Comparative Research As A Method Of Learning

Science of freedom
Rudolf Steiner declared, “What is needed is a science of freedom”. His Philosophy Of Freedom (POF), written using the scientific method of introspective observation, is supposed to be empirical science. The problem is that in its book form it is difficult to work with.

Comparative research
Comparative research is a research methodology used mainly in the social sciences to make comparisons across different countries or cultures. A comparative research approach may work to sort out the POF, bringing to light its scientific basis and making Steiner's case for freedom. Most important it is a method accessible to anyone who wants to make the effort and it would surely change lives.

Steiner uses a comparative approach throughout the POF. In the Introduction "outer truth" is compared to "inner truth", in Chapter 1 it is "freedom" compared to "necessity". Rather than trying to learn abstract concepts, a student can compare two possible experiences from a similar situation. This makes for very effective experiential learning. It lets the student make up their own mind without the need of trying to convince anybody of anything.

Use of comparative research in the study of The Philosophy Of Freedom
The use of comparative research in the study of the Philosophy Of Freedom draws on introspective research and descriptive research in making the comparison. Below is a chart showing the comparisons made in the Introduction to the Philosophy Of Freedom.

revised 9/26/2015

Compare the Experience of Outer Truth with that of Inner Truth
Chapter 0 The Goal Of Knowledge


Observed state of things

The Philosophy Of Freedom,
 Chapter 0

The Goal Of Knowledge

 Case 1



 Case 2



 0.0 Human interest

I believe I am indicating correctly one of the fundamental characteristics of our age when I say that, at the present day, all human interests tend to center in a culture of human individuality.

Accept authority
Follow your hero
Something noble and worthy in some
Strive to conform
Strive for perfection of whole
Do what others do
Create according to rules and norms

Shake off authority
Follow own path
Something noble and worthy in all
Reject conformity
Strive for perfection of each person
Do what only you can uniquely do
Create to express unique individuality


No better expression for these phenomena can be found than this, that they result from the individual’s striving towards freedom.

 0.1 Search for truth

There are two well known paths to truth; in the life outside and around us and in the heart within.


Outer truth
Search for truth in outer life.

Inner truth
Search for truth in the depths of human nature.


Of the two paths, the search for inner truth is preferred today.

 0.2 Truth empowers

What gives us the confidence to accomplish creative activity?

Uncertainty of outer truth
Truth that comes to us from outside always bears the stamp of uncertainty.

Conviction of inner truth 
Only truth that appears within ourselves will convince us. Only truth can give us confidence in developing our individual powers.


Whoever is tormented by doubts finds his powers weakened. If we are baffled by a world full of riddles, we can find no goal for our creative activity.

 0.3 Understandable truth

We no longer want to believe; we want to know.


Belief demands the acceptance of truths without having the insight to fully understand.

What is not clearly understood goes against what is individual in us, that wants to experience everything in its deepest inner core.


The only knowing that satisfies us is the kind that submits to no external standard, but springs from a person's own inner life.

 0.4 Advance in


Stored academic facts
Knowledge that has been formulated in rigid academic rules, and stored away as valid for all time.

Facts of own experience
Each of us claims the right to start from the facts we know, from our personal experience, and from there advance to knowledge of the whole universe.


We strive for certainty in knowledge, but each in his or her own way.

 0.5 Education

The teachings of science should not be presented in a form that implies its acceptance is compulsory.


Cram facts into students
Give a scientific work a title like: “The True Nature of Philosophy An Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.” Everyone should be compelled to understand. Compel the student to learn by cramming facts of knowledge.

Cultivate the desire to know
Cultivate the desire to know by developing the students capacities. We demand neither acceptance nor agreement from those who are not moved to a certain view by their own particular, individual needs. We do not want to cram facts of knowledge into even an immature human being, a child.


We try to develop the child’s capacities in such a way that the child no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but wants to understand.

 0.6 One's attitude toward knowledge

I am under no illusion concerning the characteristics of the present time.


Stereotypical attitude
There is a widespread stereotypical attitude toward knowledge that lacks any individuality.

Apply individualistic principles
Many also strive to orient their lives in the direction of the principles indicated in The Philosophy Of Freedom. To them I would dedicate this book.


The Philosophy Of Freedom is not meant to be the "only possible" way to Truth, but is meant to describe the path taken by one for whom truth is central (Rudolf Steiner).

 7. Preparation for science

The Philosophy Of Freedom at first leads the reader into more abstract regions, where thought must have sharp outlines if it is to reach clearly defined positions. But the reader is also led out of these arid concepts into concrete life.


