Chapter 4 Condensed Philosophy Of Freedom

Experiment with condensed edition organized as the world as percept, world experience, and intuitive experience.

Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom Condensed

The World As Perception
Chapter 4
(perception bias)
“When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation.
An ideal element is added to the object, and the observer regards
the object and Ideal complement as belonging together.”

4.0 Concepts Added To Observation
4.1 Conceptualize Relationships
4.2 Thinking Reference
4.3 Conceptual Relationships
4.4 World-Picture Corrections
4.5 Perception-Picture Dependent On My Organization
4.6 Know Only My Percepts
4.7 Speak Of Ideas
4.8 Know Only My Ideas
4.9 Psyche Forms Idea
4.10 External Object Creation Of Psyche
4.11 Confuse External With Internal Observations
4.12 Content Of Percept Before Perception

4.0 Concepts Added To Observation
1. World As Percept: Reactive Thinking
2. World Experience: Concepts Built Up From Experience
3. Intuitive Experience: Concepts Added To Observation

Reactive Thinking
[1] When someone sees a tree, his thinking reacts to his observation. An ideal element is added to the object, and the observer regards the object and Ideal complement as belonging together. When the object disappears from his field of observation, only the Ideal counterpart remains. This is the concept of the object.

Concepts Built Up From Experience
The wider the range of our experience, the larger the number of our concepts. Concepts combine to form an ordered and systematic whole. All concepts I form of particular lions merge in the universal concept "lion." In this way, all the single concepts unite to form an enclosed, conceptual system in which each has its special place. Ideas are not qualitatively different from concepts. They are filled with more content, are more complex and more comprehensive concepts.

Concepts Added To Observation
[2] Concepts cannot be drawn from observation. This is evident from the fact the growing human being only slowly and gradually builds up the concepts that correspond to the objects in his environment. Concepts are added to observation.

4.1 Conceptualize Relationships
1. World As Perception: Remain Within Observed Content
2. World Experience: Generalize Relationships
3. Intuitive Experience: Conceptualize Relationships

[3] Herbert Spencer describes the mental process that takes place in response to observation as follows:

Remain Within Observed Content
[4] “While wandering through fields in September you hear a rustle a few steps ahead, and see the grass moving by the side of the ditch. You will probably approach the spot to learn what caused the noise and the movement. As you approach, a partridge flutters in the ditch. Seeing this, your curiosity is satisfied; you have what we call an explanation of the phenomena.”

Generalize Relationships
Spencer’s explanation is this:
“Throughout life you have learned through countless experiences that a disturbance among small stationary bodies, is accompanied by the movement of other bodies among them. Because of having generalized the relationship between disturbances and movements, you consider this particular disturbance explained as soon as you find it to be an example of just such a relationship".

Conceptualize Relationships
A closer analysis leads to a very different description. When I hear a noise the first thing I do is search for the concept that fits this observation. Whoever does not reflect on the event simply hears the noise and is content to leave it at that. Only when I connect the concept of effect with the perception of the noise am I inclined to go beyond the single observation and look for its cause. The concept “effect” calls up the concept “cause.”

My next step is to look for the object that acts as the cause, which I find to be a partridge. But I can never gain the concepts “cause” and “effect” by mere observation, no matter how many cases I observe. Observation calls up thought, and thought shows me how to link separate experiences together.

[5] If one demands a “strictly objective science” that draws its content from observation alone, then one must also demand that it renounce all thinking. Because thought, by its very nature, goes beyond what is observed.

4.2 Thinking Reference
1. World As Perception: Human Consciousness
2. World Experience: Thinking Consciousness
3. Intuitive Experience: Thinking Reference

[6] We must now pass from thought to the being who thinks. For it is through the thinker that thought is combined with observation.

Human Consciousness
Human consciousness is the place where concept and observation meet, and are connected to each other. It mediates between thought and observation.

Thinking Consciousness
In observation the object appears as given, in thought the mind experiences itself as active. It regards the thing as the object and itself as the thinking subject. When thought is directed to the observed world we have consciousness of objects; when thought is directed to itself we have self-consciousness. Human consciousness must of necessity be also self-consciousness, because it is a thinking consciousness.

