Science Of Freedom Workbook
Text: "The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Topic 1.4 Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action
1.4 Conduct Of Character
 Eduard von Hartmann, in his Phenomenology of Moral Consciousness, says that human willing depends on two main factors: motives and character. If we look at human beings as all alike, then their will appears determined from outside, by the situations they encounter. But people are different. A human being will adopt an idea as the motive of his conduct, only if his character is such that this idea arouses a desire in him to act. If we keep in mind people are different then their will appears determined from within and not from outside.
Now, the human being believes he is free, independent of outside motivation, because he must first make the idea imposed on him from outside into a motive, according to his character. But according to Eduard von Hartmann, the truth is that he is not free,
"Even though we first adopt an idea as a motive, this is not done arbitrarily. An idea is turned into a motive according to the necessity of our characterological disposition. We are anything but free."
Here again, the difference between motives is ignored. There are motives I allow to influence me only after I have consciously made them my own, and others I follow without a clear knowledge of them.
Worldview Of Idealism
"The world has no real meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency, unless from this external world something can emerge towards which the human soul can direct itself, independently of the world."
"life has meaning only if ideas work through it and give it purpose."
"takes everything as a vehicle for the ideas that permeate the world-process."
"Beautiful and grand and glorious things have been brought forward on behalf of Idealism."
"the point is to show that the world would be purposeless and meaningless if ideas were only human inventions and were not rooted in the world-process."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures
"A human being will adopt an idea as the motive of his conduct, only if his character is such that this idea arouses a desire in him to act. If we keep in mind people are different then their will appears determined from within and not from outside."
Idealism comes through here as it suggests that will is not just influenced by external situations but by ideas that resonate with individual character. The implication is that the world holds different meaning for different people based on the ideas they internalize, aligning closely with the idealist notion that the world has purpose and meaning through ideas.
"Now, the human being believes he is free, independent of outside motivation, because he must first make the idea imposed on him from outside into a motive, according to his character. But according to Eduard von Hartmann, the truth is that he is not free, 'Even though we first adopt an idea as a motive, this is not done arbitrarily. An idea is turned into a motive according to the necessity of our characterological disposition.'"
This section further solidifies the idealistic notion by emphasizing the transformative power of ideas on human action. The "idea" serves as the vehicle for action, and this idea must be harmonized with the individual's character. This aligns with the idealistic concept that life gains purpose through ideas. Idealism can both champion and challenge the notion of freedom. It champions freedom by highlighting the transformative power of ideas and the individual's role in consciously adopting them. At the same time, it challenges the concept of freedom by pointing out that our character, which is influenced by factors beyond our control, plays a determining role in which ideas we are likely to adopt as motives for action.
"Here again, the difference between motives is ignored. There are motives I allow to influence me only after I have consciously made them my own, and others I follow without a clear knowledge of them."
This part delves into the quality and clarity of motives, suggesting that some ideas are consciously internalized while others influence us subconsciously. The focus on the nature and quality of motives—whether they are consciously made one's own or not—again aligns with the idealistic view that the world is permeated by ideas that give it meaning. It differentiates between actions guided by well-understood ideas and those guided by lesser-known factors, highlighting the significance of conscious idea formation in giving life purpose.
MODULE 1.4 Conduct Of Character
□ STEP 1.4 From conduct of character, to determined by characterological disposition.
Next we delve into the intricate dance between our motives and character and the significant role they play in shaping our actions. This module explores the perception of human conduct and its deep-rooted connections with one's unique character and motivation. We will discuss the concept of freedom as viewed through the lens of human conduct, where our actions appear to emerge from within, free from external influences. Feeling liberated and independent because the ideas that motivate us seem to be chosen according to our own character we adopt character as our concept of freedom.
As we delve deeper, we discover that our actions are not as arbitrary as they seem. The characterological disposition, our inherent tendencies and traits, play a pivotal role in determining how we transform ideas into motives for action. In other words, our actions may not be as free-willed as they seem, but are compelled by the underlying nuances of our character. By questioning this illusion of free will we progress to an awareness of the forces that truly shape our conduct.
Conduct of Character: The way an individual acts or behaves based on their deep-seated qualities or personality traits, specifically choosing motives that align with their character.
