Module 1.9 Known Reason

Science Of Freedom Workbook
Text: "The Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner
Topic 1.9 Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action

1.9 Known Reason
[17] Obviously, an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. But what are we to say of the freedom of an action when the reasons are known? This leads us to the question: What is the origin of our thoughts and what does it mean to think? For without knowledge of the thinking activity of the mind, it is impossible to form a concept of knowledge, of what it means to know something, including what it means to know the reason for an action. When we have a general understanding of what it means to think, it will be easy to see clearly the role thinking plays in human action. As Hegel rightly says,

"It is thinking that turns the soul, common to us and animals, into spirit."

And this is why it is thinking that gives to human action its characteristic stamp.

Worldview Of Monadism
"a being—as, for example, the human soul—can build up existence in itself."
"there is such a being that can build up existence in itself, and force concepts outwards from within itself. This being is a 'Monad'."
“monads are will-entities."
"existence is made up of being with the most varied conceptual powers"
"he reflects in the world upon the spiritual element in the world, allowing it to remain indefinite."
Rudolf Steiner, Human And Cosmic Thought lectures

In the worldview of Monadism, the idea that a "being can build up existence in itself" is pivotal. Here, the monad has the capability to create conceptual frameworks and understandings from within itself, pushing outward. This being is essentially a "will-entity," having both the ability and the will to construct its own reality, based on its conceptual powers.

"Force concepts outwards" suggests that the monad, after forming conceptual frameworks and understandings within itself, then externalizes or projects these understandings into its interactions with the world and other beings. The internal thoughts, ideas, or conceptual frameworks are not kept confined within the monad but influence its external behavior, actions, or interactions. This could be in terms of sharing knowledge, influencing events, or shaping one's own perception and experience of external reality. The monad's inner workings don't just stay inside—it has an outward push, affecting its environment or relations with other entities. This is a form of self-expression and willful action, illustrating how the monad is a "will-entity" that has an impact on the world around it based on its internal conceptualizations.

"Obviously, an action cannot be free if the doer carries it out without knowing why. But what are we to say of the freedom of an action when the reasons are known? This leads us to the question: What is the origin of our thoughts and what does it mean to think?"

Here, the centrality of thought and reasoning in action is emphasized. In Monadism, the ability to create an 'existence in oneself' is akin to fully understanding the reasoning behind one's actions. Knowing the 'why' is the result of a process of conceptual creation and willful deliberation that emanates from within the individual—much like the conceptual powers of a monad.

"It is thinking that turns the soul, common to us and animals, into spirit."

This statement aligns well with the Monadistic idea that monads have varying conceptual powers. The "soul," which might be seen as a common feature among all living beings, is transformed into a unique "spirit" through the act of thinking. In other words, the distinguishing feature that elevates one to a higher level of existence is the ability to think—reflecting a monad's ability to build up its own existence in itself.

"And this is why it is thinking that gives to human action its characteristic stamp."

This statement sums up the transformative power of thinking in shaping human action, making it unique and giving it its 'stamp.' According to Monadism, each being (or monad) has its unique conceptual powers that manifest in the uniqueness of their actions and existence. It is through thinking that the individual can manifest its unique 'stamp,' akin to how a monad expresses its will-entity nature.

By acknowledging and exploring the reasons behind our actions and the role of thought in transforming the soul into spirit, one essentially enacts the Monadistic principle of 'building up existence in oneself.' Each action, imbued with known reason, becomes a willful expression of the individual’s unique conceptual framework and existence.

MODULE 1.9 Known Reason

□ STEP 1.9 From known reason, to knowing the origin of the thought.

While knowing the reason for an action may seem like a simple endeavor, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding true freedom. An individual who knows the reasons for their actions but does not understand the origins of their thoughts or what it means to think can face several problems. If we fail to understand the deeper cognitive processes behind our actions, we live on a more superficial level. We may go through life merely reacting to external stimuli, never truly understanding why we make the choices we do.

Imagine you're someone who procrastinates. You know the reason behind your action—to delay doing a task—but without knowing the origin of the thoughts leading to this action, you can't effectively address the problem. Is it fear of failure, perfectionism, or lack of motivation? Without this depth of understanding, your efforts to change become like shooting arrows in the dark.

