What is Freedom? What is Ethical Individualism? Read This!

The Philosophy Of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner
Chapter 9 (10) "The Idea Of Freedom"
Almost finished with first draft. Revised for readability 09/29/2018

9.0 Conceptual Intuition
[1] In the act of cognition the concept “tree” is determined by the percept “tree.” When faced with a specific percept, there is only one specific concept I can select from the universal system of concepts. The connection of the percept with its concept is determined indirectly and objectively by thinking according to the percept. This connection between a percept and its concept is recognized after the act of perception, but their belonging together is an inherent fact determined by the character of each.

[2] In willing the situation is different. The percept is here the content of my existence as an individual, while the concept is the universal element in me. What is brought into an ideal relationship to the external world by means of the concept is my own experience, a perception of my Self. More precisely, it is a percept of my Self as active, as producing effects on the external world. To understand my own acts of will I connect a concept with a corresponding percept, that is to say, with the specific volition. In other words, by an act of thinking I integrate my individual faculty (my will) into the general world affairs.

The content of a concept that corresponds to an external perception appearing within the field of my experience, is given through intuition. Intuition is the source for the content of my whole conceptual system. The percept only shows me which concept I have to apply, in any given instance, out of the sum of my intuitions. The content of a concept is conditional but it is not produced by the percept. On the contrary, it is intuitively given and connected with the percept by an act of thinking. The same is true of the conceptual content of an act of will which is just as little capable of being deduced from the act of will itself. It is gained by intuition.

9.1 Action Determined By My Idea
[3] If now the conceptual intuition (the ideal content) of my act of will occurs before the corresponding percept, then the content of what I do is determined by my Idea. The reason why I select from the number of possible intuitions just this special one, cannot be sought in a perceptual object, but is to be found rather in the purely ideal interdependence of the members of my system of concepts. In other words, the determining factors for my will are to be found, not in the perceptual, but only in the conceptual world. My will is determined by my Idea.

The conceptual system that corresponds to the external world is conditioned by this external world. We must determine from the percept itself what concept corresponds to it; and how, in turn, this concept will fit in with the rest of my system of Ideas, depends on its intuitive content. The percept thus conditions directly its concept and, thereby, indirectly also its place in the conceptual system of my world. But the ideal content of an act of will, which is drawn from the conceptual system and which precedes the act of will, is determined only by the conceptual system itself.

An act of will that depends on nothing but this ideal content must itself be regarded as ideal, that is, as determined by an Idea. This does not imply, of course, that all acts of will are determined only by Ideas. All factors which determine the human individual have an influence on his will.

9.2 Motive Of Will
[4] For an individual act of will we must distinguish two factors: the motive and the driving force. The motive is the conceptual factor, the driving force is the perceptual factor in will. The conceptual factor, or motive, is what momentary determines the will, the driving force is an enduring determining factor in the individual. The motive of an act of will may be a pure concept, or a concept with a specific reference to something perceived, that is, an idea. Universal and individual concepts (ideas) become motives of will by affecting an individual and determining his action in a certain direction. However, one and the same concept, or one and the same idea works differently in different individuals. The same concept (or idea) can motivate different people to different action.

An act of will, then, is not the result of a concept or an idea alone, but is also influenced by the individual make-up of the person. This individual make-up we will call, according to Eduard von Hartmann, the "characterological disposition." The way in which concepts and ideas affect a person’s characterological disposition gives his life a particular moral or ethical character.

9.3 Characterological Disposition
[5] The characterological disposition consists of the more or less permanent content of the individual's life, that is, the habitual ideas and feelings he has accumulated. Whether an idea that enters my mind motivates me to will something or not, depends on how it relates to the rest of my ideas and also to my peculiarities of feeling. The stored content of my ideas will depend on the sum total of concepts that during my individual life have become linked to percepts, that is, have become ideas. This sum, again, depends on my greater or lesser capacity for intuition, and on the range of my observations. In other words, it will depend on the subjective and the objective factors of my experiences, on the structure of my mind and on my environment. My feeling life is especially important in determining my characterological disposition. Whether or not I make a particular idea or concept the motive for action will depend on whether it gives me pleasure or pain.