Determined by Characterological Disposition: The idea that a person's actions or choices are not random but are shaped by their inherent disposition or psychological tendencies.
Your actions become more predictable and intentional when guided by your established character. Essentially, your character serves as a filter that vets various ideas or impulses, allowing only those that resonate with your inner values or disposition to be turned into actionable motives. For example, let's say you are a person who values environmental sustainability. This character trait would likely influence your actions—from simple daily choices like recycling or using a reusable water bottle to more significant decisions like pursuing a career in environmental science or advocacy. Because your character aligns with sustainability, you are more likely to consciously adopt ideas or motives that are eco-friendly.
This often leads to habitual behaviors. You perform actions automatically, without much conscious thought, because they align with your established character and values. However, this can also lead to selective perception or confirmation bias, where you pay more attention to information that confirms your existing beliefs and filter out information that challenges them. In the context of climate change fears, this could lead you to selectively focus on articles, opinions, or pseudo-scientific studies that support the validity of a climate change crisis, thereby filtering out scientific evidence that opposes it.
3. LIFE EXAMPLES
Scenario: Job Offer
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A skilled software developer is offered a high-paying job at a large tech company. Despite the promise of a better salary, he turns down the offer, considering his decision as a free choice.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): On reflecting, he understands that his preference for smaller teams and startups, which led to his rejecting the offer, is deeply influenced by his early career experiences in a small startup. His decision was less a product of free will and more of his characterological disposition formed by professional experiences.
Scenario: Academic Elitist
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A respected professor is offered a chance to write a column in a popular magazine. He declines the offer, thinking his decision is made out of free will.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): Upon introspection, he realizes his inclination towards academic rigor over popular discourse, which led to his rejection of the offer, has been heavily influenced by his years of rigorous academic training and intellectual environment. His decision was not as freely made as he initially thought, but was a result of his characterological disposition formed by his academic journey.
Scenario: Artistic Freedom
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A gifted painter is presented with an opportunity to showcase his work in a popular modern art gallery. He quickly declines, viewing his decision as an expression of his artistic freedom.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): Later, he realizes that his rejection of the opportunity was largely influenced by his mentor's teachings about the purity of traditional art forms and the impact of commercial exposure on artistic authenticity. His decision was not merely a personal choice, but a reflection of his characterological disposition shaped by his mentor's influence.
Example: Family Centered
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A family man with deep roots in his community is offered a position in the neighborhood watch. Without hesitation, he agrees, thinking he's acting out of concern for his community.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): Later, he acknowledges that his quick acceptance was influenced by his upbringing, where community involvement was highly encouraged. His choice wasn't solely guided by current circumstances, but by a long-standing character trait encouraging community service.
Example: Prominent Socialite
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A prominent socialite in her community is asked to chair a charity event. She immediately agrees, believing that she's doing it out of a sense of social responsibility.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): Upon reflection, she realizes that her agreement was less about philanthropy and more about maintaining her high-society image. She grew up in a community that highly values social appearances, and her acceptance of the role was more about signaling her virtuous character to her peers.
Example: Social Media Influencer
Stage 1 - Conduct of Character: A social media influencer is asked to endorse a mental health campaign. She immediately agrees, thinking she's doing a good deed by promoting mental health awareness.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (characterological disposition): After thinking it over, she recognizes that her prompt agreement was mainly influenced by her deeply seated need for public approval of her character and the likely boost to her online reputation. Her acceptance of the campaign was less about genuine concern for mental health and more about presenting herself as a virtuous person to her followers.
3. THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM TOPIC 1.4 QUOTE
"If we look at human beings as all alike, then their will appears determined from outside, by the situations they encounter."
The quote warns against the oversimplification of human behavior as a product of external factors alone. If we find ourselves echoing the opinions and actions of those around us, it may be a signal to reassess. We should ask whether we're authentically making choices or merely conforming to our social expectations.
When we perceive people as indistinguishable from one another, we risk reducing human agency to mere responses to external conditions. This overlooks the complexity and uniqueness that individual character brings to decision-making. In such a worldview, people within a group become predictable—assumed to think and act uniformly in similar circumstances.
