Study Course Steps 2.1 - 2.12

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Chapter 2 The Fundamental Desire For Knowledge
Striving For Knowledge



2.0 Desire For Knowledge
Advance from World-Content TO Thought-Content  

 "Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we find again the unity from which we have separated ourselves. We will see later this goal can only be reached when the task of scientific research is understood on a deeper level than is usually the case." TPOF 2.0

 

Wall Of Separation
As children we felt ourselves to be one with Nature. But as soon as we begin to have thoughts, we question the world and desire answers. The mental process then splits our world into two parts: the outer perceived-world and our inner thought-world. In the building up of our thought-content we erect a wall of separation between ourselves and the world. The universe appears to us as two opposing sides, Self and World. Our childhood unity is lost and we confront the world as separate individuals.

Feeling Harmony And Unity
But we never lose the feeling that we belong to the world, that the universe is a unity embracing both Self and World. This feeling for harmony makes us strive to bridge the separation and guides our return by expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our attempts to reconcile the two sides. While I am seeing Nature outside of me, I feel something more of Nature within me. This feeling is a guide to the inner truth that is pressing toward manifestation.

Bond Of Connection
While it is “thought” that separates us from the world, it will be “thought” that reconnects us with it. Our life is a continuing search for the unity between ourselves and the world. Religion, art and science all pursue this same goal. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we restore our lost childhood bond of connection —on a higher level. Inner truth resolves the separation between Self and World because the inner concept that corresponds to the outer world belongs not only to the Self, but also to the World. In their own way each one's inner truth can satisfy the desire for knowledge.

     
STEP 2.1 Materialism
Advance from Material World TO Materialistic Conception
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Material World
World-Content: The attention of the Materialist is on the physical world. He forms thoughts about the phenomena of the world in terms of Matter and physical processes. This gives him two different kinds of facts: the material (physical) world and the thoughts about it.

  

Materialistic Conception
Thought-Content: The Materialist attributes the power of thinking to Matter, rather than to himself. He tries to understand thought by regarding it as a purely physical process. He credits mechanical, chemical, and organic processes with the ability to think.

Shift Problem Away From Self
Knowledge: One-sided Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. The Materialist shifts the problem away from himself. He sees no need to reflect on his own nature, so the same problem—feeling separate from the world—keeps coming back.

     
STEP 2.2 Spiritualism
Advance from Spiritual World TO Spiritualistic Theory
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Spiritual World
World-Content: The Spiritualist’s attention is on the Spiritual World. The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) any independent existence and conceives it as merely a product of Mind (the Self). He considers the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself.

 

Spiritualistic Theory
Thought-Content: The Spiritualist has no interest in the Material World and its laws. Matter, they say, is only the manifestation of the underlying spiritual. The physical world is never found in all the spiritual theory he achieves by his own spiritual effort.

World Is A Closed Book
Knowledge: As long as the one-sided Spiritualist remains in spiritual theory, his mind does not produce knowledge of the world or knowledge of how to achieve in the world. The world is a closed book to the Spiritualist, unless he establishes a non-spiritual relation to it.

     
STEP 2.3 Realism
Advance from External World TO Experience Becomes Content Of Mind
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External World
World-Content: The attention of the Realist is on the external world that surrounds him. To know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and acquire experience.

 

Experience Becomes Content Of Mind
Thought-Content: Experience gained in the external world provides the mind with practical knowledge needed to successfully carry out action. With this experience we are able to realize our intentions with the help of physical things and forces.

Ideals Lacking
Knowledge: We are dependent on the external world to get things done. But the one-sided Realist may lack the ideals needed to satisfy our need to accomplish meaningful things.

     
STEP 2.4 Idealism
Advance from World Of Ideas TO Idealistic Thought-Picture Without Experience
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World Of Ideas
World-Content: The attention of the Idealist is on the world of ideas and ideals. He attempts to connect with the world by constructing a system of ideas out of himself, without regard to practical experience.

 

Idealistic Thought-Picture Without Experience
Thought-Content: A one-sided Idealist attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “Ego.” What he accomplishes is a magnificent thought-structure of the world without any content of actual experience. 

Cannot Do Away With External World
Knowledge: The one-sided Idealist cannot do away with the external world just as the Materialist cannot do away with the Mind.

