Introduction - Rita Stebbing

Introduction to The Philosophy Of Freedom

Rita Stebbing
Philosophers have, through the ages, based their arguments on various premises such as subject and object, idea and reality, the conscious and the unconscious, etc. Rudolf Steiner's book on what freedom is starts from what must of necessity precede all other principles, that is, thinking itself. It could be said that from the first to the last sentence this book consists of an observation of thinking. True, the reader is requested to look at an imaginary game of billiards, a walk through a meadow, thunder and lightning, and many other everyday phenomena. However, what he is in fact observing is not these phenomena but his thinking about them.

Observing how thinking functions, observing what thinking actually is and what takes place when we think, is an activity we do not normally practice. Steiner calls it: 'the unusual activity' and 'the most important observation a human being can make for he observes something which he produces himself.' With this activity a fascinating and startling journey begins.

For centuries the power of thinking, capable of building and destroying civilizations, has been used to unravel the deepest secrets of the physical world, often with awe-inspiring, often with frightening results. Before Steiner no attempts had been made to unravel the secret of the power without which those results could not have been attained.

In this book the investigation of thinking or, better said, the journey into thinking, leads to knowledge of Man; a knowledge which inevitably also becomes self-knowledge, because gradually there unfolds before the reader a majestic picture of what man, according to his very nature, is destined to become: a picture compared with which the most perfect of human beings fall painfully short.

Undoubtedly however, the most important aspect of the book is the fact that the knowledge one attains is not accepted simply because Steiner shows it to be logical, but because one's own thinking confirms its truth, much as it confirms a mathematical truth as self-evident. To understand what thinking is and how man is related through thinking to his fellow man and to the world, brings new insight to all issues great or small.

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