Cunningham Summary - Chapter 8

Chapter Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Eric Cunningham

Chapter 8 The Factors Of Life

Part II of The Philosophy of Freedom is called "The Reality of Spiritual Activity," and in this section, Steiner proceeds (from the basis of the elaborate critiques of subject-object thinking he laid out in Part I) to discusses the phenomenology of spiritual activity.

Chapter eight begins by reviewing this basis.

1) Human beings perceive a richly varied object world

2) Human beings perceive among these objects, their own selves

3) Something (which we call thinking) allows us to connect all of these perceptions to our selves.

Thinking is not merely subjective--thinking itself is objective enough of a thing to be the agent by which we actually know ourselves--and it seems there exists the possibility that through our thinking we might lead a purely ideal (as in idea-based) life. What keeps this from happening is "feeling" which is a re-subjectifying of the perception transaction. "Feeling, from the subjective side," Steiner writes, "is at first exactly the same as what perception is from the objective side (127)."

According to Steiner, feeling actually arises before knowing. To the perceiver, feeling is more immediate than knowing this leads the naive realist to believe that feeling is more important than knowing. This kind of feeling-based definition of reality leads the perceiver to try to universalize the world on the basis of individual experience--to turn the personal into the universal. Steiner asserts that mysticism is one species of this feeling-based definition of reality.

So when we begin to get our heads around Steiner's anthroposophy, the first thing we need to realize perhaps, is that it really isn't a form of mysticism.

Feeling and willing, according to Steiner, are two modes by which the ego/subject takes part in experiencing the outer world.

Feeling occurs when the subject experiences the object directly in relation to itself--willing occurs when the subject experiences itself directly in relation to the object. The focus is still the subject, but in the former case (feeling), the emphasis is on the impression the object makes upon the soul of the subject, in the latter case (willing), the emphasis is on the response the subject makes toward the object.

For philosophers of the will, or "thelists," (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, etc.), the dominant importance on the subject's active response to the world constitutes the core of reality. Just as feeling becomes, for the mystic, the basis of all knowledge, so does willing, for the will-philosopher, become the basis of the entire world.

Steiner argues that neither mysticism nor philosophy of the will are valid as autonomous philosophical positions. The reason for this is that they share with naive realism the property of a sense-based definition of the world that seeks a transcendent supersensible ideal.

Once, again, thinking is held up as the primary means of properly apprehending the world. Although thinking can seem like a dry, abstract husk for which either the richness of mysticism or the power of will-philosophy might seem like a desirable alternative, Steiner maintains that authentic, life-imbued thinking is not only superior to feeling and willing, but ultimately includes feeling and willing too. Thinking, according to Steiner, "delves down warmly" into the things of the world. "This delving down occurs through a power that flows within the thinking activity itself, which is the power of love in spiritual form (131)."

"Whoever thinking in its essential being, will find in it both feeling and will, and these also in the depths of realit; whoever turns away from thinking and toward 'mere' feeling and willing only, will lose their true reality (132)."

8/14 Next

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