These are the factors to be considered in an act of will. The immediately present idea or concept becomes a motive and determines the goal or purpose of my willing; my characterological disposition determines whether or not I will direct my activity toward that goal. The idea of taking a walk in the next half-hour determines the goal of my action. But this idea is raised to the level of a motive only if it meets with a suitable characterological disposition; that is, if during my life I have formed ideas of the sense and purpose of taking walks such as its value for health, and further, if the idea of taking a walk is accompanied by a feeling of pleasure.

9.4 Levels Of Morality
[6] We must therefore distinguish (1) the possible subjective dispositions that will turn specific ideas and concepts into motives, and (2) the possible ideas and concepts capable of influencing the characterological disposition so that an act of will results. The first are the driving forces, the second the goals of moral life.

[7] We can identify the driving forces in the moral life by analyzing the elements that make up the life of the individual.

[8] The first level of individual life is perception, more particularly sense-perception. In this stage of individual life perceiving is immediately transformed into willing, without the intervention of either a feeling or a concept. Here the driving force may be called simply instinct. The satisfaction of our lower, purely animal needs (hunger, sexual drive, etc.) occurs in this way. The main characteristic of instinctive life is the immediacy with which the perception triggers the will. This immediacy, originally belonging only to the lower sense life, can also be extended to the perceptions of the higher senses. We react to some event in the external world without thinking, and without any particular feeling. This happens, for example, in conventional social behavior. The driving force of this kind of action is called tact or social good taste. The more often such an immediate reaction to a percept occurs, the more the person will spontaneously act purely under the guidance of tact. Tact becomes part of his characterological disposition.

[9] The second level of life is feeling. Certain feelings connect to what we perceive in the external world. These feelings can become the driving force of action. If I see someone who is starving, my compassion may become the driving force of my action. Such feelings include shame, pride, sense of honor, humility, remorse, compassion, revenge, gratitude, piety, loyalty, love, and duty.

[10] The third and last level of life is having thoughts and forming ideas. Mere consideration can turn an idea or a concept into a motive of action. Ideas become motives because in the course of life I regularly direct certain goals of my will to percepts that keep returning in a more or less modified form. This is why, when people who are not entirely without experience face certain percepts, they will always be aware of ideas of actions they have carried out in a similar case, or have seen others carry out. These ideas hover before their minds as determining models in all later decisions; they become part of their characterological disposition. We can call this driving force of the will practical experience. Practical experience gradually becomes purely tactful behavior. This happens when certain typical pictures of actions have become so firmly connected in our minds with ideas of certain situations in life that, in any given case, we skip over all deliberation based on experience and pass immediately from the percept to the action.

[11] The highest level of individual life is that of conceptual thinking without reference to any specific perceptual content. We determine the content of a concept through pure intuition on the basis of a conceptual system. Such a concept contains, at first, no reference to any specific percepts. If we act under the influence of a concept that refers to a percept, that is, under the influence of an idea, then it is the percept that determines our action indirectly by way of the concept. But when we act under the influence of pure intuitions, the driving force of our action is pure thinking. Since it is customary in philosophy to call pure thinking “reason,” we are justified in calling the moral driving force characteristic of this level practical reason. The clearest account of this driving force of the will has been given by Kreyenbuhl. In my opinion his article on this subject is one of the most important contributions to present-day philosophy, especially to Ethics. Kreyenbuhl calls this driving force the practical apriori, that is, an impulse to act springing immediately from my intuition.

[12] It is clear that such an impulse does not, strictly speaking, belong to the characterological disposition. For what acts here as driving force is no longer something purely individual, but is the conceptual, and therefore universal content of my intuition. As soon as I see the justification for making this content the basis and starting-point for action, I enter into willing, regardless of whether I already had the concept, or whether it only enters my consciousness immediately before the action,—that is, regardless of whether or not it already existed in me as a predisposition.

