free will (7)

For centuries, the enigma of free will has captivated philosophers, scientists, and thinkers. Despite countless debates and discussions, a definitive understanding of human freedom remained elusive. However, a groundbreaking scientific discovery has now provided substantial evidence to validate Rudolf Steiner's profound insights into the nature of free will, potentially converting long-standing philosophical debates into tangible scientific understanding.

In 1894, Rudolf Steiner, in his seminal work "The Philosophy Of Freedom," introduced a revolutionary perspective on free will. Unlike traditional approaches that offered abstract definitions, Steiner focused on a specific region of the mind, a realm where he believed the seeds of free will could flourish. He posited that true freedom of will is accessible only within this particular mental domain stating, "In The Philosophy Of Freedom, I attempt to present a view of the human being that fully justifies the idea of freedom of the will provided one finds the region of the mind where free will can unfold itself" (Rudolf Steiner, 1918 preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom). His focus was not on abstract theorizing but on pinpointing a specific region of the mind where freedom originates.

Steiner argued that intuitive ideas, born from within this region, are the wellsprings of truth and inspiration. He emphasized that these insights are more than mere cognitive processes; they are the source of genuine creativity and freedom. This region of the mind is where one's thinking activity can continually provide creative answers to personal queries. "The book points to a region of the mind where the mind's activity supplies a living answer, always anew, to the questions whenever a person needs it," he explained in the 1918 preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom.

In a remarkable parallel to Steiner's century-old observations, brain imaging research has shed light on the brain's role in creative insights. The 2015 publication "The Eureka Factor" by two cognitive neuroscientists identified the right temporal lobe, just above the ear, as the epicenter of intuitive insights. This area, associated with conceptual knowledge, is where creative thoughts and ideas coalesce. This discovery aligns with Steiner's idea of 'conceptual intuitions' and 'moral intuitions' arising from the realm of concepts, shaping our understanding of the world and our place within it.

The research uncovered that these moments of insight are marked by surges of gamma brainwave energy, signifying heightened awareness and enhanced thinking. This intuitive impulse improved focus, increased intelligence, and boosts energy. This higher experience results in more tolerance and more compassion.

Steiner referred to these bursts of energy as the 'impulse of freedom,' a phenomenon he sought to establish on a scientific basis. "I wrote The Philosophy Of Freedom in order to give humanity a clear picture of the idea of freedom, of the impulse of freedom. To this end, it was necessary first of all to establish the impulse of freedom on a firm scientific basis," he reflected in 1918. The 'impulse of freedom' now finds empirical support in neuroscience. It is no longer merely an abstract idea but a tangible, measurable phenomenon, experienced as a moment of intuitive insight that can inspire and empower.

According to Steiner this impulse of freedom is not a single event but a two-step process. The normal psychological and physical influences on thinking must first withdraw to create a conducive environment for the emergence of new ideas. This makes freedom possible, allowing us to overcome the psychological and physical compulsions that typically control our thought and action. "The psychological and physical organization 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," Steiner observed in Chapter 9 of the 1918 revised edition of The Philosophy Of Freedom.

The suspension of psychological and physical influences was explained by the neuroscientists. They discovered that preceding the gamma wave burst of intuitive insight there is an alpha wave burst that limits external sensory inputs and suspends cognitive activity. The alpha wave burst prepares the brain to receive the new insight by restricting external information and allowing space for the new thought to appear.

This groundbreaking research validates Steiner's vision and his efforts to empirically ground the idea of freedom. It suggests that the intuitive process, as described by Steiner, has a physical counterpart in the brain's activities. This bridges the gap between philosophical speculation and empirical evidence, paving the way for a deeper exploration of the human psyche and its capabilities. The emergence of a science of freedom heralds a new era in personal development and societal structure, laying the foundation for human evolution and social progress.

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Human drive to be free

The fundamental characteristic of our times is the growing interest around the world to express one's unique individuality. This need for individual expression is the result of an intense striving towards freedom, for we are only human to the extent that we are free.

Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom describes what freedom is so we can determine whether we are free or not, and if not, how to acquire it.

What is freedom?
The question of “What is freedom?” has been debated since the times of the Greeks by the greatest minds. Many offer the key to freedom which may end up leading to deeper enslavement or may be a step forward.