Thinking Reference
[7] Thinking should never be regarded as a merely subjective activity. When I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this referring as a purely subjective activity. It is not the subject, but thought, that makes the reference. Thought takes me out of myself and relates me to objects. But it also separates me from the objects by setting me over against them, to face them as subject.

4.3 Conceptual Relationships
1. World As Perception: Thought Pervades Field Of Observation
2. World Experience: Thought-Free Observation
3. Intuitive Experience: Conceptual Relationships

[9] Next, we must ask ourselves: How does the other element—which we have so far simply called the ‘observed object’—enter our consciousness where it comes into contact with thought?

Thought Pervades Field Of Observation
[10] To answer this question, we must remove from our field of observation all thought that has already been brought into it. For at any moment the content of our consciousness is always pervaded with concepts in a variety of ways.

Thought-Free Observation
[11] Let us imagine a being with fully developed human intelligence originates out of nothing and has the world in front of him. All this being would be aware of, before its thought became active, is the pure content of observation. The world would appear to this being as a chaotic aggregate of disconnected sense-data: colors, sounds, touch, warmth, taste and smell; followed by feelings of pleasure and pain. This aggregate is the content of pure, thought-free observation.

Conceptual Relationships
Facing it stands thought, ready to begin its activity as soon as it can find a point of engagement. Thought is able to draw connecting threads from one sense-datum to another. It unites specific concepts with these elements, and in this way establishes a relationship between them. We have already seen how a noise we encounter is brought into relationship with another observation by characterizing the first as an effect of the second.

4.4 World-Picture Corrections
1. World As Perception: The Term “Percept”
2. World Experience: World-Picture Contradictions
3. Intuitive Experience: World-Picture Corrections

[13] Our next task is to discover, by thoughtful reflection, how the immediately given sense-data—the pure, relationless aggregate of sensory objects—is related to our conscious subject.

The Term “Percept”
[14] I will use the word “percept” to refer to “the immediate objects of sensation” mentioned above, insofar as the conscious subject becomes aware of them through observation. It is the observed object, not the process of observing, that I call “percept.”

[15] When I become aware of a feeling it becomes a percept for me, and I can then gain knowledge of it. And the way we gain knowledge of our thought-processes, through observation, is to first notice thought. Then thought too, may be called a percept.

World-Picture Contradictions
[16] The unreflective, naive person regards his percepts, as they first appear, to have an existence completely independent of him. When he sees a tree, he believes right away that it is standing there on the spot where his look is directed having the shape, color and details just as he sees it. From this naive standpoint, if a person sees the sun appear in the morning as a disc on the horizon, and then follows the course of this disc, he believes the phenomenon exists and occurs just as he observes it. He clings to this belief until further perceptions contradict the earlier ones.

World-Picture Corrections
Every widening of the circle of my perceptions makes me correct my picture of the world. We see this in everyday life, as well as in the intellectual development of humanity. The picture which the ancients made of the relation of the earth to the sun and other celestial bodies, had to be changed by Copernicus, because the ancient picture did not agree with new, previously unknown perceptions.

4.5 Perception-Picture Dependent On My Organization
1. World As Perception: World-Picture Corrections
2. World Experience: Picture Dependent On Place Of Observation
3. Intuitive Experience: Perception-Picture Dependent On My Organization

[17] Why are we forced to make continual corrections to our observations?

Picture Dependent On Place Of Observation
[18] A simple reflection provides the answer to this question. If I stand at one end of a tree-lined avenue, the trees at the far end appear smaller and closer together than those where I am standing. My perception-picture changes when I change my place of observation. Therefore, the way things appear to me is determined by a factor that has to do, not with the object, but with myself as the observer.

Perception-Picture Dependent On My Organization
It becomes more difficult when we learn how our perceptual world is dependent on our bodily and mental organization. The physicist teaches us that in the space where we hear a sound, there are vibrations of the air. And in the body where the sound is emitted there are vibrations of its parts. But we only perceive these vibrations as sound if we have normally constructed ears. Without them the whole world would remain forever silent.

The physiologist teaches us there are people who perceive nothing of the wonderful display of colors surrounding us. Their perception-picture only has shades of light and dark. Others fail to perceive just one particular color, such as red. Their picture of the world lacks this color hue, and is different from the average person.