[13] An action is a real act of will only when a momentary impulse, in the form of a concept or idea, acts on the characterological disposition. Such an impulse then becomes the motive of the will.

[14] The motives of moral conduct are ideas and concepts. There are ethicists who also regard feeling as a motive of morality. They claim that the goal of ethical behavior is to provide the greatest possible amount of pleasure for the acting individual. However, pleasure itself can never be a motive; at best only the idea of pleasure can act as motive. The idea of a future feeling, but not the feeling itself, can act on my characterological disposition. For the feeling does not yet exist in the moment of action; rather, it has to first be produced by the action.

[15] The idea of one's own or another's well-being is, however, properly recognized as a motive of the will. The principle of producing the greatest amount of pleasure for oneself through one's action—that is, of attaining individual happiness—is called Egoism. The attainment of this individual happiness is sought either by ruthlessly considering only one’s own well-being and striving to attain it even at the cost of the happiness of other individuals (Pure Egoism), or by furthering the well-being of others, either because one expects to gain from it indirectly, or because of the fear that harming others will endanger one’s own interests (morality of prudence). The particular content of a person’s egoistic ethical principles will depend on his ideas of what constitutes his own, or others' happiness. A person will determine the content of his egoistic striving according to what he considers to be the good things in life (luxurious living, hope of happiness, deliverance from various evils, and so forth).

[16] Another kind of motive is the purely conceptual content of an action. This content does not refer to a particular action, as in the case of specific ideas of what brings one pleasure, but rather to action that is based on a system of ethical principles. These principles, in the form of abstract concepts, can govern the individual's ethical life without him having to trouble himself about the origin of the concepts. In that case, we simply feel the moral necessity to submit to an ethical concept which, in the form of law, controls our actions.

The establishing of this moral necessity is left to those who demand our moral submission; that is, to whatever moral authority we recognize (the head of the family, the state, social custom, the authority of the church, divine revelation). Another example of these ethical principles is when the law does not come from an external authority, but comes from within ourselves. (moral autonomy). In this case we believe we hear the voice to which we must submit in our own mind. The expression of this voice is conscience.

[17] Moral progress occurs when a person does not simply accept the commandments of an outer or inner authority as a motive for action, but tries to understand the reason why a particular principle of conduct should motivate him. This is to advance from morality based on authority to conduct based on ethical insight. At this level of morality a person will consider the needs of a moral life and will let this knowledge determine his actions. Such needs are (1) the greatest possible good of all humanity purely for its own sake; (2) the progress of culture or the moral development of humanity to ever greater perfection; and (3) the realization of individual moral goals that have been grasped by pure intuition.

[18] The greatest possible good of all humanity will naturally be understood in different ways by different people. This principle does not refer to any specific idea of this “good”, but rather means that each individual who acknowledges this principle will strive to do whatever in his opinion best promotes the good of all humanity.

[19] For the person who takes pleasure in the benefits of culture, the progress of culture is seen to be a special application of the ethical principle of greatest possible good. However, he will have to accept the price of progress in the decline and destruction of many things that also contribute to the common good. It is also possible for someone to see a moral necessity in the progress of culture, apart from any feeling of pleasure that it brings. In that case the progress of culture is for him an ethical principle of its own, in addition to the principle of the common good.

[20] The principles of the common good and the progress of culture are both based on ideas, that is, based on how one applies the content of ethical Ideas to specific situations (percepts). The highest conceivable principle of morality, however, is one that does not start with any reference to specific experience, but springs from the source of pure intuition, and only afterward finds its relationship to percepts (to life). Here, the decision of what is to be done proceeds from a point of view very different than in the previous examples. Whoever favors the principle of the common good, will first ask in all his actions, what his ideals contribute to this general good. Someone who is committed to the ethical principle of the progress of culture will do the same.

There is yet a higher viewpoint that does not start from one specific ethical principle in each case, but sees a certain value in all ethical principles and in each case asks whether one or another principle is more important. In certain circumstances I might regard the progress of culture as the right principle and make it the motive of my action; in another situation I may contribute to the common good; and in a third case further my own well-being. But only when all other determining factors come second do we rely on conceptual intuition as the primary consideration. In conceptual intuition all other motives retreat and the ideal content alone motivates the action.