Technology, social and political ideologies, and spiritual theories promise various forms of inner and outer freedom. How do we know what to trust?

Science of freedom
What is needed to end the speculation is an empirical science of freedom. Through introspective research into how the mind works and its relation to the world, Rudolf Steiner located freedom empirically.

With thought training anyone of good will can enter the realm of universal concepts where unbiased free thinking is possible. In this place “pure” reasoning proceeds only on the basis of its own ideal universal content.

Intuitive insight
Pure reasoning is intuitive and leads to intuitive insight free from the determinants of one's characterological make-up or the demands of authority.

Intuitive thinking uncovers the lawful order of things making science possible and when applied to ethics makes free morality possible.

Concept of the free spirit
Through the determined study of The Philosophy Of Freedom the concept of the free spirit is won. Now you know what freedom is; freely forming ideas to be realized in free ethical action.

Not all of our actions are free. The task of self-development is to transform the actions that are unfree into actions that are free. This is possible when you know what freedom is. It requires the emancipation of the cognitive processes, and to obey only yourself.

Proper study
The book was written to be a thought training exercise to awaken the readers intellectual intuition, a requirement for freedom. Steiner wrote it intentionally out of independent thinking so the terms and phrasing are not familiar and not easily understood. To work your way through it takes great effort. Everything in the book must be won. The study should not be a mere reading, it should be an experiencing with inner shocks, tensions and resolutions.

Global humanism
We learn in The Philosophy Of Freedom a personal God will never unite the world because we will have different experiences of it. POF 5.9 The universal ideal content which thinking supplies is the only common element in the separate things of the world.

A free spirit thinks universally and acts individually. She is described in The Philosophy Of Freedom as an ethical individualist and a humanist who “affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom.” 2002 World Humanist Congress

Science and ethics
An ethics informed by a science of human well-being is possible with a shared objective knowledge of human freedom as the basis of collaborative support for its unfoldment. A science of freedom lays the foundation of ethical individualism and of a social and political life.

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Cognitive research by Benjamin Libet and others have shown that our brains generate decisions before we’re even aware of them, which suggests there is no free will because our decisions are made unconsciously.

Scientist locates free will in the brain
Paul Bisceglio writes about a new study with unexpected results. Free will may sneak its way into our decision making through a surprising source: brain static. This neural noise is simply that the brain is always firing even in the absence of input or responses.

Researchers at the University of California-Davis measured the brain activity of a handful of undergraduates as each made choices to look left or right when prompted by images on a screen.

The study's result: Fluctuations in brain static actually predicted the direction in which students chose to look.

These constant fluctuations exist apart from our normal unconsciously determined thought, so they seem to allow for “spontaneous” thought. “Neural noise might be how we can generate novel responses to new situational demands,” says Jesse Bengson, the study’s lead author.

Others have criticized the short time frames between action and movement used in this kind of research that were likely creating distortions in the data.

Rudolf Steiner's locates free will in the mind
Rudolf Steiner's theory of free will is dependent on finding the region of the mind where free will can originate. 1918 Preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom

Conceptual sphere of universal concepts
This region is the conceptual sphere of universal concepts. It is the sphere where mathematical, philosophical, logical and analytical scientific thinking takes place when one is immersed in pure universal concepts.

Universal concepts are an all inclusive ideal just as the concept triangle includes all triangles and the concept tree includes all trees. Universals do not include sense perceptible content such as a particular triangle (right triangle) or a particular tree (oak tree). Thinking in universals is non-sensory, non-empirical, and non-physical pure thinking.

Free thinking is possible in the conceptual sphere
To think in pure concepts is free thinking, free of bias, where thought is linked with thought according to the ideal content. This is also known in philosophy as reason. Pure concepts are not sense perceptible, they are perceived intuitively in the mind, making reason an intuitive process. POF 9.4

If free thinking is possible, then free will is possible
An action determined by free thinking means that our conduct is not influenced by an established character disposition, or an external moral principle accepted on authority. The action is not a stereotypical one that follows a set of norms, or is it an automatic response to external stimuli. Free action is guided by an idea consciously originating in free thinking. POF 9.5

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