Science Of Freedom Workbook
Text: "The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Topic 1.3 Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action
1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Nature
Others begin from the same point when attacking the concept of free will. The essence of all the relevant arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. His clear and simple argument against the Idea of freedom has been repeated countless times. Though it is usually enclosed in complicated theoretical doctrines that make it difficult to recognize the simple line of thought, which is all that matters. Spinoza writes in a letter of October or November 1674,
"I call free all that exists and acts out of the necessity of its nature. I call it unfree, if its existence and activity are determined in an exact and fixed way by something else. For example, God is free, even though he exists in a necessary way, because he exists solely out of the necessity of his own nature. Similarly, God knows himself and all other things freely, because it follows solely from the necessity of his nature to know all. I locate freedom, not in free decision, but in free necessity.
 "Let us come down to created things, which are all determined by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way. To see this more clearly, let us imagine a very simple case. A stone, for example, receives a certain momentum from the impact of an external cause. Of necessity, the stone continues to move after the impact. The continued motion of the stone is compelled, for it is due to the external impact, and not to the necessity of the stone's own nature. What applies here to the stone, applies to everything else, no matter how complex and many-sided. Everything is determined by external causes with the necessity to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way.
 "Now please assume the stone, while in motion, thinks and knows it is striving to the best of its ability to continue in motion. The stone is only conscious of its striving and by no means indifferent. It will be convinced it is free and continues in motion, not because of an external cause, but because it wills to do so. This is just the human freedom everyone claims to have. The reason it appears to be freedom is because human beings are conscious of their desires, but do not know the causes that determine those desires. Thus the child believes it freely desires milk, the angry boy freely demands revenge, and the coward flight. The drunken man believes he says things of his own free will that, when sober again, he will wish he had not said. Since this bias is inborn in everybody, it is difficult to free oneself from it. Experience teaches us often enough that people are least able to moderate their desires. When torn by conflicting passions they see the better and pursue the worse. Yet they still regard themselves as free, because they desire some things less intensely. And some desires can be easily inhibited by recalling a familiar memory that often preoccupies one's mind."
 Because this opinion is clearly and directly expressed, it is easy to detect the basic error. Of necessity, the stone continues to move after an impact. With the same necessity, a human being is supposed to carry out an action when driven by any reason. Because he is only conscious of his action, he looks upon himself as the free originator of it. However, he overlooks the causes driving him that he must obey unconditionally.
The error in this line of argument is easy to find. Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a human being is not just conscious of his action. He can also become conscious of the causes that guide his action. Anyone can see a child is not free when it desires milk, as is the drunk who says things he later regrets. Both know nothing of the causes working deep within their organism that exercise irresistible control over them. Is it right to group such actions together with those of a human being who is not only conscious of his actions, but also of the reasons that motivate him?
Are human actions really all of one kind? Should the deeds of a soldier on the battlefield, a scientist in the laboratory, or a diplomat involved in complex negotiations be ranked in the same scientific category as those of a child craving milk? It is true the best way of seeking the solution to a problem is where the conditions are simplest. But the inability to see distinctions causes endless confusion. There is a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. This is an obvious truth. Yet the opponents of freedom never ask whether a motive of action known to me in full transparency, compels me in the same way an organic process causes a child to cry for milk.
Worldview Of Realism
"One thing is clear — there is a world spread out around us."
"I recognizes the external world; that is something I see and can think about."
"I restrict myself to what I see around me."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures
The text of topic 1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Nature can be looked at through the lens of the worldview of Realism, which posits that there is an external world that exists independent of human thought and perception.
"Others begin from the same point when attacking the concept of free will. The essence of all the relevant arguments can be found as early as Spinoza. His clear and simple argument against the Idea of freedom has been repeated countless times. Though it is usually enclosed in complicated theoretical doctrines that make it difficult to recognize the simple line of thought, which is all that matters."
The text excerpt embodies a Realist worldview as it values arguments grounded in what is considered true and real over abstract or theoretical notions. By referring to Spinoza's "clear and simple argument" against free will that has been "repeated countless times," it emphasizes a kind of empirical rigor. It suggests that there is an enduring, observable truth to the argument, one that has withstood the test of time and scrutiny. Furthermore, the critique of "complicated theoretical doctrines" underscores an interest in straightforward reasoning, stripping away any obfuscations to reveal what is assumed to be the core truth. This focus on observable, repeatable truths that are widely accepted rather than abstract theorizing is characteristic of a Realist worldview.
"Let us come down to created things, which are all determined by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and exact way. To see this more clearly, let us imagine a very simple case. A stone, for example, receives a certain momentum from the impact of an external cause. Of necessity, the stone continues to move after the impact... This is just the human freedom everyone claims to have. The reason it appears to be freedom is because human beings are conscious of their desires, but do not know the causes that determine those desires."