     
STEP 2.5 Paradox Of Materialistic Idealism
Advance from accepting the Material World And World Of Ideas TO Paradox Of Materialistic Idealism
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Material World And World Of Ideas
World-Content: This next view, Materialistic-Idealism, accepts both Materialism and Idealism. It’s attention is on the Material World and the World of Ideals. By accepting the view of Materialism it denies the Mind by declaring all phenomena in the world—including our thought—to be the product of physical-processes. 

 

Paradox Of Materialistic Idealism
Thought-Content: Conversely, he also accepts the view that Matter and its processes are the product of thinking. Thus, everything we perceive—including the brain and its physical processes—is actually the product of thought.

The Paradox Of Materialistic-Idealism
Knowledge: This would mean our thinking is produced by material processes, and material processes are produced by our thinking. When translated into concepts, Lange’s philosophy is a conceptual paradox. This makes it an equivalent to the tale of the bold Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

     
STEP 2.6 Two-Fold Manifestation
Advance from Indivisible Unity TO Two-Fold Manifestation
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Indivisible Unity Of Matter And Mind
World-Content: The third form of Monism is the one that finds, even at the simple level of the atom, Matter and Mind are already united. Things in the world are indivisibly united with the laws (thought) that govern it. Brain scans demonstrate that our brain-processes are indivisibly united with our thought-processes. Quantum physics shows that Mind is connected with Matter all the way down to the simplest level of subatomic particles.

 

Two-Fold Manifestation
Thought-Content: Even though Mind and Matter are found to be united in the world, the important question is, How does this unity come to manifest itself to us in a two-fold way? We become conscious of the world by looking outside. We become conscious of our thought by looking within. The world and our thoughts about it do not at first appear to us as an indivisible unity, but are divided into two separate parts.

Problem Originates In Consciousness, Not The World
Knowledge: Nothing is gained by seeing the world as an indivisible unity. This shifts the question away from the problem, which is our dissatisfaction with the split that originates in our consciousness between the world and our thoughts.

     
STEP 2.7 Macrocosm-Microcosm
Advance from Polarity Of Consciousness TO Macrocosm-Microcosm
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Polarity Of Consciousness
World-Content: It is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the basic and primal polarity. As soon as we begin having thoughts about the world, we break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as “Self” in opposition to the “World.” We observe the world and form our own opinion about it that initially separates us from the truth and others. “Living in the midst of her (nature), yet are we strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays not her secrets.”

 

Macrocosm-Microcosm
Thought-Content: "But Goethe also knows the other side: “Human beings are all within her, and she in each of them.”

Macrocosm-Microcosm
Knowledge: Man is a whole world of its own, called microcosm for it displays a miniature pattern of all the parts of the universe.

     
STEP 2.8 Feeling Within Nature
Advance from Feeling Estranged From Nature TO Feeling Within Nature
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Feel Estranged From Nature
World-Content: We live within the world of Nature yet feel estranged from her.

  Feeling Within Nature
Thought-Content: We also feel we are within Nature. This feeling of belonging to Nature means a connection still exists. The outer working of Nature also lives in us.

Feel Nature Within
Knowledge: While I am seeing Nature outside of me, at the same time I feel something more of Nature within me. This feeling of nature within is the key to finding a connection with Nature once again.

     
STEP 2.9 Know Nature Within
Advance from Know Nature Outside TO Know Nature Within
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Know Nature Outside
World-Content: Dualism fails to find a connection with nature. It considers the human mind a spiritual entity entirely foreign to Nature and attempts somehow to attach it on to Nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link.

  Know Nature Within
Thought-Content: We can find nature outside us only if we first know her within us. While it is true we have torn ourselves away from Nature, we must have retained something of her in our own being. We must seek out this essence of Nature in us, and then we will discover our connection with her once more.

Path Of Inquiry
Knowledge: What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide. This marks out our path of inquiry. We will not speculate about how Nature and Mind interact. Instead, we will probe into the depths of our own being, to find there the elements we retained in our flight from Nature.

     
STEP 2.10 Something More Than "I"
Advance from Merely “I” TO Something More Than “I"
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Merely ‘I’
World-Content: The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem. It is not enough to say of our inner life: Here I am merely ‘I’.

  More Than ‘I’
Thought-Content: We must find a place within, where something new is added to our being. We must reach a place where we can say: Here is something more than ‘I’.

Unity Restored
Desire For Knowledge: By looking within an element is discovered that belongs not only to the Self, but also to the World. A concept that arises from within our inner nature is our own, but at the same time, it belongs to Nature. By linking the world-content with its corresponding thought-content, our childhood unity that was once felt, is restored on a higher level by means of thinking.

