his own will to understand.

Worldview Of Mathematism
"there is only so much real science as there is mathematics."
"one can become a ready-reckoner of the universe, taking nothing as valid except a world composed of atoms, they collide and gyrate, and then one calculates how they inter-gyrate."
"By this means one obtains very fine results, which shows this way of looking at things is fully justified."
"you take the whole world as a kind of mechanical apparatus, and can reckon it up accurately."
"If we want to explain the world in strictly mathematical terms, we shall not be able to explain the simplist perception"
"they will recognize as valid only whatever can be treated mathematically."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures

The Mathematism worldview suggests that the universe operates like a mechanical apparatus that can be understood and predicted entirely through calculations; "you take the whole world as a kind of mechanical apparatus, and can reckon it up accurately."According to this outlook, everything in the universe—from atomic interactions to celestial movements—follows deterministic principles that can be calculated and predicted. While this approach has the potential for high accuracy, it narrows the scope of understanding to what can be mathematically quantified, possibly overlooking qualitative aspects of human experience and the natural world.

The goal of Mathematism is not just to describe the world through equations but to comprehend it as a system operating on calculable laws, thus making the universe predictable for those who master these calculations. While it heavily emphasizes mathematical models, the core belief is in the universe's predictability and orderliness, which could potentially extend to other forms of systematic analysis beyond just mathematics. Other systematic approaches, perhaps rooted in logic or calculable laws that govern the world would indicate a form of mathematical thinking.

Topic 0.5 Recognition Of Truth challenges education based solely on a worldview of Mathematism, which typically insists on the strict, compulsory acceptance of quantifiable, calculated truths. In Mathematism, scientific and mathematical facts are often presented as absolutes that must be accepted without question. This approach relies heavily on mandatory curricula and standardized education systems to impart generally accepted truths. In contrast, the text argues against making any scientific teachings mandatory, emphasizing that understanding should be a matter of individual will rather than external compulsion, saying that "Today, no one should be compelled to understand." The text criticizes the idea of forcing anyone to accept or understand any particular theory or viewpoint, which is often a core aspect of a Mathematism-driven educational system. It talks about developing a child's capacities so that the child's understanding "no longer depends on our compulsion, but on his own will to understand."

The "will to understand" is crucial for advancing in mathematics because mastery goes beyond rote learning. A genuine desire to understand is needed for a deep conceptual grasp of math, to hone problem-solving skills, and nurture mathematical intuition and creativity.

MODULE 0.5 Will To Understand

□ STEP 0.5 From compelled to understand, to will to understand.

This module examines a critical juncture in the journey toward intellectual and ethical freedom: the transition from being "compelled to understand" to activating one's "will to understand."

Traditionally, educational and scientific frameworks have often been prescriptive, compelling learners to accept and understand truths as pre-determined by authority figures or institutional norms. This is encapsulated in the notion of being "compelled to understand," where the focus is on transmitting information that one is expected to assimilate unquestioningly. The content to be learned is often presented as mandatory, leaving little room for individual inquiry or experiential learning.

In stark contrast, the "will to understand" liberates us from this compulsion and aligns with the cultivation of individuality. It transcends mere absorption of established knowledge and involves a personal, individualized quest for truth. In this approach, the learner is driven not by external requirements but by an intrinsic, "distinct individual need" to know and understand. This is a form of self-directed learning that reflects the individual's unique curiosities, questions, and aspirations.

This focus on the "will to understand" champions the development of individual capacities. Instead of cramming facts into a person as if filling an empty vessel, this approach aims to nurture the individual's own abilities and interests, enabling them to seek understanding based on their own initiative and free will. It emphasizes that the ultimate goal is not just to teach someone something but to foster their innate capability to think, question, and learn independently.

The "will to understand" is not just an educational strategy but a crucial step toward personal and intellectual freedom. By fostering a learning environment that emphasizes individual needs and intrinsic motivation, we not only facilitate more meaningful learning experiences but also contribute to the greater endeavor of nurturing freely thinking, self-reliant individuals.

Compelled To Understand: A learning approach where individuals are required to accept and internalize information, theories, or principles as dictated by external authorities or standards. The focus is on compliance and assimilation of predetermined truths.

Will To Understand: This is a self-directed approach to learning, driven by the individual's intrinsic desire and personal need to know and understand. The emphasis is on cultivating one's own capacities and insights, rather than adhering to externally imposed concepts or theories.

