Cunningham Summary - Chapter 1

Chapter Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Eric Cunningham

Chapter 1 Conscious Human Action
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom is one of the canonical books of Anthroposophy. In this 1916 classic, Steiner provides the philosophical foundation of his "spiritual science" by explaining the nature of freedom as a function of spiritual activity. As he states in the introduction, "a full justification is won for the idea of the freedom of the will, if only the soul region is first found in which free willing can unfold itself (viii)." So, while this book contains none of the raw data of his famous clairvoyant research, it does provide a philosophical foundation for apprehending the reality of spiritual worlds. "What is striven for in this book," he writes, is to justify a knowledge of the spiritual realm before entry into spiritual experience (ix)."

The first chapter, "Conscious Human Action," opens the philosophical debate on free will with the following question: "Is man, in his thinking and doing, a spiritually free being, or does he stand under the compulsion of an iron necessity of purely natural lawfulness?( 3)" He then makes a short survey of how a number of modern thinkers, including Spencer, David Friedrich Strauss, Spinoza, Hamerling, Ree, and von Hartman, have approached this problem, all of them in an imperfect way because they incorrectly link the notions of freedom and determination to unconscious desires, and many argue that human beings are always somehow slaved to their unconscious motivations, which negates the idea of freedom. No action can be free, they argue, because all actions stem from a deterministic biology or a characterological disposition which includes emotion and unconscious desire.

Steiner refutes this position, saying that motivations and desires can be understood through the process of thinking. Thinking, Steiner argues, is fundamentally an activity of spirit, and as such, is the very activity that makes the human being free. Once we acquire, through thinking, the reasons we want what we want, and the reasons we do what we do, we live in spirit and can attain the possibility for real freedom.

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The Knowledge of Freedom

Chapter 1   Conscious Human Action
Chapter 2   The Fundamental Desire for Knowledge
Chapter 3   Thinking in the Service of Apprehending the World
Chapter 4   The World as Perception
Chapter 5   The Activity of Knowing the World
Chapter 6   The Human Individuality
Chapter 7   Are There Limits to Cognition?


The Reality of Freedom
Chapter 8   The Factors of Life
Chapter 9   The Idea of Freedom
Chapter 10  Philosophy of Freedom and Monism
Chapter 11  World Purpose and Life Purpose (Mankind's Destination)
Chapter 12   Moral Imagination (Darwinism and Morality)
Chapter 13  The Value of Life (Pessimism and Optimism)
Chapter 14  Individuality and Genus