Study Course Steps 2.1 To 2.12

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Chapter 2 The Fundamental Desire For Knowledge
Striving For Knowledge



2.0 Desire For Knowledge
Advance from Separating 'Self and World' TO Unifying 'Self and World' 

 "Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we find again the unity from which we have separated ourselves. We will see later this goal can only be reached when the task of scientific research is understood on a deeper level than is usually the case." TPOF 2.0

 

Wall Of Separation
As children we felt ourselves to be one with Nature. But as soon as we begin to have thoughts, we question the world and desire answers. The mental process then splits our world into two parts: the outer perceived-world and our inner thought-world. In the building up of our thought-content we erect a wall of separation between ourselves and the world. The universe appears to us as two opposing sides, Self and World. Our childhood unity is lost and we confront the world as separate individuals.

Feeling Harmony And Unity
But we never lose the feeling that we belong to the world, that the universe is a unity embracing both Self and World. This feeling for harmony makes us strive to bridge the separation and guides our return by expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our attempts to reconcile the two sides. While I am seeing Nature outside of me, I feel something more of Nature within me. This feeling is a guide to the inner truth that is pressing toward manifestation.

Bond Of Connection
While it is “thought” that separates us from the world, it will be “thought” that reconnects us with it. Our life is a continuing search for the unity between ourselves and the world. Religion, art and science all pursue this same goal. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content, do we restore our lost childhood bond of connection —on a higher level. Inner truth resolves the separation between Self and World because the inner concept that corresponds to the outer world belongs not only to the Self, but also to the World. In their own way each one's inner truth can satisfy the desire for knowledge.

     
STEP 2.1 Materialistic Conception
Advance from Materialism TO Self
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One-Sided Materialistic Conception
Outer Truth: Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin by forming thoughts about the phenomena of the world. So Materialism starts with thoughts about Matter and material processes. In doing so, it already has two different kinds of facts before it: the material world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist tries to understand thought by regarding it as a purely material process. The Materialist attributes the power of thinking to Matter, instead of to himself.

  

Shift Away From Self
Inner Truth: How does Matter come to reflect upon its own nature? Why is it not perfectly content to be the way it is, and simply go on existing as it is? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the identifiable subject, from his own Self, and instead occupies himself with the nebulous and indeterminate nature of Matter. Here the same problem comes up again. The materialistic theory cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

     
STEP 2.2 Spiritualistic Theory
Advance from Spiritualism TO Material World
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One-Sided Spiritualistic Theory
Outer Truth: What of the Spiritualistic theory? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) any independent existence and conceives it as merely a product of Mind (the Self). He considers the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself.

 

Material World Is Never Found
Inner Truth: From all that it achieves by its own spiritual effort, the material world is never found. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to produce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do this either in knowledge or in action, as long as it regards its own nature as exclusively spiritual. It seems as if the Ego had to concede that the world would be a closed book to it, unless it could establish a non-spiritual relation to the world.

     
STEP 2.3 Realism
Advance from Realism TO Idealistic Intentions
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One-Sided Realism Experience Of External World
Outer Truth: If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and acquire experience. Without experience Mind can have no content.

 

Need Help Of Material Things To Realize Intentions
Inner Truth: Similarly, when we carry out actions, we have to realize our intentions on the real, practical level with the help of material things and forces. In other words, we are dependent on the external world.

     
STEP 2.4 Idealism
Advance from Idealism TO External World
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One-Sided Idealism W/O Experience
Outer Truth: The most extreme Spiritualist or, better said, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “Ego.” What he has actually accomplished is a magnificent thought-picture of the world without any experiential content.

 

Does Away With External World
Inner Truth: As little as it is possible for the Materialist to do away with the Mind, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do away with the external world.

     
STEP 2.5 Mind And Matter Theory
Advance from Mind And Matter Theories TO Mind-Matter Paradox
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Accept Both Mind And Matter Theories
Outer Truth: A curious variant of Idealism is the theory of F. A. Lange presented in his widely read “History of Materialism.” Lang accepts that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena in the world, including our thought, to be the product of purely material processes. Conversely, he also accepts that Matter and its processes are the product of thinking.