Sovereign Individuality
Cultivating one's "need to know" fuels the "will to understand," empowering the individual to actively seek knowledge and truth based on their unique interests and questions. This self-directed approach to learning and understanding contributes to becoming a Sovereign Individuality. It allows for greater autonomy and the ability to challenge or confirm prevailing ideas based on one's own experiential and intellectual investigations. In this way, one is not just passively accepting information but actively engaging with it, a critical step in the journey towards full individual sovereignty.

Scenario: Curious Mechanic
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: A car mechanic learns the basics of auto repair through a formal training program. The training is strict, sticking closely to the manufacturer's guidelines. Every repair is by-the-book, and there's no room for deviation or exploration.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: The same mechanic, now experienced, begins to tinker with car parts in his spare time, driven by his personal desire to innovate. He ends up designing a more efficient cooling system for engines, something he was inspired to do out of personal need to understand the limits of current systems.

Scenario: Coffee Enthusiast
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: A barista learns how to make coffee using a strict set of rules provided by the café's owner. The procedures are non-negotiable, and the barista is evaluated based on strict adherence to these rules.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: Over time, the barista becomes fascinated by the nuances of coffee brewing. Driven by her own will to understand, she starts experimenting with different beans, grinds, and brewing times. Eventually, she develops a new brewing method that brings out flavors in the coffee that were previously unnoticed.

Scenario: Amateur Astronomer
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: A student is required to take an astronomy course as part of a general education requirement. The course is standardized, focusing on a set syllabus that includes constellations, basic celestial mechanics, and well-known astronomical phenomena.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: Intrigued by the subject, the student starts visiting observatories and reading extra material. He begins to formulate his own questions about specific celestial events and phenomena. Fueled by his own need to understand, he starts doing his own research and even begins amateur sky-watching to satisfy his new-found curiosity.

Scenario: Sculptor's Journey
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: An aspiring sculptor enters an art school that teaches classical techniques, emphasizing the replication of historic works. The curriculum is rigid, focusing on how to carve or model based on established standards.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: As the sculptor gains skills, they become intrigued by abstract forms and the emotional power they can convey. Driven by an inner urge to explore this avenue, they diverge from classical methods, experimenting with materials and techniques to create emotionally resonant abstract sculptures.

Scenario: Path of the Mathematist
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: In school, a young math student follows a structured curriculum that focuses on solving well-defined problems using established formulas. The coursework is linear, emphasizing the mechanics of mathematical operations.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: As the individual matures, they become captivated by unsolved mathematical problems and theories. Driven by a personal need to delve into these complexities, they begin to research, hypothesize, and even contribute new theories or solutions, venturing into areas like number theory or topology based on their own curiosity.

Scenario: Racehorse Gambler
Stage 1 - Compelled To Understand: A gambler gets interested in horse racing and starts by following popular pundits and their betting strategies. They strictly adhere to these prescribed methods, considering them as the "proven" ways to predict race outcomes.
Stage 2 - Will To Understand: After some time, the gambler starts to notice patterns and variables not covered by conventional wisdom, such as specific jockey-horse synergies or the impact of weather conditions on certain tracks. Driven by an innate desire to understand these variables more fully, they develop their own betting models, which yield more nuanced and often more successful predictions.

"We expect neither recognition or agreement from anyone who is not driven to a certain view by his own distinct individual need."

This quote encapsulates a view that values genuine, self-motivated inquiry over forced or social conformity. It's not so much about convincing people to see things your way as it is about providing the space and freedom for individuals to come to their own conclusions based on their personal needs and curiosities.

Presenting Your Viewpoint
Let's consider Person A who regularly posts articles or thoughts on political theory. They don't worry about how many likes or retweets they get. Their motivation is a deeply ingrained need to explore and share knowledge. They feel that if what they present resonates with others, those individuals will naturally gravitate towards the content, fostering a genuine intellectual community. They are content because their satisfaction comes from their internal journey of understanding and sharing, not from external validation. This person is further along the path to Sovereign Individuality as their actions are governed by internal motivations.

Expecting Recognition and Agreement
On the other hand, Person B posts similarly complex topics but is continually checking for likes, retweets, and positive comments. They feel slighted if their views do not receive enough 'engagement' or if someone disagrees with them vociferously. They may even adjust their views slightly to garner more likes or approval. Person B is driven by the need for external validation rather than a true, internal need to understand. Their emotional state is heavily dependent on recognition and agreement, making them less of a sovereign individual. Their individuality is compromised because their views are, in part, shaped by the desire for external validation rather than an intrinsic need to understand or discover truth.

The crucial difference between the two is that one has anchored their sense of worth and pursuit of knowledge in internal values, which makes them less dependent on external validation. In contrast, the other has not fully separated their quest for understanding from the need for social approval, making them susceptible to external influences.

Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
In a world saturated with information and differing viewpoints, how does exerting a discriminating 'will to understand' empower us to move beyond being passive consumers of knowledge? Is the 'will to understand' an expression of human freedom, or is it dictated by the very fabric of reality we seek to understand? Is the 'will to understand' a skill, a mindset, or a moral imperative?

Once a titan in the world of applied mathematics, Dr. Maxwell Euler had sold his company that utilized mathematical models to predict climate trends. Retirement could have been a cruise and a buffet, but instead, he opted for chalk and a blackboard.

When Dr. Euler read the local school's plea for math tutors, he decided to help. Arriving at the school in his characteristic messy hair and crumpled suit, the administrators couldn't fathom the gem they had just acquired. After all, he looked more like a scatter-brained resident of the old home than a renowned mathematician and business magnate. They handed him the standard curriculum—textbooks, worksheets, problem sets—and expected him to follow suit. With a courteous nod, Dr. Euler simply tucked the materials into a drawer.

His students were more numbers to be "fixed" than young minds to be nurtured. They slouched in their seats, defeated by years of believing "I'm just not good at math." State-mandated tests loomed like a dark cloud, threatening their graduation.

Ignoring the textbooks, Dr. Euler started his first class by saying, "Let me introduce you to an old friend—Pythagoras." He then delved into the history of the Pythagorean theorem, narrating it as an epic tale of discovery. The following week, they met Euclid and Galois, exploring the building blocks of geometry and algebra through their stories.

Instead of pushing formulas, Dr. Euler led his students down the winding paths that these historical figures had taken. "How do you think Pythagoras felt when he made his discovery?" he'd ask, fostering not just computation skills but also a narrative, a story they could attach their understanding to.

Slowly, the atmosphere in the classroom changed. The students no longer arrived burdened by the compulsion to understand equations and pass exams. They came driven by a will to know, a desire to uncover the mysteries that had fascinated the likes of Newton and Einstein.

The pinnacle of their transformation came during the state math problem-solving competition. His students remained after school to prepare. Not only did Dr. Euler's class solve the challenges; they showcased an array of inventive methods to arrive at their solutions. They won, but the trophy was secondary. What they had truly gained was far more valuable: a will to understand, a love for learning, and the joy of soaring into the realm of pure thought.

In teaching them to understand math's rich history and diverse applications, Dr. Euler had done more than prepare them for tests; he had instilled in them a profound, individualistic yearning for knowledge.
And so, a group of students who had once dreaded math discovered its beauty, not because they were compelled to, but because they developed the will to understand. And that made all the difference.

Objective: Adopt an individualistic attitude aligned with principles of freedom.

  • Identify the Need To Know: Start by listing areas or subjects where you feel a lack of understanding significantly affects your life or well-being. Once you find this "need to know," commit to filling that gap. For instance, if you're concerned about financial stability, take up an online finance course or find a book that can guide you.
  • Self-Audit for Buried Interests: Take some quiet time to reflect on past interests, passions, or curiosities that you've set aside. Maybe you always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never found the "right time" for it. The first step is acknowledging this buried "need to know."
  • Create a 'Why-Now' Statement: After identifying a suppressed need, like wanting to play an instrument, write down why addressing this need is important now. This could relate to personal development, emotional well-being, or even fulfilling a childhood dream. Articulating the reasons in the present tense can reignite the "will to understand" or learn.
  • Commit to Micro-Actions: Sometimes the barriers to reengaging with an old interest can seem overwhelming. In such cases, commit to small, achievable actions. For instance, if it's learning an instrument, start by dedicating just five minutes a day to it. These tiny steps can snowball into a strong, self-driven will to understand and master the skill over time.

In closing, the cultivation of the 'will to understand' serves as a cornerstone in the development of individuality. When we align our pursuit of knowledge with our own inner needs and interests, we become active agents in our own intellectual journeys. This sense of agency over what and how we learn transforms us into sovereign individualities, individuals who are not just repositories of information but seekers of wisdom.

The societal benefits of this shift from being compelled to understand to cultivating a will to understand are manifold. When people are genuinely interested in understanding different viewpoints and make the effort to do so, society experiences less polarization and ideological rigidity. This effort to understand also contributes positively to mental well-being, offering a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment. Moreover, in a society that values motivated learners, the merits of individual capabilities and wisdom come to the forefront, creating a more equitable and innovative environment.

Nurturing a 'will to understand' is not just an endeavor that enriches individual lives, but one that also holds the promise of creating a more harmonious and progressive society.