9.5 Ethical Intuition
[21] We described the highest level of characterological disposition to be the one that is effective as pure thinking, or practical reason. We have now described conceptual intuition as the highest motive. On closer inspection it will be seen that at this level of morality the driving force and motive coincide; which means that our conduct is not influenced by a predetermined characterological disposition or the external authority of ethical principles accepted as a moral norm. The deed is therefore not the stereotypical action of one who follows the rules of a moral code, nor is it an automatic reaction in response to an outside trigger. Rather it is a deed determined solely by its ideal content.

[22] For such an action to be possible, we must first be capable of ethical intuitions. Whoever lacks the ability to think out for himself the ethical principle to apply in each situation, will never achieve genuine individual willing.

[23] Kant's principle of morality — Act so that the principle of your action may be valid for all men — is the exact opposite of ours. This principle would mean death to all individual action. How all men would act cannot be the standard for me, but rather what is right for me to do in each particular case.

9.6 Ethical Motive
[24] A superficial criticism could make this objection: How can an action be individually adapted to fit a particular case and situation, and yet at the same time be determined in a purely conceptual way by intuition? This objection confuses the ethical motive with the perceptible content of the action. The perceptible content can be the motive, and is one, for example, when an act is done for the progress of culture or from pure egoism, etc., but it is not the motive when the reason for action is a pure ethical intuition. Of course, my Self takes notice of the perceptual content, but it does not allow itself to be determined by it. This content is used only to construct a cognitive concept for oneself; but the corresponding ethical concept is not derived from the perceptible event.

Only if my standpoint is based on a specific ethical principle is the cognitive concept of a given situation also a moral concept. If I want to base all my actions exclusively on the principle of cultural progress, then I go through life along a fixed route. From every event I notice that attracts my interest there springs a moral duty; namely, to do my part to ensure that the event is used to advance culture.

In addition to the cognitive concept that reveals to me the connections of events or objects according to natural laws, the event or object also has a moral label with instructions for me, as a moral person, about how I should behave. At a higher level these moral labels disappear, and my action is determined in each particular case by my Idea; and more particularly by the Idea that occurs to me when I face a concrete situation.

9.7 Ethical Individualism
[25] People vary in their capacity for intuition. In some, Ideas bubble up easily, while others acquire them with great difficulty. The life situations of people that provide the setting for their action is also very different. How a person acts will depend on the way his intuition functions when he is faced with a particular situation.

The sum of effective Ideas within us, the actual content of our intuitions, makes up what is individual in each of us despite the universality of Ideas. Insofar as this intuitive content is a reference for action, it is the ethical content of the individual. To let one’s individual ethical content express itself in life is the ethical maxim of the one who regards all other ethical principles as subordinate. We call this standpoint ethical individualism.

[26] In a specific situation the decisive factor in an intuitively determined action is to find the appropriate, completely individual intuition. At this level of morality, we do not speak of general moral concepts (norms, laws), except when they are the result of generalizing individual impulses. General norms always presuppose concrete facts from which they can be derived. But these facts have first to be created by human action.

9.8 Love Of Goal
[27] When we look for the laws (conceptual principles) guiding the actions of individuals, peoples, and eras, we obtain a system of Ethics that is not a science of ethical norms, but rather is a natural science of morality. Only the laws discovered in this way relate to human conduct as natural laws relate to a particular phenomena. But these laws are not at all identical with the principles on which individuals base their actions. (If someone wants to understand how an individual’s action springs from ethical willing, then he must first investigate in what way the will is related to the action. For this purpose he must single out for study those actions in which this relationship is the determining factor. 1918) If I or someone else reflect on my action later, we can discover the ethical principle it is based on. (While I am acting I am motivated to act by the ethical principle to the extent it lives in me intuitively; this ethical principle is united with my love for the goal that I want to accomplish by my deed. 1918) I do not consult any person or moral code with the question, “Should I do this?” — rather, I carry it out as soon as I have formed the Idea of it. This alone makes it my action.

