The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity by Rudolf Steiner

This is a recording of, THE PHILOSOPHY OF
SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY, By RUDOLF STEINER This book is available, on the public domain,
as well as, here, on Youtube and other websites. This is, THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY,
By RUDOLF STEINER PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDitION, 1918 Everything discussed in this book centers
around two problems which are fundamental to
the human soul-life. One of these problems concerns the possibility
of attaining such insight into human nature that knowledge of
man can become the foundation of all human knowledge and experience of life. We often feel that our experiences and the
results of scientific investigations are not self-supporting; further experiences or
discoveries may shake our certitude. The other problem is: Has man any right to
ascribe freedom to his will, or is freedom of will
an illusion arising out of his inability to recognize the threads of necessity on which
his will depends, just like a process in nature? This question is not artificially created. In a certain disposition it arises quite
spontaneously in the human soul!and one feels that the soul lacks in stature if it has not
at some time faced in deep seriousness the question of free will or necessity. In this book
the intention is to show that the inner experiences caused by the second problem depend
upon what attitude man is able to take toward the first problem. The attempt will be made
to show that it is possible to attain such an insight into man’s nature, that this
can support all the rest of his knowledge, and further
that this insight completely justifies the concept
of freedom of will, provided only that first the region of soul is discovered where free
will can unfold. This insight in relation to the two problems
is such that, once attained, it can become a
living content of man’s soul life. A theoretical answer will not be given which,
once acquired is merely carried about as a conviction,
retained by memory. for the whole
manner of thinking on which this book is based, such an answer would be no answer. Such a finished, limited answer will not be
given, but a region of experiences within the
human soul will be pointed to, where, through the soul’s own inner activity, living
answers to the questions are to be found ever anew and at every moment when man needs
them. Once the region of soul is discovered where
these questions unfold, a real insight into this region provides man with what he
needs for the solution of these two problems of life so that, with what he has then attained,
he can penetrate further into the breadth and depth of life’s riddles, as need or
destiny leads him. – it will be seen that a knowledge
has here been outlined, which proves its justification and validity, not only through its
own existence, but also through the relationship it has with the entire soul-life of man. These were my thoughts about the content of
this book when I wrote it twenty-five years ago. Today, again I must write similarly if I am
to characterize the aim of this book. In
the first edition I limited myself to saying no more than was in the strictest sense
connected with the two fundamental problems described above. If anyone should be
surprised at not finding in this book as yet, any reference to that region of the world
of spiritual experience described in my later
writings, then he must consider that at that time
it was not my purpose to describe results of spiritual research, but first to lay the
foundation on which such results can rest. This “Philosophy of Freedom” does not
contain any special results of this kind, any more than it contains special results
of the natural sciences. But what it contains cannot, in my view, be
dispensed with by anyone who strives for certainty in such knowledge. What I have said in this book can also be
acceptable to many who, for reasons of their own, will have nothing to do with the results
of my spiritual scientific research. But one who can regard these results of spiritual scientific research as something to which
he is drawn, will recognize as important what is
attempted here. it is this: to prove that an open-minded consideration
of just the two problems I have indicated, problems which
are fundamental to all knowledge, leads to recognition of the fact that man is living
within the reality of a spiritual world. In this
book the attempt is made to justify knowledge of the realm of spirit before entering upon
spiritual experience!and this justification is undertaken in such a way that, for anyone
able and willing to enter into this discussion, there is no need, in order to accept what
is said here, to cast furtive glances at the
experiences which my later writings have shown to be relevant. Thus it seems to me that, on the one hand,
this book occupies a position completely independent of my writings on actual spiritual
scientific matters, and yet, on the other hand, it is also most intimately connected
with them. All this has caused me now, after
twenty-five years, to republish the content of this book practically unaltered in all
essentials. I have, however, made additions of some length
to several chapters. The
misunderstandings of my argument which have come to my attention seemed to make
these detailed extensions necessary. Alterations have been made only where what
I said a quarter of a century ago appeared to me clumsily
expressed. (Only ill-will could find in
these changes occasion to suggest that I have changed my fundamental conviction.) The book has been out of print for many years. Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact,
apparent from what I have just said, that to me it seems that to-day must be similarly
expressed what I did express twenty-five years ago about the problems I have
characterized, I hesitated a long time about the completion of this revised edition. Again
and again I have asked myself whether at this point or that, I ought not to define my
position toward the numerous philosophical views which have been put forward since the
publication of the first edition. Yet the heavy demands on my time in recent
years, due to purely spiritual scientific research, prevented
me doing as I might have wished. Also, a
survey, as thorough as possible, of the philosophical literature of the present day has
convinced me that such a critical discussion, tempting though it would be in itself, has
no place in the context of what this book has
to say. All that, from the point of view of the
“Philosophy of Spiritual Activity,” it seemed to me necessary to say about recent
philosophical tendencies, may be found in the second volume of my “Riddles of
Philosophy.” April 1918 RUDOLF STEINER THE CONSCIOUS HUMAN DEED Is man in his thinking and acting a spiritually
free being, or is he compelled by the iron necessity of natural law? Few questions have been debated more than
this one. The
concept of the freedom of the human will has found enthusiastic supporters and stubborn
opponents in plenty. There are those who, in moral fervor, declare
it to be sheer stupidity to deny so evident a fact as freedom. Opposed to them are others who regard as utterly
naive the belief that the uniformity of natural law is interrupted in the sphere of human
action and thinking. One and the same thing is here declared as
often to be the most precious possession of humanity, as it is
said to be its most fatal illusion. Infinite subtlety
has been devoted to explaining how human freedom is compatible with the working of
nature, to which, after all, man belongs. No less pains have been taken to make
comprehensible how a delusion like this could have arisen. That here we are dealing with
one of the most important questions of life, religion, conduct and science, is felt by
everyone whose character is not totally devoid of depth!and indeed, it belongs to the sad
signs of the superficiality of present day thinking that a book which attempts to develop
a “new faith” out of the results of the
latest scientific discoveries, contains, on this
question, nothing but the words: “There is no need here to go into the question
of the freedom of the human will. The
supposed indifferent freedom of choice has always been recognized as an empty illusion
by every philosophy worthy of the name. The moral valuation of human conduct and
character remains untouched by this question.” I do not quote this passage because I consider
that the book in which it appears has any special importance, but because it seems to
me to express the only view which most of our thinking contemporaries are able to reach,
concerning this question. Everyone who
claims to have advanced beyond an elementary education seems nowadays to know that
freedom cannot consist in choosing at one’s pleasure, one or the other of two possible
courses of action; it is maintained that there is always a quite definite reason why, out
of several possible actions, we carry out a particular
one. This seems obvious. Nevertheless, up to now, the main attacks
by those who oppose freedom are directed only against the freedom
of choice. Herbert Spencer, who has views
which are rapidly gaining ground, says: “That everyone is able to desire or not
to desire, as he pleases, which is the essential principle in the dogma of free will, is negated
by the analysis of consciousness, as well as
by the contents of the preceding chapter 2 Others, too, start from the same point of
view in combating the concept of free will. The
germs of all that is relevant in these arguments are to be found as early as Spinoza. All
that he brought forward in clear and simple language against the idea of freedom has
since been repeated times without number, but usually veiled in the most complicated
theoretical doctrines so that it is difficult to recognize the straightforward train of
thought on which all depends. Spinoza writes in a letter of October or November,
1674: “I call something free which exists and
acts from the pure necessity of its nature, and I
call that compelled, the existence and action of which are exactly and fixedly determined
by something else. The existence of God, for example, though
necessary, is free because He exists only through the necessity of His
nature. Similarly, God knows Himself and all
else in freedom, because it follows solely from the necessity of His nature that He knows all. You see, therefore, that I regard freedom
as consisting, not in free decision, but in free necessity. “But let us come down to created things
which are all determined by external causes to
exist and to act in a fixed and definite manner. To recognize this more clearly, let us
imagine a perfectly simple case. A stone, for example, receives from an external
cause acting upon it a certain quantity of motion,
by which it necessarily continues to move after the impact of the external cause has
ceased. The continued motion of the stone is a
compelled one, not a necessary one, because it has to be defined by the thrust of the
external cause. What is true here for the stone is true also
for every other particular thing, however complicated and many-sided it may
be, namely, that each thing is necessarily determined by external causes to exist and
to act in a fixed and definite manner. “Now, please, suppose that during its motion
the stone thinks and knows that it is striving to the best of its ability to continue in
motion. This stone which is conscious only of its
striving and is by no means indifferent, will believe that it is absolutely free, and that
it continues in motion for no other reason than
its own will to continue. But this is that
human freedom which everybody claims to possess and which consists in nothing but
this, that men are conscious of their desires, but do not Know the causes by which they
are determined. Thus the child believes that he is free when
he desires milk, the angry boy that he is free in his desire for vengeance,
and the timid in his desire for flight. Again, the drunken man believes that he says
of his own free decision what, sober again, he would fain have left unsaid, and as this
prejudice is innate in all men, it is not easy to
free oneself from it. for although experience teaches us often enough
that man, least of all, can temper his desires and that, moved
by conflicting passions, he sees the better and
pursues the worse, yet he considers himself free, simply because there are some things
which he desires less strongly and many desires which can easily be inhibited through the
recollection of something else which is often remembered.” Because here we are dealing with a clear and
definitely expressed view, it is also easy to
discover the fundamental error in it. As necessarily as a stone continues a definite
movement after being put in motion, just as necessarily is a man supposed to carry out
an action when urged thereto by any reason. it is only because man is conscious of his
action, that he regards himself as its free originator. But, in doing so, he overlooks the
fact that he is driven to it by a cause which he has to obey unconditionally. The error in
this train of thought is soon found. Spinoza, and all who think like him, overlook
the fact that man not only is conscious of his action,
but may also become conscious of the causes which guide him. No one will deny that when the child desires
milk, he is unfree, as is also the drunken man when he says things he
later regrets. Neither knows anything of the
causes working in the depths of their organisms, which exercise irresistible power over
them. But is it justifiable to lump together actions
of this kind with those in which a man is conscious, not only of his actions but
also of the reasons which cause him to act? Are
the actions of men really all of one kind? Should the deed of a soldier on the field
of battle, of the research scientist in his laboratory,
of the statesman in complicated diplomatic negotiations, be placed, scientifically,
on the same level with that of the child when he desires milk? it is indeed true that
it is best to attempt the solution of a problem where the conditions are simplest. But inability to differentiate has caused
endless confusion before now. There is, after all, a profound difference
between whether I know why I do something, or whether I do not. At first sight this seems a self-evident truth. and yet those who oppose freedom never ask
whether a motive which I recognize and see through, compels me in the same sense
as does the organic process in the child that causes him to cry for milk. Eduard von Hartmann maintains that the human
will depends on two main factors: the motive and the character. If one regards all men as alike, or at any
rate the differences between them as negligible, then their will
appears as determined from without, namely by the circumstances which come to meet them. But if one takes into consideration that
men let a representation become a motive for their deeds only if their character is such
that the particular representation arouses a desire in them, then man appears as
determined from within and not from without. Now, because a representation pressing in
on him from without must first, in accordance with his character, be adopted as a motive,
man believes himself to be free, that is, independent of external motives. The truth,
however, according to Eduard von Hartmann, is that “even though we ourselves first turn a representation
into a motive, we do so not arbitrarily, but according to the necessity
of our characterological disposition, that is, we
are anything but free.” Here again, the difference between motives
which I allow to influence me only after I have permeated them with my consciousness,
and those which I follow without having any clear knowledge of them, is disregarded. and this leads directly to the standpoint
from which the facts will be considered here. Is
it at all permissible to consider by itself the question of the freedom of our will? and
if not: With what other question must it necessarily
be connected? If there is a difference between a conscious
motive of my action and an unconscious impulse, then the conscious motive will result
in an action which must be judged differently from one that springs from blind
urge. The first question must, therefore,
concern this difference, and upon the answer will depend how we are to deal with the
question of freedom as such. What does it mean to know the reason for one’s
action? This question has been too little
considered because, unfortunately, the tendency has always been to tear into two parts
what is an inseparable whole: Man. We distinguish the knower from the doer, and
the one who really matters is lost sight of: the man
who acts because he knows. it is said: Man is free when his reason has
the upper hand, not his animal cravings!or else: Freedom means to be able to determine
one’s life and action in accordance with purposes and decisions. Nothing is achieved by assertions of this
kind. for the question is just whether reason, purposes and decisions exercise compulsion
over a man in the same way as do his animal cravings. If, without my doing, a reasonable decision
emerges in me with just the same necessity as hunger and thirst, then I must
needs obey it, and my freedom is an illusion. Another phrase is: To be free means not that
one is able to will what one wants, but that one is able to do what one wants. This thought has been expressed with great
clearness by the poet-philosopher, Robert Hamerling. “Man can, indeed, do what he wants, but
he cannot will what he wants, because his will
is determined by motives! He cannot will what he wants? Let us consider these words
more closely. Have they any sense? Should freedom of will consist in being able
to will something without reason, without a motive? But what does it mean to will something,
other than to have a reason to do or to strive for this rather than that? To will something
without a reason, without a motive, would mean to will something without willing it. The
concept of will is inseparable from that of motive. Without a motive to determine it, the
will is an empty ability; only through the motive does it become active and real. it is,
therefore, quite correct that the human will is not ‘free,’ inasmuch as its direction
is always determined by that motive which is
the strongest. But, on the other hand, it must
be admitted that in contrast with this ‘unfreedom’ it is absurd to speak of a thinkable
‘freedom’ of the will, which would end up in being able to will what one does not
will.” Here again, only motives in general are discussed,
without regard for the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If a motive affects me and I am compelled
to act on it because it proves to be the “strongest” of its kind, then the thought of freedom
ceases to have any meaning. Should it matter to me whether I can do a
thing or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The immediate question is not whether I can
or cannot do a thing when a motive has influenced me,
but whether only such motives exist as affect me with compelling necessity. If I have to will something, then I may well
be absolutely indifferent as to whether I can
also do it!and if, through my character, or through circumstances prevailing in my environment,
a motive is pressed upon me which to my thinking is unreasonable, then I should
even have to be glad if I could not do what I
will. The question is not whether I can carry out
a decision once made, but how the decision arises within me. What distinguishes man from all other organic
beings is his rational thinking. Actions he
has in common with other organisms. Nothing is gained by seeking analogies in
the animal world to clarify the concept of freedom
of action of human beings. Modern
natural science loves such analogies. When scientists have succeeded in finding
among animals something similar to human behavior,
they believe they have touched upon the most important question of the science of
man. To what misunderstandings this view
leads is seen, for example, in a book by P. Rée, where the following remark on freedom
appears: “it is easy to explain why the movement
of a stone seems to us necessary, while the will-
impulse of a donkey does not. The causes which set the stone in motion are
external and visible, while the causes which induce in
the donkey impulses of will are internal and invisible, that is, between us and the place
where they are active there is the skull of the
donkey.! The dependence on a cause is not seen and
the conclusion, therefore, is drawn that no dependence is present. it is explained that the will is, indeed,
the cause of the donkey’s turning round, but that it is itself
unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning.” Here again, human actions in which man is
conscious of the reasons why he acts, are simply ignored, for Rée declares: “Between us and the place where the causes
are active there is the skull of the donkey.” From these words can be seen that Ree had
no notion that there are actions, not indeed of
the donkey, but of human beings, in which between us and the deed lies the motive that
has become conscious. That Ree does not see this he shows again
later, when he says: “We do not perceive the causes by which
our will is determined, hence we believe that our will is not causally determined at all.” But enough of examples which show that many
oppose freedom without knowing in the least what freedom is. That an action cannot be free, of which the
doer does not know why he carries it out, is
obvious. But what about an action for which we know
the reason! This leads us to the
question: What is the origin and significance of thinking? for without knowledge of the
thinking activity of the soul, it is impossible to form a concept of what it means to know
something, and therefore also of what it means to know the reason for an action. When
we recognize what thinking in general means, then it will also be easy to become clear
about the role that thinking plays in human action. As Hegel rightly says, “it is thinking that turns the soul, with
which the animals are also endowed, into spirit.” and this is why thinking gives to human action
its characteristic stamp. it is not maintained that all our action springs
only from the sober deliberations of our reason. Far be it from me to consider human in the
highest sense only those actions which result from abstract judgments. But as soon as our conduct rises above the
sphere of the satisfaction of purely animal desires, our
motives are always permeated by thoughts. Love, pity and patriotism are motivating forces
for deeds which cannot be analyzed away into cold concepts of the intellect. it is said that here the heart and the mood
of soul hold sway. No doubt. But the heart and the mood of the soul do
not create the motives. They
presuppose them and let them enter. Pity enters my heart when the representation
of a person who arouses pity appears in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the
head. Love is no exception. Whenever it is not merely the expression of
bare sexual instinct, it depends on the representation
we form of the loved one!and the more idealistic these representations are, just
so much the more blessed is our love. Here too,
thought is the father of feeling. it is said: Love makes us blind to the failings
of the loved one. But this also holds good the other way round,
and it can be said: Love opens the eyes just for the good qualities of the loved one. Many pass by these good qualities without
noticing them. One, however, sees them, and just because
he does, love awakens in his soul. He has done nothing other than form a representation
of something, of which hundreds have none. They have no love because they lack the representation. From whatever point we regard the subject,
it becomes ever clearer that the question of
the nature of human action presupposes that of the origin of thinking. I shall, therefore,
turn to this question next. THE FUNDAMENTAL URGE for KNOWLEDGE Two souls alas are dwelling in my breast;
and each is fain to leave its brother. The one, fast clinging, to the world adheres
With clutching organs, in love’s sturdy lust;
The other strongly lifts itself from dust To yonder high, ancestral spheres. Faust I, Sc. 2
Priest translation In these words Goethe expresses a characteristic
feature belonging to the deepest foundation of human nature. Man is not a uniformly organized being. He always
demands more than the world gives him of its own accord. Nature has endowed us with
needs; among them are some that are left to our own initiative to satisfy. Abundant are
the gifts bestowed upon us, but still more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be
dissatisfied. Our thirst for knowledge is but a special
instance of this dissatisfaction. If we
look twice at a tree and the first time see its branches motionless, the second time in
movement, we do not remain satisfied with this observation. Why does the tree appear to
us now motionless, now in movement? Thus we ask. Every glance at nature evokes in us
a number of questions. Every phenomenon we meet sets us a problem. Every experience
contains a riddle. We see emerging from the egg a creature like
the mother animal; we ask the reason for this likeness. We notice that living beings grow and develop
to a certain degree of perfection and we investigate
the conditions for this experience. Nowhere are we satisfied with what nature
spreads before our senses. Everywhere we
seek what we call explanation of the facts. The something more which we seek in things,
over and above what is given us directly in them, divides our whole being into two aspects;
we become conscious of our contrast to the world. We confront the world as independent beings. The universe appears to us to
have two opposite poles: I and world. We erect this barrier between ourselves and