I would like to call the dependency of my perception-picture on my place of observation "mathematical," and its dependency on my organization "qualitative."

4.6 Know Only My Percepts
1. World As Perception: Perception-Picture Is Subjective
2. World Experience: Percept Exists During The Act Of Perceiving
3. Intuitive Experience: Know Only My Percepts

Perception-Picture Is Subjective
[19] My perception-pictures, then, are at first subjective. The recognition of the subjective character of our percepts can easily lead us to doubt whether anything objective underlies them at all. We know that a percept, for example the color red or a certain musical tone, is only possible thanks to a specific structure of our organism. From this we can easily be led to believe that the percept, apart from our subjective organization, ceases to be. If not for our act of perceiving it as an object, it has no existence at all.

Percept Only Exists During The Act Of Perceiving
This view found its classic expression in George Berkeley, who was convinced that when we realize how significant the human subject is for the percept, we can no longer believe in a world that exists apart from a conscious mind. He says:

“The whole choir of heaven and all things of the earth—in a word, all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world—have no subsistence outside the mind.”

From this point of view, nothing remains of the percept if we consider it apart from being perceived. There is no color when none is seen, no sound when none is heard. Outside the act of perception, categories such as extension, form, and motion exist just as little as color and sound.

Know Only My Percepts
[20] Even what we call an object is nothing but a collection of percepts connected in a certain way. If I strip a table of its figure, extension, color, etc.—in other words everything that is only my percept—then nothing is left. Carried to its logical conclusion, this view leads to the assertion: The objects of my perception are there through me, and only insofar and as long as I am perceiving them. They disappear with the perceiving and have no meaning without it. Other than my percepts, I know of no objects and cannot know of any.

[21] To the claim that we can know only our percepts, no objection is made as long as it is only meant as a general fact that the percept is partly determined by the organization of the perceiving subject.

4.7 Speak Of Ideas
1. World As Perception: Aware Of Myself As The Observer
2. World Experience: After-Effect Of Observation: An Idea-Image
3. Intuitive Experience: Speak Of Ideas

[22] This leads us to turn our attention from the perceived object to the perceiving subject. I do not only perceive other things; I also perceive myself.

Aware Of Myself As The Observer
When I am absorbed in the perception of a given object I am, for the moment, aware only of this object. The awareness of myself can be added to this. I am then not only conscious of the object, but also of my own personality, standing over against the object and observing it. I not only see a tree; I know it is I seeing it.

After-Effect Of Observation: An Idea-Image
I also know something goes on in me while I am observing the tree. When the tree disappears from my field of vision, an after-effect of this process remains: an image of the tree. This image has become associated with my Self during my observation. My Self has become enriched; a new element has been added to its content. I call this element my idea (Vorstellung) of the tree.

Speak Of Ideas
I would never be in a position to speak of ideas if I did not experience them by being aware of my Self. Percepts would come and go; I would simply let them pass by. It is only because I perceive my Self that I notice that with each perception the content of my Self, too, is changed. By noticing the connection between the observation of the object and the changes that occur in me, I then speak of having an idea.

4.8 Know Only My Ideas
1. World As Perception: Outer World And Inner World
2. World Experience: Perceive Only My Ideas
3. Intuitive Experience: Know Only My Ideas

Outer World And Inner World
[23] I perceive ideas in my Self in the same way I perceive colors, sounds, etc. in other objects. From this point of view, I can now make the further distinction of calling these other objects that confront me the outer world, while the content of my Self-observation I call my inner world.

Perceive Only My Ideas
The failure to recognize the relationship between idea and object has led to the greatest misunderstandings in modern philosophy. The perception of a change in me, the modification my Self undergoes, is thrust into the foreground, while the object causing this modification is completely lost sight of. As a consequence it is said: We do not perceive the objects, but only our ideas. I know nothing, so it is claimed, of the object of my observation; the table itself. I know only of the change that is going on within me while I am perceiving the table.

Know Only My Ideas
The Kantian view limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas. But it does not do so because of a conviction that nothing other than ideas exist. The reason we know only our ideas is not that no reality exists independent of these ideas. It is because the human subject cannot receive such a reality into itself directly.