Understanding what it means to think, the "how" and "why" of your thinking process is fundamental to understanding any form of knowledge, including the reasons for your actions. In other words, to truly 'know' why you are doing something, you must first understand how you came to know it in the first place.

For example, let's say you decide to become a vegetarian. You might say the reason is for ethical treatment of animals. On the surface, it seems like you "know" why you've made this choice. However, if you haven't explored the thinking process that led you to this ethical standpoint, your knowledge is incomplete. Did you arrive at this belief after rigorous philosophical reasoning? Was it an emotional response to an expose on factory farming? Or perhaps you've merely accepted a societal or peer-driven narrative? Each of these routes to the same action (becoming vegetarian) involves different thinking processes and different levels of freedom in the decision. To genuinely 'know' the reason for your action, you must understand the origin and nature of the thoughts that led you there. Only then can you claim to have a comprehensive understanding—or knowledge—of why you are undertaking a particular action.

Known Reason: Refers to the immediate, apparent justification for taking a particular action or making a decision. It is the surface-level understanding one has about why they are doing something.

Origin Of Thought: Refers to an in-depth awareness of where a specific idea, belief, or thought process comes from. It goes beyond mere awareness to include a comprehensive understanding of the thought processes that led to that reason.

Known Action
The concept of "known reason" implies that an individual is consciously aware of the reasons behind their actions. However, understanding that these known reasons may themselves be unknowingly shaped by deeper, less apparent origins of thought is crucial for achieving "known action." These origins could be influenced by various internal and external factors, including personal biases, social conditioning, and even unconscious motives. They can also be influenced by one-sided worldviews or the limitations of certain ways of thinking such inductive or deductive reasoning, optimistic or pessimistic thinking, or even abstract or concrete thinking.

Realizing the limitations or influences on our "known reasons" adds a layer of complexity to our understanding of freedom. To truly act in a known manner, it's not enough to be aware of the immediate reason for an action; one also needs to scrutinize the foundational origins of those thoughts. This adds depth to our understanding of freedom by emphasizing the importance of self-awareness and reflection in making truly free choices.

Scenario: The Investor
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The reason the investor decides to diversify their portfolio is to lower risk.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Analytical Thinking): Upon reflection, the investor realizes that the risk assessment was based purely on analytical thinking which broke down past market trends to predict future behavior, ignoring potential black swan events. Their freedom to make a truly informed decision was limited by an over-reliance on analytical methods.

Scenario: The Parent
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The parent decides to enroll their child in a specific school for the reason the child's friends are going there.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Inductive Reasoning): The parent later acknowledges that their reasoning was based on the logic that if the school is good for the child's friends, it must be good for their child too. They realize this inductive reasoning limits their free thinking by not considering the unique needs of their own child.

Scenario: The Chess Player
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The reason the chess player always goes for the Sicilian Defense opening is it has proven to be effective in past games.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Critical Thinking): The player realizes that their critical thinking has constrained them to rely only on past successful outcomes using the Sicilian Defense, making them predictable and susceptible to counter-strategies specifically tailored against it. Their freedom to adapt and surprise their opponent is thus limited.

Scenario: The Traveler
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The traveler chooses a well-trodden path for a hiking trip for the reason it's deemed safe.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Concrete Thinking): The traveler understands that their decision was based on concrete thinking—focusing only on immediate safety risks, rather than the possible joy and discovery that a less-known path might offer. Their freedom to explore was limited by this thinking style.

Scenario: The Artist
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The reason the artist decides not to share their artwork online is they fear someone stealing it or plagiarizing their work.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Skeptical Thinking): The artist realizes that their skeptical thinking—always questioning the motives of potential viewers—has actually inhibited them from sharing their creativity and getting feedback, limiting their freedom to grow as an artist.

Scenario: The Entrepreneur
Stage 1 - Known Reason: The entrepreneur avoids investing in a promising venture for the reason that they fear failure.
Stage 2 - Illusion of Freedom (Pessimistic Thinking): The entrepreneur comes to see that their decision was guided by a pessimistic outlook, which focused only on what could go wrong. This way of thinking limited their freedom to seize a potentially lucrative opportunity.