If a person acts because he accepts certain moral norms, his action is the result of the principles that happen to be part of his moral code. He merely carries out orders. He is a higher form of robot. Inject some stimulus into his mind and, right away, the gearwheels of his moral principles will begin to turn in a lawful manner to produce a Christian, humane, or selfless action or an action to further cultural progress. It is only when I follow my love for my objective that it is I, myself, who act. At this level of morality I do not acknowledge a lord over me, or an external authority, or a so-called inner voice. I do not accept any external principle for my conduct, because I have found the reason for my action in myself, namely, my love of action.

(I do not try to prove intellectually whether my deed is good or evil; I do it out of my love for it. My action becomes “good” if my intuition, steeped in love, fits in the right way in the interrelationships between things; the world continuum. This can be experienced intuitively. My action becomes “evil” if that is not the case. 1918) I do not ask myself, “How would another person act in my situation?” Rather, I act as I, this particular individuality, is motivated to act. I am not led by what is usually done, no common custom, no universal human principle that applies to all, no moral standard. My immediate guide is my love for the goal. I feel no compulsion, neither the compulsion of nature that dominates me through my instincts, nor the compulsion of moral commandments. I simply want to carry out what lies within me.

9.9 Ethical Aims
[28] The defenders of universal ethical norms might object to these arguments as follows: If everyone has the right to fully express themselves and do what he pleases, then there is no difference between a good deed and a crime, every corrupt impulse in me has the same right to be expressed as has the intention of serving the common good. As an ethical person, the decisive factor for me is not the fact that I have conceived the Idea of an action, but whether I judge it to be good or evil. Only if it is good should I carry it out.

[29] My reply to this objection is this: I am not talking about children or immature people who follow their animal or social instincts. I am talking about those who are capable of rising to the level of the conceptual content of the world.

(If we want to get at the essence of human willing, we must distinguish between the path that brings willing up to a certain stage of development, and the unique character willing acquires as it nears the goal. Rules play a rightful part at a stage of development on the way towards this goal. The goal is to conceive ethical aims grasped by pure intuition. A person attains ethical aims to the extent that he has any ability at all to lift himself to the level at which intuition grasps the conceptual content of the world. In individual cases of willing, other elements are usually mixed in with ethical aims, either as motive or driving force. Nevertheless, intuition can still be the determining factor in human willing, wholly or in part. A person does what he should do; he provides the setting where “should” becomes “do.” One’s own action is allowed to spring from oneself. Here, the impulse can only be completely individual. And, in fact, only an act of will that springs from intuition can be individual. 1918 addition)

It is only in an age where immature people include blind instinct as part of human individuality, (that something evil like the act of a criminal can be described as an expression of individuality in the same sense as an action that expresses a pure intuition. The animal instinct that drives someone to commit a crime does not originate in intuition. It does not belong to what is individual in a person. It belongs to what is most common in him, to what is equally present in all individuals. Each of us must work our way out of what is common by means of our individuality.)

What is individual in me is not my organism with its instincts and feelings, but the unified world of Ideas that lights up within this organism. My instincts, cravings, and passions only establish the fact that I belong to the general human race. What establishes my individuality is the fact that something conceptual expresses itself in a unique way through these instincts, passions, and feelings. Through my instincts and cravings I am the kind of person of whom there are twelve to the dozen. What makes me an individual is the unique shaping of Ideas by which I designate myself as an I within the dozen. Only a person other than myself might distinguish me from others by differences in my animal nature. I distinguish myself from others by my thinking, that is, by actively grasping the Ideal element that expresses itself through my organism. Therefore it definitely cannot be said that a criminal act is motivated by an Idea in him. In fact, the characteristic feature of criminal activity is precisely that it is motivated by non-ideal elements in the human being.

[30] An action is free when its reason springs from the ideal part of my individual nature. An action is not free when it is compelled by nature or is carried out under the obligation imposed by a moral norm.