the world as soon as consciousness first dawns in us. But we never cease to feel that, in spite
of all, we belong to the world, that there is a bond of union between it and us,
that we are not beings outside, but within, the
universe. This feeling makes us strive to bridge over
the contrast!and in this bridging the whole spiritual striving of mankind ultimately consists. The history of man’s spiritual life is an
incessant search for unity between us and the world. Religion, art and science all have
this same aim. In the revelation God grants him, the religious
believer seeks the solution of the problems in the world which his I,
dissatisfied with the world of mere phenomena, sets him. The artist seeks to imprint into matter the
ideas of his I, in order to reconcile with the world outside what lives within him. He, too, feels dissatisfied with the world
as it appears to him, and seeks to embody into
the world of mere phenomena that something more which his I, reaching out beyond it,
contains. The thinker seeks the laws of
phenomena, and strives to penetrate with thinking what he experiences by observing. Only when we have made the world-content into
our thought-content do we again find the unity from which we separated ourselves. We shall see later that this goal will be
reached only when the task of the scientific investigator is understood at a much deeper
level than is usually the case. The whole situation I have described here,
presents itself to us on the stage of history in the contrast
between a unified view of the world or monism, and the theory of two worlds or dualism. Dualism pays attention only to the separation
between I and world, brought about by man’s consciousness. All its efforts consist in a
vain struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it calls spirit and matter, subject
and object, or thinking and phenomena. The dualist feels that there must be a bridge
between the two worlds, but he is unable to find it. In as far as man is aware of himself as “I,”
he cannot but think of this “I” as belonging
to spirit; and in contrasting this “I” with the
world he cannot do otherwise than reckon the perceptions given to the senses, the realm
of matter, as belonging to the world. In doing so, man places himself within the
contrast of spirit and matter. He must do so all the more because his own
body belongs to the material world. Thus the “I” belongs to the realm of spirit,
as part of it; the material things and events which are perceived by the
senses belong to the “world.” All the
problems connected with spirit and matter, man finds again in the fundamental riddle
of his own nature. Monism pays attention only to the unity and
tries either to deny or to efface the contrasts, which are there nevertheless. Neither of these two views is
satisfactory, for they do not do justice to the facts. Dualism sees spirit (I) and matter
(world) as two fundamentally different entities and cannot, therefore, understand how
they can interact upon each other. How should spirit know what goes on in matter,
if the essential nature of matter is quite alien
to spirit? and how, in these circumstances, should
spirit be able to act upon matter, in order to transform its intentions into actions? The
most clever and the most absurd hypotheses have been put forward to solve these
problems. But, so far, monism has fared no better. Up to now it has tried to justify itself
in three different ways. Either it denies spirit and becomes materialism;
or it denies matter and seeks its salvation in spiritualism;
or it maintains that since even in the simplest entities in the world spirit and
matter are indivisibly bound together, there is no
need for surprise if these two kinds of existence are both present in the human being, for
they are never found apart. Materialism can never arrive at a satisfactory
explanation of the world. for every
attempt at an explanation must of necessity begin with man’s forming thoughts about
the phenomena of the world. Materialism, therefore, takes its start from
thoughts about matter or material processes. In doing so, it straightway confronts two
different kinds of facts, namely, the material world and the
thoughts about it. The materialist tries to
understand thoughts by regarding them as a purely material process. 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 to matter mechanical and
organic effects, so he also attributes to matter, in certain circumstances,
the ability to think. He forgets that in doing
this he has merely shifted the problem to another place. Instead of to himself, he ascribes
to matter the ability to think!and thus he is back again at his starting-point. How does
matter come to reflect about its own nature! Why is it not simply satisfied with itself
and with its existence? The materialist has turned his attention away
from the definite subject, from our own I, and has arrived at a vague,
indefinite image!and here again, the same problem comes to meet him. The materialistic view is unable to solve
the problem; it only transfers it to another place. How does the matter stand with the spiritualistic
view? The extreme spiritualist denies to
matter its independent existence and regards it merely as product of spirit. But when he
tries to apply this view of the world to the solution of the riddle of his own human nature,
he finds himself in a corner. Confronting the I, which can be placed on
the side of spirit, there stands, without any mediation, the physical
world. No spiritual approach to it seems
possible; it has to be perceived and experienced by the I by means of material processes. Such material processes the “I” does not
find in itself if it regards its own nature as
having only spiritual validity. The physical world is never found in what
it works out spiritually. it seems as if the “I” would have to admit
that the world would remain closed to it if it did not establish a non-spiritual
relation to the world. Similarly, when we come
to be active, we have to translate our intentions into realities with the help of material
substances and forces. In other words, we are dependent upon the
outer world. The most
extreme spiritualist – or rather, the thinker who, through absolute idealism, appears as
an extreme spiritualist – is Johann Gottlieb
Fichte.He attempts to derive the whole edifice of the world from the “I.” What he has actually accomplished is a magnificent
thought- picture of the world, without any content
of experience. As little as it is possible for the
materialist to argue the spirit away, just as little is it possible for the idealist
to argue away the outer world of matter. The first thing man perceives when he seeks
to gain knowledge of his “I” is the activity of this “I” in the conceptual elaboration
of the world of ideas. This is the reason why
someone who follows a world-view which inclines toward spiritualism may feel tempted,
when looking at his own human nature, to acknowledge nothing of spirit except his own
world of ideas. In this way spiritualism becomes one-sided
idealism. He does not reach
the point of seeking through the world of ideas a spiritual world; in the world of his
ideas he sees the spiritual world itself. As a result of this, he is driven to remain
with his world- view as if chained within the activity of
his “I.” The view of Friedrich Albert Lange is a curious
variety of idealism, put forward by him in his widely read History of Materialism. He suggests that the materialists are quite
right in declaring all phenomena, including our thinking, to be the product of purely
material processes, only, in turn, matter and its processes are themselves the product
of our thinking. “The senses give us the effects of things,
not true copies, much less the things themselves. To these mere effects belong the senses themselves,
as well as the brain and the molecular vibrations which are thought
to go on there.” That is, our thinking is produced by the material
processes, and these by the thinking of the “I.” Lange’s philosophy, in other
words, is nothing but the story – applied to concepts
– of the ingenious Baron Miinnchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his own
pigtail. The third form of monism is the one which
sees the two entities, matter and spirit, already
united in the simplest being (the atom). But nothing is gained by this, either, for
here again the question, which really originates
in our consciousness, is transferred to another place. How does the simple being come to manifest
itself in two different ways, if it is an indivisible unity? To all these viewpoints it must be objected
that it is first and foremost in our own consciousness that we meet the basic and original
contrast. it is we who detach ourselves
from the bosom of nature and contrast ourselves as “I” with the “world.” Goethe’” has
given classic expression to this in his essay On Nature, although at first glance his
manner may be considered quite unscientific: “We live in the midst of her (nature) yet
are we strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, and yet betrays
not her secrets.” But
Goethe knew the other side too: “All human beings are in her and she is in all human
beings.” Just as true as it is that we have estranged
ourselves from nature, so is it also true that we
feel: We are within nature and we belong to it. That which lives in us can only be
nature’s own influence. We must find the way back to nature again. A simple consideration can show us this way. We have, it is true, detached ourselves from
nature, but we must have taken something of it over with us, into our own being. This essence of nature in us we must seek
out, and then we shall also find the connection with
it once again. Dualism neglects this. it
considers the inner being of man as a spiritual entity quite alien to nature, and seeks
somehow to hitch it onto nature. No wonder it cannot find the connecting link. We can
only understand nature outside us when we have first learned to recognize it within
us. What within us is akin to nature must be our
guide. This points out our path. We shall not
speculate about the interaction of nature and spirit. But we shall penetrate the depths of
our own being, there to find those elements which we took with us in our flight from
nature. Investigation of our own being must bring
the solution of the riddle. We must reach a
point where we can say to ourselves: Here I am no longer merely “I,” here I encounter
something which is more than “I.” I am aware that many who have read thus far
will not have found my discussion “scientific” in the usual sense. To this I can only reply that so far I have
not been concerned with scientific results of any kind,
but with the simple description of what everyone experiences in his own consciousness. A few expressions concerning the
attempts to reconcile man’s consciousness and the world have been used only for the
purpose of clarifying the actual facts. I have, therefore, made no attempt to use
the expressions “I,” “spirit,” “world,”
“nature,” in the precise way that is usual in psychology
and philosophy!ordinary consciousness is unaware of the sharp distinctions made by the
sciences, and up to this point it has only been a matter of describing the facts of everyday
conditions. I am concerned, not with how science, so far,
has interpreted consciousness, but with how we experience it in daily life. THINKING IN THE SERVICE OF UNDERstandING THE
world When I see how a billiard ball, when struck,
communicates its motion to another ball, I remain entirely without influence on the course
of this event which I observe. The
direction and velocity of the second ball is determined by the direction and velocity
of the first. As long as I do no more than observe, I cannot
say anything about the motion of the second ball until it actually moves. The situation alters if I begin to reflect
on the content of my observation. The purpose of my reflection is to form concepts
of the event. I bring
the concept of an elastic ball into connection with certain other concepts of mechanics,
and take into consideration the special circumstances prevailing in this particular
instance. In other words, to the action taking place
without my doing, I try to add a second action which unfolds in the conceptual
sphere. The latter is dependent on me. This
is shown by the fact that I could rest content with the observation and forgo all search
for concepts if I had no need of them. If, however, this need is present, then I
am not satisfied until I have brought the concepts ball, elasticity,
motion, impact, velocity, etc. into a certain connection, to which the observed
process is related in a definite way. As certain
as it is that the event takes place independently of me, so certain is it also that the
conceptual process cannot take place without my doing it. We shall consider later whether this activity
of mine is really a product of my own independent being or whether the modern physiologists
are right who say that we cannot think as we will, but that we must think exactly
as the thoughts and thought-connections present in our consciousness determine. for the time being we wish merely to establish
the fact that we constantly feel compelled to seek for concepts and connections of
concepts standing in a certain relation to objects and events given independently of
us. Whether this activity is really ours, or whether
we accomplish it according to an unalterable necessity, we shall leave aside
for the moment. That at first sight it appears to
be our activity is beyond doubt. We know with absolute certainty that we are
not given the concepts together with the objects. That I myself am the doer may be illusion,
but to immediate observation this certainly appears
to be the case. The question here is: What
do we gain by finding a conceptual counterpart to an event? There is a profound difference between the
ways in which, for me, the parts of an event are related to one another before and after
the discovery of the corresponding concepts. Mere observation can follow the parts of a
given event as they occur, but their connection remains obscure without the help of concepts. I see the first billiard ball move toward
the second in a certain direction and with a definite
velocity. I must wait for what will
happen after the impact, and again I can follow what happens only with my eyes. Let us
assume that at the moment the impact occurs someone obstructs my view of the field
where the event takes place: then – as mere onlooker – I have no knowledge of what
happens afterward. The situation is different if before my view
was obstructed I had discovered the concepts corresponding to the
nexus of events. In that case I can estimate
what occurs, even when I am no longer able to observe. An object or event which has
only been observed does not of itself reveal anything about its connection with other
objects or events. This connection comes to light only when observation
combines with thinking. Observation and thinking are the two points
of departure for all spiritual striving of man
insofar as he is conscious of such striving. What is accomplished by ordinary human
reason as well as by the most complicated scientific investigations rests on these two
fundamental pillars of our spirit. Philosophers have started from various primary
antitheses: idea and reality, subject and object, appearance and thing-in-itself, ego
and non-ego, idea and will, concept and matter,
force and substance, the conscious and the unconscious. it is easy to show, however, that all these
antitheses must be preceded by that of observation and thinking, as the one
the most important for man. Whatever principle we wish to advance, we
must prove that somewhere we have observed it, or express it in the form of
a clear thought which can be re-thought by others. Every philosopher who begins to speak about
his fundamental principles must make use of the conceptual form, and thereby makes
use of thinking. He therefore indirectly admits
that for his activity he presupposes thinking. Whether thinking or something else is the
main element in the evolution of the world, we shall not decide as yet. But that without
thinking the philosopher can gain no knowledge of the evolution of the world, is
immediately clear. Thinking may play a minor part in the coming
into being of world phenomena, but thinking certainly plays a
major part in the coming into being of a view about them. As regards observation, it is due to our organization
that we need it. for us, our thinking
about a horse and the object horse are two separate things. But we have access to the
object only through observation. As little as we can form a concept of a horse
by merely staring at it, just as little are we able
to produce a corresponding object by mere thinking. In sequence of time, observation even precedes
thinking. for even thinking we learn to
know first by means of observation. it was essentially a description of an observation when, at the opening of this chapter, we gave
an account of how thinking is kindled by an event and of how it goes beyond what is given
without its activity. Whatever enters the
circle of our experiences we first become aware of through observation. The contents of
sensation, of perception, of contemplation, of feelings, of acts of will, of the pictures
of dreams and fantasy, of representations, of
concepts and ideas, of all illusions and hallucinations are given us through observation. However, as object of observation, thinking
differs essentially from all other objects. The
observation of a table or a tree occurs in me as soon as these objects appear within
the range of my experience. But my thinking that goes on about these things,
I do not observe at the same time. I observe the table; the thinking about the
table I carry out, but I do not observe it at the same moment. I would first have to transport myself to
a place outside my own activity if, besides observing the
table, I wanted also to observe my thinking about the table. Whereas observation of things and events,
and thinking about them, are but ordinary occurrences filling daily life,
the observation of thinking itself is a sort of
exceptional situation. This fact must be taken into account sufficiently
when we come to determine the relation of thinking to all
other contents of observation. it is essential to be
clear about the fact that when thinking is observed the same procedure is applied to
it as the one we normally apply to the rest of the
world-content, only in ordinary life we do not
apply it to thinking. Someone might object that what I have said
here about thinking also holds good for feeling and for all other soul activities. When, for example, we feel pleasure, the feeling
is also kindled by an object, and it is this object I observe, and not the feeling of pleasure. This objection, however, is based upon an
error. Pleasure does not have at all the same
relationship to its object as has the concept which thinking builds up. I am absolutely
conscious of the fact that the concept of a thing is built up by my activity, whereas
pleasure is produced in me by an object in the same way as, for instance, a change is
caused in an object by a stone which falls upon it. for observation, a pleasure is given in
exactly the same way as that is given which causes it. The same is not true of concepts. I
can ask: Why does a particular event arouse in me a feeling of pleasure? But it is never
possible to ask: Why does an event produce in me a certain number of concepts? That
simply has no sense. When I reflect about an event there is no
question of an effect on me. I learn nothing about myself by knowing the
concepts which correspond to the change observed in a pane of glass when a
stone is thrown against it. But I very definitely
do learn something about my personality when I know the feeling which a certain event
arouses in me. When I say of an observed object: This is
a rose, I say absolutely nothing about myself; but when I say of the same thing:
it gives me a feeling of pleasure, I characterize not only the rose but also myself
in my relation to the rose. There can, therefore, be no question of comparing
thinking and feeling as objects of observation!and the same could easily be shown
concerning other activities of the human soul. Unlike thinking, they belong in the same sphere
as other observed objects and events. it is characteristic of the nature of thinking
that it is an activity directed solely upon the observed object and not upon the
thinking personality. This can already be seen
from the way we express our thoughts, as distinct from the way we express our feelings or acts of will in relation to objects. When I see an object and recognize it as a
table, generally I would not say: I am thinking of
a table, but: This is a table. But I would say: I
am pleased with the table. In the first instance I am not at all interested
in pointing out that I have entered into any relationship
with the table, whereas in the second it is just this
relationship that matters. In saying: I am thinking of a table, I already
enter the exceptional situation characterized above,
where something is made an object of observation which is always contained within
our soul’s activity, only normally it is not
made an object of observation. it is characteristic of thinking that the
thinker forgets thinking while doing it. What
occupies him is not thinking, but the object of thinking which he observes. The first thing then, that we observe about
thinking is that it is the unobserved element in
our ordinary life of thought. The reason we do not observe thinking in our
daily life of thought is because it depends upon our own activity. What I myself do not bring about, enters my
field of observation as something objective. I find myself confronted by it as by something
that has come about independently of me; it comes to meet
me; I must take it as the presupposition of my thinking process. While I reflect on the object, I am occupied
with it, my attention is turned to it. This activity is, in fact, thinking contemplation. My attention is directed not
to my activity but to the object of this activity. In other words: while I think, I do not look
at my thinking which I produce, but at the object of thinking which I do not produce. I am even in the same position when I let
the exceptional situation come about and think about my own thinking. I can never observe my present thinking, but
only afterward can I make into an object of thinking the experience
I have had of my thinking-process. If I
wanted to observe my present thinking, I would have to split myself into two persons:
one to do the thinking, the other to observe this thinking. This I cannot do. I can only
accomplish it in two separate acts. The thinking to be observed is never the one
actually being produced, but another one. Whether for this purpose I observe my own
earlier thinking, or follow the thinking process of
another person, or else, as in the above example of the movements of the billiard balls,
presuppose an imaginary thinking process, makes no difference. Two things that do not go together are actively
producing something and confronting this in contemplation. This is already shown in the First Book of
Moses. The latter represents
God as creating the world in the first six days, and only when the world is there is
the possibility of contemplating it also present:
“and God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good.” So it is also with our thinking. it must first be present
before we can observe it. The reason it is impossible for us to observe
thinking when it is actually taking place, is
also the reason it is possible for us to know it more directly and more intimately than
any other process in the world. it is just because we ourselves bring it forth
that we know the characteristic features of its course, the
manner in which the process takes place. What in the other spheres of observation can be found
only indirectly: the relevant context and the
connection between the individual objects – in the case of thinking is known to us in
an absolutely direct way. Off-hand, I do not know why, for my observation,
thunder follows lightning, but from the content of the two
concepts I know immediately why my thinking connects the concept of thunder with the concept
of lightning. Naturally here it does not
matter whether I have correct concepts of thunder and lightning. The connection between
those concepts I have is clear to me, and indeed this is the case through the concepts
themselves. This transparent clarity of the process of
thinking is quite independent of our knowledge of the physiological basis of thinking. I speak here of thinking insofar as it presents
itself to observation of our spiritual activity. How one material process in my brain causes
or influences another while I carry out a line
of thought, does not come into consideration at
all. What I see when I observe thinking is not
what process in my brain connects the concept of lightning with the concept of thunder,
but I see what motivates me to bring the two concepts into a particular relationship. My observation of thinking shows me that
there is nothing that directs me in my connecting one thought with another, except the
content of my thoughts; I am not directed by the material processes in my brain. In a less
materialistic age than ours this remark would of course be entirely superfluous. Today
however, when there are people who believe: When we know what matter is, we shall
also know how matter thinks, – it has to be said that it is possible to speak about thinking
without entering the domain of brain physiology at the same time. Today many people
find it difficult to grasp the concept of thinking in its purity. Anyone who wants to
contrast the representation of thinking I have here developed, with Cabanis’ statement,
“The brain secretes thoughts as the liver does gall or the spittle-glands spittle, etc.”
