Chapter Summary Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
The Reality of Freedom
"If, however, we take an unprejudiced view of the matter, we shall see that the unreal character of the external sense-world is due to the fact that when man first comes into direct contact with things, he suppresses something that in truth belongs to them. If he develops a creative inner life, and allows the forces slumbering in the mind's depths to rise to the surface, he adds something to his sense-perceptions which in the act of knowing turns the half-reality into a full reality.
"It is the nature of the mind, when it first confronts objects, to eliminate something which really belongs to them. Hence they appear to perception not as they really are, but in the form which perception gives to them. This, however, is because the mind has removed something which belongs to their real being. And in so far as man does not remain at his first view of things, he adds some thing to them through knowledge—something that reveals their full reality for the first time. It is not that by knowing the mind adds any foreign element to things, but that prior to the stage of knowing it has deprived them of something that really belongs to them. It will be the task of philosophy to gain the insight that the world revealed to man before he brings thinking to bear on it, is "illusion," whereas the path of knowledge leads to full reality.
"The knowledge that is the product of creative thought seems to be merely subjective because, before the stage of knowing, we are obliged to close our eyes to the real nature of things. We cannot see their real nature when we first confront them. Through knowledge we discover what was at first hidden from us. If we regard what we first perceive as reality, then the results of knowledge will appear as something added to reality. If we recognise that what we have only apparently produced ourselves is to be sought in the object, and that at first we merely avoided seeing it, then we shall find that knowing is a real process through which the soul unites itself increasingly with the world and extends its inwardly isolated experience to embrace world-experience.
"In a small work called 'Truth and Science', which appeared in 1892, the present author made a tentative effort to give a philosophic basis to what has just been said. He spoke there of the views that philosophy must arrive at if it is to overcome the obstacles which have naturally resulted from its latest development. A philosophic point-of-view was suggested in the following words: 'It is not the first form in which reality approaches the ego that is the true one, but the final form which the ego gives to it. That first form has no significance whatever for the objective world; its only value is to serve as a basis for the thinking process. So it is not the form of the world which theorising gives it, that is subjective; what is subjective is the form in which it is first presented to the ego.'
"The author enlarged on this point-of-view in his later work, The Philosophy of Freedom. There he was at pains to give it a philosophic basis, as follows: 'It is not the fault of the objects, but of our mental organization, that they at first appear to us without their corresponding concepts. We are so made that reality approaches us from two sides, that of perception and that of thinking.... it has nothing to do with the nature of things how I am organized to apprehend them. The cleavage between perceiving and thinking is present only at the moment when I, as observer, am face to face with the object. And later: The percept is that part of reality that is given 'objectively ' from outside; the concept that part which is given 'subjectively,' through intuition from within. Our spiritual organization separates reality into these two factors. The one factor appears to perception, the other to intuition. Only the union of the two, which consists of the percept fitted into its place in the universe, makes up reality in its fullness. If we consider the bare percept, we have no reality but only chaos. If we consider the bare laws that govern the percepts, we have nothing but abstract concepts. Reality is not to be found in the abstract concept, but in thoughtful observation which considers neither the concept nor the percept alone, but the union of the two.'
"If we come to adopt this point of view, we shall be able to think of mental life and of reality as united in the self-conscious ego. This is the view towards which philosophy has been tending since the Greek age; but it is in Goethe's outlook that the first clearly perceptible traces of it are to be found. A recognition arises that the self-conscious ego does not live in isolation, apart from the objective world, and that its sense of detachment is an illusion.
"All knowledge which is acquired through the ordinary consciousness tends to strengthen a man's self-conscious ego. His perception of the outer world through the senses; his sense of being separate from this world, his view of the world as "illusion" —an attitude characteristic of a certain stage of scientific inquiry— all these give him the feeling of self-consciousness. Were it not so, the self-conscious ego would never emerge. If, therefore, in the act of knowing one seeks merely to copy what is observed before knowing begins, one will never arrive at a genuine experience of reality; all one can have is a copy of a half-reality.
"If we admit the truth of this, we cannot look for an answer to the riddles of philosophy in the experiences of the soul on the level of ordinary consciousness."