Realism considers the external world to be an objective reality that influences human nature and actions. It recognizes that all created things are determined by external causes. This text uses the example of a stone moved by external force to illustrate that everything is determined by external causes. Even the human perception of free will is considered an illusion caused by one's consciousness of their desires, yet ignorance of the external causes of those desires.
"The error in this line of argument is easy to find. Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook the fact that a human being is not just conscious of his action. He can also become conscious of the causes that guide his action... There is a profound difference between knowing and not knowing why I act. This is an obvious truth."
The final part of the text discusses the error in Spinoza's argument. It suggests that unlike a stone, humans can become conscious of the causes that lead them to act a certain way. The argument states that there is a difference between knowing and not knowing why one acts, and therefore, not all human actions are of the same kind. Realism would find value in this argument as it emphasizes the role of external causes and conditions while acknowledging human consciousness as an intermediary factor. Each section reflects a Realist approach by emphasizing the role of external causes in determining actions, even as it challenges that perspective by bringing human consciousness and self-awareness into the equation.
MODULE 1.3 Free Necessity Of One's Nature
□ STEP 1.3 From free necessity of one's nature, to determined by external causes.
Are we more like the stone moved by external forces, or the bird flying freely through the sky? In module 1.3: "Free Necessity Of One's Nature" we'll look deeper into these concepts to answer this question and better understand the nature of human freedom and action.
We begin with understanding the concept of 'Free Necessity of One's Nature,' as proposed by philosopher Spinoza. It suggests that real freedom comes from actions that are an expression of our inherent nature. However, do we always understand the origin of the influences that have built-up our nature? Our human nature is an intricate weave, composed of genetics, natural urges inherent to our biological being, the values and behaviors shaped by our family upbringing, and the multifaceted influences of social and cultural conditioning. Together, these elements forge our unique individuality and drive our actions, often in ways we may not consciously recognize.
As we move forward, we take a crucial step towards self-improvement by transitioning from the illusion of 'free necessity' to an awareness of external causes. Recognizing that our actions are often influenced by factors outside our consciousness helps us gain better control of our behavior, enhance decision-making, and improve relationships - the very foundations of a fulfilling life.
Free Necessity of One's Nature: Real freedom comes from actions that are an expression of our inherent nature.
Determined By External Causes: The shaping of one's nature and behavior through influences and conditioning from outside sources.
Being aware of not just what we do but why we do it, is the essence of known action. Rather than blindly obeying natural urges and external social conditioning, we develop the skill to critically evaluate these factors and consciously choose which ones to keep, modify, or discard, in order to cultivate a more authentic sense of self and freedom. Comprehending the reasons behind their actions allows ethical individualists to exercise genuine freedom by aligning their behavior with their personal values and ethical principles.
2. LIFE EXAMPLES
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: A woman loves expressing herself through dance, believing it to be an expression of her genuine self. She felt as if she was genuinely existing and acting out the necessity of her true self when she was dancing.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): Later, she realizes her dance passion and style have external influences. Her mother was a dancer, and she grew up in a culture where dance was a significant form of expression. Moreover, she noted how her dance forms had often changed with the different dance trends prevalent in society.
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: A man naturally prefers solitude, thinking it's an essential part of his identity.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): With time, he recognizes his preference may be influenced by being an only child, having introverted parents, and growing up in an isolated rural community. His 'nature' seemed to be more a product of his environment than an expression of individuality.
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: An individual, growing up in a neighborhood with a distinct dialect and slang, has trouble expressing themselves in English. They believe this linguistic style is an intrinsic part of their identity.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): They face difficulties at school where standard English is the norm. Upon reflection, they realize that their 'unique' language style cultivated in their neighborhood was seriously hindering their academic performance.
Scenario: Moral Conduct
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: A young woman, raised in a devoutly religious family, values maintaining high moral standards, especially regarding intimate relationships. She believes not kissing on the first date is an integral part of her personal code of conduct.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): Later in life, she realizes that these high standards dictated by her religious upbringing, may have prevented her from the fate of an unwanted pregnancy suffered by several of her classmates.
Scenario: Laid-Back Worker
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: An individual who hails from a laid-back culture, sees no issue with arriving casually late to work, believing this relaxed approach to time is a fundamental part of their identity.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): They face disciplinary action at work due to their frequent tardiness. Upon reflection, they realize their attitude towards timekeeping has been shaped by the cultural conditioning of their upbringing, which now conflicts with their hope for a successful professional career.
Scenario: Passionate Engineer
Stage 1 - Free Necessity of One's Nature: An individual always had a passion for tinkering and building, believing their interest in engineering was an integral part of their identity.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (external influence): Upon introspection, they realized that their father, an engineer, had subtly influenced their hobbies and interests from a very young age. In addition, their education and the technological era they grew up in had greatly shaped their interest.
3. THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM TOPIC 1.3 QUOTE
"Yet the opponents of freedom never ask whether a motive of action known to me in full transparency, compels me in the same way an organic process causes a child to cry for milk."