simply does not know what I am talking about. He tries to find thinking by means of a
mere process of observation such as we apply to other objects that make up the content
of the world. He cannot find it in this manner because as
I have shown, it eludes normal observation. Whoever cannot overcome materialism lacks
the ability to bring about in himself the exceptional situation described
above, which brings to his consciousness what remains unconscious in all other spiritual
activities. If a person does not have the good
will to place himself in this situation, then one can no more speak to him about thinking
than one can speak about color to a person who is blind. However, he must not believe
that we consider physiological processes to be thinking. He cannot explain thinking
because he simply does not see it. However, one possessing the ability to observe
thinking, – and with goodwill every normally organized person has this ability,
– this observation is the most important he can
make. for he observes something which he himself brings to existence; he finds himself
confronted not by a foreign object, to begin with, but by his own activity. He knows how
what he observes comes to be. He sees through the connections and relations. A firm
point is attained from which, with well-founded hope, one can seek for the explanation of
the rest of the world’s phenomena. The feeling of possessing such a firm point
caused the founder of modern philosophy, Renatus Cartesius, to base the whole of human
knowledge on the principle, I think, therefore I am. All other things, all other events are present
independent of me. Whether
they are there as truth or illusion or dream I know not. Only one thing do I know with
absolute certainty, for I myself bring it to its sure existence: my thinking. Perhaps it also
has some other origin as well, perhaps it comes from God or from elsewhere, but that
it is present in the sense that I myself bring it
forth, of that I am certain. Cartesius had, to
begin with, no justification for giving his statement any other meaning. He could
maintain only that within the whole world content it is in my thinking that I grasp
myself within that activity which is most essentially
my own. What is meant by the attached
therefore I am, has been much debated. it can have a meaning in one sense only. The
simplest assertion I can make about something is that it is, that it exists. How this
existence can be further defined I cannot say straight away about anything that comes
to meet me. Each thing must first be studied in its relation
to others before it can be determined in what sense it can be said to
exist. An event that comes to meet me may be
a set of perceptions, but it could also be a dream, a hallucination, and so forth. In short, I
am unable to say in what sense it exists. I cannot gather this from the event in itself,
but I shall learn it when I consider the event in
its relation to other things. From this, however,
I can, again, learn no more than how it is related to these other things. My search only
reaches solid ground if I find an object which exists in a sense which I can derive from
the object itself. As thinker I am such an object, for I give
my existence the definite, self- dependent content of the activity of thinking. Having reached this, I can go on from here
and ask: Do the other objects exist in the same or in some other sense? When thinking is made the object of observation,
to the rest of the elements to be observed is added something which usually
escapes attention; but the manner in which the other things are approached by man is
not altered. One increases the number of
observed objects, but not the number of methods of observation. While we are observing
the other things, there mingles in the universal process – in which I now include
observation – one process which is overlooked. Something different from all other
processes is present, but is not noticed. But when I observe my thinking, no such
unnoticed element is present. for what now hovers in the background is,
again, nothing but thinking. The observed object is qualitatively the same
as the activity directed upon it. and that is another characteristic feature
of thinking. When we observe it, we do not find
ourselves compelled to do so with the help of something qualitatively different, but
can remain within the same element. When I weave an object, given independently
of me, into my thinking, then I go beyond my observation, and the question is: Have
I any right to do so? Why do I not simply let
the object act upon me? In what way is it possible that my thinking
could be related to the object? These are questions which everyone who reflects
on his own thought processes must put to himself. They cease to exist when one thinks about
thinking. We do not add
anything foreign to thinking, and consequently do not have to justify such an addition. Schelling says: “To gain knowledge of nature
means to create nature.” If these words
of the bold nature-philosopher are taken literally, we should have to renounce forever all
knowledge of nature. for after all, nature is there already, and
in order to create it a second time, one must know the principles
according to which it originated. From the nature already in existence one would have
to learn the conditions of its existence in order to apply them to the nature one wanted
to create. But this learning, which would
have to precede the creating, would, however, be knowing nature, and would remain this
even if, after the learning, no creation took place. Only a nature not yet in existence could
be created without knowing it beforehand. What is impossible with regard to nature:
creating before knowing, we achieve in the case of thinking. If we wanted to wait and not think until we
had first learned to know thinking, then we would never think at all. We have to plunge straight into thinking in
order to be able, afterward, to know thinking by observing what we ourselves have done. We ourselves first create an object when we
observe thinking. All other objects have
been created without our help. Against my sentence, We must think before
we can contemplate thinking, someone might easily set another sentence as being equally
valid: We cannot wait with digesting, either, until we have observed the process of digestion. This objection would be similar to the
one made by Pascal against Cartesius, when he maintained that one could also say: I go
for a walk, therefore I am. Certainly I must resolutely get on with digesting
before I have studied the physiological process of digestion. But this could only be compared with the
contemplation of thinking if, after having digested, I were not to contemplate it with
thinking, but were to eat and digest it. it is, after all, not without significance
that whereas digestion cannot become the object of digestion,
thinking can very well become the object of thinking. This, then, is beyond doubt: In thinking we
are grasping a corner of the universal process, where our presence is required if anything
is to come about!and, after all, this is just the
point. The reason things are so enigmatical to me
is that I do not participate in their creation. I simply find them there, whereas in the case
of thinking I know how it is made. This is why a more basic starting point than
thinking, from which to consider all else in
the world, does not exist. Here I should mention another widely current
error which prevails with regard to thinking. it consists in this, that it is said: Thinking,
as it is in itself, we never encounter. That thinking which connects the observations
we make of our experiences and weaves them into a network of concepts, is not at
all the same as that thinking which later we
extract from the objects we have observed and then make the object of our consideration. What we first unconsciously weave into things
is something quite different from what we consciously extract from them afterward. To draw such conclusions is not to see that
in this way it is impossible to escape from thinking. it is absolutely impossible to come out of
thinking if one wants to consider it. When one distinguishes an unconscious thinking
from a later conscious thinking, then one must not forget that this distinction
is quite external and has nothing to do with thinking as such. I do not in the least alter a thing by considering
it with my thinking. I
can well imagine that a being with quite differently organized sense organs and with a
differently functioning intelligence would have a quite different representation of a
horse from mine, but I cannot imagine that my own
thinking becomes something different because I observe it. What I observe is what I myself bring about. What my thinking
looks like to an intelligence different from mine is not what we are speaking about now;
we are speaking about what it looks like to me. In any case, the picture of my thinking in
another intelligence cannot be truer than my own picture of it. Only if I were not myself
the thinking being, but thinking confronted me as the activity of a being foreign to me,
could I say that my picture of thinking appeared in quite a definite way, and that I could
not know what in itself the thinking of the beings was like. So far there is not the slightest reason to
view my own thinking from a standpoint different from the one applied to other things. After all, I consider the rest of the world
by means of thinking. How should I make of my thinking an exception? With this I consider that I have sufficiently
justified making thinking my starting point in
my approach to an understanding of the world. When Archimedes had discovered the
lever, he thought that with its help he could lift the whole cosmos from its hinges if only
he could find a point upon which he could support his instrument. He needed something
that was supported by itself, that was not carried by anything else. In thinking we have a
principle which exists by means of itself. From this principle let us attempt to understand
the world. Thinking we can understand through itself. So the question is only whether we
can also understand other things through it. I have so far spoken of thinking without considering
its vehicle, man’s consciousness. Most present-day philosophers would object:
Before there can be thinking, there must be consciousness. therefore, one should begin, not from thinking,
but from consciousness. No thinking can exist without consciousness. To them I must reply: If I want to have an
explanation of what relation exists between thinking and consciousness, I must think
about it. In doing so I presuppose thinking. To this could be said: When the philosopher
wants to understand consciousness he makes use of thinking, and to that extent
presupposes it, but in the ordinary course of life thinking does arise within consciousness
and, therefore, presupposes this. If this answer were given to the world Creator
who wished to create thinking, it would no doubt
be justified. One naturally cannot let
thinking arise without first having brought about consciousness. However, the
philosopher is not concerned with the creation of the world, but with the understanding of
it. therefore he has to find the starting point,
not for the creation, but for the understanding of the world. I consider it most extraordinary that a philosopher
should be reproached for being concerned first and foremost
about the correctness of his principles, rather than turning straight to the objects
he wants to understand. The world Creator had
to know, above all, how to find a vehicle for thinking; the philosopher has to find
a secure foundation for his understanding of
what already exists. How can it help us to start
from consciousness and apply thinking to it, if first we do not know whether it is possible
to reach any explanation of things by means of thinking? We must first consider thinking quite impartially,
without reference to a thinking subject or a thought object. for in subject and object we already have
concepts formed by thinking. There is no denying: Before anything else
a can be understood, thinking must be understood. To deny this is to fail to realize that man
is not a first link in creation, but the last. therefore, for an explanation of the world
by means of concepts, one cannot start from the first elements of existence, but
must begin with what is nearest to us and is most
intimately ours. We cannot at one bound transport ourselves
to the beginning of the world, in order to begin our investigations
there; we must start from the present moment and see whether we cannot ascend from the
later to the earlier. As long as geology spoke
in terms of assumed revolutions in order to explain the present condition of the earth,
it groped in darkness. it was only when it made its beginnings from
the investigations of those processes at present at work on the
earth, and from these drew conclusions about the past, that it gained a secure foundation. As long as philosophy assumes all sorts of
principles such as atom, motion, matter, will, the unconscious, it will get nowhere. Only
when the philosopher recognizes as his absolute first that which came as the absolute last,
can he reach his goal. But this absolute last in world evolution
is Thinking. There are people who say: Whether or not our
thinking is right in itself cannot be established with certainty, after all!and
to this extent the point of departure is still a
doubtful one. it would be just as sensible to raise doubts
as to whether in itself a tree is right or wrong. Thinking is a fact, and to speak of the rightness
or wrongness of a fact has no sense. At most, I can have doubts as to whether thinking
is being rightly applied, just as I can doubt whether a certain tree supplies
a wood suitable for making tools for a particular purpose. To show to what extent the application of
thinking to the world is right or wrong, is just the task of this book. I can understand anyone doubting whether we
can ascertain anything about the world by means of thinking, but it is incomprehensible
to me how anyone can doubt the rightness of thinking in itself. Addition to the Revised Edition (1918): In
the preceding discussion, the significant difference between thinking and all other
activities of the soul has been referred to as a
fact which reveals itself to a really unprejudiced observation. Unless this unprejudiced
observation is achieved, against this discussion one is tempted to raise objections such as
these: When I think about a rose, then after all, this also is only an expression of a
relation of my “I” to the rose, just as when I feel the beauty of the rose. In the case of
thinking, a relation between “I” and object exists in the same way as in the case of feeling
or perceiving. To make this objection is to fail to realize
that it is only in the activity of thinking that the “I” knows itself to
be completely at one with that which is active – going
into all the ramifications of the activity. In the case of no other soul activity is this
completely so. When, for example, a pleasure is felt, a more
sensitive observation can quite easily detect to what extent the “I”
knows itself to be one with something active, and to what extent there is something passive
in it so that the pleasure merely happens to
the “I.” and this is the case with the other soul activities. But one should not confuse
“having thought-images” with the working through of thought by means of thinking. Thought-images can arise in the soul in the
same way as dreams or vague intimations. This is not thinking. – To this could be said: If this is what is
meant by thinking, then the element of will is within thinking, and so
we have to do not merely with thinking, but also with the will within thinking. However, this would only justify one in saying:
Real thinking must always be willed. But this has nothing to do with the characterization
of thinking as given in this discussion. The nature of thinking may be such that it
must necessarily always be willed; the point is
that everything that is willed is – while being
willed – surveyed by the “I” as an activity entirely its own. Indeed it must be said that just
because this is the nature of thinking, it appears to the observer as willed through
and through. Anyone who really takes the trouble to understand
all that has to be considered in order to reach a judgment about thinking,
cannot fail to recognize that this soul activity does have the unique character we have described
here. A personality highly appreciated as a thinker
by the author of this book, has objected that it is impossible to speak about thinking as
is done here, because what one believes one is
observing as active thinking only appears to be so. In reality one is observing only the
results of an unconscious activity, which is the foundation of thinking. Only because this
unconscious activity is not observed does the illusion arise that the observed thinking
exists through itself, just as when in an illumination made by a rapid succession of
electric sparks one believes one is seeing a continuous movement. This objection, too,
rests on an inaccurate examination of the facts. To make it means that one has not taken
into consideration that it is the “I” itself, standing within thinking, that observes
its own activity. The “I” would have to stand outside thinking
to be deluded as in the case of an illumination with a rapid succession of electric
sparks. Indeed one could say: To make
such a comparison is to deceive oneself forcibly, like someone who, seeing a moving
light, insisted that it was being freshly lit by an unknown hand at every point where
it appeared. – No, whoever wants to see in thinking anything
other than a surveyable activity brought about within the “I,”
must first make himself blind to the plain facts that
are there for the seeing, in order to be able to set up a hypothetical activity as the basis
of thinking. He who does not so blind himself cannot fail
to recognize that everything he “thinks into” thinking in this manner
takes him away from the essence of thinking. Unprejudiced observation shows that nothing
belongs to thinking’s own nature that is not
found in thinking itself. If one leaves the realm of thinking, one cannot
come to what causes it. THE world AS PERCEPTION Concepts and ideas arise through thinking. What a concept is cannot be stated in words. words can do no more than draw attention to
our concepts. When someone sees a tree,
his thinking reacts to his observation, an ideal counterpart is added to the object,
and he considers the object and the ideal counterpart
as belonging together. When the object
disappears from his field of observation, only the ideal counterpart of it remains. This
latter is the concept of the object. The further our range of experience is widened,
the greater becomes the sum of our concepts. But a concept is never found isolated. Concepts
combine to form a totality built up according to inherent laws. The concept “organism”
combines, for example, with those of “gradual development, growth.” Other concepts
formed of single objects merge completely. All concepts that I form of lions, merge into
the general concept “lion.” In this way the single concepts unite in an
enclosed conceptual system, in which each concept has
its special place. Ideas are not qualitatively
different from concepts. They are but concepts that are richer in content,
more saturated and comprehensive. At this particular point I must draw special
attention to the fact that thinking is my point of departure, and not
concepts and ideas which must first be gained by means of thinking. Concepts and ideas already presuppose thinking. therefore, what I
have said about the nature of thinking, that it exists through itself, that it is determined
by nothing but itself, cannot simply be carried
over and applied to concepts. (I mention this
at this point explicitly because it is here that my difference with Hegel lies. for Hegel,
the concept is the primary and original.) The concept cannot be gained from observation. This can already be seen from the fact
that the growing human being slowly and gradually forms concepts corresponding to the
objects surrounding him. The concepts are added to observation. A much-read contemporary philosopher, Herbert
Spencer, describes the mental process which we carry out in response to observation,
in the following way: “If, when walking through the fields one
day in September, we hear a sound a few yards in advance, and, on observing the ditch-side
where it occurs, see the grass move, we shall probably turn toward the spot to learn by
what this sound and motion are produced. As
we approach, a partridge flutters in the ditch; on seeing this our curiosity is satisfied;
we have what we call an explanation of the phenomena. This explanation, please notice,
amounts to this: Because we have experienced countless times in life that a disturbance
of the stationary position of small bodies is
accompanied by the movement of other bodies existing among them, and because we have therefore
generalized the relation between such disturbances and such movements, we consider
this particular disturbance explained as soon as we find it to be an example of
just this relationship.” A closer examination gives a very different
result from what is described above. When I
hear a sound, the first thing I do is to find the concept that corresponds to this
observation. it is this concept that takes me beyond the
sound. Someone who did not
reflect further would simply hear the sound and be content with that. But, because I
reflect, it becomes clear to me that I have to understand the sound as an effect. it is
therefore only when I connect the concept of effect with the perception of the sound
that I am induced to go beyond the single observation
and look for the cause. The concept of
effect calls up that of cause; I then look for the object which is the cause, and in
this case I find it to be the partridge. But these concepts, cause and effect, I can
never gain by mere observation, however many instances I may
have observed. Observation calls up
thinking, and it is thinking that then shows me how to fit one individual occurrence to
another. If one demands of a “strictly objective
science” that it must take its content from observation alone, then one must at the same
time require that it is to desist from all thinking. for by its very nature, thinking goes beyond
the observed object. We must now pass from thinking itself to the
being who thinks, for it is through the thinker that thinking is combined with observation. Human consciousness is the stage
upon which concept and observation meet one another and become united. In saying this, we have at the same time characterized human
consciousness. it is the mediator between
thinking and observation. Insofar as the human being observes an object,
it appears to him as given; insofar as he thinks, he appears
to himself as active. He regards what comes
to meet him as object, and himself as thinking subject. While he directs his thinking to
the observation, he is conscious of the object; while he directs his thinking to himself he
is conscious of himself, or is self-conscious. Human consciousness of necessity, must be
self-conscious at the same time, because it is a thinking consciousness. for when thinking
turns its attention to its own activity, then its own essential being, that is, its subject,
is its object as well. it must, however, not be overlooked that it
is only with the help of thinking that we can
define ourselves as subject and contrast ourselves with objects. for this reason, thinking
must never be understood as a merely subjective activity. Thinking is beyond subject and
object. it forms these two concepts, just as it forms
all others. When therefore as thinking
subject, we refer a concept to an object, we must not understand this reference as
something merely subjective. it is not the subject that makes the reference,
but thinking. The subject does not think because it is subject;
rather it appears to itself as a subject because it is able to think. The activity carried out by man as a thinking
being is, therefore, not a merely subjective activity. Rather it is neither subjective nor objective;
it is an activity that goes beyond both these
concepts. I ought never to say that my
individual subject thinks; in fact, my subject exists by the very grace of thinking. Thinking, therefore, is an element that takes
me beyond myself and unites me with the objects. Yet at the same time it separates me from
them, inasmuch as it sets me, as subject, over against them. Man’s twofold nature is due to this: he
thinks, and in so doing encompasses himself and
the rest of the world; but at the same time, it is also by means of thinking that he defines
himself as an individual who confronts the objects. The next step is to ask ourselves: How does
the other element, – that in consciousness meets with thinking – which we have so far
simply called the object of observation, enter our consciousness? In order to answer this question, we must
separate from our field of observation all that
has been brought into it by thinking. for the content of our consciousness at any
moment is already permeated with concepts in the
most varied ways. We must imagine a being with fully developed
human intelligence suddenly waking into existence out of nothing, and confronting
the world. Everything of which it was aware
before its thinking activity began, would be the pure content of observation. The world
would then reveal to this being nothing but the mere disconnected aggregate of objects
of sensation: colors, sounds, sensations of pressure,
warmth, taste and smell, then feelings of pleasure and displeasure. This aggregate is the content of pure, unthinking
observation. Over against it stands thinking, ready to
unfold its activity if a point of attack can be
found. Experience soon shows that it is found. Thinking is able to draw threads from one
element of observation to another. it connects definite concepts with these elements
and thereby brings about a relationship between
them. We have already seen above how a
sound that comes to meet us is connected with another observation by our identifying the
former as the effect of the latter. If we now remind ourselves that the activity
of thinking is never to be understood as a subjective activity, then we shall not be
tempted to believe that such relationships, established by thinking, have merely a subjective
value. Our next task is to discover by means of thinking
reflection what relation the above- mentioned directly given content of observation
has to our conscious subject. The varied ways of using words make it necessary
for me to come to an agreement with my readers concerning the use of a word which
I shall have to employ in what follows. I
shall use the word perceptions for the immediate objects of sensation enumerated above,
insofar as the conscious subject becomes aware of them through observation. it is
therefore not the process of observation, but the object of observation which I call
perception. I do not choose the word sensation because
in physiology this has a definite meaning which is narrower than that of my concept
of perception. I can call a feeling in myself a
perception, but not a sensation in the physiological sense. But I also become aware of my
feelings by their becoming perceptions for me!and the way we become aware of our
thinking through observation is such that we can also call thinking, as it first comes
to the notice of our consciousness, a perception. The naive man considers his perceptions, in
the sense in which they directly seem to appear to him, as things having an existence
completely independent of himself. When he
sees a tree he believes, to begin with, that it stands in the form which he sees, with
the colors of its various parts, etc. there on
the spot toward which his gaze is directed. When
in the morning he sees the sun appear as a disk on the horizon and follows the course
of this disk, his opinion is that all this actually
exists (by itself) and occurs just as he observes it. He clings to this belief until he meets with
further perceptions which contradict those he first had. The child who has as yet no experience of
distance grasps at the moon, and does not correct his first impression
as to the real distance until a second perception contradicts the first. Every extension of the circle of my perceptions
compels me to correct my picture of the world. We see this in everyday life, as well as in
the intellectual development of mankind. That picture which the ancients made for
themselves of the relation of the earth to the sun and to the other heavenly bodies had
to be replaced through Copernicus by a different
one, because theirs did not accord with perceptions which were unknown in those early
times. A man who had been born blind
said, when operated on by Dr. Franz, that the idea of the size of objects which he had
formed by his sense of touch before his operation, was a very different one. He had to
correct his tactual perceptions by his visual perceptions. Why are we compelled to make these constant
corrections of our observations? A simple reflection will answer this question. When I stand at one end of an avenue, the
trees at the far end seem smaller and nearer together than those where I stand. The picture
of my perception changes when I change the place from which I am looking. The form in
which it appears to me, therefore, is dependent on a condition which belongs not to the
object, but to me, the perceiver. it is all the same to the avenue where I stand. But the
picture of it which I receive depends essentially on the place where I stand. In the same
way, it is all the same to the sun and the planetary system that human beings happen
to consider them from the earth; but the perception-picture
of the heavens which human beings have is determined by the fact that
they inhabit the earth. This dependence of our
perception-picture upon our place of observation is the easiest one to grasp. Matters
already become more difficult when we learn how our perceptions are dependent on our
bodily and spiritual organization. The physicist shows us that within the space
in which we hear a sound, vibrations of the air occur,
and also that in the body in which we seek the origin of the sound, vibrating movements
of its parts will be found. We perceive this
movement as sound, but only if we have a normally constructed ear. Without this, the
whole world would be forever silent for us. From physiology we know that there are
people who perceive nothing of the splendor of color surrounding us. Their perception-
picture shows only degrees of light and dark. Others are blind to one color, e.g. red. Their picture of the world lacks this shade
of color, and therefore is actually a different one from that of the average person. I would call the dependence of my perception-
picture on my place of observation, a mathematical one, and its dependence on my
organization a qualitative one. The first determines the proportions of size
and mutual distances of my perceptions, the second their
quality. The fact that I see a red surface as
red – this qualitative determination -depends on the organization of my eye. My perception-pictures, then, are subjective
to begin with. Knowledge of the subjective
character of our perceptions may easily lead to doubt that there is any objective basis
for them at all. If we know that a perception, for example,
that of the color red or of a certain tone, is not possible without a specific structure
of our organism, it is easy to believe that it has no existence at all apart from our
subjective organization, that without the act of
perceiving – the objective of which it is – it would have no kind of existence. This view
found a classical exponent in George Berkeley. His opinion was that man, from the
moment he realizes the significance the subject has for perception, is no longer able to
believe in the presence of a world without the conscious spirit. He said: “Some truths there are so near and obvious
to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, viz.
that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth – in a word, all
those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world – have not any subsistence without
a mind; that their being is to be perceived or known; that, consequently, so long as they
are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created
spirit, they must either have no existence at
all or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit.” according to this view, nothing remains of
the perception, if one disregards the fact of its
being perceived. There is no color when none is seen, no sound
when none is heard. Apart from the act of perception, extension,
form and motion exist as little as do color and sound. Nowhere do we see bare extension or form;
these are always connected with color or some other quality unquestionably
dependent on our subjectivity. If these latter
disappear when our perception of them disappears, then the former, being bound up with
them, must likewise disappear. To the objection that even if figure, color,
sound, etc. have no other existence than the one within the act of perception, yet there
must be things that exist apart from consciousness and to which the conscious perception
pictures are similar, the above view would answer that a color can be similar only
to a color, a figure only to a figure. Our
perceptions can be similar only to our perceptions, and to nothing else. What we call an
object is also nothing but a collection of perceptions which are connected in a particular
way. If I strip a table of its form, extension,
color, etc. – in short, of all that is only my
perception-then nothing else remains. If this view is followed to its logical conclusion,
it leads to the assertion that the objects of
my perceptions are present only through me and,
indeed, only in as far as, and as long as I perceive them. They disappear with the act of
perceiving them, and have no meaning apart from it. But apart from my perceptions I
know of no objects and cannot know of any. No objection can be made to this assertion
as long as in general I merely take into account the fact that the perception is partially
determined by the organization of my subject. it would be very different if we were able
to estimate what function our perceiving has in bringing about a perception. We should then know what happens to the
perception during the act of perceiving, and could also determine how much of it must
already have existed before it was perceived. This leads us to turn our consideration from
the object of perception to its subject. I
perceive not only other things; I also perceive myself. The immediate content of the
perception of myself is the fact that I am the stable element in contrast to the continually
coming and going perception-pictures. The perception of the I can always come up
in my consciousness while I am having other perceptions. When I am absorbed in the
perception of an object that is given, then, for the time being, I am conscious only of
this object. To this, the perception of my self can come. I am then conscious, not only of the
object, but also of my own personality, which confronts the object and observes it. I do
not merely see a tree, but I also know that it is I who see it. I also realize that something
takes place in me while I observe the tree. When the tree disappears from my field of
vision, an after-effect of this process remains in my consciousness: an image of the tree. This image became united with my self during
my observation. My self has become
enriched; its content has taken a new element into itself. This element I call my
representation of the tree. I should never be in a position to speak of
representations if I did not experience them in the perception
of my own self. Perceptions would come and
go; I should let them slip by. Only because I perceive my self, and am aware
that with each perception the content of my self also
changes, do I find myself compelled to bring the observation of the object into connection
with the changes in my own condition, and to speak of my representation. I perceive the representation in my self in
the same sense as I perceive color, sound, etc.
in other objects. Now I am also able to make the distinction
that I call those other objects that confront me, outer world, whereas the
content of my self-perception I call inner world. Misunderstanding of the relationship between
representation and object has led to the greatest mistakes in modern philosophy. The perception of a change in us, the
modification experienced in the self, has been thrust into the foreground and the object
which causes this modification is lost sight of altogether. it is said: We do not perceive
the objects, but only our representations. I am supposed to know nothing of the table
in itself, which is the object of my observation,
but only of the changes which occur in my self while I perceive the table. This view should not be confused with that
of Berkeley, mentioned above. Berkeley maintains the subjective nature of
the content of perceptions, but he does not say that I can know only of
my own representations. He limits man’s
knowledge to his representations because, in his opinion, there are no objects outside
the act of representing. What I regard as a table is no longer present,
according to Berkeley, when I cease to turn my gaze toward it. This is why Berkeley lets our perceptions
arise directly out of the omnipotence of God. I see a table because God calls up this perception
in me. for Berkeley, therefore, there are no real beings other than God and human spirits. What we call “world” is present only within
spirits. for Berkeley, what the naive man
calls outer world, or physical nature, is not there. This view is contrasted by the now
predominant Kantian view”’ which limits our knowledge to our representations, not
because it is convinced that there cannot be things in existence besides these
representations, but because it believes us to be so organized that we can experience
only the modification in our own self, not the
thing-in-itself that causes this modification. This
conclusion arises from the view that I know only my representations, not that there is
no existence apart from them, but only that the
subject cannot take such an existence directly into itself; all it can do is merely through “the medium of its subjective thoughts to
imagine it, invent it, think it, cognize it, or
perhaps also fail to cognize it.” This view believes it expresses something
absolutely certain, something that is immediately obvious, in need of no proof. “The first fundamental principle which the
philosopher has to bring to clear consciousness consists in the recognition
that our knowledge, to begin with, does not reach beyond our representations. Our representation is the only thing we experience
and learn to know directly and, just because we
have direct experience of it, even the most radical doubt cannot rob us of our knowledge. By contrast, the knowledge that goes
beyond our representations – taking this expression here in the widest possible sense, so
that all physical happenings are included in it – is open to doubt. Hence, at the very
beginning of all philosophizing, all knowledge which goes beyond representations must
explicitly be set down as being open to doubt.” These are the opening sentences of Volkelt’s
book on Kant’s Theory of Knowledge. What is put forward here as an immediate and
self-evident truth is in reality the result of
a line of thought which runs as follows: The naive man believes that the objects, just
as he perceives them, are also present outside
his consciousness. Physics, physiology and
psychology, however, seem to show that for our perceptions our organization is necessary
and that, therefore, we cannot know about anything except what our organization
transmits to us from the objects. Our perceptions therefore are modifications
of our organization, not things-in-themselves. The train of thought here indicated has, in
fact, been characterized by Eduard von Hartmann
as the one which must lead to the conviction that we can have a direct knowledge
only of our own representations. Outside our organisms we find vibrations of
physical bodies and of air; these are sensed by us as sounds, and therefore it is concluded
that what we call sound is nothing but a subjective reaction of our organisms to these
movements in the external world. In the
same way, color and warmth are found to be merely modifications of our organisms.