Sensual pleasure
Whoever appreciates only the pleasures of the senses misses the sweetest enjoyments of life. Oriental sages make their disciples live a life of resignation and asceticism for years before imparting their own wisdom to them.

Joy of pure thought
The Western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation for science, but it does require a sincere willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life and enter the realm of pure thought.


I am fully convinced that if existence is to be experienced in all its aspects, one must raise oneself up into the realm of concepts.

 0.8 Scientific study of life

There are many realms of life and for each of them specific sciences develop. But life itself is one, and the more deeply the sciences are immersed in their separate fields, the more they distance themselves from viewing the world as a living whole. There must be a kind of knowing that seeks in the separate sciences the principles that leads to the fullness of life once more.


The aim of the scientific specialist is to become aware of the world and gain insight into how it works. The aim of this book is philosophical: science itself is to be instilled with the life of an organic whole. The various branches of science are preparatory stages on the way to this wholistic science.
A similar relationship governs the arts. The composer's work is based on the theory of composition. This theory is an accumulation of principles that one has to know in order to compose. In composing, the rules of theory serve life itself, that is, it serves true reality. In exactly the same sense philosophy is an art. 

All genuine philosophers have been artists in the conceptual realm. Human ideas become their artistic materials and scientific method their artistic technique. Abstract thinking takes on concrete individual life. Ideas turn into life-forces. Then we do not merely have knowledge about things, but have made knowledge into an actual self-governing organism ruled by its own laws.


Our consciousness, alive and active, has lifted itself beyond a mere passive reception of truths.

 0.9 Science of freedom

The questions examined in The Philosophy Of Freedom.


Book questions
The main theme of my Philosophy Of Freedom concerns these questions: How philosophy, as an art, is related to freedom; what freedom is; and whether we do, or can, participate in it.

Science of freedom
All other scientific discussions are included only because they ultimately throw light on this question.


In my view, the question of freedom is the most immediate concern of the human being. These pages offer a "Philosophy of Freedom".

 0.10 Value of science

What is the value of science?

Idle curiosity
All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity, if it did not strive to elevate the value of existence for the human personality.

Results for humanity
The true value of the sciences is seen only when we have shown the importance of their results for humanity. The ultimate goal of the individuality cannot be the cultivation of any single faculty, but only the development of all capacities dormant within us.


Knowledge has value only in so far as it contributes to the all-around development of the whole of human nature.

 0.11 Relationship between
and life

What is the role of science in our lives?


Worship ideas
The Philosophy of Freedom does not regard the relationship between science and life in such a way that human beings must bow down before ideas and devote their powers to its service.

Use ideas for human goals
The Philosophy of Freedom shows that we should take possession of the world of ideas to use them for our human goals.


Human goals go beyond those of mere science.

 0.12 Our relationship
to ideas

What is our relationship to ideas?


Bondage to ideas
Become the slave of ideas.

Master of ideas
One must be able to confront an idea as master; otherwise one will fall into its bondage.


 End of chapter

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  • You can see above at #11 how religion develops out of the worship of ideas. We project personality and imagery on ideas and then worship them.

  • You can set up all of Part I of The Philosophy Of Freedom as the choice between thinking or not thinking. Not thinking is to remain at the perceptual level (percept) while thinking is to add the concept. This is outer truth and inner truth. There are 12 topics in each chapter and in each one an experience of the percept is described (outer truth) followed by a description of thinking activity. In each case you chose to think or not think. So there are 96 specific case studies in the first 8 chapters including the introduction. This is the science of inner freedom. I can map this out as I did for the Introduction above and make it a comparison study between thinking and not thinking in 96 specific situations.

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    •  "The world of ideas is the primal source and principle of all being...Only what derives existence from the Idea means something on the tree of universal creation." 

      I see this statement as pointing to "service" to ideas in regards to working in harmony with them, but not in the sense of being controlled by them. We are controlled by ideas and lose our freedom in chapter 1 when we are compelled by natural laws. Points #11 and #12 in the Introduction transition from the Introduction to Chapter 1 where we are controlled by ideas (motives); we are controlled by natural laws (ideas, principles, laws of human behavior)

      It seems to me we are also controlled by ideas when we devote science to knowledge for knowledge's sake, regardless if it has any value for humans. If science has no value for human life then it is just idle curiosity.

      These ideas are not abstract in that they are the real directing principle in things. We use these principle/laws to accomplish our aims and to remain in harmony with the laws of creation as in Moral Technique.

