Chapter Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Chapter 6 The Human Individuality
How do we come to grips with the fact that we create mental pictures of the outside world while being separated from it?
First, we realize that we are part of the object world that we perceive; our coming to know the world does not happen through the world making an imprint on our spirit, it rather happens through thinking, because thinking, through concepts, bridges the gap between us and the outer world.
Steiner writes "If I were not a world knower, but rather a world creator, then object and subject (perception and "I"), would originate in one act. For they determine each other mutually (94)." This kind of expression of mutual determination between opposites resonates a great deal with Nishida Kitaro's descriptions of the self-determination of mutually contradictory entities. I have never heard of Nishida referring to the unifying creative activity between opposites as "thinking," but in many of his later writings, he does propose that history might be the self-determination of absolute nothingness in a process that unites the historical world (object) with the creative human historical body (subject). I suppose we could speculate on whether the history is itself an extended network of thinking, in which case our thinking could be seen as the governing agent of the historical process.
From thinking to feeling
In pages 94-96, Steiner introduces another discussion of the phenomenology of perception, this time from the standpoint of individuality. He opens by refuting, as he has done several times up to this point, the idea of the pure subjectivity of perception. It is incorrect to conclude, he argues that an impression from the outside world "calls forth" the functions of the organs of cognition; in other words, it is incorrect to say that without the body and its organs there would be no perception.
In fact, it works like this:
-an object of perception arises and thinking immediately becomes active
-from within the subject, intuition in the form of a concept joins itself to the perception
-(the object disappears from sight)
-later, a mental picture of the object can be recalled--this mental picture is an "individualized concept."
-if a second object of perception arises similar to the first, we add to our concepts of the object, and the sum total of these mental pictures is called "experience."
Our capacity for intuition is directly related to our ability to acquire experience, and reality is always a rich ground for gaining experience because always consists of an interaction between perception and concept.
The passage from thinking (taking part in the activity of the cosmos) to feeling (re-subjectifying experience) comes about when we relate our perceptions to our selves in terms of "pleasure" and "pain." The degree to which we experience pleasure and pain (in addition to merely being aware our own mental activity) is the degree to which we live as human beings.
Feeling as beyond mere knowing
"Reality presents itself to us as perception and concept;" writes Steiner, "our subjective representation of this reality presents itself to us as a mental picture (97)."
How do we get beyond the role of mere "knower" or "thinker about" the perceptions that rise up in our consciousness? When we come to appreciate the difference between the properties of "thinking" and "feeling," we can arrive at better understanding of how these two soul-functions work in the formation of our being. Thinking, as we have noted, puts us into contact with the cosmos itself--it is the means by which we take part in something objectively much larger, larger beyond comprehension, than ourselves. Feeling, though, is the means by which we re-enter, and then come to know ourselves as things distinct from the cosmos.
We feel when we associate pleasure and pain with our perceptions, giving them an individual stamp that differentiates them from the shared realm of thinking. Steiner describes our alternations between thinking and feeling as the movement of a pendulum, and suggests that feeling is most useful when it most closely allied to concept formation. It is essential to keep in mind that thinking is still of a "higher" order than feeling, inasmuch as it represents greater connection to the world. It is almost as if we should hold feeling "at bay" as much as possible, so that our thinking can take us into higher ideal plateaus of cosmic reality.
"A true individuality," he writes, "will be the one who reaches up the farthest with his feelings into the region of the ideal (99)."
While we will always think thoughts in a fashion unique to ourselves, i.e., a fashion in which our own feelings are joined to the concepts of perceptions of outer things, it is still necessary that our life of feeling be guided by our thinking. In this way, our feeling will become enriched, and universalized rather than completely self-reflective.