and, indeed, the view is held that these two kinds of perceptions are called forth in us
through effects or processes in the external world which are utterly different from the
experiences we have of warmth or of color. If these processes stimulate the nerves in
my skin, I have the subjective perception of
warmth; if they happen to encounter the optic nerve, I perceive light and color. Light, color and warmth, then, are the responses
of my sensory nerves to external stimuli. Even the sense of touch does not reveal to
me the objects of the outer world, but only conditions
in myself. In the sense of modern physics,
one must imagine that bodies consist of infinitely small particles, molecules, and that
these molecules are not in direct contact, but are at certain distances from one another. Between them, therefore, is empty space. Across this space they act on one another
by attraction and repulsion. If I put my hand on a body, the molecules
of my hand by no means touch those of the body directly, but
there remains a certain distance between body and hand, and what I sense as the body’s
resistance is nothing other than the effect of the
force of repulsion which its molecules exert on my hand. I am completely external to the
body and perceive only its effects upon my organism. These considerations have been supplemented
by the theory of the so-called specific nervous energy, which has been advanced by
J. Miiller (1801-1958). according to this
theory, each sense has the peculiarity that it responds to all external stimuli in one
definite way only. If the optic nerve is stimulated, perception
of light results, irrespective of whether the nerve is stimulated by what
we call light, or by a mechanical pressure, or
an electric current. On the other hand, the same external stimulus
applied to different senses gives rise to different perceptions. This appears to show that our sense-organs
can transmit only what occurs in themselves, but
nothing from the external world. They
determine our perceptions, each according to its own nature. Physiology also shows that there is no question
of a direct knowledge of what the objects cause to take place in our sense-organs. When the physiologist traces the processes
in our bodies, he discovers that already in the sense-organs,
the effects of the external vibrations are modified in the most manifold ways. This can be seen most clearly in the case
of the eye and ear. Both are very complicated organs which modify
the external stimulus considerably before they conduct it to the
corresponding nerve. From the peripheral end
of the nerve the already modified stimulus is then led further to the brain. Here at last the
central organs are stimulated in their turn. From this the conclusion is drawn that the
external process must have undergone a series of transformations before it reaches consciousness. What goes on in the brain is connected by
so many intermediate processes with the external process, that any similarity
to the latter is unthinkable. What the brain
ultimately transmits to the soul is neither external processes nor processes in the sense-
organs, but only such as occur in the brain. But even these are not directly perceived
by the soul; what we finally have in consciousness
are not brain processes at all, but sensations. My sensation of red has absolutely no similarity
to the process which occurs in the brain when I sense the red. The red is caused by the processes in the
brain and appears again only as an effect of this in
the soul. This is why Hartmann says: “What
the subject perceives therefore is always only modifications of his own psychic states
and nothing else.” When I have sensations, these are as yet far
from being grouped into what I perceive as objects. for only single sensations
can be transmitted to me by the brain. The
sensations of hardness and softness are transmitted to me by the sense of touch, those of
color and light by the sense of sight. Yet all these can be found united in one and
the same object. The unification must, therefore, be caused
by the soul itself; this means that the soul combines into bodies the separate
sensations transmitted through the brain. My
brain gives me separately and indeed along very different paths, the sensations of sight,
touch and hearing, which the soul then combines into the representation “trumpet.” This
last link (the representation of trumpet) is the very first process to enter my
consciousness. In it can no longer be found anything of what
is outside of me and originally made an impression on my senses. The external object has been entirely lost
on the way to the brain and through the brain
to the soul. In the history of man’s intellectual endeavor
it would be hard to find another edifice of thought which has been put together with greater
ingenuity and yet which, on closer analysis, collapses into nothing. Let us look a little closer at the way it
has been built up. The starting point is taken from what is given
in naive consciousness, that is, from things as perceived. Then it is shown that nothing of what belongs
to these things would be present for us had we no senses. No eye: no color. therefore, the color is not yet present
in what affects the eye. it arises first through the interaction of
the eye and the object. The
latter must, therefore, be colorless. But neither is the color present in the eye,
for what is present there is a chemical or physical process
which first has to be led by the optic nerve to the brain, and there releases another process. This is not yet the color. The latter is only
called up in the soul through the process in the brain. As yet it does not enter my
consciousness, but is first placed by the soul on a body outside. Here, finally, I believe
that I perceive it. We have completed a circle. We are conscious of a colored object. This
is the starting point; here the building up of thoughts begins. If I had no eye, for me the
object would be colorless. I cannot, therefore, place the color on the
body. I start on a
search for it. I look for it in the eye: in vain; in the
nerve: in vain; in the brain: in vain once more; in the soul: here I find it indeed,
but not attached to the body. I recover the
colored body only there at the point from which I started. The circle is closed. I am
confident that I recognize as a product of my soul what the naive man imagines to be
present out there in space. As long as one remains here, everything seems
to fit beautifully. But we must start again
from the beginning. Until now I have been dealing with the outer
perception, of which earlier, as naive man, I had a completely
wrong opinion. I believed that just as I perceive it, it had an objective existence. But now I have noticed that in the act of
representing it, it disappears; that it is only a modification
of my soul condition. Is there any justification
for using it as a starting point in my consideration! Can I say of it that it affects my soul? From now on I have to treat the table, of
which earlier I believed that it acted on me and
brought about in me a representation of itself, as being itself a representation. From this it
follows logically that my sense-organs and the processes in them are also mere subjective
manifestations. I have no right to speak of a real eye, but
only of my representation of eye!and the same holds good in regard to the
nerves and the brain process, and no less in
regard to what takes place in the soul itself, through which, out of the chaos of manifold
sensations, objects are supposed to be built up. If I run through the steps of my act of
cognition once more, presupposing the first line of thought to be correct, then the latter
shows itself to be a web of representations which, as such, could not act upon one
another. I cannot say: My representation of the object
affects my representation of the eye, and from this interaction the representation
of color comes about. Nor is there any
need for saying this, for as soon as it is clear to me that my sense-organs and their
activity, and my nerve and soul processes as well, can also be given only through
perception, then the described line of thought shows itself in its full impossibility. it is
true that I can have no perception without the corresponding sense-organ, but neither
can I have the sense-organ without perception. From my perception of the table I can go over
to the eye which sees it, and to the nerves in the skin which touch it, but what takes
place in these I can, again, learn only from perception!and
there I soon notice that in the process which takes place in the eye there
is no trace of similarity to what I perceive as
color. I cannot deny the existence of my color perception
by pointing to the process which takes place in the eye during this perception!and
just as little can I find the color in the nerve and brain processes; all I do
is only add new perceptions, within the organism, to the first perception, which the
naive man placed outside his organism. I
simply pass from one perception to another. Apart from this there is an error in the whole
conclusion of the line of thought. I am able
to follow what takes place in my organism up to the processes in my brain, even though
my assumptions become more and more hypothetical the nearer I get to the central
processes in the brain. But the path of observation from outside ceases
with what takes place in my brain, ceases, in fact, with what
I should observe if I could treat the brain with the assistance and methods of physics
and chemistry. The path of observation from
within begins with the sensation and continues up to the building up of objects out of the
material of sensation. In the transition from brain-process to sensation,
there is a gap in the path of observation. This characteristic way of thinking, which
describes itself as critical idealism, in contrast
to the standpoint of naive consciousness which it calls naive realism, makes the mistake
of characterizing one perception as representation while taking another in the very same
sense as does the naive realism which it apparently refutes. Critical idealism wants to
prove that perceptions have the character of representations; in this attempt it accepts
– in naive fashion – the perceptions belonging
to the organism as objective, valid facts, and,
what is more, fails to see that it mixes up two spheres of observation, between which
it can find no mediation. Critical idealism is able to refute naive
realism only by itself assuming, in naive-realistic fashion, that one’s own organism has objective
existence. As soon as the critical idealist
becomes conscious of the complete similarity between the perceptions connected with
one’s own organism and those which naive realism assumes to have objective existence,
he can no longer rely on the perceptions of the organism as being a safe foundation. He
would have to regard his own subjective organization also as a mere complex of
representations. But then the possibility ceases of regarding
the content of the perceived world as a product of man’s spiritual organization. One would have to assume that the
representation “color” was only a modification of the representation “eye.” So-called
critical idealism cannot be proved without borrowing something from naive realism. Naive realism can only be refuted by accepting
its assumptions – without testing them – in another sphere. This much, then, is certain: Investigations
within the sphere of perceptions cannot prove critical idealism, and consequently cannot
strip perceptions of their objective character. Still less can the principle, “The perceived
world is my representation,” be stated as if it
were obvious and in need of no proof. Schopenhauer begins his principal work, Die
Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, The world as Will and Representation, with the words: “The world is my representation – this is
a truth which holds good for every being that lives and cognizes, though man alone is able
to bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does this, then he has attained
to philosophical self- consciousness. it then becomes clear and certain to him that
he does not know a sun or an earth, but always only an eye that sees a
sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world
which surrounds him is only there as representation, that means throughout only in
relation to something else, to the one who represents, that is, to himself. If ever a truth
can be asserted a priori, this one can, for it expresses the form most general of all
possible and thinkable experiences, more general than
time, or space, or causality, for all these presuppose it!” The principle above: “The world is my representation,”
on which this is based, is, however, wrecked by the fact, already mentioned,
that the eye and the hand are perceptions in just the same sense as the
sun and the earth!and if one used Schopenhauer’s expressions in his own sense,
one could object to his principle: My eye that sees the sun and my hand that feels the
earth are my representations, just like the sun
and the earth themselves. But that, with this, the principle is cancelled
out, is immediately obvious. for only my real eye and my real hand could
have the representations “sun” and “earth” as their modifications; my representations
“eye” and “hand” cannot have them. But critical idealism can speak of representations
only. it is impossible by means of critical idealism
to gain insight into what relation perception has to representation. it is insensible to the distinction, mentioned
on page 85, of what happens to the perception while perceiving
takes place and what must be inherent in it before it is perceived. We must, therefore, attempt to gain this insight
along another path. THE ACT OF KNOWING THE world From the foregoing considerations it follows
that by investigating the content of our observation it is impossible to prove that
our perceptions are representations. This proof
is supposed to follow from the fact that if the process of perception takes place in the
way it is imagined, according to the naive-realistic
suppositions as to man’s psychological and physiological constitution, then we are dealing,
not with things-in-themselves, but merely with our representations of things. Now if naive realism, when consistently thought
through, leads to results which directly contradict what it presupposes, then one must
regard its presuppositions as unsuitable for the foundation of a world view and discard
them. it is certainly inadmissible on the one hand
to reject the presuppositions and yet, on the other, to regard their outcome as valid,
as does the critical idealist when he bases his
assertion, The world is my representation, on the so-called proof indicated above. (Eduard von Hartmann gives a full account
of this line of argument in his work, Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie, The Basic
Problem of a Theory of Knowledge.) The correctness of critical idealism is one
thing, the power of conviction of its proof another. How it stands with the former will be seen
later in the course of our discussion. But the power of conviction of its proof is
nil. If one builds a house and the first floor
collapses while the second floor is being built, then the second floor collapses also. As
first floor is related to second floor, so is naive realism related to critical idealism. for the one holding the view that the whole
world we perceive is only a world that we represent to ourselves and, indeed, only the
effect on our soul of things unknown to us, the essential problem of knowledge is naturally
concerned, not with the representations present only in the soul, but with the things
which lie outside our consciousness and are independent of us. He asks: How much can we indirectly learn
about them, since they are not directly accessible to our observation? From this point of view he is concerned, not
with the inner connection of his conscious perceptions, but with their causes, which
lie beyond his consciousness and exist independently
of him while the perceptions disappear as soon as he turns his senses away from things. From this point of view, our
consciousness acts like a mirror from which the pictures of things also disappear the
moment its reflecting surface is not turned toward them. He who does not see things
themselves, but only their reflections, must obtain information about their nature
indirectly by drawing conclusions from the behavior of the reflections. This is the
standpoint of modern natural science, which uses perceptions only as a means of
obtaining information about the processes of matter which lie behind them, and alone
really “are.” If the philosopher, as critical idealist,
acknowledges a real existence at all, then his sole aim is to gain knowledge of
this real existence indirectly by means of his
representations. His interest skips over the subjective world
of representations and instead pursues what produces these representations. But the critical idealist may go as far as
to say: I am confined to the world of my representations and cannot get beyond it. If I think that there is something behind
my representations, then again this thought is
nothing but my representation. An idealist of
this kind will then either deny the thing-in-itself entirely or, at any rate, say that it has
no significance for human beings, that it is
as good as non-existent since we can know nothing of it. To this kind of critical idealist the whole
world seems a dream, in the face of which all
striving for knowledge is simply meaningless. for him there can be only two kinds of
men: those who are victims of the illusion that their own dream-pictures are real things,
and the wise ones who see through the nothingness of this dream-world and therefore
must gradually lose all desire to trouble themselves further about it. From this point of
view, even one’s own personality may become a mere dream phantom. Just as during
sleep, among our dream-images an image of our self appears, so in waking consciousness
the representation of the I is added to the representations of the outer world. We then
have in consciousness not the real I, but only our representation of the I. Now, if the
existence of things is denied or at least it is denied that we can know anything of
them, then the existence or the knowledge of one’s
own personality must also be denied. The
critical idealist then comes to maintain: “All reality transforms itself into a wonderful
dream – without a life which is dreamed about, and without a spirit which dreams – into a
dream which hangs together in a dream of itself.” it does not matter whether the person who
believes that he recognizes life to be a dream assumes nothing more behind this dream, or
whether he refers his representations to real things: in either case, life must lose all
scientific interest for him. But whereas all science
must be meaningless for those who believe that the whole of the accessible universe
is exhausted in dreams, for others who believe
they can draw conclusions about the things from the representations, science will consist
in the investigation of such “things-inthemselves.” The first world view could be described as
absolute illusionism, the second is called transcendental realism by its most
consistent exponent, Eduard von Hartmann. Both these views have this in common with
naive realism that they seek to establish themselves by means of an investigation of
perceptions. However, nowhere within this
sphere can they find a firm foundation. An essential question for an adherent of
transcendental realism must be: How does the I bring about, out of itself, the world of
representations? Insofar as it would be a means of investigating
indirectly the world of the I-in-itself, an earnest striving for knowledge
could still be kindled by a world of representations that was given us, even if
this disappeared as soon as we shut our senses to the external world. If the things we experience were representations,
then everyday life would be like a dream, and recognition of
the true situation would be like an awakening. Our dream pictures also interest us as long
as we are dreaming and, consequently, do not recognize them as dreams. The moment we awaken we no longer look for
inner connections between our dream-pictures, but
for the physical, physiological and psychological processes which caused them. In the same way a philosopher who
considers the world to be his representation cannot be interested in the inner connection
of the details within it. If he allows for the existence of an I at
all, then he will not ask how his representations are connected with
one another, but what takes place in the soul that exists independently of him while his
consciousness contains a certain content of representations. If I dream that I am drinking wine which makes
my throat burn, and I wake up coughing, then the moment I awaken
I cease to be interested in what the dream was about; now my attention is concerned
only with the physiological and psychological processes by means of which
the irritation which caused me to cough comes to be symbolically expressed in the
dream picture. Similarly the philosopher, as
soon as he is convinced that the given world consists of nothing but representations,
would at once turn from them to the real soul behind them. Things become worse when
illusionism completely denies the existence of the I-in-itself behind representations,
or at least holds it to be unknowable. One may easily arrive at such a view through
the observation that in contrast to dreaming there
exists the waking state, in which we have the opportunity to see through the dream and
to refer it to the real connections of things, but that we have no condition which is related
similarly to our waking conscious life. To
adopt this view is to fail to see that in fact there is something which is related to
mere perceiving as waking experience is related
to dreams. This something is thinking. The
naive man cannot be considered to lack the insight referred to here. He takes the world as
it is and regards things as real in the sense in which he experiences them to be so. The
first step, however, which is taken beyond this standpoint can only consist in asking:
How is thinking related to perception? Whether or not the perception, in the form
given me, continues to exist before and after my
forming a representation of it, – if I want to say
anything whatever about it, I can do so only with the help of thinking. If I say: The world
is my representation, I have expressed the result of a thinking process, and if my thinking
is not applicable to the world, then this result is erroneous. Between a perception and any
kind of assertion about it, thinking slips in. it has already been indicated why, in our
consideration of things, we usually overlook thinking. This is due to the fact that we direct our
attention only toward the object about which we think, but not toward
our thinking at the same time. Naive
consciousness treats thinking as something which has nothing to do with things, but
stands altogether aloof from them and contemplates them. The picture which the thinker
makes of the phenomena of the world is considered, not as something belonging to them,
but as something existing only in men’s heads. The world is complete, even without this
picture. The world is finished and ready-made with
all its substances and forces, and of this ready-made world man makes himself a
picture. Whoever thinks along these lines
should be asked: What gives you the right to declare the world to be complete without
thinking? Does the world not produce thinking in the
heads of men with the same necessity as it produces the blossom on a
plant? Plant a seed in the earth. Root and stem
will grow. it will unfold leaves and blossoms. Then place the plant before you. In your
soul it connects itself with a definite concept. Why should this concept belong to the
entire plant any less than leaf and blossom? You say: The leaves and blossoms are there
without the presence of a perceiving subject; the concept, however, does not appear till
a human being confronts the plant. Quite true. But leaves and blossoms appear on the plant
only if there is soil in which the seed can be planted, and light and air in which the
leaves and blossoms can unfold. In just this way does the concept of the plant
arise when a thinking consciousness confronts it. it is quite arbitrary to regard as a totality,
as a thing in its entirety, the sum of what we
experience through mere perception, and to regard as a mere addition, which has nothing
to do with the thing itself, what reveals itself through thinking observation. If I receive a rosebud today, the picture that offers itself
to my perception is complete only for the moment. If I put the bud into water, tomorrow I shall
get a quite different picture of my object. If I do not turn my gaze away from the rosebud,
then I shall see today’s state gradually change into tomorrow’s through
an infinite number of intermediate stages. The
picture which presents itself to me at any one moment is only a chance section of an
object which is in a continual process of becoming. If I do not put the bud into water, a
whole series of states, which as possibilities lay within the bud, will not be evolved; or
tomorrow I may be prevented from observing the blossom further and therefore will have
an incomplete picture of it. That opinion is quite subjective which, on
the basis of a chance picture of a thing, declares: This is the thing. it is equally inadmissible to declare the
sum of perceptions to be the thing. it could well
be possible for a being to receive the concept at the same time as, and undivided from,
the perception. To such a being it would never occur that
the concept did not belong to the thing. He would ascribe to the concept an existence
indivisibly bound up with the thing. Let me make myself clearer by an example. If I throw a stone horizontally through the
air, I see it in different places, one after the other. I connect these places to form a line. In
mathematics I learn to know various kinds of lines, one of which is the parabola. I know
the parabola to be a line produced by a point moving according to certain laws. If I
investigate the conditions under which the stone moves, I find that the path traversed
is identical with the line I know as a parabola. That the stone moves just in a parabola is
a result of the given conditions and necessarily
follows from them. The form of the
parabola belongs to the whole phenomenon as much as does any other feature of it. The
being described above, who did not have to make the detour of thinking, would be given
not only a sum of visual aspects at different points but, undivided from the whole
occurrence, also the parabolic form of the path which we add to the phenomenon by
means of thinking. it is not due to the objects that they are
given us at first without the corresponding concepts, but to our intellectual organization. Our being as a totality functions in such
a way that from every reality the elements belonging
to it flow to us from two directions: from the direction of perceiving and from
that of thinking. How I am organized for grasping them has nothing
to do with the nature of things. The
breach between perceiving and thinking is not present until the moment I, the one who
contemplates them, confront the things. Which elements do, and which do not belong
to the object, cannot at all depend on the manner
in which I arrive at knowledge of these elements. Man is a limited being. To begin with, he is a being among other beings. His existence is
bound up with space and time. Because of this, it is always only a limited
section of the total universe that can be given him. But this limited section links itself in all
directions, both in time and in space, to other sections. If our existence were so bound up with the
surrounding world that every process would be a process in us as well, then the
distinction between us and things would not exist. But then neither would there be any
individual events for us. All events would pass over into one another
continuously. The
cosmos would be a unity, a totality enclosed within itself. Nowhere would there be a
break in the stream of events. it is because of our limitations that things
appear to us as if they were separate, when in reality they are
not separate at all. Nowhere, for example, is
the singular quality of red present by itself, in isolation. it is surrounded on all sides by
other qualities, to which it belongs and without which it could not subsist. for us,
however, to lift certain sections out from the rest of the world and to consider them
by themselves, is a necessity. Our eye can take hold of only single colors,
one after another, out of a totality of many colors, our understanding,
of only single concepts out of a coherent system of concepts. This separating off is a subjective act, and
it is due to the fact that man is not identical with the world
process, but is a being among other beings. Now all depends on our defining how the being
of man is related to other beings. This
definition must be distinguished from merely becoming conscious of ourselves. This
latter depends on the act of perceiving, just as does our becoming conscious of anything
else. Self-perception shows me a number of qualities
which I comprise in the unity of my personality in the same way as I comprise
the qualities yellow, metallic, hard, etc. in the
unity “gold.” Self-perception does not take me beyond the
sphere of what belongs to myself. This perceiving myself is to be distinguished
from defining myself by means of thinking. Just as I insert a separate perception of
the external world into the connection of things by means of thinking, so do I insert
the perceptions derived from myself into the world process by means of thinking. When I perceive myself, then I see myself
as enclosed within certain limits, but my thinking
has nothing to do with these limits. In this
sense I am a twofold being. I am enclosed within the sphere which I perceive
as that of my personality, but I am also the bearer of
an activity which, from a higher sphere, determines my limited existence. Our thinking is not individual like our sensing
and feeling. it is universal. it receives an individual stamp in each separate
human being only because it becomes related to his individual
feelings and sensations. Through these
particular colorings of the universal thinking, single persons differ from one another. A
triangle has only one single concept. for the content of this concept it is quite
immaterial whether the human bearer of consciousness
who grasps it is A or B. But it will be grasped by each of the two bearers of consciousness
in an individual way. This thought conflicts
with a common prejudice which is very hard to overcome. Those who have this prejudice
cannot reach the insight that the concept of triangle which my head grasps is the same
concept as that which my neighbor’s head grasps. The naive man considers himself to be
the maker of his concepts. He therefore believes that each person has
his own concepts. it
is a fundamental requirement of philosophic thinking to overcome this prejudice. The one