However, this uniformity is not universally true. Within any group, there are individuals who transcend cultural norms and conventional wisdom. These outliers reach a point where they begin to think independently. For example, consider two people who grow up in a poor neighborhood. One person might view their environment as a reason to pursue higher education and escape poverty, while another might resign themselves to their circumstances seeing it as an unchangeable reality and not strive for anything different. Labeling both as mere products of their environment overlooks the crucial internal factors—such as motives and individual character—that guide their distinct life paths.
If we find that we're largely molded by our surroundings, a reevaluation may be in order. The first step is to identify and celebrate the unique characteristics that distinguish us and those around us. Such individual diversity isn't just beneficial on a personal level; it's a societal boon as well. It has the power to challenge conventional wisdom, inspire innovation, and cultivate a more dynamic culture. Conformity, on the other hand, limits personal and societal growth by dampening the rich tapestry of human experience.
4. REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE PRACTICE OF PURE THINKING
Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
Do you consider your characterological disposition an ally or an obstacle in your pursuit of freedom? In what ways can you work with it to support your aspirations?
5. THE IDEALIST TEACHER
In a large metropolis, there was a woman named Elise. An idealist at heart, Elise found the world around her severely lacking in depth and purpose. This lack of meaning had left her feeling hollow and directionless, a spectator in her own life, watching the world turn with an apathy that ate at her spirit.
Life changed when she received an opportunity for higher education through a generous financial aid package. Eager to fill the emptiness that had consumed her, she pursued a career in education. She yearned to inspire young minds, shape their characters, and prepare them for the complexities of life. She saw this as her noble mission and her path to find meaning in her existence.
In her enthusiasm, however, she faltered. When debates about politics, religion, or other controversial subjects surfaced in her classroom, Elise allowed her personal views to bleed into her teachings. Her classroom slowly transformed from a space of intellectual exploration to a one-sided discourse that mirrored her beliefs. This did not sit well with the parents or school administrators. Complaints were lodged, questioning Elise's teaching methods. Faced with this backlash, Elise was forced to reflect on her actions. What she found was unsettling.
She realized that her drive to mold her students came from a deep-rooted influence of her own education. Her views and beliefs, she recognized, had been shaped by the strong convictions of her political activist professors. She saw herself mirrored in her students - accepting views without critically examining them first.
Elise had believed she was freely forming her students into responsible adults. Yet, she saw that she had only perpetuated the cycle that had bound her own thought process. She had unintentionally stifled her students' freedom to explore their individuality and form their own views on life, just as her education had done to her.
This revelation led Elise to question the very foundation of her ideals. It dawned on her that she was not as free as she had believed. Her character, molded by external influences, had determined her acceptance of certain ideas and their propagation. The illusion of freedom had been shattered, but in its place, Elise found the stepping stones to authentic freedom and a deeper sense of purpose in her life.
6. PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF QUESTIONING CHARACTER
Objective: Adopt an individualistic attitude aligned with principles of freedom.
- Self-Reflection: For each decision, try to identify the underlying character disposition that influenced it. Did you act out of compassion? Stubbornness? Determination?
- Idea Analysis: Whenever an idea for action arises, pause and take a moment to analyze it. Recognize that your character may predispose you to favor certain ideas. Practice conscious decision-making by considering whether the idea truly serves your best interests or if it’s a result of habitual character-based decisions.
- Character Evaluation: Think about a decision you have to make in the near future. Reflect on how your character might influence this decision. For instance, if you're a naturally generous person, you might be inclined to give more of your time or resources to a cause. Recognize this predisposition and think about whether it is truly in line with your broader goals and principles.
7. CLOSING THOUGHTS
While the formation of character often seems to be an internal, individual process, the exploration in this module has shown us that our character is often the product of external influences. This characterological disposition, once formed, becomes the lens through which we view ideas and decide whether to accept or reject them for action. We must challenge our characterological disposition, seeking to understand its formation and question its current influence.
This understanding is vital in the broader context of society. If our characterological disposition is merely a reflection of common societal influences, the consequences can be far-reaching. The shared character of a group or community can lead to homogeneity of thought and action, making the society susceptible to manipulation, fostering groupthink, and resistance to change. Such uniformity curbs the vibrant diversity of ideas and inhibits societal growth.
As ethical individualists, embarking on the journey to understand why we act not only nurtures our personal growth but also enriches a community with a tapestry of diverse perspectives, fostering a society that is both dynamic and resilient.