[31] A person is free to the extent he is able to obey only himself in every moment of his life. An ethical act is my act only if it can be called free in this sense. So far we have examined the prerequisites necessary for a willed action to feel free. What follows will show how this purely ethical Idea of freedom comes to actualization in human nature.

9.10 Social Harmony
[32] Acting out of freedom does not exclude moral laws; it includes them, but shows itself to be on a higher level than actions dictated solely by these laws. Why should my action be of less service to the common good if I have acted for the love of it, than if I have acted only because I consider it my duty to serve the common good? The concept of duty excludes freedom, because it does not recognize the right of individuality, but demands that the individual conforms to accepted norms. Freedom of action is conceivable only from the standpoint of Ethical Individualism.

[33] But how is a social life possible if each one is only striving to assert his own individuality? This question is characteristic of misguided Moralism. The Moralist believes that a social community is possible only if all are united by a common moral order. This shows that the Moralist does not understand the unity of the world of Ideas. He fails to see that the world of Ideas that inspires me is none other than the one inspiring my neighbor.

This unity of individuals, however, is a result of our experience of the world. It cannot be anything else. For if we could recognize it in any other way than by personal observation, it would follow that universal norms rather than individual experience would be dominant in that sphere. Individuality is only feasible when each individual is acquainted with others through personal observation alone.

I differ from my neighbor, not because we are living in two entirely different mental worlds, but because he receives different intuitions than I do out of our common world of Ideas. He wants to live out his intuitions, I mine. If our source truly is the world of Ideas, and we do not obey any external impulses (physical or spiritual), then we can only meet in the same striving, in the same intentions. A moral misunderstanding, a clash of aims, is impossible between morally free people. Only the morally unfree person who blindly obeys natural instincts or the commands of duty turns his back on a neighbor if he does not obey the same instincts and the same commands as himself. To live (in love of the action) and to let live, (in understanding the other's will,) is the fundamental principle of a free human being. He knows of no other obligation than the one his volition is in intuitive agreement. His power of conceiving Ideas will tell him how he should act in a particular situation.

[34] If the source of social compatibility were not a basic part of human nature, no external laws could instill it into human nature! Only because individuals are of one mind can they live out their lives side by side. The free individual lives in full confidence that all other free human beings belong to a spiritual/intellectual world with himself, and that their intentions will harmonize with his. The free individual does not demand agreement from his fellow human beings, but he expects it, because it is inherent in human nature. (I am not referring here to the necessity for this or that external institution. I refer to the disposition, to the state of mind, through which a person, aware of himself among fellow human beings whom he values, best expresses the ideal of human dignity.)

9.11 Actualize Free Spirit
[35] Many will say that the concept of the free individual that I have outlined here is a chimera nowhere to be found in practice. We have to deal with real people and with them we can expect moral behavior only if they obey moral rules, if they look upon their ethical task as a duty and do not freely follow their inclinations and loves. I certainly do not doubt this. One would have to be blind to do so. But if this is to be the final conclusion, then away with all this hypocrisy about “ethics.”! Then simply say: Since human nature is not free, it must be forced to the right action.

It is irrelevant whether his unfreedom is controlled by physical force or by moral laws, whether a person is unfree because he follows his insatiable sexual drive, or because he is bound by the restrictions of conventional morality. But one should not say that such a person can correctly call his actions his own, since he is driven to them by a force other than himself. Yet, within all this enforced order there arise free spirits who in all the entanglement of customs, legal codes, religious practice, and so on learn to be true to themselves. They are free in so far as they obey only themselves; unfree in so far as they submit to control. Which of us can say that he is really free in all he does? Yet in each of us there lives a deeper aspect of our being in which the free individuality finds expression.

[36] Our life is made up of free and unfree actions. The concept of man is not complete unless it includes the free spirit as the purest expression of human nature. After all, we are human beings in the fullest sense only to the extent that we are free.

[37] Many will say this is an ideal. No doubt, but it is an ideal that has reality. It is a real element in our nature that manifests its effects on the surface. It is no “thought-out” or “dreamed-about” ideal, but one that has life and manifests itself clearly even in the least developed form of its existence. If human beings were nothing but creatures of nature, it would be absurd to look for ideals—that is, our Ideas that are not yet actualized but whose implementation we demand.