undivided concept, triangle, does not become a multiplicity because it is thought by
many. for the thinking of the many is itself a unity. In thinking, we are given that element which
embraces our particular individuality and makes it one with the cosmos. In that we sense and feel (and also perceive),
we are single entities; in that we think, we are the All-One
Being that pervades everything. This is the
deeper foundation of our twofold being: We see within us a simply absolute force come into existence, a force which is universal,
but we learn to know it, not as it issues from
the center of the world, but at a point of the periphery. Were the former the case, as soon
as we came to be conscious, we should know the whole world riddle. But since we stand
at a point on the periphery and find that our own existence is confined within definite
limits, we must learn to know the region which lies beyond our own being with the help
of thinking, which penetrates into us out of the general world existence. Through the fact that the thinking in us reaches
out beyond our separate existence and relates itself to the general world existence,
there arises in us the urge for knowledge. Beings without thinking do not have this urge. When other things confront them, this
gives rise to no questioning within them. These other things remain external to such
beings. But the concept rises up within thinking beings
when they confront external things. it is that part of things which we receive
not from outside, but from within. it is
for knowledge to bring about the agreement, the union of the two elements, the inner and
the outer. The perception therefore is not something
finished, not something self-contained, but one
side of the total reality. The other side is the concept. The act of knowledge is the
synthesis of perception and concept. Only perception and concept together constitute
the whole thing. The above explanations give proof that it
is meaningless to seek for any common factor in the separate entities of the world, other
than the ideal content to be found in thinking. All efforts must fail which seek to find any
other world unity than this internally coherent ideal content which we gain by thinking consideration
of our perceptions. Neither a
humanly personal God, nor force, nor matter, nor idea-less will (Schopenhauer), is
acceptable as the universal world unity. All these entities belong only to a limited
sphere of our observation. Humanly limited personality we perceive only
in man, force and matter in external things. As regards the will, it can be considered
only as the expression of the activity of our finite personality. Schopenhauer wants to avoid making
“abstract” thinking the bearer of the world unity, and instead seeks something which
seems to him to be immediate reality. This philosopher believes we can never approach
the world so long as we regard it as an external world. “In fact, the meaning sought for in the
world that confronts me solely as my representation, or the transition from it,
as mere representation of the cognizing subject, to whatever it may be besides this, could
never be found if the investigator himself were
nothing more than the pure cognizing subject (a winged cherub without a body). But he
himself is rooted in that world, he finds himself in it as an individual; this means
that his knowledge, which is the necessary bearer of
the whole world as representation, is yet always given through the medium of a body,
whose affections are, as we have shown, the starting point from which the intellect forms
a view of that world. for the pure cognizing
subject as such, this body is a representation like every other representation, an object
among objects; in this respect its movements and actions are known to him in no other
way than the changes in all other objects which he can contemplate, and would be just
as strange and incomprehensible to him if their
meaning were not revealed to him in an entirely different way.! for the subject of
cognition, who appears as an individual through his identity with the body, this body
is given in two entirely different ways: it is
given as a representation for intelligent consideration, as object among objects and
subjected to their laws; but also, at the same time, in quite a different way, namely,
as that which is directly known to everyone,
and which is called will. Every true act of his
will is also at once and unfailingly a movement of his body: he cannot will the act
without perceiving at the same time that it appears as a movement of the body. The act of
will and the action of the body are not two different conditions objectively recognized,
connected by the bond of causality; they do not stand in the relation of cause and effect;
they are one and the same, but are given in two entirely different ways: once quite
directly, and once again for the intelligence that considers it.” By these arguments Schopenhauer believes himself
entitled to see in the human body the “objectivity” of the will. In his opinion one feels in the actions of
the body a direct reality, the thing-in-itself in the concrete. The objection to these arguments is that the
actions of our body come to our consciousness only through self-perceptions, and that, as
such, they are in no way superior to other perceptions. If we want to learn to know their
nature, we can do so only by thinking investigation, that is, by fitting them into the ideal
system of our concepts and ideas. Rooted most deeply in the naive consciousness
of mankind is the opinion: Thinking is abstract, empty of all concrete content. At most it can give an “ideal” mirror
picture of the world, but nothing of the world itself. To judge like this is never to have become
clear about what perception without the concept,
is. Let us look at this realm of mere
perceptions: it appears as a mere juxtaposition in space, a mere succession in time, an
aggregate of disconnected entities. None of the things which come and go on the
stage of perception have any direct, perceptible connection
with any others. From this aspect, the
world is a multiplicity of objects of equal value. None plays any greater part in the hustle
and bustle of the world than any other. If it is to become clear to us that this or
that fact has greater significance than another, we
must consult our thinking. Without the
functioning of thinking, the rudimentary organ of an animal which has no significance in
its life appears to us as equal in value to the most important limb. The separate facts
appear in their own significance, as well as in their significance for the rest of the
world only when thinking spins its threads from
one entity to another. This activity of thinking
is one filled with content. for it is only through a quite definite, concrete
content that I can know why the snail belongs to a lower
level of organization than the lion. The mere
sight, the perception, gives me no content which can inform me about the degree of
perfection of an organization. Thinking brings this content to the perception
from man’s world of concepts and ideas. In contrast to the content of perception given
to us from outside, the content of thought shines forth
in the inner being of man. The manner in
which the content of thought first appears, we will call intuition. Intuition is for thinking
what observation is for perception. Intuition and observation are the sources
of our knowledge. An observed object or event is foreign to
us as long as we do not have in our inner being the corresponding intuition which
completes for us that part of reality which is missing in the perception. To someone who lacks the ability to find intuitions
corresponding to things, the full reality remains inaccessible. Just as the color-blind sees only differences of brightness without any
color qualities, so the one who lacks intuition can observe only disconnected fragments of
perceptions. To explain a thing, to make it intelligible,
means nothing other than to place it into the
context from which it has been torn owing to the nature of our organization as described
above. Something cut off from the world whole does
not exist. Isolation in any form has
only subjective validity for our organization. for us the world unity divides itself into
above and below, before and after, cause and effect, object and representation, matter
and force, object and subject, etc. What appears to our observation as single
entities, combines, bit by bit, through the coherent,
undivided world of our intuitions, and through thinking we again fit together into a unity
everything we had divided through perceiving. The enigmatic aspect of an object is due to
its separate existence. But this separation is
brought about by us and, within the world of concepts, can be cancelled again. Except through thinking and perceiving, nothing
is given to us directly. The question now
arises: What significance has perception according to our line of thought? We have, it is
true, recognized that the proof which critical idealism brings forward for the subjective
nature of perceptions, collapses, but the insight that the proof is wrong does not
necessarily mean that what is asserted is incorrect. Critical idealism does not base its
proof on the absolute nature of thinking, but relies on the fact that naive realism,
when followed to its logical conclusion, contradicts
itself. How does the matter stand when the
absoluteness of thinking is recognized? Let us assume that a certain perception, for
example, red, appears in my consciousness. Continued consideration will show the perception
to be connected with other perceptions, for example, a definite form, certain perceptions
of temperature, and of touch. This
combination I call an object of the sense world. I can now ask: Over and above the
perceptions just mentioned, what else is there in that section of space where they appear? I shall find mechanical, chemical and other
processes in that section of space. I now go
further and investigate the processes I find on the way from the object to my sense
organs. I can find movements in an elastic medium,
and their nature has not the slightest thing in common with the original perception. I get the same result when I go on and
investigate the further transmission between sense organs and brain. In each of these
spheres I gather new perceptions, but the connecting medium permeating all these
perceptions standing side by side in both space and time, is thinking. The air vibrations
which carry sound are given me as perception, just as is the sound itself. Thinking alone
links all these perceptions to one another, showing them in their mutual relationships. Beyond what is directly perceived, we cannot
speak of anything except what can be recognized through the ideal connections of
perceptions (that is, what can be discovered through thinking). That relationship between the perceptual object
and the perceiving subject, which goes beyond what can be perceived,
is therefore a purely ideal one, that is, it can be expressed only by means of concepts. Only if I could perceive how the
perceptual object affects the perceiving subject, or, the other way round, if I could
observe the building up of the perceptual pictures by the subject, would it be possible
to speak as does modern physiology and the critical
idealism based on it. This view confuses an ideal relation (that of the object
to the subject) with a process which we could speak of only if it were possible to perceive
it. The principle, “No color without a color-
seeing eye,” is therefore not to be taken to mean that the eye produces the color, but
only that an ideal relationship, recognizable by
thinking, exists between the perception, color and the perception, eye. Empirical science will have to establish how
the nature of the eye and the nature of colors are related to
one another, that is, by what means the organ of
sight transmits the perception of colors, etc. I can trace how one perception succeeds
another and how one is related to others in space, and I can formulate this in conceptual
terms, but I cannot perceive how a perception originates out of the non-perceptible. All
attempts to seek any relations between perceptions other than thought relations must of
necessity fail. What, then, is a perception? When asked in general, this question is absurd. A perception
always appears as a quite definite, concrete content. This content is directly given and is
completely contained within the given. The only question one can ask concerning this
given is, What is it apart from being a perception; that is, What is it for thinking? The
question concerning the “what” of a perception, therefore, can refer only to the
conceptual intuition which corresponds to it. Seen in this light, the question of the
subjectivity of perceptions, in the sense of critical idealism, cannot be raised at
all. Only
what is perceived as belonging to the subject can be termed “subjective.” No real process,
in a naive sense, can form a link between the subjective and the objective, that is,
no process that can be perceived; this is possible
only for thinking. for us, then, that is
objective which, to perception, lies outside of the perceptual subject. My perceptual
subject remains perceptible to me when the table which stands before me has disappeared
from my field of observation. My observation of the table has caused in
me a change which likewise remains. I retain the ability to reproduce a picture
of the table later. This
ability to produce a picture remains connected with me. Psychology describes this picture
as a memory representation. However, it is the only thing which can correctly
be called the representation of the table. for it corresponds to the perceptible change
in me, caused through the presence of the table in my field
of vision!and indeed, it is not a change in some “I-in-itself” standing behind the
perceptual subject, but a change in the perceptible subject itself. A representation, then, is a subjective perception,
in contrast to the objective perception which occurs when the
object is present in the field of vision. The
confusing of the former subjective with the latter objective perception leads to the
misunderstanding of idealism: The world is my representation. The next step must be to define the concept
of representation more exactly. What we
have so far described of it is not its concept; what we have described has only pointed the
way to where in the perceptual field representations are to be found. The exact concept of
representation will also then make it possible for us to gain a satisfactory explanation
of the relationship between representation and
object. This will also lead us over the borderline,
where the relationship between the human subject and the object belonging to the
world is brought down from the purely conceptual field of knowledge into concrete
individual life. Once we know what to think of the world, it
will also be easy to adapt ourselves to it. We can only be active with our full human
forces when we know the objects belonging to the world to which we
devote our activity. Addition to the Revised Edition (1918): The
view I have characterized here can be regarded as one to which man is led at first,
as if by a natural instinct, the moment he begins to reflect upon his relation to the
world. He then finds himself caught in a thought
formation which dissolves for him while he frames it. This thought formation is such that
a purely theoretical refutation of it does not suffice. One has to live through it and
experience it in order to recognize how far it leads one astray, and then to find the
way out. it must be a feature of any discussion concerning
man’s relation to the world, not for the sake of refuting others whose view about
this relation one believes to be wrong, but because one must oneself experience to what
confusion every first reflection about such a
relation can lead. One must gain that insight which will enable
one to refute oneself with respect to such a first reflection. The above discussion is meant in this sense. When one tries to work out a view about man’s
relation to the world, one becomes conscious of the fact that man himself creates
this relation, at least in part, by forming representations about the things and events
in the world. This draws his attention away
from what is present outside in the world and directs it to his inner world, to his
life of forming representations. He begins to say to himself: it is impossible
for me to have a relationship to any thing or event unless
a representation of it appears in me. From
noticing this fact, it is but a step to the opinion: All that I experience is, after all,
only my representation; I know about a world outside
me only insofar as it is representation in me. With this opinion, man abandons the standpoint
of naive reality which he has before he begins to reflect about his relation to the
world. From the naive standpoint, he believes
that he is dealing with real things. But reflection about his own being drives
him away from this standpoint. This reflection does not allow him to turn
his gaze toward a real world such as naive consciousness believes
it confronts. This reflection turns his gaze
only toward his representations; his representations slip in between his own being and
that real world the naive standpoint believes in. Man no longer can look through the
intervening world of representations to any such reality. He has to assume that he is blind
to this reality. So the thought arises of a “thing-in-itself”
which is inaccessible to knowledge. – As long as one considers only the relationship
to the world into which man appears to enter through his life of forming
representations, one cannot escape from this line of thought. But one cannot remain at the naive standpoint
of reality except by artificially curbing the thirst for knowledge. The fact that in man the need is present for
knowledge about his relation to the world indicates that the naive standpoint must be
abandoned. If the naive standpoint gave us anything that
could be acknowledged as truth, then we should not feel this need. – But one does not arrive at anything else
that could be considered as truth if one merely abandons
the naive standpoint, but retains – without noticing it – the kind of thought which it
imposes upon us. This is the mistake that is
made when it is said: I experience only my representations, and while I believe that
I am dealing with reality, I am actually conscious
only of my representations of reality; I must, therefore, assume that genuine reality, the
“thing in-itself,” exists only outside the
boundary of my consciousness and that I know nothing of it directly, but that it somehow
approaches me and influences me in such a way that my representations come about. To
think in this way is only to add in thought, to the world before us, another world; but
one must begin the whole thinking process over
again with regard to this second world. for
the unknown “thing-in-itself,” in its relation to man’s being, is thought of in
exactly the same way as is the known thing of the naive
standpoint of reality. – One only escapes the
confusion that arises in one’s critical reflection concerning this standpoint when
one notices that inside everything we can experience
by means of perceiving, be it within ourselves or outside in the world, there is
something which cannot succumb to the fate that a representation inserts itself between
event and contemplating human being!and this something is thinking. With regard to thinking, man can remain at
the naive standpoint of reality. If he does not do so, it is only because he
has noticed that he has to abandon this standpoint in regard to other
things, but overlooks the fact that this insight, which is true for other things, does not apply
to thinking. When he notices this, he opens
the portal to yet another insight, that in thinking and through thinking that must be
acknowledged to which man appears to blind himself because he has to place between
himself and the world the life of representations. – A critic highly esteemed by the author
of this book has objected that this discussion of thinking remains at naive realism in
regard to thinking, as it must if the real world and the world of representations are
held to be one and the same. However, the author believes he has shown
in just this discussion this fact: that an unprejudiced observation
of thinking inevitably shows that “naive realism” is valid for thinking, and that
naive realism, insofar as it is not valid for other
things, is overcome through the recognition of the true nature of thinking. THE HUMAN INDIVIDUALitY In attempting to explain representations philosophers
have found that the main difficulty lies in the fact that we ourselves are not
the external things, and yet our representations must somehow correspond to things. But, on closer inspection, it turns out that
this difficulty does not exist at all. We are certainly not the external things,
but together with them we belong to one and the same world. That section of the world which I perceive
as my subject is permeated by the stream of the
universal world process. To my perceiving I
appear, in the first instance, enclosed within the boundary of my skin. But all that is
contained within the skin belongs to the cosmos as a whole. Hence for a relation to exist
between my organism and an external object, it is by no means necessary that something
of the object should slip into me or make an impression on my spirit, like a signet
ring on wax. A question such as: How do I gain knowledge
of the tree ten feet away from me? is wrongly formulated. it springs from the view that the boundaries
of my body are absolute barriers, through which information about
things filters into me. The forces active within
the limit of my body are the same as those which exist outside. therefore, in reality I am
the things; not, however, insofar as I am a perceiving subject, but insofar as I am
part of the universal world process. The perception of the tree and my I is within
the same whole. There this universal world process calls forth
the perception of the tree to the same extent that here it calls forth the perception
of my I. Were I world creator instead of
world knower, object and subject (perception and I) would originate in one act. for they
depend on each other. As world knower I can discover the element
they have in common, as entities belonging together, only through
thinking which, by means of concepts, relates them to one another. Most difficult of all to overcome are the
so-called physiological proofs of the subjectivity of our perceptions. If I press the skin of my body, I perceive
this as a sensation of pressure. Such pressure will be perceived by the eye
as light, by the ear as sound. for
example, by the eye I perceive an electric shock as light, by the ear as sound, by the
nerves of the skin as shock, and by the nose as a phosphoric smell. What follows from
these facts? Only this: that when I perceive an electric
shock (or a pressure, as the case may be) followed by a light quality or a sound,
respectively, or a certain smell, etc. then, if no eye were present, no perception of a
light quality would accompany the perception of mechanical vibrations in my environment;
without the presence of the ear, no perception of sound, etc. But what right has one to say that in the
absence of sense- organs, the whole process would not exist
at all? From the fact that an electrical process
calls forth light in the eye, those who conclude that outside our organism, what we sense
as light is only a mechanical process of motion, forget that they are only passing from
one perception to another, and nowhere to something over and above perceptions. Just as
we can say that the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in its surroundings as
light, we can also say that a regulated change in an object is perceived by us as a process
of motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse on the
circumference of a rotating disc, reproducing exactly the positions which the
horse’s body successively assumes in movement, then by rotating the disc I can
produce the illusion of movement. I need only
look through an opening in such a way that in the proper intervals I see the successive
positions of the horse. I see, not twelve separate pictures of a horse,
but the picture of a single galloping horse. The above-mentioned physiological fact cannot,
therefore, throw any light on the relation of perception to representation. therefore, we must find some other way. The moment a perception appears in my field
of observation, thinking also becomes active through me. A member of my thought-system, a definite
intuition, a concept, unites itself with the perception. Then when the perception disappears from my
field of vision, what do I retain? My intuition, with the reference to the particular
perception which formed itself in the moment of perceiving. The degree of vividness with which I
can recall this reference later depends on the manner in which my intellectual and bodily
organism is working. A representation is nothing but an intuition
related to a particular perception; it is a concept that once was
connected with a perception and retains the reference to this perception. My concept of a lion is not formed out of
my perceptions of lions. But my representation of a lion is indeed
formed according to my perception. I can
convey to someone who has never seen a lion, the concept of a lion. But I can never bring
about in him a vivid representation of a lion, without his perceiving one. A representation therefore is an individualized
concept!and now we have the explanation as to why our representations
can represent reality to us. The complete reality
of something is submitted to us in the moment of observation through the flowing
together of concept and perception. The concept acquires, through a perception,
an individual form, a relation to this particular
perception. In this individual form which has
as a characteristic feature the reference to the perception, the concept lives on in
us as the representation of the thing in question. If we come across a second thing with which
the same concept connects itself, we recognize
the second as belonging to the same kind as the first; if we come across the same thing
twice, we find in our conceptual system not only a corresponding concept, but the individualized
concept with its characteristic relation to the same object, and thus we recognize
the object again. The representation, therefore, stands between
perception and concept. it is the definite
concept which points to the perception. The sum of those things about which I can
form representations may be called my practical experience. The man who has the greater number of individualized
concepts will be the man of richer practical experience. A man who lacks all power of intuition is
not capable of acquiring practical experience. He again loses the objects from his field
of vision because he lacks the concepts which
should bring him into relation with them. A
man whose power of thinking is well developed, but whose ability to perceive functions
poorly due to clumsy sense-organs, will be no better able to gather practical experience. it
is true that he can acquire concepts by one means and another, but his intuitions lack
vivid reference to definite things. The unthinking traveller and the scholar living
in abstract conceptual systems are both incapable
of acquiring rich practical experience. Reality appears to us as perception and concept,
and the subjective representative of this reality is – representation. If our personality expressed itself only in
cognition, the totality of all that is objective would be given in
perception, concept and representation. However, we are not satisfied merely to refer
the perception, by means of thinking, to the concept, but we relate it also to our own
subjectivity, to our individual I. The expression
of this individual relationship is feeling, which we experience as pleasure or displeasure. Thinking and feeling correspond to the twofold
nature of our being, which we have already considered. Thinking is the element through which we take
part in the universal process of the cosmos; feeling, that through
which we can withdraw into the narrow confines of our own soul life. Our thinking unites us with the world; our
feeling leads us back into ourselves, and this
makes us individuals. If we were merely thinking and perceiving
beings, our whole life would flow along in monotonous indifference. If we could only cognize ourself as a self,
we would be totally indifferent to ourself. Only because with self-knowledge we
experience self-feeling, and with the perception of objects pleasure and pain, do we live
as individual beings whose existence is not exhausted by the conceptual relations in
which we stand to the rest of the world, but who have a special value for themselves as
well. One might be tempted to see in the life of
feeling an element more richly saturated with reality than is our thinking contemplation
of the world. But the answer to this is that the
life of feeling, after all, has this richer meaning only for my individual self. for the
world my life of feeling can attain value only if,
as perception of my self, the feeling enters into
connection with a concept and, in this roundabout way, links itself to the cosmos. Our life is a continual oscillation between
our living with the universal world process and
our own individual existence. The further we ascend into the universal nature
of thinking where what is individual ultimately interests
us only as example, as instance of the concept, the more the character of the quite
definite individual personality is lost within us. The further we descend into the depths of
our own soul life and let our feelings resound with the experiences of the outer
world, the more we cut ourselves off from universal life. A true individuality will be one who reaches
up with his feelings farthest into the region of the ideal. There are people in whom even the most general
ideas that enter their heads bear, nevertheless, that
particular coloring which shows unmistakably their connection with the individual who thinks
them. There are others whose concepts
come before us without the least trace of individual coloring, as if they had not been
produced by a being of flesh and blood at all. The act of representing already gives our
conceptual life an individual stamp. for each one of us has his special place from which
he looks out upon the world. His concepts link
themselves to his perceptions. He will think the general concepts in his
own particular way. This particular determination comes about
through the place we occupy in the world and from the perceptions belonging to our
sphere of life. Distinct from this determination is another,
which depends on our particular organization. Our organization is, indeed, a special, definite,
individual unity. Each of us combines
particular feelings, and these in the most varying degrees of intensity, with his
perceptions. This is the individual aspect of our personality. it is what remains over when
we have allowed fully for all the determining factors in our milieu. A life of feeling devoid of all life of thought