     
STEP 2.11 Description Of Consciousness
Advance from Academic Definitions Of Psychology And Philosophy TO Descriptions Of Consciousness We All Experience
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Academic Definitions Of Psychology And Philosophy
World-Content: The terms included such as 'Self', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. are not being used according to their precisely defined academic definitions found in Psychology and Philosophy. Instead, they are being used to represent actual experience.

 

 

Description Of Consciousness We All Experience
Thought-Content: So far I have not been concerned with scientific results of any kind, but rather with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness.

Guide To Study
Knowledge: The Philosophy Of Freedom is the foundation of a new branch of science—the science of freedom. Its method is philosophic based on psychological observation.

     
STEP 2.12 Facts Of Everyday Life
Advance from Scholar Distinctions TO Facts Of Everyday Life
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Scholar Distinctions Of Consciousness
World-Content: Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions of scholarship. To object that the above discussions have not been scientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism.
  Facts Of Everyday Life
Thought-Content: So far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life. 

Experience Of Consciousness
Knowledge: I am not concerned with how scholarship has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it from moment to moment.

   

Next Chapter

Corresponding Concept
While I am seeing nature outside of me it can only be something more of nature, the corresponding concept within me, that is itself pressing toward manifestation. By penetrating to the depth of our own being the corresponding concept is discovered which reveals itself to us as
belonging not only to the self but also to the world.

In the next chapter, “Thinking As An Instrument Of Knowledge”, we will look within and investigate the conceptual essence of Nature given to us as thought.

     

BOOK TEXT

2. THE FUNDAMENTAL DESIRE FOR KNOWLEDGE

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
Sich an die Welt mit klammerden Organen;
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen.
FAUST, I, 1112—1117.

Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
One with tenacious organs holds in love
And clinging lust the world in its embraces;
The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
Into the high ancestral spaces.
Faust, Part I, Scene 2.
(Bayard Taylor's translation)

2.0 Urge To Know
[1] IN these words Goethe expresses a trait which is deeply ingrained in human nature. Man is not a self-contained unity. He demands ever more than the world, of itself, offers him. Nature has endowed us with needs, but left their satisfaction to our own activity. However abundant the gifts which we have received, still more abundant are our desires. We seem born to dissatisfaction. And our desire for knowledge is but a special instance of this unsatisfied striving. Suppose 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 to us now at rest, then in motion? Every glance at nature evokes in us a multitude of questions. Every phenomenon we meet presents a new problem to be solved. Every experience is to us a riddle. We observe that from the egg there emerges a creature like the mother animal, and we ask for the reason of the likeness. We observe a living being grow and develop to a determinate degree of perfection, and we seek the conditions of this experience. Nowhere are we satisfied with the facts which nature spreads out before our senses. Everywhere we seek what we call the explanation of these facts.

[2] The something more which we seek in things, over and above what is immediately given to us in them, splits our whole being into two parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We oppose ourselves to the world as independent beings. The universe has for us two opposite poles: Self and World.

[3] We erect this barrier between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness is first kindled in us. But we never cease to feel that, in spite of all, we belong to the world, that there is a connecting link between it and us, and that we are beings within, and not without, the universe.

[4] This feeling makes us strive to bridge over this opposition, and ultimately the whole spiritual striving of mankind is nothing but the bridging of this opposition. The history of our spiritual life is a continuous seeking after union between ourselves and the world. Religion, Art, and Science follow, one and all, this goal. The religious man seeks in the revelation, which God grants him, the solution of the world problem, which his Self, dissatisfied with the world of mere phenomena, sets him as a task. The artist seeks to embody in his material the ideas which are his Self, that he may thus reconcile the spirit which lives within him and the outer world. He too, feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearances, and seeks to mould into it that something more which his Self supplies and which transcends appearances. The thinker searches for the laws of phenomena. He strives to master by thought what he experiences by observation. Only when we have transformed the world-content into our thought-content do we recapture the connection which we had ourselves broken off. We shall see later that this goal can be reached only if we penetrate much more deeply than is often done into the nature of the scientist's problem. The whole situation, as I have here stated it, meets us, on the stage of history, in the conflict between the one-world theory, or Monism, and the two-world theory or Dualism. Dualism pays attention only to the separation between the Self and the World, which the consciousness of man has brought about. All its efforts consist in a vain struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it calls now Mind and Matter, now Subject and Object, now 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 to slur over the opposites, present though they are. Neither of these two points of view can satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees in Mind (Self) and Matter (World) two essentially different entities, and cannot therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions? The most absurd hypotheses have been propounded to answer these questions. However, up to the present the Monists are not in a much better position. They have tried three different ways of meeting the difficulty. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists; or they assert that, even in the simplest entities in the world, Mind and Matter are indissolubly bound together, so that there is no need to marvel at the appearance in man of these two modes of existence, seeing that they are never found apart.