In dealing with external objects the Idea is determined by the percept. We have done our part when we recognize the connection between Idea and percept. But this is not so with the human being. The content of his nature is not determined without him. The concept of his true self as an ethical human being (free spirit) is not objectively united with the perceptual content “human being” from the start, needing only to be confirmed by knowledge later. A human being must unite his concept with the percept “human being” by his own activity. In this case concept and percept only coincide if the individual through his own effort makes them coincide. But he cannot do this until he has found the concept of the free spirit, which is the concept of his true Self.

Because of our organization—the way we are constituted—there is a dividing line in the objective world between percept and concept; knowledge overcomes this division. A division is also present in our subjective nature; the individual overcomes it in the course of his development by bringing the concept of his true Self to expression in his outward life. Thus, both the intellectual and the moral life of the human being lead him to his twofold nature; perception (immediate experience) and thought. The intellectual life overcomes the division through knowledge. The moral life overcomes it by actualizing the free spirit.

Every existing thing has its inborn concept (the law of its existence and activity). In external things the concept is indivisibly united with the percept, and only appears to be separated from it within the organization of human minds. But in the case of the human being percept and concept are at first actually separated, to be just as actually united by him.

Someone might object that a particular concept corresponds to our perception of a person at every moment of his life, just as is the case with everything else. I can form the concept of a typical person and I may also find such a person as a percept. If I now add the concept of the typical person to the concept of the free spirit, then I have two concepts for the same object.

[38] This objection is one-sided thought. As a perceptible object I am subject to continual change. As a child I was one thing, as a youth another, as an adult still another. In fact, at every moment the perception-picture of myself is different from what it was a moment before. These changes can take place in such a way that they are always the expression of the same stereotypical person, or in such a way that they represent the expression of the free spirit. My actions, too, as perceptible objects, are subject to these changes.

[39] The perceptible object "human" has the possibility of transformation, just as the plant seed has the possibility of growing into a fully developed plant. The plant is transformed in growth because of the objective laws of nature that are inherent in it. The human being remains in his undeveloped state if he does not take up the stuff of transformation within him and develop himself through his own power. Nature makes a human into merely a natural being; society makes him into a law-abiding being; only he alone can make himself into a free being. At a certain stage of his development nature releases the human being from her chains; society carries his development a stage further; he alone can give himself the finishing touches.

[40] The standpoint of free morality (ethical individualism) does not claim that the free spirit is the only form in which a human being can exist. It sees the free spirit as the final stage of human evolution. This does not deny that conduct in obedience to norms has its legitimate place as a stage in development. The point is that we cannot acknowledge this stage to be the highest level of morality. The free spirit overcomes the rules of norms in that he does not solely accept commands as motives, but orders his conduct according to his own impulses (intuitions).

[41] Kant says: “Duty! You exalted, mighty name! You who contain nothing lovable, nothing ingratiatingly agreeable, but demand submission.” You “lay down a law,… before which all inclinations are silent, even though they secretly work against it!” To this, a human being, out of the consciousness of the free spirit, replies: "Freedom! You friendly, more human name! You who contain all that is morally loved, all that my humanity most values, and makes me no one’s servant. You lay down no law, but wait for what my moral love acknowledges as law, because it resists every law that is forced upon it."

[42] This is the contrast between morality that is law-abiding and morality that is free.

9.12 State And Society For The Individual
[43] The philistine, who sees morality as outwardly established rules, is sure to look upon the free spirit as a danger to society. But this is only because his view is narrowly focused on a limited period of time. If the philistine were able to see beyond this, he would soon find that the free spirit seldom finds it necessary to transgress the laws of the state, and never needs to confront these laws with any real conflict. For the laws of the state, just like all other objective ethical laws, have their origin in the intuitions of free spirits. There is no traditional law exercised by a family authority that was not at one time intuitively conceived and laid down by an ancestor. Likewise, the conventional laws of morality are first established by certain individuals. And the laws of the state always originate in the head of a statesman.