Kantians believe their view expresses something absolutely certain, something without any need of proof:
“The first fundamental principle the philosopher must clearly grasp is the recognition that our knowledge does not initially go beyond our ideas. Our ideas are the only things we experience directly and learn to know directly. On the other hand, all knowledge that does go beyond my ideas—taking ideas here in the widest sense to include all psychical processes—is open to doubt.

4.9 Psyche Forms Idea
1. World As Perception: Know Only My Ideas
2. World Experience: Organization Transmits External Object
3. Intuitive Experience: Psyche Forms Idea

Know Only My Ideas
Naive common sense believes that things, just as we perceive them, also exist outside our minds. Physics, physiology and psychology, however, teach us that for perception to take place our organization is necessary. Consequently, we cannot know anything about external objects other than what our organization transmits to us. What we perceive as objects are modifications that occur in our organization, not the things themselves. This line of reasoning has been characterized by Eduard von Hartmann as leading inevitably to the conviction that we can have direct knowledge only of our ideas.

Organization Transmits External Object
Because outside our organism we find vibrations of physical bodies and of the air perceived by us as sound. This view reasons that what we call sound is nothing more than a subjective reaction of our organism to these motions in the external world. Our percepts of warmth and color are the effects of processes in the external world. These external processes are entirely different from what we experience as warmth and color.

The physicist thinks of bodies as consisting of infinitely small parts called molecules. These molecules are not in direct contact with each other, but have certain distances separating them. Between them is empty space. When I place my hand on an object, the molecules of my hand never touch the molecules of the object. There always remains a certain distance between object and hand. What I feel as the resistance of the object, is nothing other than the effect of the force of repulsion its molecules exert on my hand. I remain completely external to the object. All I perceive is its effect on my organism.

[25] Physiology further shows there can be no direct knowledge even of the effects objects have within our sense-organs. When the physiologist follows the processes that take place in the body, he finds the effects of external motion already transformed within the sense organs in a variety of ways. We see this most clearly in the eye and the ear. Both are very complicated organs that alter the external stimulus considerably, before conveying it to the corresponding nerve. From the peripheral nerve-ending, the already changed stimulus is transmitted further to the brain.

What finally takes place in the brain is connected to the external stimuli by so many intermediate processes, any similarity between the two is out of the question. What the brain finally transmits to the human psyche are processes inside the brain. Yet even these are not perceived directly by our inner being. What we finally have in consciousness are not brain-processes at all, but sensations. This is why Hartmann says, "What the subject perceives are always only modifications of his own psychical states and nothing else."

Psyche Forms Idea
When I have sensations they are still far from being grouped into what I perceive as "things." The psyche constructs things out of the various sensations transmitted to it by the brain. My brain conveys to me the single sensations of sight, touch and hearing by entirely different pathways. The psyche then combines the sensations to form the idea “trumpet.” This final stage of the process (the idea of the trumpet) is the very first thing to enter my consciousness.

In this result nothing can any longer be found of what exists outside me and made the original impression on my senses. The external object has been completely lost on the way to the brain and through the brain to the human psyche.

4.10 External Object Creation Of Psyche
1. World As Perception: Projection Of Psyche
2. World Experience: Conscious Of Object
3. Intuitive Experience: External Object Creation Of Psyche

[26] It would be hard to find in the history of human intellectual life an edifice of thought built up with greater ingenuity, and yet, on closer analysis, collapses into nothing.

Projection Of Psyche
The theory begins with what is given in naive consciousness, the thing as perceived. Then it shows that none of the qualities found in it would exist for us if we had no sense organs. No eye—no color. The color first arises through the interaction of the eye with the object. The object, then, is colorless. But the color is not present in the eye either. In the eye there is a chemical or physical process that is conducted by the nerve to the brain. The process in the brain is not yet the color. The color is produced in our psychical nature by the brain process. But even here I am still not conscious of it. It is first projected outwards by our psyche onto a spatial body in the external world. Here, finally, I see the color, as a quality of this body.

Conscious Of Object
We have come full circle. We have become conscious of a colored object. That comes first. Now the thought-operation begins. If I had no eyes, the object would be colorless for me. So I cannot attribute the color to the object. I go looking for it. I look for it in the eye,—in vain; in the nerve,—also in vain; in the brain,—again in vain.