 

Mind-Matter Paradox
Inner Truth: This would mean our thinking is produced by material processes, and material processes are produced by our thinking. When translated into concepts, Lange’s philosophy is a conceptual paradox. This makes it an equivalent to the tale of the bold Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

     
STEP 2.6 Indivisible Unity
Advance from Indivisible Unity TO Two-Fold Manifestation
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Indivisible Unity Of Matter And Mind
Outer Truth: The third form of Monism is the one that finds, even at the simple level of the atom, Matter and Mind are already united

 

Can't Explain Two-Fold Manifestation
Inner Truth: But nothing is gained by this either, for here again the question that actually originates in our consciousness is shifted to another place. How does the simple entity come to manifest itself in two different ways when it is an indivisible unity?

     
STEP 2.7 Contrast Self
Advance from Contrast Self TO Microcosm-Macrocosm
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Contrast Ourselves As “Self”
Outer Truth: Contrary to all these theories is a fact that must be emphasized. It is in our own consciousness that we first encounter the basic and primal polarity. It is we, ourselves, who break away from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as “Self” in opposition to the “World.” Goethe has given classical expression to this in his essay “Nature”, even though his way of speaking may sound at first completely unscientific. “Living in the midst of her (nature), yet are we strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays not her secrets.””

 

Microcosm-Macrocosm
Inner Truth: But Goethe also knows the other side: “Human beings are all within her, and she in each of them.”

     
STEP 2.8 Feel Within Nature
Advance from Feel Nature TO Outer Nature In Us

Feel Within Nature
Outer Truth: It is true we have estranged ourselves from Nature, yet at the same time we feel we exist within Nature and belong to her.

  Outer Working Of Nature In Us
Inner Truth: It can only be that the outer working of Nature also lives in us.
     
STEP 2.9 Speculate About Nature And Mind
Advance from Speculation TO Essence Of Nature
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Speculate About Nature And Mind
Outer Truth: Dualism considers the human mind a spiritual entity entirely foreign to Nature and attempts somehow to attach it on to Nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link. We can find nature outside us only if we first know her within us. We will not speculate about how Nature and Mind interact.

  Find Essence Of Nature Within
Inner Truth: We must find the way back to her. While it is true we have torn ourselves away from Nature, we must have retained something of her in our own being. We must seek out this essence of Nature in us, and then we will discover our connection with her once more. What corresponds to nature within us will be our guide. This marks out our path of inquiry. We will probe into the depths of our own being, to find there the elements we retained in our flight from Nature.
     
STEP 2.10 Merely “I”
Advance from Merely “I” TO More Than “I"
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Merely ‘I’
Outer Truth: “Here we are merely ‘I’.

  Something More Than “I"
Inner Truth: The investigation of our own being must bring us the solution to the problem. We must reach a point where we can say, “Here we are no longer merely ‘I’, here is something more than ‘I’.
     
STEP 2.11 Academic Terms
Advance from Academic Terms TO Descriptions Of Consciousness
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Academic Terms Of Psychology And Philosophy
Outer Truth: The inclusion of a few statements about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World have been used only to clarify the actual facts. For this reason, I have not found it necessary to use terms such as 'Self', 'Mind', 'World', 'Nature' etc. in the precise way that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

 

 

Descriptions Of Consciousness We All Experience
Inner Truth: I expect some who have read this far will not find my presentation to be in accordance with "the present standing of scholarship." I can only reply that I have not been concerned with scholarship of any kind, but rather with simple descriptions of what we all experience in our own consciousness.

     
STEP 2.12 Scholar Interpretations
Advance from Scholar Interpretations TO Record Facts
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Scholar Interpretations Of Consciousness
Outer Truth: To object that the above discussions have not been scholarly would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. I am not concerned with how scholarship has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it from moment to moment.
  Record Facts Of Everyday Life
Inner Truth: Ordinary consciousness does not know the sharp distinctions of scholarship. So far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of how we experience everyday life.