would gradually lose all connection with the world. But because it is inherent in man to develop
his whole nature, his knowledge of things will go hand-in-hand with the education
and development of his feeling-life. Feeling is the means whereby, to begin with,
concepts attain concrete life. ARE THERE LIMits TO KNOWLEDGE? We have established that the elements for
explaining reality are to be taken from the two
spheres: perceiving and thinking. As we have seen, it is our organization that
determines the fact that the full, complete reality of
things, our own subject included, appears at first
as a duality. Cognition overcomes this duality by combining
the two elements of reality: the perception and the concept gained by thinking,
into the complete thing. If we call the
world as it confronts us before it has attained its true aspect by means of cognition, “the
world of appearance,” in contrast to the unified whole composed of perception and
concept, then we can say: The world is given us as a duality (dualistic), and cognition
transforms it into a unity (monistic). A philosophy which starts from this basic
principle may be called a monistic philosophy, or monism,
in contrast to the theory of two worlds, or dualism. The latter does not assume that there are
two sides of a single reality, which are kept apart merely by our organization,
but, rather, that there are two worlds, completely different from each other. Then in the one world it tries to find the
principles that can explain the other. Dualism rests on a misunderstanding of what
we call knowledge. it divides the whole of
existence into two spheres, each of which has its own laws, and it lets these spheres
stand opposite to and outside of each other. it is from a dualism such as this that there
arises the distinction between the perceived object and the thing-in-itself which Kant
introduced into science and which so far has not been expelled. From our discussion can be seen that it is
due to the nature of our intellectual organization that a particular
thing can be given us only as perception. Thinking then overcomes this separateness
by referring each perception to its rightful place in the world whole. As long as the separated parts of the world
whole are defined as perceptions, in this elimination we are simply
following a law of our subjectivity. If,
however, we consider the sum-total of all perceptions as constituting one part, and
confront it with the “thing-in-itself” as a second part, then our philosophising
loses all foundation. it then becomes a mere playing with concepts. An artificial opposition is
constructed, but it is not possible to attain a content for the second part of this opposition,
since such content for a particular thing can be drawn only from perception. Every kind of existence which is assumed outside
the realm of perception and concept belongs to the sphere of unjustified hypotheses. The “thing-in-itself” belongs in this
category. it is quite natural that a dualistic thinker
should be unable to find the connection between a universal principle which he hypothetically
assumes, and the given, known by experience. One can obtain a content for the hypothetical
universal principle only by borrowing a content from the sphere of experience
and then shutting one’s eyes to the fact of the borrowing. Otherwise it remains an empty concept, a non-concept,
which is nothing but a shell of a concept. Then the dualistic thinker usually maintains
that the content of this concept is not accessible
to our knowledge. We can know only that such a
content must be present, but not what it is. In both cases it is impossible to overcome
dualism. Even if one brings a few abstract elements
from the sphere of experience into the concept of the thing-in-itself, it still
remains impossible to derive the rich concrete life
of experience from those few qualities which, after all, are themselves taken from
perception only. Du-Bois Reymond thinks that the imperceptible
atoms of matter produce sensation and feeling by means of
their position and motion, and then comes to
the conclusion: We can never find a satisfactory explanation of how matter and motion
produce sensation and feeling, for “it is absolutely and forever unintelligible that
it should be other than indifferent to a number
of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, etc. how they lie and move, how they lay and
moved, or how they will lie and will move. it is impossible to see how consciousness
could come into existence through their interaction.” This conclusion is characteristic of this
whole trend of thought. Position and
motion are abstractions derived from the rich sphere of perceptions. They are then
transferred to the imagined world of atoms. Then astonishment arises that real life cannot
be evolved out of this principle which is self-made and borrowed from the sphere of
perceptions. That the dualist who works with a completely
empty concept of the “in-itself” of things can reach no explanation of the world, already
follows from the definition of his principle indicated above. A dualist is always compelled to set impassable
barriers to our faculty of knowledge. The
follower of a monistic world view knows that everything he needs for the explanation of
any given phenomenon in the world must lie within this world itself. What hinders him
from reaching the explanation can be only contingent limitations in space and time,
or shortcomings of his organization!and, indeed,
not of the human organization in general, but only of his own particular one. it follows from the concept of cognition,
as defined by us, that one cannot speak of limits
to knowledge. Cognition is not a concern of the universe
in general, but one which men must settle for themselves. Things claim no explanation. They exist and act on one
another according to laws which thinking can discover. They exist in indivisible unity
with these laws. Our egohood confronts them, grasping at first
only what we have called perceptions. In the inner core of our egohood, however,
we find the power to discover the other part of reality also. Only when the egohood has again combined for
itself the two elements of reality which are indivisibly
united in the world, is the thirst for knowledge satisfied: the I has again come to reality. therefore, the conditions required for cognition
to arise, come about through and for the I. The I sets itself the problems of cognition!and
it takes them from the element of thinking, in itself absolutely clear and transparent. If we ask questions we cannot answer,
then the content of the question cannot be clear and distinct in all its details. The world
does not set us the questions; it is we ourselves who set them. I can imagine that it would be quite impossible
for me to answer a question which I happened to find written down somewhere, without
knowing the sphere from which the content of the question was taken. In knowledge we are concerned with questions
which arise for us through the fact that a sphere of perceptions, conditioned by time,
space, and our subjective organization, is confronted by a sphere of concepts pointing
to a world which is a unity. My task is to
reconcile these two spheres, well known to me. One cannot speak here of a limit of
knowledge. it may be that at a particular moment, this
or that remains unexplained because, through our place in life, we are
prevented from perceiving all that is involved. What is not found to-day, however, may be
found tomorrow. The limits due to these
causes are only transitory, and can be overcome by the progress of perceiving and
thinking. Dualism makes the mistake of transferring
the antithesis of object and subject, which has
significance only within the sphere of perceptions, to purely invented entities outside this
sphere. But as the separate things within the field
of perception remain separated only as long as the perceiver refrains from thinking,
which cancels all separation and shows it to
be due to merely subjective factors, so the dualist, in fact, transfers to entities behind
the sphere of perceptions definitions which, even
for perceptions, have no absolute but only relative validity. In doing this he splits up the two factors
concerned in the process of cognition, perception and concept, into four:
1) the object-in-itself) the perception which the subject has of the object, 3) the
subject, 4) the concept which relates the perception to the object-in-itself. The relation between object and subject is
considered to be real, that is, the subject is considered
to be really (dynamically) influenced by the object. This real process is said not to appear in
consciousness. But it is supposed to
evoke in the subject a response to the stimulation from the object. The result of this
response is said to be the perception. This at last enters our consciousness. The object is
said to have an objective reality (independent of the subject), the perception a subjective
reality. This subjective reality is said to be referred
by the subject to the object. This latter
reference is said to be an ideal one. The dualist, in other words, splits up the
process of cognition into two parts. One part, i.e. the production of the perceptual
object out of the thing-in-itself, takes place, according to
him, outside of consciousness, the other part, the
union of perception with concept and the reference of this to the object, within
consciousness. These presuppositions make it clear that the
dualist believes he receives in his concepts only something subjective, which
represents what confronts his consciousness. The objectively real process in the subject,
by means of which the perception comes about, and still more the
objective relationships between things-inthemselves, remain inaccessible to direct cognition for
such a dualist. In his opinion, man
can obtain only concepts that represent the objectively real. The bond of unity which
connects things with one another and also objectively with our individual spirit (as
thingin- itself), lies beyond consciousness in a being-in-itself
of whom we likewise can have in our consciousness only a concept that represents
it. The dualist believes that the whole
world would be nothing but a mere abstract scheme of concepts if he did not insist on
“real” connections between the objects beside the conceptual ones. In other words, the
ideal principles which can be discovered by thinking seem too airy for the dualist, and
he seeks, in addition, “real principles”
with which to support them. Let us examine these “real principles”
a little more closely. The naive man (naive realist)
regards the objects of external experience as realities. The fact that his hands can grasp
and his eyes can see these objects is for him the proof of their reality. “Nothing exists that
cannot be perceived” is, in fact, the basic axiom of the naive man, and it is held to
be equally valid in its converse: “Everything
which can be perceived, exists.” The best proof
for this assertion is the naive man’s belief in immortality and in ghosts. He thinks of the
soul as a fine kind of physical matter which, in special circumstances, may actually
become visible to the ordinary man (naive belief in ghosts). In contrast to this real world
of his, the naive realist regards everything else, especially the world of ideas, as unreal,
as “merely ideal.” What we add to objects by, thinking is mere
thoughts about the objects. Thought adds nothing real to perception. But it is not only with reference to the existence
of things that the naive man regards sense perception as the sole proof of reality,
but also with reference to happenings. according to him, one thing can act upon another
only when a force actually present to sense perception issues from the one and seizes
upon the other. The older physicists
thought that very fine substances emanate from the objects and penetrate through the sense-organs into the soul. They thought the actual seeing of these substances
to be impossible only because of the coarseness
of our sense organs in comparison with the fineness of these substances. In principle, the reason for attributing reality
to these substances was the same as that for attributing
it to the objects of the physical world, namely, the form of their existence, which
was thought to be analogous to that of physical reality. The self-dependent nature of what can be experienced,
not physically but ideally, is not regarded by naive consciousness
as being real in the same sense. Something grasped “merely as idea” is
regarded as a chimera until sense perception can
provide conviction of its reality. In short, in addition to the ideal evidence
of his thinking, the naive man demands the real evidence of
his senses. This need of naive man is the
reason why primitive forms of belief in revelation arise. for naive consciousness, the
God who is given through thinking always remains a God merely “thought.” Naive
consciousness demands that the manifestation should be through means accessible to
physical perception. God must appear in bodily form; little value
is attached to the evidence of thinking, but only to the Divine
Nature being proved by the changing of water into wine in a way which can be testified
by the senses. The act of cognition, too, is
regarded by naive man as a process analogous to sense-perception. Things must make an
impression on the soul or send out images which penetrate the senses, etc. What the naive man can perceive with his senses
he regards as real, and that of which he has no such perception (God, soul, cognition,
etc.) he regards as analogous to what is perceived. A science based on naive realism will consist
in an exact description of the content of perception. Concepts are only means to this end. They exist to provide ideal counterparts
of perceptions. for things themselves, they have no significance. for the naive realist,
only the individual tulips which are seen or could be seen, are real. The one idea of the
tulip, is to him an abstraction, is to him an unreal thought-picture, which the soul
has put together for itself out of the characteristics
common to all tulips. Naive realism, with its
fundamental principle of the reality of all perceived things, is contradicted by experience,
which shows us that the content of perceptions is of a transitory nature. The tulip I see, is
real to-day; in a year it will have vanished into nothingness. What persists is the species
tulip. This species, however, for the naive realist
is “merely” an idea, not a reality. Thus,
this worldview finds itself in the position of seeing its realities arise and perish,
while what it regards as unreal, in contrast to
the real, persists. Hence the naive realist has to
allow for the existence of something ideal besides the perceptions. He has to accept
entities which he cannot perceive by means of the senses. He justifies this by imagining
their existence to be analogous to that of physical objects. Such hypothetically assumed
realities are the invisible forces by means of which objects perceptible to the senses
act on one another. Heredity is thought of in this way; it goes
beyond the individual and is the reason why a new being develops from the
individual which is similar to it, and by means of it the species is maintained. The life principle permeating the organic
body is also thought of in this way, and so is the
soul, for which one always finds in naive consciousness a concept based on an analogy
to sense reality, and finally so, too, the naive man thinks of the Divine Being. This Divine Being is thought of as active
in a manner exactly corresponding to what can be
perceived as actions of men, that is, the Divine Being is thought of anthropomorphically
. Modern physics traces sense-impressions back
to processes in the smallest particles of bodies and to the infinitely fine substance,
the ether, or to something similar. for
example, what we sense as warmth, is, within the space occupied by the warmth-giving
body, movement of its parts. Here again, something imperceptible is thought
of on the analogy of what is perceptible. The physical analogue to the concept “body”
is, in this sense, something like the interior of a totally
enclosed space in which elastic balls are moving in all directions, impinging on one
another, bouncing on and off the walls, etc. Without such assumptions, for naive realism,
the world would collapse into a disconnected chaos of perceptions with no
mutual relationships to unite them. it is clear,
however, that naive realism can arrive at these assumptions only by inconsistency. If it
remained true to its fundamental principle that only what is perceived is real, then
it would not assume a reality where it perceives
nothing. The imperceptible forces which
proceed from perceptible things are essentially unjustified hypotheses from the standpoint
of naive realism itself!and as the naive realist acknowledges no other realities, he invests
his hypothetical forces with perceptual content. In doing this he applies a form of
existence (perceptual existence) to a sphere where he lacks the only means that can give
any evidence of such existence: perceiving by means of physical senses. This self-
contradictory world view leads to metaphysical realism. Beside the perceptible reality,
the metaphysical realist constructs an imperceptible one which he thinks of on the
analogy of the former. Metaphysical realism therefore, is of necessity
dualistic. Where the metaphysical realist observes a
relation between perceptible things (mutual approach through movement, becoming conscious
of an object, etc.), there he regards a reality as existing. But the relation that he notices he can, however,
express only by means of thinking; he cannot perceive it. The relation, which is purely ideal, is arbitrarily
made into something similar to what is perceptible. Thus, according to this line of
thought, the real world is composed of perceptual objects which are in ceaseless flux,
arising and disappearing, and of imperceptible forces which are permanent and produce
the perceptual objects. Metaphysical realism is a contradictory mixture
of naive realism and idealism. its
hypothetical forces are imperceptible entities endowed with the qualities of perceptions. In addition to the sphere, for the form of
existence of which he has a means of cognition in its perceptibility, the metaphysical realist
has decided to acknowledge another sphere to which this means is not applicable, a sphere
which can be ascertained only by means of thinking. But he cannot at the same time decide also
to acknowledge the form of existence which thinking mediates, namely
the concept (the idea), as being of equal importance with perceptions. If one is to avoid the contradiction of imperceptible
perceptions, then it must be admitted that the relation thinking mediates between
perceptions can have no other form of existence for us than that of the concept. When the
untenable part of metaphysical realism is rejected, we then have the world before us
as the sum of perceptions and their conceptual
(ideal) relations. Then metaphysical realism merges into a world view which requires the
principle of perceptibility for perceptions and that of “thinkability” for the relations
between the perceptions. Side by side with the
realm of perceptions and that of concepts, this world view cannot acknowledge a third
realm for which both principles, the so-called real principle and the ideal principle, have
equal validity. When the metaphysical realist maintains that
beside the ideal relation between the perceptual object and the perceiving subject,
there must also exist a real relation between the “thing-in-itself” of the perception
and the “thing-in-itself” of the perceptible subject
(of the so-called individual spirit), then this assertion is due to the mistaken assumption
of the existence of a process, analogous to a process in the sense-world, but
imperceptible. Further, when the metaphysical realist says:
I have a conscious ideal relationship with my world of perceptions,
but with the real world I can have only a dynamic (force) relationship, he then makes
the above mistake to an even greater degree. One can only speak of a force-relationship
within the world of perceptions (in the sphere of the sense of touch), not outside that sphere. Let us call the world view characterized above,
into which metaphysical realism merges if it discards its contradictory elements,
monism, because it unites one-sided realism with
idealism in a higher unity. for the naive realist, the real world is an
aggregate of objects of perception; for the metaphysical realist also the imperceptible
forces are realities. Instead of forces, the
monist has ideal connections which he attains by means of his thinking. The laws of
nature are such connections. for a law of nature is nothing other than
the conceptual expression for the connection of certain perceptions. The monist never has any need to
ask for factors other than perceptions and concepts, with which to explain reality. He
knows that in the whole sphere of reality there is no need to ask for this. In the sphere of
perceptions, directly accessible to his perceiving, he sees half of a reality; in the union of
this sphere with the sphere of concepts, he finds the full reality. The metaphysical realist
may make the objection to the adherent of monism: it could be that for your organization
your knowledge is complete in itself, that no part is lacking; but what you do not know
is how the world is mirrored in an intelligence
organized differently from your own. To this
the monist would reply: If there are intelligences other than human, if their perceptions
have a different form than ours, then all that would be of significance for me would
be what reaches me from them by means of perceptions
and concepts. By means of my
perceiving and, in fact, by means of this specifically human manner of perceiving, as
subject I am placed over against the object. The connection of things is thereby broken. The subject restores this connection by means
of thinking. In doing so, things are reinserted
into the world whole. Since it is only through our subject that
this whole appears rent in two at the place between our perception
and our concept, so likewise the union of these two factors gives us a true knowledge. for beings with a different world of
perceptions (if, for example, they had twice as many sense-organs), the connection would
appear broken in another place, and the restoration would, accordingly, have a form
specific for such beings. The question concerning limits of knowledge
exists only for the naive and metaphysical realists, both of whom
see in the content of the soul only an ideal representation of the world. for them, what exists outside the subject
is something absolute, something self-dependent, and the
content of the subject is a picture of this absolute and is completely external to it. How complete is knowledge of this absolute
would depend on the greater or lesser degree of resemblance between the picture and the
absolute object. A being with fewer senses than man would perceive
less of the world, one with more senses would perceive more. The former’s knowledge would therefore be
less complete than that of the latter. for the monist, things are different. it is the organization of the perceiving being
that determines how the world unity appears to
be torn apart into subject and object. The
object is not something absolute, but is only something relative in relation to this
particular subject. The bridging of the contrasting entities can,
therefore, take place again only in the quite specific way that is characteristic
of the human subject. As soon as the I,
which, in perceiving, is separated from the world, reinserts itself into the connection
of things through thinking investigation, all
further questioning ceases, since all questions arose only as a result of the separation. A differently constituted being would have
a differently constituted knowledge. Our
knowledge suffices to answer the questions asked by our nature. The metaphysical realist should ask: How does
what is given as perception come to be the given; what is it that affects the subject? for the monist, the perception is determined
by the subject. But in thinking, the subject
has, at the same time, the means for cancelling this determination, caused through the
subject itself. The metaphysical realist is faced by a further
difficulty when he seeks to explain the similarity of the world pictures of different
human individuals. He cannot but ask
himself: How is it that the world picture which I build up out of my subjectively
determined perceptions and out of my concepts, turns out to be like that which another
individual builds up out of the same two subjective factors? How, from my subjective
world picture, can I infer anything about that of another human being? The metaphysical
realist believes he can infer, from the fact that people come to terms with one another
in practical life, that their subjective world
pictures must be similar. From the similarity of
these world pictures he then further infers that the “individual spirits” behind the
single perceiving human subjects, or the “I-in-itself”
behind the subjects, must also be similar. therefore this inference is drawn from a sum
of effects to the nature of their underlying causes. it is believed that from a sufficiently large
number of instances, the situation can be so recognized that one can know how the
inferred causes will behave in other instances. Such an inference is called an inductive inference. it will be necessary to
modify the results if, from further observation, some unexpected element is discovered,
because the result, after all, is determined only by the particular form of the earlier
observation. The metaphysical realist maintains that this
stipulated knowledge of causes is quite sufficient for practical life. Inductive inference is the methodical foundation
of modern metaphysical realism. At one
time it was believed that out of concepts could be evolved something that is no longer
a concept. it was believed that from concepts could be
derived the metaphysical realities which of necessity, metaphysical realism must
have. This kind of philosophizing is now
superseded. Instead, it is believed that from a sufficiently
large number of perceptual facts one can infer the character of the thing-in-itself
which underlies these facts. Just as
in the past one tried to derive the metaphysical from concepts, so to-day one tries to
derive it from perceptions. As concepts are transparent in their clarity,
it was believed that one could also deduce the metaphysical
from them with absolute certainty. Perceptions are not of such transparency. Each later perception is always a little different
from those of the same kind that preceded it. therefore, anything inferred from the earlier
perception is, in reality, somewhat modified by each following one. The aspect of the
metaphysical arrived at in this way, therefore, can be said to be only relatively correct,
for it is subject to correction by future instances. Eduard von Hartmann’s metaphysics is of
a kind that is determined by this methodical
principle. This is expressed in the motto he
gave on the title-page of his first major work: “Speculative results according to
the inductive method of natural science.” The form which the metaphysical realist gives
to his things-in-themselves today is obtained by inductive inferences. His consideration of the process of knowledge
has convinced him that a connection of things,
which is objectively real, exists side by side
with the “subjective” connection that can be known through perception and concept. The
nature of this objective reality he believes he can determine by inductive inferences from
his perceptions. Addition to the Revised Edition, (1918): Certain
representations which arise from investigations of natural phenomena tend,
again and again, to disturb unprejudiced observation – as the effort has been made
to describe it above – of how we experience concepts and perceptions. Such investigations show that in the light-spectrum
the eye perceives colors from red to violet. However, within the spectrum’s sphere of
radiation, but beyond the violet there are forces to
which corresponds no color perception of the eye, but a chemical effect and, similarly,
beyond the limit of the red there exist radiations which have only effects of warmth. Investigation of these and similar phenomena
has led to the opinion that the range of man’s sphere
of perceptions is determined by the range of
his senses, and that he would have before him a very different world if he had more
or altogether different senses. Those who are inclined to flights of imagination,
for which the glittering discoveries of recent scientific
research in particular offer such tempting opportunities, may come to the conclusion:
Nothing can enter man’s field of observation except what is able to affect the senses of
his bodily organization, and he has no right to
regard what he perceives, by means of his limited organization, as being in any way
a standard for ascertaining reality. Every new sense would give him a different
picture of reality. – Within its proper limits, this opinion is
entirely correct. But one who allows this
opinion to prevent him from observing without prejudice the relationship between
concept and perception, as explained here, will put obstacles in the way to any realistic
knowledge of man and world. To experience thinking in its own nature,
that is, to experience the active working-out of the sphere
of concepts, is something entirely different from the experience of something
perceptible through the senses. Whatever
senses man might possibly have, not one would give him reality if through the activity of
thinking, he did not permeate with concepts the perceptions they conveyed to him; and
indeed, every sense, of whatever kind, if thus permeated, gives man the possibility
to live within reality. Speculations about quite different perceptual
pictures conveyed by other senses, has nothing to do with the question
concerning man’s relation to reality. it is
essential to recognize that every perceptual picture derives its form from the organization
of the perceiving being, but the perceptual picture when permeated by thinking which is
livingly experienced leads man into reality. A fanciful description of how different the
world would appear to other than human senses cannot act as an incentive to man to seek
for knowledge concerning his relationship to the world; rather will this happen through
the insight that every perception gives us only a part of the reality it conceals, that,
therefore, it leads away from its reality. This then brings us to the further insight
that it is thinking which leads into that part of reality
which the perception conceals within itself. An unprejudiced observation of the relation
between perceptions, and concepts worked out by thinking, as here described, may also
be disturbed by the fact that in the sphere of
applied physics it becomes necessary to speak not at all of directly perceptible elements,
but of non-perceptible magnitudes, such as lines of electric or magnetic force, etc.