External Object Creation Of Psyche
Finally, I look for it in the psyche. Here I find it, but unconnected with the spatial body. I only find the colored object again—there, at the place where I started. The circle is closed. The theory leads me to believe that what the naive person thinks is existing outside him in space, is really a creation of my own psyche.

4.11 Confuse External With Internal Observations
1. World As Perception: External Percept Is My Idea
2. World Experience: Web Of Ideas
3. Intuitive Experience: Confuse External With Internal Observations

[27] As long as one stops here, everything seems to fit perfectly. But we must go over it again from the beginning. Up to now I have been dealing with an object—the external percept. As a naive person, I had an an entirely false view of it. I thought the percept, just as I perceive it, had objective existence. Now I realize it disappears as I represent it to myself in the act of perceiving. The external percept is no more than a modification of my mental condition.

External Percept Is My Idea
Do I still have the right to take it as a starting point for my reflections? Can I say it has an effect on my psyche? Previously I believed the table had an effect on me, and brought about an idea of itself in me. From now on I must treat the table as itself an idea. But then to be logically consistent, my sense organs and the processes going on in them must also be only subjective manifestations. I have no right to speak of a real eye, only of my idea of the eye. The same would apply to the nerve paths and the brain process. And even to the process that occurs within the psyche itself, by which things are supposedly constructed out of the chaos of various sensations.

Web Of Ideas
If I go through each step of the act of cognition once again, assuming the correctness of the first circular line of thought, the cognitive act described reveals itself as a web of ideas that cannot possibly act on each other. I cannot say: My idea of the object acts on my idea of the eye, and the result of this interaction is my idea of color. As soon as it is clear to me that my sense organs and their activity, and my nerve and psychic processes, are also known to me only through perception, then the full impossibility of the described line of thought reveals itself.

Confuse External With Internal Observations
[28] There is a gap in the whole chain of reasoning. I can follow the processes in my organism up to those in my brain. The method of external observation ends with the process in the brain. The method of internal observation, or introspection, begins with the sensations, and continues up to the construction of things out of the material of sensation. At the point of transition from brain process to sensation, there is a break in the method of observation.

[29] The Critical Idealist sets out to prove that our percepts are representational ideas, while naively accepting the percepts belonging to his own body as objectively valid facts. What is more, he fails to see he is confusing two fields of observation, between which he can find no connecting link.

4.12 Content Of Percept Before Perception
1. World As Perception: Percept Product Of Our Organism
2. World Experience: Ideas Based On Senses
3. Intuitive Experience: Content Of Percept Before Perception

Percept Product Of Our Organism
[30] Critical idealism can only refute Naive Realism if it accepts, in naive-realistic fashion, that one's own organism has objective existence. As soon as the Idealist realizes the percepts of his own organism are exactly the same kind as those Naive Realism assumes to have objective existence, he can no longer use those percepts as a secure foundation for his theory. He would, to be consistent, have to regard his own organism also as a mere complex of ideas. But this removes the possibility of thinking that the content of the perceived world is a product of our mental organization.

[31] This much, then, is certain: Investigation of the field of perception cannot prove the correctness of Critical Idealism, and, consequently, cannot strip percepts of their objective character.

Ideas Based On Senses
[32] But even less can the principle, "The perceived world is my idea" be claimed as obvious in need of no proof. Schopenhauer begins his main work, The World as Will and Idea, with the words:

"The world is my idea—this truth applies to every living and cognizing being, although the human being alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. And when he really does this, he will have attained to philosophical self-knowledge. The world around him is present only as an idea.”

This whole theory, based on the principle “The world is my idea” collapses in the face of the fact, noted above, that the eye and hand are percepts just as much as the sun and the earth. In Schopenhauer’s terms, and using his style of expression, one could respond: My eye that sees the sun, and my hand that feels the earth, are my ideas just like the sun and the earth. Put in this way, it is immediately clear Schopenhauer’s proposition cancels itself out. For only my real eye and my real hand could have the ideas of sun and earth as their modifications—my ideas “eye” and “hand” could not.

Content Of Percept Before Perception
[33] Critical Idealism is completely unable to gain insight into the relationship between percepts and ideas. It cannot begin to make the distinction we indicated earlier, between what happens to the percept during the act of perception, and what must already be present in it before it is perceived. To do this, we must find another way to approach this question.

© Tom Last 2017