Introduction - Hugo S. Bergman

Introduction to The Philosophy Of Freedom

Hugo S. Bergman
Steiner had good reasons for giving his book — in the original German at least — the title, Die Philosophie der Freiheit, that is, literally, The Philosophy of Freedom, and he poses the question: When is an action free? And he answers this question by stating that it is free when it has its origin in pure thinking.

In the realm of ethics we have to differentiate between motives which originate in the perception and those having their origin in pure thinking. In the first instance we cannot call the deed a free one, since this kind of action is prompted by our surroundings, by our feelings and our will, as well as by our personal nature. None of these is truly free. Only the action motivated by our thinking is truly free. For this kind of action is objective; it is not in the least connected with our “I”; the world of thinking is common to all of us.

We cannot combine contents of thoughts arbitrarily, but we have to follow their laws. The thinking does not produce the thoughts; it merely receives them, as does the eye the light, and the ear the sound. The only difference is that the senses work automatically while we remain passive, while, insofar as thinking is concerned, we have to activate it ourselves. Perceptions are given to us; concepts we ourselves have to work out.

Spinoza, the great Dutch philosopher of the 17th century, objected to the doctrine that man's actions are free by saying that if a stone thrown by someone were endowed with consciousness, it would also make the statement that it flies “freely.” To this Steiner replied that it is not the consciousness as such that builds up in people's minds the belief that they are free; rather it is the fact that man is capable of comprehending the rationality of his motives — provided they are rational. Only that action can be called free which has been determined by the rationality of its ideas.

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