it may appear as if the elements of reality, spoken
of in physics, had nothing to do either with what is perceptible or with concepts actively
worked out by thinking. But such a view is
based on self-deception. What matters is that all that is worked out
in physics – as long as it is not based on unjustifiable hypotheses
which must be excluded – is obtained by means of perceptions and concepts. By a correctly working instinct for knowledge
in the physicist, what is apparently a non-perceptible
content will always be placed into the field of perceptions, and will be thought
of in concepts belonging to this field. The
magnitudes in electric and magnetic fields, etc. are attained, owing to their nature,
by no other process of cognition than the one which
takes place between perception and concept. – An increase or a transformation of the human
senses would give a different perceptual picture; it would be an enrichment
or a transformation of human experience. But a real knowledge of this experience also
could be attained only through the interplay of concept and perception. A deepening of knowledge depends upon the
active power of intuition contained in thinking. In the living experience within thinking,
this intuition can dive down into lesser or greater
depths of reality. Through extension of the
perceptual picture this diving down of intuition can receive stimulation and thus be
indirectly strengthened. But never should this diving into the depths
to attain reality be confused with being confronted with a wider
or narrower perceptual picture, in which there would always be contained only a half-reality
determined by the organization of the cognizing being. If one avoids getting lost in abstractions,
it will be recognized how significant, also for knowledge of the being
of man, is the fact that in physics one has to
include the existence, in the field of perceptions, of elements for which no sense organ is
directly tuned as for color or sound. The essential being of man is determined not
only by what confronts him through his organization
as direct perception, but also by the fact that
he excludes something else from this direct perception. Just as life needs, in addition to
the conscious waking state, an unconscious sleeping state, so, for man’s self-experience
is needed besides the sphere of his sense perceptions, another sphere also – indeed,
a much larger one – of elements not perceptible
to the senses, but existing within the same field where sense-perceptions originate. All this was already indirectly indicated
in the first edition of this book. The author here adds these amplifications
to the content because he has found by experience that many readers
have not read accurately enough. – Another
thing to be considered is that the idea of perception, as presented in this book, is
not to be confused with the idea of external sense-perception,
which is but a special instance of perception. The reader will gather from what has already
been said, but even more from what will follow, that here perception includes
everything that man meets, physically or spiritually, before he has grasped it in actively
worked out concepts. We do not need
what we usually mean by senses in order to have perceptions of a soul or spiritual kind. it
may be said that such extension of the ordinary use of a word is inadmissible. Yet such
extension is absolutely necessary if one is not to be barred by the current use of a word
from enlarging the knowledge of certain fields. If the word perception is applied to
physical perception only, then one cannot arrive at a concept that can be of use for
attaining knowledge even of this (physical) perception. Often it is necessary to enlarge a
concept in order that it may preserve in a narrower field the meaning appropriate to
it!or it is sometimes necessary to add something
different to the previous content of a concept in order that its first content may be justified
or even readjusted. for example, it is said in
this book: “A representation, therefore, is an individualized concept.” it has been
objected that this is an unusual use of the word. But this use of the word is necessary if
we are to find out what a representation really is. What would become of the progress of
knowledge if, when compelled to readjust concepts, one is always to be met with the
objection: “This is an unusual use of the word”? THE FACTorS OF LIFE Let us recapitulate the results arrived at
in the previous chapters. The world confronts
man as a multiplicity, as a sum of separate entities. Man himself is one of these separate
entities, a being among other beings. This aspect of the world we characterized
simply as that which is given, and inasmuch as we do
not evolve it by conscious activity, but find it
present, we called it perception. Within the world of perceptions we perceive
ourself. This self perception would remain merely one
among the many other perceptions, did not something arise from the midst of this self-perception
which proves capable of connecting perceptions in general and therefore
also the sum of all other perceptions with that of ourself. This something which emerges is no longer
mere perception, neither is it, like perceptions, simply given. it is brought about by our activity. To begin with, it
appears united with what we perceive as ourself. But in accordance with its inner
significance it reaches out beyond the self. it bestows on the separate perceptions ideal
definitions, and these relate themselves to one another and stem from a unity. What is
attained by self-perception, it defines ideally in the same way as it defines all other
perceptions, placing this as subject, or “I,” over against the objects. This something is
thinking, and the ideal definitions are the concepts and ideas. Thinking, therefore, first
manifests itself in the perception of the self, but it is not merely subjective, for
the self characterizes itself as subject only with
the help of thinking. This relationship to oneself
by means of thoughts is a life-definition of our personality. Through it we lead a purely ideal existence. Through it we feel ourselves to be thinking
beings. This life-definition
would remain a purely conceptual (logical) one if no other definitions of our self were
added to it. We should then be beings whose life would
be exhausted in establishing purely ideal relations between perceptions
themselves, and between them and ourself. If
we call the establishing of such a thought connection, an act of cognition, and the
resulting condition of our self knowledge, then according to the abovementioned
presupposition, we should have to consider ourselves as beings who merely cognize or
know. However, the presupposition does not correspond
to the facts. We relate perceptions to
ourselves not merely ideally, through concepts, but also, as we have seen, through
feeling. therefore we are not beings with a merely
conceptual life-content. The naive
realist even sees in the life of feeling a more genuine life of the personality than
in the purely ideal element of knowledge!and from
his standpoint he is right in interpreting the
matter in this way. for feeling on the subjective side to begin with, is exactly the same as
perception on the objective side. From the basic principle of naive realism,
that everything that can be perceived is real,
it follows that feeling is the guarantee of the
reality of one’s own personality. Monism, however, as understood here, must
confer upon feeling the same supplement that it considers
necessary for all perceptions if these are to
be present as a complete reality. for monism, feeling is an incomplete reality
which, in the form it is first given to us, does not
as yet contain its second factor, the concept or
idea. This is why in actual life, feelings, like
perceptions, appear before cognition has occurred. At first we have merely a feeling of existence,
and it is only in the course of gradual development that we reach the point
where the concept of our self dawns within the dim feeling of our existence. But what for us appears only later is fundamentally
and indivisibly bound up with feeling. This fact leads the naive man to the belief
that in feeling, existence is present directly, in
knowledge only indirectly. therefore the
development of the feeling-life appears to him more important than anything else. He will
believe that he has grasped the connection of things only when he has felt it. He attempts
to make feelings rather than knowing the means of cognition. But as feeling is something
quite individual, something equivalent to perception, a philosopher of feeling makes
into the universal principle, a principle which
has significance only within his personality. He
tries to permeate the whole world with his own self. What the monist, in the sense we
have described, strives to grasp by means of concepts, the philosopher of feeling tries
to attain by means of feeling, and considers
this relationship with objects to be the one that
is most direct. The view just characterized, the philosophy
of feeling, is often called mysticism. The
error in mysticism based on feeling alone is that the mystic wants to experience in
feeling what should be attained as knowledge; he wants to develop something which is
individual, into something universal. Feeling is purely individual, it is the relation
of the external world to our subject, insofar as this relation comes to expression in merely
subjective experience. There is yet another
expression of the human personality. The I, through its thinking, lives within
the universal life of the world; through thinking
the “I” relates purely ideally (conceptually) the perception to itself, and itself to the
perception. In feeling, it experiences a relation of
the object to its own subject. In the will, the opposite is the case. In will, we are again
confronted with a perception, namely that of the individual relation of our own self
to the object. Everything in the will which is not a purely
ideal factor is just as much a merely perceived object as any object in the external
world. Nevertheless, here again the naive realist
believes that he has before him something far
more real than can be reached by thinking. He sees in the will an element in which he
is directly aware of a process, a causation,
in contrast to thinking, which must first grasp the
process in concepts. What the I brings about by its will represents
to such a view, a process which is experienced directly. An adherent of this philosophy believes that
in the will he has really got hold of a corner of
the universal process. Whereas all other events
he can follow only by perceiving them from outside, he believes that in his will he is
experiencing a real process quite directly. The form of existence in which the will
appears to him within the self becomes for him a direct principle of reality. His own will
appears to him as a special case of the universal process, and he therefore considers the
latter to be universal will. The will becomes the universal principle just
as in mysticism of feeling, feeling becomes the principle
of knowledge. This view is a Philosophy of the
Will (Thelism). Here something which can be experienced only
individually is made into the constituent factor of the world. The philosophy of will can be called a science
as little as can mysticism of feeling. for
both maintain that to permeate things with concepts is insufficient. Both demand, side by
side with an ideal-principle of existence, a real principle also!and this with a certain
justification. But since for this so-called real principle,
perceiving is our only means of comprehension, it follows that mysticism of
feeling and philosophy of will are both of the
opinion that we have two sources of knowledge: thinking and perceiving, perceiving
being mediated through feeling and will as individual experience. according to
mysticism of feeling and philosophy of will, what flows from the source of
experience cannot be taken up directly into what flows from the source of thinking;
therefore the two forms of knowledge, perceiving and thinking, remain standing side by
side without a higher mediation. Besides the ideal principle attainable through
knowledge, there is also supposed to exist a real principle which, although it can be
experienced cannot be grasped by thinking. In other words: mysticism of feeling and
philosophy of will are both forms of naive realism; they both adhere to the principle:
What is directly perceived is real. Compared with naive realism in its original
form, they are guilty of the further inconsistency of
making one definite kind of perceiving (feeling or will) into the one and only means of knowing
existence; and this they should not do when they adhere in general to the principle:
What is perceived is real. according to this,
for cognition, external perceptions should have equal value with inner perceptions of
feeling Philosophy of will becomes metaphysical realism
when it considers will also to be present in those spheres of existence where
a direct experience of it, as in one’s own subject, is not possible. it hypothetically assumes a principle outside
the subject, for which subjective experience is the sole criterion
of reality. The philosophy of will as a form of metaphysical realism is open to the
criticism indicated in the preceding chapter; it
has to overcome the contradictory element inherent in every form of metaphysical
realism, and acknowledge that the will is a universal world process only insofar as
it relates itself ideally to the rest of the
world. Addition to the Revised Version, 1918. The reason it is so difficult to observe and
grasp the nature of thinking lies in the fact that
its nature all too easily eludes the contemplating soul, as soon as one tries to focus attention
on it. What then is left is something lifeless,
abstract, the corpse of living thinking. If this abstract alone is considered, then
it is easy, by contrast, to be drawn into the “living”
element in mysticism of feeling, or into the metaphysics of the will, and to find it strange
that anyone should expect to grasp the nature of reality in “mere thought.” But one who really penetrates to the life
within thinking will reach the insight that to experience
existence merely in feeling or in will cannot in any way be compared with the inner
richness, the inwardly at rest yet at the same time alive experience, of the life within
thinking, and no longer will he say that the other could be ranked above this. it is just because of this richness, because
of this inner fullness of living experience, that its reflection
in the ordinary life of soul appears lifeless and abstract. No other human soul-activity is so easily
underestimated as thinking. Will
and feeling warm the human soul even when experienced only in recollection. Thinking
all too easily leaves the soul cold in recollection; the soul-life then appears to have dried
out. But this is only the strong shadow cast by
its warm luminous reality, which dives down into the phenomena of the world. This diving down is done by a power that flows
within the thinking activity itself, the power of spiritual love. The objection should not be
made that to see love in active thinking is to transfer into thinking a feeling, namely
love. This objection is in truth a confirmation
of what is said here. for he who turns toward the
living essence of thinking will find in it both feeling and will, and both of these in
their deepest reality; whereas for someone who turns
away from thinking and instead turns toward “mere” feeling or will, for him
these will lose their true reality. One who is
willing to experience intuitively in thinking, will also be able to do justice to what is
experienced in the realm of feeling and in the element of will, whereas mysticism of
feeling and metaphysics of will are incapable of doing justice to the activity of
permeating existence with intuitive thinking. They all too easily come to the conclusion
that they have found reality, whereas the intuitive thinker produces in abstract thoughts
without feeling, and far removed from reality, a shadowy, chilling picture of the world. THE IDEA OF FREEDOM for cognition the concept of a tree is conditioned
by the perception of the tree. When
confronted with a particular perception I can lift out only one definite concept from
the general system of concepts. The connection between concept and perception
is determined indirectly and objectively through
thinking according to the perception. The
connection of the perception with its concept is recognized after the act of perception;
but that they belong to one another is already
inherent in the object itself. The process is different when the relation
of man to the world is considered, as it arises within knowledge. In the preceding explanation the attempt has
been made to show that it is possible to throw light on this relation
if one observes it without prejudice. A real
understanding of such an observation leads to the insight that thinking can be directly
experienced as a self-contained reality. In order to explain thinking as such, those
who find it necessary to add something to it,
such as physical brain-processes or unconscious spiritual processes lying behind the conscious
thinking which is being observed, underestimate what can be seen when thinking
is observed without prejudice. During his
observation of thinking, the observer lives directly within a spiritual, self-sustaining
activity of a living reality. Indeed one can say that he who wants to grasp
the reality of spirit in the form in which it first presents
itself to man, can do this in his own self- sustaining thinking. When thinking is observed, two things coincide
which elsewhere must always appear apart: concept and perception. If this is not recognized, then in the concepts
which have been worked out according to perceptions,
one is unable to see anything but shadowy copies of the perceptions, and will take the
perceptions to be the full reality. Further, one
will build up a metaphysical sphere on the pattern of the perceived world, and each
person, according to his views, will call this world a world of atoms, a world of will,
a world of unconscious spirit, and so on!and
he will not notice that with all this he merely hypothetically builds up a metaphysical world
on the pattern of his world of perceptions. But if he realizes what he has before him
in thinking, then he will also recognize that in
the perception only a part of reality is present, and that the other part that belongs to it
and first allows it to appear as full reality, is experienced in the act of permeating the
perception with thinking. Then in what arises in consciousness as thinking,
he will also see not a shadowy copy of some reality, but
spiritual reality itself!and of this he can say
that it becomes present in his consciousness through intuition. Intuition is a conscious
experience of a purely spiritual content, taking place in the sphere of pure spirit. Only
through an intuition can the reality of thinking be grasped. Only when, by observing thinking without prejudice,
one has wrestled one’s way through to recognizing the truth that the nature of
thinking is intuitive, is it possible to gain a real
understanding of the body-soul organization of man. Then one recognizes that this
organization cannot affect the nature of thinking. Quite obvious facts seem to contradict
this at first. for ordinary experience, human thinking only
takes place connected with, and by means of, the organization. This comes so strongly to the fore that the
true facts can only be seen when it has been recognized
that nothing from the organization plays into thinking as such!and then it is impossible
not to notice how extraordinary is the relation of the human organization to thinking. for this organization has no effect at all
on thinking; rather it withdraws when the activity of thinking takes place; it suspends
its own activity, it makes room, and in the space
that has become free, thinking appears. The
spiritual substance that acts in thinking has a twofold task: first it presses back
the human organization in its activity, and next, it
steps into the place of it. The first, the pressing
back of the bodily organization, is also a consequence of the thinking activity, and
indeed of that part of this activity which prepares
the manifestation of thinking. This explains the
sense in which thinking finds its counterpart in the bodily organization!and when this is recognized, one will no longer mistake this
counterpart for thinking itself. If someone
walks over soft ground, his feet leave impressions in the soil. But one is not tempted to
say that the forces of the ground have formed these imprints from below. One will not
ascribe to these forces any participation in the creating of the footprints. So too, one who,
without prejudice, observes the nature of thinking will not ascribe to the imprints
in the bodily organization any participation in the
nature of thinking, for the imprints in the organization come about through the fact that
thinking prepares its manifestation through the body.” [footnote: The significance of the above view
in relation to psychology, physiology, etc. in various directions has been set forth by
the author in works published after this book. Here the aim is only to characterize what
can be recognized by an unprejudiced observation of thinking.] Now a significant question arises. If the human organism does not partake in
the spiritual substance of thinking, what significance has
this organism within man’s being as a whole? Now what happens in this organism through
thinking has nothing to do with the nature of thinking, but indeed it has to do
with the arising of the I-consciousness within thinking. The real “I” exists within the being of
thinking, but not so the I-consciousness. This will be recognized if only thinking is
observed without prejudice. The “I” is to be
found within thinking; the “I-consciousness” arises through the fact that the imprints
of the activity of thinking are engraved upon
the general consciousness in the sense explained above. (The I-consciousness therefore arises through
the bodily organism. But
by this is not meant that the I-consciousness, once it has arisen, remains dependent on the
bodily organism. Once arisen, it is taken up into thinking
and henceforth shares its spiritual nature.) The human organism is the foundation of the
“I-consciousness.” it is also the source of
will-activity. it follows from the preceding explanation
that an insight into the connection between thinking, conscious I, and will activity
can only be obtained if we first observe how will-activity issues from the human organism. The factors to be considered in a particular
act of will are the motive and the driving force. The motive is either a concept or a representation;
the driving force is the will element and is directly conditioned by the
human organism. The conceptual factor, or
motive, is the momentary source from which the will is determined; the driving force
is the permanent source of determination in the
individual. A motive of will may be a pure
concept or a concept with a definite reference to what is perceived, i.e. a representation. General and individual concepts (representations)
become motives of will by influencing the human individual and determine him to
act in a particular direction. But one and the
same concept, or one and the same representation, influences different individuals
differently. it impels different people to different actions. Will, therefore, does not come
about merely as a result of the concept, or representation, but also through the individual
disposition of human beings. This individual disposition we will call – in
this respect one can follow Eduard von Hartmann – the characterological
disposition. The way in which concepts and representations influence the
characterological disposition of a person gives
his life a definite moral or ethical stamp. The characterological disposition is formed
through the more or less constant life-content of our subject, that is, through the content
of our representations and feelings. Whether a
present representation stimulates me to will or not, depends on how the representation
is related to the content of the rest of my representations,
and also to my particular feelings. The content of my representations is determined
in turn by all those concepts which in the course of my individual life have come
into contact with perceptions, that is, have become representations. This again depends on my greater or lesser
capacity for intuition, and on the range of my observations, that
is, on the subjective and the objective factors of
experience, on my inner determination and my place in life. The characterological
disposition is more particularly determined by the life of feeling. Whether I make a
definite representation or concept the motive of my action will depend on whether it
gives me pleasure or pain. – These are the elements which come into consideration
in an act of will. The immediately present representation or
concept which becomes motive, determines the aim, the purpose of my will;
my characterological disposition determines me to direct my activity toward this aim. The representation, to go for a walk in the
next half-hour, determines the aim of my action. But this representation is elevated to a motive
of will only if it meets with a suitable characterological disposition, that is, if during my
life until now I have formed representations concerning the purpose of walking, its value
for health, and further, if the representation of walking combines in me with a feeling of
pleasure. We therefore must distinguish: 1) the possible
subjective dispositions which are suitable for turning definite representations and concepts
into motives; and) the possible representations and concepts which are capable
of so influencing my characterological disposition that willing is the result. The first represents the driving force, the
second, the aims of morality. We can find the driving force of morality
by investigating the elements which comprise individual life. The first level of individual life is perceiving,
more particularly, perceiving by means of the senses. Here we are concerned with that region of
our individual life where perceiving, without a feeling or a concept
coming between, is directly transformed into willing. The driving force in man, which comes into
consideration here, we shall simply call instinct. The satisfaction of our lower, purely animal
needs (hunger, sexual intercourse, etc.) takes place in this way. What is most characteristic of instinctive
life is the immediacy with which a particular perception
releases the will. This kind of
determination of the will, which is characteristic only of lower sense-life to begin with,
can also be extended to the perceptions of the higher senses. We let a deed follow upon
the perception of some event or other in the outer world without further reflection and
without linking any particular feeling to the perception, as in fact happens in conventional
social life. The driving force of such conduct is what
is called tact or moral etiquette. The
more often such a direct release of activity by a perception takes place, the more the person concerned is able to act purely under
the guidance of tact, that is: tact becomes his
characterological disposition. The second level of human life is feeling. Definite feelings link themselves to the
perceptions of the outer world. These feelings can become the driving forces
of deeds. When I see a starving person, pity for him
can become the driving force of my action. Such feelings, for example, are shame, pride,
honor, humility, remorse, pity, revenge, gratitude, piety, loyalty, love and duty. The third level of life is thinking and forming
representations. A representation or a
concept can become motive for an action through mere reflection. Representations
become motives because in the course of life we continuously link certain aims of will
with perceptions which keep returning in more or less modified form. This is why, when
people not entirely without experience have certain perceptions, there always also enter
into their consciousness representations of deeds which they themselves have carried out
in a similar instance, or have seen carried out. These representations hover before them as
determining models for all later decisions; they become united with their
characterological disposition. We could call this driving force of the will,
practical experience. Practical experience gradually merges into
purely tactful conduct. This
happens when definite typical pictures of actions have become so firmly connected in
our consciousness with representations of certain
situations in life that in any given case we
skip over all deliberation based on experience and pass over directly from perception into
willing. The highest level of individual life is that
of conceptual thinking without reference to a
definite perceptual content. We determine the content of a concept through
pure intuition from the ideal sphere. Such a concept contains no reference to definite
perceptions at first. If we pass over into willing under the influence
of a concept pointing to a perception, that is, a representation, then
it is this perception which determines us indirectly via the conceptual thinking. When we act under the influence of intuitions,
then the driving force of our deed is pure thinking. Since in philosophy it is customary to call
the faculty of pure thinking, reason, it would be justifiable to call the moral driving force
characteristic of this level, practical reason. The clearest account of this driving force
of the will has been given by Kreyenbühl. (Philosophische Monatshefte, Vol. XVIII, No.