      12.3 Moral Technique
      [4] Moral imagination, in order to realize its ideas, must enter into a determinate sphere of percepts. Human action does not create percepts, but transforms already existing percepts and gives them a new character. In order to be able to transform a definite object of perception, or a sum of such objects, in accordance with a moral idea, it is necessary to understand the object's law (its mode of action which one intends to transform, or to which one wants to give a new direction). Further, it is necessary to discover the procedure by which it is possible to change the given law into the new one. This part of effective moral activity depends on knowledge of the particular world of phenomena with which one has got to deal. We shall, therefore, find it in some branch of scientific knowledge. Moral action, then, presupposes, in addition to the faculty of moral concepts1 and of moral imagination, the ability to alter the world of percepts without violating the natural laws by which they are connected. This ability is moral technique. It may be learnt in the same sense in which science in general may be learnt.


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        • You say: “What is this voice of the Idea that we must follow? Is it the idea of natural law or that from which natural law derives - a divine source which he characterizes as the Idea? It sounds like a religious principle that must take precedence over our individual aims and replace them with service to an ideal. Is this the "object's law" which must be transformed through the moral power of the Idea?”

          As knowers, natural laws take precedence as we want to discover the directing principle that exists within an event. There can only be one idea, directing principle, at work in an event.

          In morality, natural laws, like “Justice”, do not take precedence as we individually select our own moral ideals from many possibilities. Each individual person will likely select a different ideal principle when they are all faced with an event. That is because we have different capacities of intuition and different circumstances.

          What does it mean to do “Good”? By gaining knowledge of the laws ruling an event we understand the “objects law” so we can form a plan on how to change it without doing harm. This would have to include the relationship of the object to other things since nothing exists isolated.

          Or you can say that an ideal principle does take precedence over individual aims, but we select that ideal principle, free from bias and informed by knowledge of the situation, within the realm of universal conceptual thinking or “reason”. 

          The voice of the idea appears out of a selflessness to thought. This would be an experience of science, a “devotion to the universal in thought” according to the Creed. The voice of the idea would be a divine voice in that it has the characteristics of something divine; universal, eternal, harmony, inspired feeling, enthused will etc. and is surely the cause for the invention of religion. But this all is found within thinking. Today we can just call it science.

          Are you still seeing something else?

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            • You said, “What type of "thinking" enables the idea which becomes our ideal and creates life forces?”

              Here is my take on that question. Ideas are enlivened when we see how they “stem from the Idea” or how they fit into the whole (wholistic reasoning). This is the scientific method according to Steiner. That would make the selection of a moral intuition a wholistic reasoning process.

              I take TPOF's "intellectual intuition" as assumed since it is involved in all acts of knowledge.

              scientific method: “consists of showing the concept of a certain phenomenon in its relationship with the rest of the world of ideas” (Goethean Science X)

              “All genuine philosophers have been artists in the conceptual realm. Human ideas become their artistic materials and scientific method their artistic technique. Abstract thinking takes on concrete individual life. Ideas turn into life-forces. Then we do not merely have knowledge about things, but have made knowledge into an actual self-governing organism ruled by its own laws. Our consciousness, alive and active, has lifted itself beyond a mere passive reception of truths.” TPOF 0.8

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                • I think you are explaining it in your description of scientific theories. There is a difference between the experience of reading about Einstein's relativity theory and Einstein's experience of producing it. The big deal is that he is talking about "genuine philosophers" not scientists. Genuine philosophers who use the scientific method as their technique. Philosophy then becomes a science rather than merely abstract thought. The best example is The Philosophy Of Freedom.

                  If we are dealing with ideas that are directing principles of anything, such as the principles of perception, conception; such as the cognitive processes, that would turn philosophy into science and refer to ideas that are life forces in directing inner thinking processes, perception processes etc.. It seems like he is referring to "inner" forces as he speaks of an "alive and active consciousness". It would be the difference between abstract philosophy and genuine philosophy whose ideas are grounded in the science method.

                  you said, "I have a hard time understanding how abstract thinking embodied in scientific theories could take on "concrete individual life" and turn into a life-force."

                  Maybe there is also a difference between a scientific theory and a philosophy of life in regards to becoming a life force within a person. Kants philosophy changed the world. Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom would definitely change a person and the world in a dynamic way if it could become alive in a person as a coherent wholistic philosophy of life. It changed my world in a different way than string theory could. A philosophy of life goes beyond science.

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