2.1 Materialism
[5] Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism, thus, begins with the thought of Matter or material processes. But, in doing so, it is ipso facto confronted by two different sets of facts, viz., the material world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he ascribes mechanical, chemical, and organic processes to Nature, so he credits her in certain circumstances with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is merely shifting the problem from one place to another. Instead of to himself he ascribes the power of thought to Matter. And thus he is back again at his starting-point. How does Matter come to think of its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content to accept its own existence? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own self, and occupies himself with an indefinite shadowy somewhat. And here the old problem meets him again. The materialistic theory cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism
[6] What of the Spiritualistic theory? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) and regards it merely as a product of Mind (the Self). He supposes the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to deduce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do so 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 acting, we have to translate our purposes into realities with the help of material things and forces. We are, therefore, dependent on the outer world.

2.4 Idealism
The most extreme Spiritualist or, if you prefer it, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to deduce the whole edifice of the world from the "Ego." What he has actually accomplished is a magnificent thought-picture of the world, without any empirical content. As little as it is possible for the Materialist to argue the Mind away, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do without the outer world of Matter.

2.5 Materialistic Idealism
[7] A curious variant of Idealism is to be found in the theory which F. A. Lange has put forward in his widely read History of Materialism. He holds that the Materialists are quite right in declaring all phenomena, including our thought, to be the product of purely material processes, but, in turn, Matter and its processes are for him themselves the product of our thinking.

"The senses give us only the effects of things, not true copies, much less the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular vibrations which we assume to go on there."

That is, our thinking is produced by the material processes, and these by our thinking. Lange's philosophy is thus nothing more than the philosophical analogon of the story of honest Baron Munchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[8] The third form of Monism is that which finds even in the simplest real (the atom) the union of both Matter and Mind. But nothing is gained by this either, except that the question, the origin of which is really in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How comes it that the simple real manifests itself in a twofold manner, if it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Polarity Of Consciousness
[9] Against all these theories we must urge the fact that we meet with the basal and fundamental opposition first in our own consciousness. It is we ourselves who break away from the bosom of Nature and contrast ourselves as Self with the World. Goethe has given classic expression to this in his essay Nature. "Living in the midst of her (Nature) we are strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays none of her secrets." But Goethe knows the reverse side too: "Mankind is all in her, and she in all mankind."

2.8 Feeling Impulse
[10] However true it may be that we have estranged ourselves from Nature, it is none the less true that we feel we are in her and belong to her. It can be only her own life which pulses also in us.

2.9 Knowing Nature Within
[11] We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection may point this way out to us. We have, it is true, torn ourselves away from Nature, but we must none the less have carried away something of her in our own selves. This quality of Nature in us we must seek out, and then we shall discover our connection with her once more. Dualism neglects to do this. It considers the human mind as a spiritual entity utterly alien to Nature and attempts somehow to hitch it on to Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the coupling link. We can find Nature outside of us only if we have first learnt to know her within us. The Natural within us must be our guide to her. This marks out our path of inquiry. We shall attempt no speculations concerning the interaction of Mind and Matter. We shall rather probe into the depths of our own being, to find there those elements which we saved in our flight from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than "I"
[12] The examination of our own being must bring the solution of the problem. We must reach a point where we can say, "This is no longer merely ' I,' this is something which is more than ' I.' "

2.11 Description Of Consciousness
[13] I am well aware that many who have read thus far will not consider my discussion in keeping with "the present state of science." To such criticism I can reply only that I have so far not been concerned with any scientific results, but simply with the description of what every one of us experiences in his own consciousness. That a few phrases have slipped in about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World has been due solely to the desire to elucidate the actual facts. I have therefore made no attempt to give to the expressions "Self," "Mind," "World," "Nature," the precise meaning which they usually bear in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Without Interpretation
The ordinary consciousness ignores the sharp distinctions of the sciences, and so far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of everyday experience. 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 concerned, not with the way in which science, so far, has interpreted consciousness, but with the way in which we experience it in every moment of our lives.

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