"What is the origin of our thoughts and what does it mean to think? For without knowledge of the thinking activity of the mind, it is impossible to form a concept of knowledge, of what it means to know something, including what it means to know the reason for an action."

Understanding the origin of your thoughts and the nature of thinking is pivotal to formulating a concept of "knowing." This awareness enables you to critically assess the reasons behind your actions, contributing to a more authentic and autonomous life.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that explores the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge. It delves into questions like "What is knowledge?", "How do we acquire knowledge?", "What do we truly know?", and "How do we distinguish between belief and knowledge?". By examining the sources, validity, and structure of knowledge, epistemology provides a framework for understanding how we think, learn, and come to "know" something.

Epistemology—the study of knowledge—plays a vital role in attaining freedom. The quote suggests that we can't truly claim to know why we do something unless we understand the thought processes that led us to that decision. In essence, it challenges us to go beyond the superficial 'why' and dive into the roots of our reasoning and thoughts.

Take, for example, the idea of freeing yourself from dogmatic beliefs. Imagine you've in a community with a rigid mindset about a social issue, say, changing gender identity. A deep epistemological understanding encourages you to question the basis of these views. Are they scientific, logical, or just cultural norms? By identifying the shaky ground on which these dogmas stand, you can liberate yourself from emotions that eclipse reason, thus achieving intellectual and behavioral freedom.

Epistemology evaluates the reliability of information. Consider the abundance of 'news' we are exposed to daily. Let's say you read an article claiming that a particular diet can make you lose weight in three days. Understanding the methods of how that knowledge was obtained—Was it a peer-reviewed scientific study? Was it anecdotal?—allows you to critically assess the reliability of the information.

Epistemology explores ways of knowing, including intuition, subjective experience, and even religious or spiritual understanding. Imagine you meet someone and immediately feel a strong connection, almost as if you've known them for years. Your rational mind might say, "I barely know this person; I should be cautious." Yet, your intuition strongly suggests that this individual is trustworthy and that the connection is genuine.

In terms of epistemology, this situation prompts questions like: "How do I know what I know? Can intuitive or emotional 'knowing' be as valid as rational or empirical knowledge?" Epistemology provides a more balanced approach in deciding how to proceed in the relationship. You might decide that while intuitive feelings are valuable, they also have limitations and can be influenced by numerous factors, such as mood, past experiences, or even wishful thinking. You could choose to honor your intuition but also take time to get to know the person in different contexts, thereby employing both emotional and rational ways of knowing.

In this way, epistemology can be liberating, freeing you from the tyranny of any single way of knowing the world. By appreciating the strengths and limitations of various kinds of knowledge, you can make more nuanced and informed decisions, thereby exercising a greater degree of freedom in your life.

Objective: Experience the joy of soaring into the realm of concepts.
If thinking elevates the soul to the spirit, what would you say is the role of non-thinking activities (like emotions, instincts, etc.) in this transformation? If thinking transforms the soul into spirit, what types of thinking are most transformative? What role does suffering or adversity play in the transformation from soul to spirit?

5. The Illusion of Progress
"Congratulations, Jamal!" The words echoed through the lavish conference room, punctuated by applause and warm handshakes. Jamal couldn't believe it. A month of grueling interviews and sleepless nights had led to this moment—he was now a part of Morgan & Yorke Inc., a company reputed for its inclusivity and affirmative action policies. The job came with a cushy paycheck, sure, but that wasn't the draw; it was the promise of being part of something transformative.

Jamal's first day was a charade of smiles, handshakes, and welcomes that almost felt too warm. He was led to his office, a well-furnished space with a sprawling view of the cityscape. As he unpacked his desk, he couldn't help but feel that he'd hit the jackpot—good pay, great people, and a mission he could believe in.

Weeks morphed into months. While Jamal's family thrived—planning vacations and upgrading their car—he started sensing an undercurrent of dissonance at work. His calendar was blocked with meetings, panel discussions, and corporate events. Yet, he found himself with no projects to manage, no teams to lead. His was a profile painted in visibility but void of responsibility.