These leading minds have set up laws over others. No one is made unfree by these laws unless he forgets their origin and turns them into divine commands, objective moral duties, or the authoritative voice of his own conscience. But the person who does not forget the origin of laws and seeks it in the human being, will recognize them as belonging to the same world of Ideas that is the source of his own moral intuitions. If he thinks he has better intuitions, he will try to replace the existing ones with his own. If he finds the existing ones justified, he will act in accordance with them as if they were his own.

[44] The human being is not here for the purpose of establishing a moral world order. Anyone who claims that he is, remains, in his scientific knowledge of Man, at the same point at which natural science stood when it believed that a bull has horns in order to butt. Fortunately, scientists have thrown out the concept of objective purposes in nature as a dead theory.

Ethics is having more difficulty getting rid of this concept. However, just as horns are not there for the sake of butting, rather butting exists through the presence of horns, so human beings are not there for the sake of morality, but morality exists through the presence of human beings. The free human being acts morally because he has a moral Idea, he does not act in order to be moral. Human individuals, with moral Ideas that belong to their nature, are the precondition for a moral world order.

[45] The human individual is the source of all morality and the center of all life. State and society exist only because they are the necessary consequence of the life of individuals. That state and society should react back on the life of the individual is understandable, just as it is understandable that butting, which exists through the horns, reacts back to further develop the bull’s horns which would otherwise become stunted with prolonged disuse. Likewise, the individual would become stunted with prolonged isolation outside human society. This is why the social order is formed, so that it can react back favorably on the individual.

Editor’s Note: I am including below a 1918 revision to Chapter 9.1 about the repression of the psycho-physical organization by the essential nature of thinking. It shows that there is a characteristic in the nature of thinking that makes human freedom possible.

What is the essential nature of thinking?
“To experience the essential nature of thinking, that is, to work one's way into the world of concepts through one's own activity, is an entirely different thing from experiencing something perceptible through the senses. Whatever senses man might possibly have, not one would give him reality if his thinking did not permeate with concepts whatever he perceived by means of it.” TPOF Chap. 7 addition, Are Their Limits To Knowledge?

“If we turn towards thinking in its essence, we find in it both feeling and will, and these in the depths of their reality; if we turn away from thinking towards “mere” feeling and will, we lose from these their true reality.” TPOF Chap. 8 addition, The Factors Of Life

9.1 Psyche-Physical Organization (1918 revision)
To struggle through, by means of unbiased observation, to recognize the truth that the nature of thinking is intuitive requires effort. But without this effort we will not succeed in clearing the way for a proper understanding of the human psycho-physical organization. Then we will recognize that this organization has no effect whatever on the essential nature of thinking. At first sight this seems to contradict obvious facts. For ordinary experience, human thinking always takes place connected with, and by means of, this organization.

The psycho-physical organization asserts itself so strongly that its actual significance can only be understood by someone who has recognized that nothing from this organization plays any part in the essential nature of thinking. Once that is recognized one will also appreciate the extraordinary relationship between the human organization and thinking. For this organization contributes nothing to the essential nature of thought, but withdraws whenever the activity of thinking takes place. It suspends its own activity, it makes room. And the space that has been set free is occupied by thought. The essential activity at work in thinking has a twofold function: first, it represses the activity of the human organization; next, it steps into its place. Yes, even the repression of the bodily organization is an effect of thinking activity; the part of thinking activity that prepares for the appearance of thinking.

This explains why what is found in the bodily organization is a reflection of thinking. Once we perceive this, we will no longer misjudge the importance of this physical counterpart for thinking itself. When someone walks over soft ground his feet leave footprints in the soil. But no one will be tempted to say that the forces of the ground, from below, have formed these tracks. No one will attribute to these forces any part in the production of the tracks. Neither will anyone who observes the essential nature of thinking with an open mind, attribute any part of this essence to traces in the physical organism that are produced by thinking in preparation for its appearance by means of the body.

© Tom Last 2017