Introduction to The Philosophy Of Freedom
The Philosophy of Freedom is Rudolf Steiner's fundamental work. It focuses on the problem of free will. Steiner initially divides this into the two aspects of freedom of thought and freedom of action. Inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our sensory impressions, which reflect the outer appearance of the world, and our thoughts, which give us access to the inner nature of the world. Outer freedom is attained by permeating our deeds with moral imagination. Steiner shows that these two aspects of inner and outer freedom are integral to one another, and that true freedom is only achieved when they are united.
From two sides of our existence, our experience works to make us unfree. We can easily recognize that our natural being, that part of us we share with the animal world - our drives and desires, our prejudices and habits - tends to determine our deeds and soul life from one side. Just as constraining, however, are the dictates of conscience and abstract ethical or moral principles. Freedom is only possible because these various constraining factors work in contradictory directions. Between the impulses of our two natures, neither of which is individualized, we find the freedom to choose how to think and act. By overcoming the dictates of both our 'lower' and 'higher' sources of experience, we become true and free individuals.
At least since Kant's time, philosophy has recognized that dualism is innate to human consciousness. This dualism arises because we perceive the outer nature of the world and its inner nature in radically separated ways. Our sensory perceptions inform us about the outer appearance of the world, while our thought life penetrates its inner nature. This division is particular to and defines human experience. Steiner suggests that we actually have the capacity to overcome the dualism of experience by reuniting perception and thought.
By both perceiving and thinking through a subject, and then bringing our perceptions and conceptions of this subject into harmony, we establish a unified relationship to the world. This relationship is also a free one, as out of it we can act without being determined by one or the other side of our dualistic experience.
Once we have brought the two sides of our experience into harmony, we need to forge a new synthesis of these at every moment in a situationally-appropriate, free deed. Steiner coins the term moral imagination for this act of creative synthesis. We only succeed in achieving freedom when we find a moral imagination, an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation. This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed. This radical moral individualism is characteristic of freedom.
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