Note 2.0

New Translation Draft - Chapter 2

New translation Preface
New translation Chapter 1
New translation Chapter 2 

Compare this NEW translation of the 1894 original unrevised edition with your copy of The Philosophy Of Freedom!

Two souls, alas, dwell within my breast,
Each wants to separate from the other;
One, in hearty lovelust,
Clings to earth with clutching organs;
The other lifts itself mightily from the dust
To high ancestral regions.
Goethe, Faust I, Scene 2


2.0 The Urge To Know
[1] Goethe describes in these words a characteristic that is deeply rooted in human nature. As human beings, we are not a uniformly organized whole. We always demand more than the world gives us of its own accord. Nature has given us needs; among them are some left to our own activity to satisfy. Abundant are the gifts bestowed upon us, but even more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be dissatisfied. One special case of this dissatisfaction is our desire for knowledge. We look twice at a tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree appear first at rest and then in motion? Every look at the natural world evokes in us a number of questions. Every phenomenon we encounter gives us a new task. Every experience becomes a riddle. We see emerging from the egg a creature that resembles the mother animal; we ask the reason for this similarity. We observe growth and development taking place in a living organism up to a certain degree of perfection, and we seek the underlying conditions for this experience. Nowhere are we satisfied with what Nature shows us in sense experience. Everywhere we seek what we call an explanation of the facts.

[2] This something that we seek in things, over and above what is given to us immediately, splits our whole being into two parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We place ourselves over against the world as an independent being. The universe appears to us in the polarity: I and World.

[3] We erect this wall of separation between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness lights up within us. But we never lose the feeling that we do belong to the world, that a link exists that connects us to it, and that we are beings whose place is within, not outside, the universe.

[4] This feeling makes us strive to bridge the opposition, and ultimately humankind's entire striving of the mind consists in the bridging of this opposition. The history of the intellectual life is a continuous quest for the unity between ourselves and the world. Religion, Art, and Science all pursue this goal. The religious believer seeks within the revelation granted by God the solution to the world-riddle, which his ‘I’ confronts him with in its dissatisfaction with the world as it appears. The artist seeks to incorporate the ideas of his 'I' into the material world in order to reconcile what lives in him with the outer world. He too feels dissatisfied with the world of appearance and seeks to mold into it that extra content that the ‘I’, transcending the outer world, contains. The thinker seeks the laws at work in the world of phenomena. He strives to penetrate with thinking what he experiences by observing. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content do we rediscover the connection from which we have detached ourselves. We will see later that this goal can only be reached when the task of the research scientist is understood much more deeply than is usually the case. The whole of what I have described here is found historically in the contrast between the one-world view, or Monism, and the two-world theory, or Dualism. Dualism only pays attention to the separation between 'I' and World brought about by human consciousness. All its efforts consist in a futile struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it calls Mind and Matter, Subject and Object, or Thought and Appearance. The Dualist feels that there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but is not able to find it. Monism pays attention only to the unity and tries either to deny or gloss over the existing differences. Neither of these viewpoints can satisfy us, as both fail to do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees Mind ('I') and Matter (World) as two fundamentally different realities, and therefore cannot understand how the two can interact with each other. How can Mind know what is going on in the material world if Matter's essential nature is entirely foreign to it? Or, given these conditions, how can Mind affect Matter in order to translate its intentions into deeds? Things are hardly better with the Monists. Up to now they have tried three different solutions. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists; or else they claim that Mind and Matter are inseparably united even in the world’s simplest entities, so it is not surprising to find these two kinds of existence present in the human being, since after all, they are never found apart.

2.1 Materialism
[5] Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world, since any attempt at an explanation has to start by forming thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism therefore begins with thoughts about Matter and material processes. In doing so, it has two different sets of facts before it: the material world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist tries to understand thoughts by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain in much the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he attributes mechanical, chemical, and organic processes to Nature, so he credits it in certain circumstances with the ability to think. He fails to see that he has merely shifted the problem to another place. The Materialist ascribes the ability to think to matter, instead of to himself. This brings him back to his starting point. How does Matter come to think about its own nature? Why is Matter not simply content to be the way it is, satisfied merely to exist? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own 'I', and arrives at a vague, indefinite configuration. And here the same problem comes up again. The materialistic viewpoint cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism
[6] What of the Spiritualistic view? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) all independent existence and regards it merely as a product of Mind/Spirit (the 'I'). He considers the whole phenomenal word to be only a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it tries to deduce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do this either in knowledge or in action.