 

   

Next Chapter

Corresponding Concept
While I am seeing nature outside of me it can only be something more of nature, the corresponding concept within me, that is itself pressing toward manifestation. By penetrating to the depth of our own being the corresponding concept is discovered which reveals itself to us as
belonging not only to the self but also to the world.

In the next chapter, “Thinking As An Instrument Of Knowledge”, we will look within and investigate the conceptual essence of Nature given to us as thought.

     

BOOK TEXT

2. THE FUNDAMENTAL DESIRE FOR KNOWLEDGE

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
Sich an die Welt mit klammerden Organen;
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen.
FAUST, I, 1112—1117.

Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
One with tenacious organs holds in love
And clinging lust the world in its embraces;
The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
Into the high ancestral spaces.
Faust, Part I, Scene 2.
(Bayard Taylor's translation)

2.0 Urge To Know
[1] IN these words Goethe expresses a trait which is deeply ingrained in human nature. Man is not a self-contained unity. He demands ever more than the world, of itself, offers him. Nature has endowed us with needs, but left their satisfaction to our own activity. However abundant the gifts which we have received, still more abundant are our desires. We seem born to dissatisfaction. And our desire for knowledge is but a special instance of this unsatisfied striving. Suppose we look twice at a tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree appear to us now at rest, then in motion? Every glance at nature evokes in us a multitude of questions. Every phenomenon we meet presents a new problem to be solved. Every experience is to us a riddle. We observe that from the egg there emerges a creature like the mother animal, and we ask for the reason of the likeness. We observe a living being grow and develop to a determinate degree of perfection, and we seek the conditions of this experience. Nowhere are we satisfied with the facts which nature spreads out before our senses. Everywhere we seek what we call the explanation of these facts.

[2] The something more which we seek in things, over and above what is immediately given to us in them, splits our whole being into two parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We oppose ourselves to the world as independent beings. The universe has for us two opposite poles: Self and World.

[3] We erect this barrier between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness is first kindled in us. But we never cease to feel that, in spite of all, we belong to the world, that there is a connecting link between it and us, and that we are beings within, and not without, the universe.

[4] This feeling makes us strive to bridge over this opposition, and ultimately the whole spiritual striving of mankind is nothing but the bridging of this opposition. The history of our spiritual life is a continuous seeking after union between ourselves and the world. Religion, Art, and Science follow, one and all, this goal. The religious man seeks in the revelation, which God grants him, the solution of the world problem, which his Self, dissatisfied with the world of mere phenomena, sets him as a task. The artist seeks to embody in his material the ideas which are his Self, that he may thus reconcile the spirit which lives within him and the outer world. He too, feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearances, and seeks to mould into it that something more which his Self supplies and which transcends appearances. The thinker searches for the laws of phenomena. He strives to master by thought what he experiences by observation. Only when we have transformed the world-content into our thought-content do we recapture the connection which we had ourselves broken off. We shall see later that this goal can be reached only if we penetrate much more deeply than is often done into the nature of the scientist's problem. The whole situation, as I have here stated it, meets us, on the stage of history, in the conflict between the one-world theory, or Monism, and the two-world theory or Dualism. Dualism pays attention only to the separation between the Self and the World, which the consciousness of man has brought about. All its efforts consist in a vain struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it calls now Mind and Matter, now Subject and Object, now Thought and Appearance. The Dualist feels that there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but is not able to find it. Monism pays attention only to the unity and tries either to deny or to slur over the opposites, present though they are. Neither of these two points of view can satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees in Mind (Self) and Matter (World) two essentially different entities, and cannot therefore understand how they can interact with one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter, seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to translate its intentions into actions? The most absurd hypotheses have been propounded to answer these questions. However, up to the present the Monists are not in a much better position. They have tried three different ways of meeting the difficulty. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists; or they assert that, even in the simplest entities in the world, Mind and Matter are indissolubly bound together, so that there is no need to marvel at the appearance in man of these two modes of existence, seeing that they are never found apart.