A casual Friday evening, beers in hand, he and his colleague Mark found themselves in the throes of an honest conversation.

"Jamal, don't take this the wrong way, man, but don't you ever feel like a token here?" Mark's words landed with the subtlety of a hammer.

Jamal had suspicions, but Mark's words crystallized them. A few days later, as if the universe were aligning to reveal the truth, Jamal happened upon a confidential memo left carelessly on a printer. It outlined the company's diversity strategy—more optics, less substance. The revelation hit him like a freight train, sucking the air from his lungs. At home, he looked at his family—their faces luminous with the glow of newfound prosperity—and his heart sank further. They were so proud of him. How could he ever tell them that their hero was just a pawn in a corporate charade?

Jamal stood before the mirror, tightening his tie for another day at the office. He had always thought he was walking on a clear path toward progress, armed with the known motive of righting the wrongs of the past. Now, he found himself at a crossroads, clouded by the hidden agendas that lay behind that very motive.

In the reflection, he saw two Jamals. One was the happy provider, bathing in the adulation of his family but internally adrift in a sea of moral ambiguity. The other was a man unwilling to sell his soul for comfort, a man who could look himself in the mirror without flinching.

What should he do? The motive of social progress had crumbled under the weight of hidden intentions formulated out of ulterior motives. Was he merely a puppet on the strings of invisible ideologies? Jamal was torn between two equally harrowing paths. One ensures his family's comfort but costs him his self-respect; the other upholds his dignity but threatens to dismantle everything he has so far built for his loved ones.

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

  • Analytical or Intuitive: Identify whether the reason for your action predominantly relies on analytical reasoning or intuitive processes. Review significant decisions you made.
    Analytical: If you made lists, weighed pros and cons, consulted data or other people, or took a significant amount of time to think before making a decision, label it 'A.'
    Intuitive: If the decision was made quickly, based on a gut feeling, emotional state, or immediate perception without detailed analysis, label it 'I.'
  • Logic or Emotion: Identify whether the reason for your action is primarily driven by logical reasoning or emotional influence. Review significant decisions you made.
    Logic: If your decision was based on factual information, cost-benefit analysis, or rational consideration, then mark it with 'L'.
    Emotion: If your decision was influenced by feelings, moods, or emotional attachments, then mark it with 'E'.
  • The 5 Whys Technique: Whenever you make a decision or take an action, ask yourself "Why?" five times in succession, each time going a layer deeper into the thought process that led to the decision. For example:
    Why did I take this job? (Because it pays well)
    Why is high pay important to me? (Because I want financial security)
    Why do I seek financial security? (Because I grew up in an unstable environment)
    Why does that make me crave stability? (Because I associate stability with happiness)
    Why do I associate stability with happiness? (Because my early experiences taught me that
    instability causes suffering)

At first glance, having a "known reason" for our actions might seem like a path to freedom. After all, knowing why we do something surely qualifies as making an informed choice, doesn't it? Yet, this module suggests that the illusion of freedom often persists at this superficial level of "known reason." It pushes us to question whether we are genuinely "free" if we don't comprehend the underlying thoughts and processes that lead to those reasons in the first place.

Real freedom lies in going beyond simply knowing the "what" and "why" of our actions to uncovering the "how" and "from where" of our thought processes. Understanding the origins of our thoughts fosters a sense of personal responsibility. When we understand the mechanics of our decision-making, we can hold ourselves accountable in a meaningful way. This heightened self-awareness enables us to make more informed decisions. An informed individual contributes to an informed populace, a cornerstone in the creation and sustenance of a democratic society. This questioning of freedom is more than just an intellectual exercise; it has profound implications for the kind of society we build.

One of the most empowering aspects of understanding our thought processes is the armor it provides against manipulation. In a world teeming with external influences—be it through media, politics, or societal pressures—knowing the origin of our thoughts helps us separate the wheat from the chaff. It makes us resistant to manipulation and exploitation, leading to a society that's not just free in name, but also fair in practice. As each individual progresses in their personal journey towards real freedom, they contribute to the building of a more conscious, intentional, and responsible society.