2.3 Realism
If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and draw on the fund of experience. Without experience Mind can have no content. Similarly, when it comes to action, we have to translate our purposes into reality with the help of material things and forces. This refers us back to the outer world.

2.4 Idealism
The most extreme Spiritualist or, if you prefer it, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to derive the entire world structure from the 'I'. What he succeeded in creating was a magnificent thought-picture of the world, but one without any content of actual experience. The Idealist view can no more banish the external material world than the Materialist view can banish the Mind.

2.5 Materialistic Idealism
[7] A curious variant of Idealism is the view of F. A. Lange put forward in his widely read ‘History of Materialism’. Lang accepts that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena in the world, including our thinking, to be the product of purely material processes, but, conversely, Matter and its processes are for him the product of our thought.

"The senses give us only the effects of things, not true copies, and certainly not the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular movements within it.”

This would mean that our thinking is produced by material processes, and these are produced by the thinking of the 'I'. Lange’s philosophy is thus nothing but the conceptual version of the story of the bold Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[8] The third form of Monism is the one that sees the two entities, Matter and Mind, already united at the simplest level of the atom. But nothing is gained by this either, for here again the question, which actually originates in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How does the simple entity come to manifests itself in two different ways if it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Opposition To World Originates In 'I'
[9] Over against these points of view it must be made clear that it is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the original and fundamental opposition. It is we who separate ourselves from the maternal ground of Nature and place ourselves as 'I' in opposition to the 'World.' This is expressed in classical form by Goethe in his essay ‘Nature’, “Living in the midst of her (Nature) yet are we strangers to her. She speaks unceasingly to us, and yet does not betray her secrets.” But Goethe also knows the other side: “Human beings are all within her, and she in all of them.”

2.8 Feeling Nature Within
[10] It is true that we have estranged ourselves from Nature, but it is just as true that we feel: we exist within her and belong to her. It can only be Nature's own working that also presses up in us.

2.9 Knowing Nature Within
[11] We must find the way back to her. A simple reflection will show us the way. While it is true we have torn ourselves away from Nature, we must still have carried away something of Nature in our own selves. We must seek within ourselves for this essence of nature, and then we will find the connection once again. Dualism fails to do this. The Dualist regards the human mind to be a spiritual being entirely foreign to Nature and then tries to hitch this being on to Nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link. We can find Nature outside us only if we first know her within us. What corresponds to Nature within us will be our guide. The path ahead is now clear. We do not wish to engage in any speculation about how Nature and Mind interact. Instead, we will probe into the depths of our own being in order to find there the elements that we saved in our flight from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than 'I'
[12] Research into our own being must give us the solution to the riddle. We must reach a point where we can say: Here I am no longer just 'I'; here I encounter something that is more than 'I'.

2.11 Description Of Consciousness
[13] I am aware that some who have read this far will not find my discussion “on the level of contemporary science”. I can only reply that so far I have not been concerned with the results of scientific research of any kind, but simply to describe what everyone experiences in his/her own consciousness. The inclusion of a few statements about attempts to reconcile consciousness with the world have been used only for the purpose of clarifying the actual facts. For this reason, I have not found it necessary to use single expressions such as 'I', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. in the precise way that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Without Interpretation
Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions made in science, and up to this point my purpose has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life. To object that the above discussions have been unscientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. I am not concerned with the way science has so far interpreted consciousness, but with how it is experienced from moment to moment.

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  • I like these Part I chapter titles. They fit together. III and V are used by Rickett.
    The development of freedom is the development of our ability to know. So these titles reflect that.


  • Some people claim to see a thought organization structure within The Philosophy Of Freedom. A popular one counts sentences and then provides a structure that corresponds to the sentences. I claim that their are 12 views in each chapter and name them. If a system is legitimate it must explain how it holds true before and after Steiner's 1918 revisions. Text was removed and added in 1918. Chapter 2 has two paragraph size 1918 additions to the text. If you are counting sentences how does this hold up when the count changes? Or from the first edition to the second did Steiner change his system? Highly unlikely. In my world-views structure you can easily show clearly how the thought-structure remains the same, with the additions only expanding or rewording a view. I would love to hear how the other claimed systems can hold up under revisions. 

  • Hello Tom,

        I find this translation very clear...quite well done.  I believe you want to say "am" instead of "are."  Best to you,


    2.10 Something More Than 'I'
    [12] Research into our own being must give us the solution to the riddle. We must reach a point where we can say: Here I are no longer just 'I'; here I encounter something that is more than 'I'.

    • Thanks Gerald,
      Its little things like this that you discover after you publish a book and then wonder why you didn't notice it, thanks.

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© Tom Last 2017