Chapter Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Chapter 13 The Value of Life (Pessimism and Optimism)
In Chapter 13, Optimism and Pessimism are reviewed. A balance sheet is devised in order to estimate whether life contains more sorrow than pleasure. One may ask why Steiner deals at such length with a calculation which he shows is abstract and is never made in actual life. In reality man does not make his life dependent on whether he suffers more than he enjoys, but on whether his desire for existing enjoyments is strong enough to overcome all obstacles which stand in their way.
Man's desires, though to begin with perhaps very much bound up with bodily cravings or selfish demands, are transformed as he progresses. The creative Spirit, which created the world, shines into him and lives in his thinking. This is depicted as the All-One Being that pervades everything, a drop of which, so to speak, constitutes the human individuality, the 'I'. The very nature of the human 'I' is to create man's higher being by transforming his lower nature. In connection with this Steiner speaks about the fallacy of misunderstood asceticism which seeks to exterminate all bodily desires: if this is done there is nothing to transform. Self-development should not prevent a person enjoying the gifts earth brings, but should raise him above being enslaved by them.
The reason for Steiner's dealing in this chapter in such detail with the calculation of surplus of pleasure or pain could be that it shows how an abstract calculation—based on a mistaken view of human nature and lack of insight into the true relationship between man and world—may lead a man
to suicide. Speaking generally, one would have to say that in view of the picture of man Steiner has developed in this book, suicide could never solve any problems. The suicide kills his body (the tool for his spirit) but he does not “kill” the trouble that led him to this act.
In view of the suffering endured by countless people, for example, in the course of the recent wars, and of the dangers threatening mankind on all sides today, it is obvious that here we are dealing with a major problem. Steiner does not speak for or against suicide, but simply shows that in the light of a true knowledge of man, which takes into account not only of his bodily nature but also of his true individuality, suicide is no solution. It can only worsen the situation, since the suicide deprives himself of the very means by which something could be done to alter things.
In dealing with actual life neither one-sided optimism nor one-sided pessimism is justified, but only a true valuation of all of life's aspects.
The Reality of Freedom