2.1 Materialism
[5] Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism, thus, begins with the thought of Matter or material processes. But, in doing so, it is ipso facto confronted by two different sets of facts, viz., the material world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he ascribes mechanical, chemical, and organic processes to Nature, so he credits her in certain circumstances with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is merely shifting the problem from one place to another. Instead of to himself he ascribes the power of thought to Matter. And thus he is back again at his starting-point. How does Matter come to think of its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content to accept its own existence? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own self, and occupies himself with an indefinite shadowy somewhat. And here the old problem meets him again. The materialistic theory cannot solve the problem, it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism
[6] What of the Spiritualistic theory? The Spiritualist denies Matter (the World) and regards it merely as a product of Mind (the Self). He supposes the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. This conception of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to deduce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do so either in knowledge or in action.

2.3 Realism
If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and draw on the fund of experience. Without experience Mind can have no content. Similarly, when it comes to acting, we have to translate our purposes into realities with the help of material things and forces. We are, therefore, dependent on the outer world.

2.4 Idealism
The most extreme Spiritualist or, if you prefer it, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to deduce the whole edifice of the world from the "Ego." What he has actually accomplished is a magnificent thought-picture of the world, without any empirical content. As little as it is possible for the Materialist to argue the Mind away, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do without the outer world of Matter.

2.5 Materialistic Idealism
[7] A curious variant of Idealism is to be found in the theory which F. A. Lange has put forward in his widely read History of Materialism. He holds that the Materialists are quite right in declaring all phenomena, including our thought, to be the product of purely material processes, but, in turn, Matter and its processes are for him themselves the product of our thinking.

"The senses give us only the effects of things, not true copies, much less the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves together with the brain and the molecular vibrations which we assume to go on there."

That is, our thinking is produced by the material processes, and these by our thinking. Lange's philosophy is thus nothing more than the philosophical analogon of the story of honest Baron Munchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[8] The third form of Monism is that which finds even in the simplest real (the atom) the union of both Matter and Mind. But nothing is gained by this either, except that the question, the origin of which is really in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How comes it that the simple real manifests itself in a twofold manner, if it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Polarity Of Consciousness
[9] Against all these theories we must urge the fact that we meet with the basal and fundamental opposition first in our own consciousness. It is we ourselves who break away from the bosom of Nature and contrast ourselves as Self with the World. Goethe has given classic expression to this in his essay Nature. "Living in the midst of her (Nature) we are strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays none of her secrets." But Goethe knows the reverse side too: "Mankind is all in her, and she in all mankind."

2.8 Feeling Impulse
[10] However true it may be that we have estranged ourselves from Nature, it is none the less true that we feel we are in her and belong to her. It can be only her own life which pulses also in us.

2.9 Knowing Nature Within
[11] We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection may point this way out to us. We have, it is true, torn ourselves away from Nature, but we must none the less have carried away something of her in our own selves. This quality of Nature in us we must seek out, and then we shall discover our connection with her once more. Dualism neglects to do this. It considers the human mind as a spiritual entity utterly alien to Nature and attempts somehow to hitch it on to Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the coupling link. We can find Nature outside of us only if we have first learnt to know her within us. The Natural within us must be our guide to her. This marks out our path of inquiry. We shall attempt no speculations concerning the interaction of Mind and Matter. We shall rather probe into the depths of our own being, to find there those elements which we saved in our flight from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than "I"
[12] The examination of our own being must bring the solution of the problem. We must reach a point where we can say, "This is no longer merely ' I,' this is something which is more than ' I.' "

2.11 Description Of Consciousness
[13] I am well aware that many who have read thus far will not consider my discussion in keeping with "the present state of science." To such criticism I can reply only that I have so far not been concerned with any scientific results, but simply with the description of what every one of us experiences in his own consciousness. That a few phrases have slipped in about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World has been due solely to the desire to elucidate the actual facts. I have therefore made no attempt to give to the expressions "Self," "Mind," "World," "Nature," the precise meaning which they usually bear in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Without Interpretation
The ordinary consciousness ignores the sharp distinctions of the sciences, and so far my purpose has been solely to record the facts of everyday experience. To object that the above discussions have been unscientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. I am concerned, not with the way in which science, so far, has interpreted consciousness, but with the way in which we experience it in every moment of our lives.