The quote questions the nature of compulsion in actions driven by transparent motives versus those triggered by organic needs. Imagine someone diligently practicing the piano every day, aware of their goal to become a musician and all the sacrifices and rewards that come with it. This person understands the origin of their desire, its purpose, the expected results, and even the ethical considerations around dedicating so much time to this pursuit. Their action—practicing the piano—is driven by a motive they fully understand.
Contrast this with someone who screams when they see a spider. This action isn't driven by a well-understood motive but by a deeply ingrained fear, perhaps evolutionary in origin. Here, the individual doesn't make a conscious choice to scream; the reaction is almost automatic, spurred by a primitive part of the brain that identifies the spider as a threat.
In the first scenario, the individual's actions are propelled by a transparent motive that provides them with a level of freedom. They can choose to practice or not based on a multi-dimensional understanding of their motivation. In the second scenario, the person has little to no freedom to choose; their action is a reflexive response to external stimuli.
While both actions are 'compelled,' the nature and quality of that compulsion are entirely different. The distinction is crucial because the strategies you'd employ to change the behavior would differ based on the underlying motivation.
Consider the act of eating. When you grab a chocolate bar despite being on a diet, understanding the motivation behind that choice is key. If you're eating it out of habit, emotional stress, or social pressure, that's quite different from eating because you're actually hungry. In the former case, understanding your true motives can help you make healthier choices in the future, perhaps by finding alternative ways to deal with stress or social situations. For emotional eating, you might seek out psychological tools or support, whereas, for genuine hunger, you might look into more nutritious food options that align with your diet. Not making this distinction could lead to ineffective or misguided attempts to change.
4. REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE PRACTICE OF PURE THINKING
Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
How have the external influences of your upbringing and environment shaped your core beliefs and behaviors? Can you identify any aspect of your 'nature' that you've always assumed to be inherently you, but upon reflection, may actually be a product of external conditioning? How does this understanding challenge or reshape your concept of personal freedom and identity?
5. VILLAGE ECHO
In a small coastal town, lived a man named Ethan. Ethan was a realist - a fisherman by trade who had a knack for saying things as they were. He was known for his grounded nature and his sharp observations about life and the world around him. He prided himself on being an individualist, marching to the beat of his own drum, never shying away from expressing his views or voicing his perspectives.
Like others in his village, Ethan held certain beliefs and values that had been passed down through generations. The town was a mirror, reflecting the same faces, the same views, and the same aspirations in all of its inhabitants. It was a tightly knit community where everyone believed in hard work, simplicity, and the power of nature. These beliefs, along with their shared love for the sea, were what bound the community together.
One day, as Ethan sat at the local tavern listening to conversations around him, he had an unexpected realization. Whenever a matter of concern arose, it was as if a single voice echoed throughout the town, manifesting the identical viewpoint. Similarly, when a task demanded attention, it was carried out with an uncanny uniformity, each individual contributing in the same predictable manner. The discussions were the same as always - the weather, the fishing season, the simple life they led - but something felt different. It dawned on him that his beliefs, his views, his life, were all strikingly similar to everyone else's in his community. His thoughts mirrored theirs; his aspirations were their aspirations.
This realization puzzled Ethan. He had always considered himself an individualist, but now he was confronted with the stark truth that he was more of a product of his environment than he had imagined. The way he thought, his ambitions, his principles, were they really his own? Or were they imprinted on him by his environment, his culture, and his upbringing?
6. PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF QUESTIONING IDENTITY
Objective: Adopt an individualistic attitude aligned with principles of freedom.
- Tracing Identity: Write down aspects of your identity that you consider to be the most 'you'. Then, try to trace these traits back to their possible origins.
- Influencers: Cultivate a habit of discernment towards influences around you. Do your daily interactions and experiences align with who you want to be, or are they swaying you from your true path? For instance, are you consuming media that uplifts and educates, or media that fuels negativity? Are your friendships enriching, or do they pull you down?
- Conscious Change: Once you've identified influences that may not serve your personal growth, consciously work to change your responses. Transformation starts with small, consistent steps towards who you want to become.
7. CLOSING THOUGHTS
Initially, it might seem that our actions are free expressions of our nature. However, as we deepen our understanding, we realize that our behaviors, thoughts, and even aspirations may not be ours. They may be conditioned and influenced by external factors—our family, society, culture, and era—resulting in an illusion of freedom. Recognizing this illusion is a major leap toward authentic freedom.
Questioning 'free necessity' encourages critical thinking and can help us discern the difference between what is inherently ours and what is imposed upon us.
Moreover, freeing ourselves from the clutches of external conditioning brings many societal benefits. For instance, critical thinking, borne out of this freedom, promotes a healthy questioning of societal norms, policies, and ideologies, fostering societal improvement and progress. This isn't about rebelling for the sake of rebelling, but about a thoughtful analysis and challenging of status quo when needed.
When individuals liberate themselves from external conditioning, they often catalyze societal change. These are the thought-leaders, the innovators, the ones who question the established norms and inspire others to do the same, driving societal progress.