3). I count his article on this subject among
the most important contributions to present- day philosophy, particularly to ethics. Kreyenbühl characterizes this driving force
as practical apriori, that is, an impulse to
action springing directly from my intuition. it is clear that in the strictest sense of
the word, such an impulse can no longer be considered as belonging to the characterological
disposition. for here what acts as
driving force is no longer something merely individual in me, but is the ideal and
therefore the universal content of my intuition. As soon as I see the justification for
making this content the foundation and starting-point of an action, I pass over into
willing, irrespective of whether I had the concept already, or whether it enters my
consciousness only immediately before acting, that is, irrespective of whether or not it
was already present in me as disposition. An action is a real act of will only when
a momentary impulse of action, in the form of a
concept or representation, influences the characterological disposition. Such an impulse
then becomes the motive of will. Motives of morality are representations and
concepts. There are philosophers of ethics
who also see in feeling a motive for morality; they maintain, for example, that the aim of
moral conduct is the furtherance of the greatest possible quantity of pleasure in the
individual who acts. But in itself a pleasure cannot be a motive;
only a represented pleasure can. The representation of a future feeling, but
not the feeling itself, can influence my characterological disposition. for in the moment of acting the feeling itself
is not yet there; moreover it is to be produced by the action. The representation of one’s own or someone
else’s welfare, however, is rightly regarded as a motive of will. The principle: through one’s deed to bring
about the greatest amount of pleasure for oneself, that is, to attain
personal advantage, is egoism. it is striven for
either by ruthlessly considering only one’s own welfare, even at the cost of the happiness
of others (pure egoism), or by furthering the welfare of others because indirectly one
expects a favorable influence upon one’s own self through the happiness of others,
or because one fears to endanger one’s own
interest by injuring others (morality of prudence). The particular content of egoistical principles
of morality will depend upon what representations a person has of his own
or of another’s happiness. A person will
determine the content of his egoistical striving according to what he considers to be the
good things in life (luxury, hope of happiness, deliverance from various misfortunes,
etc.). Another motive is the purely conceptual content
of actions. This content does not refer to
a particular action only, as in the case of the representation of one’s own pleasures,
but to the reason for an action derived from a system
of moral principles. In the form of abstract
concepts these moral principles may govern moral life without the single individual
troubling himself about the origin of the concepts. In that case, we simply feel the
subjection to the moral concept which, like a command, overshadows our deeds as a
moral necessity. The reason for this necessity we leave to
those who demand our moral subjection, that is, to the moral authority
we acknowledge (the head of the family, the state, social custom, the authority of the
church, divine revelation). A particular instance
of these moral principles is when the command announces itself to us, not through an
external authority, but through our own inner being (moral autonomy). In this case,
within ourselves we sense the voice to which we have to submit. This voice finds
expression in conscience. it means moral progress when man does not
simply take the command of an outer or inner authority as motive for his action,
but strives to recognize the reason why a particular principle of conduct should act
as motive in him. This is the advance from
morality based on authority, to conduct based on moral insight. At this level of morality
the person will consider the needs of moral life and will let this knowledge determine
his actions. Such needs are: 1) the greatest possible welfare
of humanity, purely for its own sake 2) the progress of culture, or the moral
development of mankind to ever greater perfection; 3) the realization of individual
aims of morality, which are grasped purely intuitively. The greatest possible welfare of humanity
will naturally be understood differently by different people. The above principle does not refer to a definite
representation of this welfare, but to the fact that each person
who acknowledges this principle strives to do
what in his opinion best furthers the welfare of humanity. The progress of culture is seen as a special
instance of the above-mentioned moral principle by those who connect feelings of
pleasure with the advantages of culture, but they will have to accept into the bargain
the decline and destruction of much that also contributes to the welfare of mankind. However, it is also possible that in the progress
of culture someone sees a moral necessity, quite
apart from the feeling of pleasure connected with it. Then for him, the progress of culture is a
particular moral principle, distinct from the one mentioned previously. The principle of the general welfare, as well
as that of the progress of culture, is based upon a representation, that is, upon how one
relates the content of moral ideas to certain experiences (perceptions). But the highest thinkable principle of morality
is one which contains no such relation from the start,
but springs from the source of pure intuition and
only afterward seeks the relation to perceptions (to life). Here the decision as to what is to
be willed proceeds from a different sphere than that of the previous examples. In all his
conduct, one in favor of the principle of the general welfare will first ask what his
ideals will contribute to this general welfare. He who acknowledges the moral principle of
the progress of culture, will do the same. But at this level he could do something even
higher: if in a particular case he were not to proceed
from one single definite aim of morality, but
were to recognize a certain value in all principles of morality and were always to ask
whether the one or the other would be more important here. it may happen that in certain
circumstances one considers the progress of culture, in others, the general welfare, and
in yet others, the furtherance of his own welfare,
to be the right aim and motive of his actions. But when all such reasons take second place,
then first and foremost the conceptual intuition itself comes into consideration. When this happens, then all other
motives retreat from the leading position and the idea-content of the action alone is
effective as its motive. Among the levels of characterological disposition,
we have shown the one which acts as pure thinking, as practical reason, to be
the highest. From the motives, we have now
shown conceptual intuition to be the highest. On closer consideration, it will soon be seen
that at this level of morality driving force and motive coincide, that is, neither a
predetermined characterological disposition nor an external moral principle accepted on
authority, influences our conduct. The deed therefore is neither a conventional
one, carried out according to some rule or other,
nor one automatically performed in response to an external impulse; rather it is one which
is determined solely through its ideal content. Such conduct presupposes the capacity for
moral intuition. Whoever lacks the ability to
experience the moral principle that applies in a particular instance, will never achieve
truly individual willing. The exact opposite to this moral principle
is the Kantian: Act so that the principles of
your actions can be valid for all men. This principle is death to all individual
impulses of action. How all men would act cannot be a standard
for me, but rather what is right for me to do in the particular instance. To this, a superficial judgment could perhaps
object: How can an action be individually adapted to the particular instance and the
particular situation, and yet at the same time be
determined purely ideally by intuition? This objection is due to a confusion of the
moral motive and the perceptible content of the
action. The perceptible content could be a
motive, and is one, for example, when an act is done for the progress of culture or out
of pure egoism, etc. but it is not the motive
when the reason for action is a pure moral intuition. My I naturally takes notice of this perceptual
content, but is not determined by it. This content is used only to form a cognitive
concept, but the moral concept that belongs to it, the I does not take from the
object. The cognitive concept of a given
situation confronting me is also a moral concept only if I base my view on a particular
moral principle. If my viewpoint is limited to the general
moral principle of the progress of culture, then I go through life along a
fixed route. From every event I perceive which
can occupy me, a moral duty also springs, namely, to do my best toward placing the
particular event in the service of the progress of culture. In addition to the concept which
reveals to me the natural law inherent in an event or object, there is also a moral
label attached to it which contains for me, as a
moral being, an ethical direction as to how I am
to behave. This moral label is justified at a certain
level, but at a higher level it coincides with the idea that arises in me when I face
the concrete instance. Men differ greatly in their capacity for intuition. In one person ideas bubble up easily,
while another person has to acquire them with much labor. The situation in which men
live, which is the scene of their actions, is no less different. How a man acts will therefore
depend on the way his capacity for intuition functions in the face of a given situation. The
sum of ideas active within us, the actual content of our intuitions, is what, for all
the universality of the idea-world, is individually
constituted in each human being. Insofar as
this intuitive content is directed toward action, it is the moral content of the individual. To let this content come to expression is
the highest moral driving force and also the highest motive for the one who has recognized
that ultimately all other moral principles unite in this content. This standpoint can be called ethical individualism. The discovery of the quite individual intuition
which corresponds to the situation, is the deciding factor in an intuitively determined
action. At this level of morality one can
speak only of general concepts of morality (norms, laws) insofar as these result from
the generalization of individual impulses. General norms always presuppose concrete facts
from which they can be derived. But facts must first be produced by human
deeds. When we look for the laws (concepts) underlying
the conduct of individuals, peoples and epochs, we obtain a system of ethics, not
as a science of moral rules, but as a natural philosophy of morality. it is true that laws obtained in this way
are related to human conduct, as the laws of nature are related
to a particular phenomenon. But they are not at
all identical with the impulses upon which we base our conduct. If one wants to grasp the
means by which man’s action springs from his moral will, then one must first consider
the relation of this will to the action. One must first select actions where this relation
is the determining factor. If I, or someone else, reflect on such an
action later, then can be discovered upon what principle of morality
the action is based. While I am acting I am
moved to act by the moral principle insofar as it lives in me intuitively; the moral
principle is united with my love for what I want to accomplish by my deed. I ask no man
and no code, Shall I do this? – rather I do it the moment I have grasped the idea of it. This
alone makes it my action. The deeds of a person who acts solely because
he acknowledges a definite moral standard, come
about as a result of a principle which is part of his moral code. He is merely the agent. He is a higher kind of automaton. If some
impulse to action enters his consciousness, then at once the clockwork of his moral
principle will be set in motion and run to rule, in order to bring about a deed which
is Christian, or humane, or is deemed unselfish,
or to further the progress of culture. Only
when I follow my love for the object is it I myself who acts. At this level of morality I do
not act because I acknowledge a ruler over me, an external authority, or a so-called
inner voice. I do not acknowledge any external principle
for my conduct, because I have found the source of my conduct within myself, namely,
my love for the deed. I do not prove
intellectually whether my deed is good or bad; I do it out of my love for it. My action will
be “good” if my intuition, immersed in love, exists in the right way within the
relationship between things; this can be experienced intuitively; the action will be “bad”
if this is not the case. Nor do I ask myself: How would another person
act in my place? –
rather I act, as I, as this particular individuality, find my will motivated to act. I am not
guided directly by what happens to be the usual thing, the general habit, some general
human code or moral standard, but solely by my love for this deed. I feel no compulsion –
neither the compulsion of nature which rules me through my instincts, nor the
compulsion of moral commands. Rather, I simply carry out what lies within
me. Those who defend general moral standards will
perhaps object: If each person strives to express and do only what he pleases, then
there is no difference between a good deed and
a crime; every depraved impulse in me has the same right to express itself as has the
intention to do my best. The fact that I have a deed in mind, according
to an idea, cannot set my standard as a moral human being, but
only the test as to whether it is a good or evil deed. Only if it is good should I carry it out. My reply to this obvious objection, which
nonetheless is based on a misunderstanding of
what is meant here, is this: One who wants to understand the nature of human will must
differentiate between the path which brings this will to a certain degree of development,
and the unique character which the will assumes as it approaches its goal. On the way
toward this goal standards do play their justified part. The goal consists in the realization
of aims of morality, grasped purely intuitively. Man attains such aims to the degree that
he is at all able to raise himself to the intuitive idea-content of the world. In particular instances such aims are usually mixed with
other elements, either as driving force or as
motive. Nevertheless, in the human will intuition
can be the determining factor, wholly or in part. A person does what he ought to do, he provides
the stage upon which “ought” becomes deed; it is absolutely his own deed
which he brings to expression. The impulse
here can only be completely individual!and, in fact, only an act of will which springs
from intuition can be individual. To call the acts of criminals and what is
evil an expression of the individuality, in the same
sense as the embodiment of pure intuition, is
only possible if blind urges are reckoned as part of the human individuality. But the blind
urge which drives a person to crime does not spring from intuition and does not belong
to what is individual in man, but rather to what
is most general in him, to what is equally valid in all men, and out of which man works
his way by means of what is individual in him. What is individual in me is not my organism
with its urges and feelings, but rather the universal world of ideas which lights
up within this organism. My urges, instincts,
passions confirm nothing more than that I belong to the general species, man; the fact
that something ideal comes to expression in a particular
way within these urges, passions and feelings, confirms my individuality. Through my instincts and urges I am a person
of whom there are twelve to the dozen; through
the particular form of the idea, by means of
which I name myself “I” within the dozen, I am an individual. Only a being other than
myself could distinguish me from others by the difference in my animal nature; through
my thinking, that is, through the active grasp of what expresses itself as an ideal within
my organism, do I distinguish myself from others. therefore one definitely cannot say
that the action of a criminal springs from the idea in him. Indeed, this is just what is
characteristic of a criminal deed: it stems from elements in man which are external to
the ideal-element in him. An action is felt to be free insofar as the
reason for it springs from the ideal part of my
individual being; any other part of an action, irrespective of whether it is carried out
under the compulsion of nature or under the obligation of a moral code, is felt to be
unfree. Man is free insofar as he is able, in every
moment of his life, to follow himself. A moral
deed is my deed only if it can be called free in this sense. What here have to be
considered are the presuppositions necessary for a willed action to be felt as free; how
this purely ethically grasped idea of freedom realizes itself in human nature, will be seen
in what follows. A deed done out of freedom does not at all
exclude, but includes moral laws, but it will be a deed done from a higher sphere compared
with those dictated solely by such laws. Why should my deed serve the general welfare
any less when it is done out of love, than when I do it solely for the reason that I
feel that to serve the general welfare is a duty? The concept of mere duty excludes freedom
because it does not include what is individual, but demands subjection of the
individual to a general standard. Freedom of
action is thinkable only from the standpoint of ethical individualism. But how is it possible for people to live
in a community if each person strives to assert only his own individuality? This objection is characteristic of misunderstood
moralism. A person holding this viewpoint believes that
a community of people is possible only if all
men are united by general fixed moral rules. He simply does not understand the oneness
and harmony of the idea-world. He does not realize that the idea-world which
is active in me is none other than the one active in my
fellow-man. This unity of ideas is indeed
nothing but a result of men’s experience of life. Only this can it be. for if the unity of
the idea-world could be recognized by any means other than by individual observation,
then general rules and not personal experience would be valid in its sphere. Individuality
is possible only when each individual is acquainted with others through individual
observation alone. The difference between me and my fellow men
is not at all because we live in two quite different spiritual worlds,
but because from the world of ideas which we
share, he receives different intuitions from mine. He wants to live out his intuitions, I
mine. If we both really draw from the idea, and
are not obeying any external impulses (physical or spiritual), then we cannot but
meet in the same striving, in having the same intentions. A moral misunderstanding, a clash between
men who are morally free, is out of the question. Only the morally unfree who follow natural
instincts or some accepted command of duty, turn away from a fellow-man
if he does not follow the same instinct and the same command as themselves. To live in love of the action and to let live,
having understanding for the other person’s will,
is the fundamental principle of free human beings. They know no other “ought” than that with
which their will is intuitively in accord; how they shall will in a particular
instance, their power of ideation will tell them. If human nature were not fundamentally social,
no external laws could make it so! Only
because individual human beings are one in the spiritual part of their being, can they
live out their lives side by side. The free man is confident that others who
are free belong to the same spiritual world as he does, and that
they will meet him in their intentions. The
free man does not demand agreement from his fellow men, but he expects it, because it
lies in human nature. This does not refer to the existing necessity
for this or that external arrangement, but rather to the disposition,
the attitude of soul through which man, in his
experience of himself among fellow men for whom he cares, comes nearest to doing
justice to human dignity. There are many who will say that the concept
of a free human being outlined here is a chimera, is nowhere to be found as a reality,
and that we have to deal with real people from whom one can hope for morality only when
they obey some moral law, when they regard their moral mission as a duty, and
do not freely follow their inclinations and preferences. – I certainly do not doubt this. Only a blind man could do so. But then, away
with all hypocrisy of morality if this is to be the ultimate conclusion. Then simply say:
Human nature must be compelled as long as it is not free. Whether the unfreedom is dealt
with by physical means or through moral laws, whether man is unfree because he follows
his immeasurable sexual instinct, or because he is hemmed in by the fetters of
conventional morality, is quite immaterial from a certain point of view. But one should
not maintain that such a man can rightly call his actions his own, for he is driven to them
by external powers. But there are human beings who raise themselves
above all these compelling rules, free spirits who find their
own self in the jumble of habits, regulations, religious observance, etc. They are free insofar as they follow only
themselves; unfree insofar as they submit themselves. Which of us can say that he is really free
in all that he deed But in each of us exists a higher being
in whom the free man comes to expression. Our life is composed of free and unfree deeds. But we cannot complete the concept of
man without including the free spirit as the purest characteristic of human nature. After
all, we are truly human only insofar as we are free. That is an ideal, many will say. Without doubt – but it is an ideal which works
itself to the surface from within our nature as a reality. it is no “thought out” or imagined ideal,
but one in which there is life, one which clearly
announces its presence even in its least perfect form of existence. If man were merely a product of nature, the
search for ideals, that is, for ideas which for the moment are
inactive but whose realization we demand, would not be possible. In the case of external objects the idea is
determined by the perception. We have done our share when we have recognized
the connection between idea and perception. But with man this is not so. His content is not determined without
him; his true concept as a moral being (free spirit) is not objectively united with the
perceptual picture “man” from the start merely in order to be confirmed by knowledge
later. By his own activity man must unite his concept
with the perception, man. Concept
and perception only coincide here if man himself brings it about. But he cannot do this
till he has found the concept of the free spirit, that is, his own concept. In the objective
world a line of division is drawn by our organization between perception and concept;
cognition overcomes this division. In our subjective nature this division is
no less present; man overcomes it in the course of his development
by bringing his concept to expression in his outward existence. Both man’s intellectual as well as his moral
life point to his twofold nature: perceiving (direct experience)
and thinking. In the intellectual life the
two-foldness is overcome through knowledge; in the moral life through actually bringing
the free spirit to realization. Every being has its inborn concept (the law
of its existence and activity), but in external objects the
concept is indivisibly connected with the perception and separated from it only within
our spiritual organism. In man concept and
perception are to begin with, actually apart, to be united by him just as actually. One
could object: To our perception of a man a definite concept corresponds at every moment
of his life, just as is the case with everything else. I can form a concept of a typical man,
and I may also find such a man given to me as a perception. If to this I also bring the
concept of the free spirit, then I have two concepts for the same object. This line of thought is one-sided. As perceptual object I am subjected to perpetual
change. As a child I was one thing, another as a youth,
yet another as a man. In fact, at
every moment the perceptual picture of myself is different from what it was a moment
ago. These changes may take place in such a way
that either it is always the same (the typical) man who expresses himself in them,
or they become the expression of the free spirit. The perceptual object of my action is subjected
to these changes. In the perceptual object “man” the possibility
of transformation is given, just as in the plant-seed there lies the possibility of becoming
a fully developed plant. The plant
transforms itself because of the objective laws which are inherent in it; man remains
in his imperfect state unless he takes hold of
the substance to be transformed within him and transforms it through his own power. Nature makes man merely into a product of
nature; society makes him into a being who acts rationally,
but he alone can make himself into a free being. At a definite stage in his development nature
releases man from its fetters; society carries his development a stage further;
the final polish he can only apply himself. therefore, from the standpoint of free morality
it is not asserted that as free spirit is the
only form in which a man can exist. Free spirituality is the ultimate stage of
man’s development!and it is not denied that conduct
according to rules has its justification as a
stage of development. However, this cannot be acknowledged as the
highest level of morality. But the free spirit in man overcomes rules
in the sense that he does not accept only commands as motives, but also regulates
his conduct in accordance with his impulses (intuitions). When Kant says of duty: “Duty! You sublime, you great name, you encompass
nothing beloved or endearing, but you demand submission,”
you “lay down a law ! before which all inclinations become silent, even if in
secret they also go against it,” then man, conscious of the free spirit, answers: “Freedom! You friendly, humane name, you
encompass all that is morally beloved, all that is most worthy of my humanity, you make
me no one’s servant, you do not merely lay down a law, but wait for what my moral love
will of itself recognize as law, because it feels unfree when faced with any law simply
forced upon it.” This is the contrast between mere law-abiding
morality and morality born of freedom. The philistine who sees morality embodied
in some external rule, may perhaps even regard the free spirit as a dangerous person. But this is simply because his view is limited
to a certain period of time. If he were able to see beyond this, he would
soon find that the free spirit need go beyond the laws of his
state as seldom as the philistine himself, and is
never in any real opposition to them. for all the laws of the state have sprung
from the intuitions of free spirits, just as have all
other objective laws of morality. No law is
exercised through a family authority which was not at some time intuitively grasped and
laid down by an ancestor. Similarly the conventional laws of morality
were first laid down by definite people and so too the laws
of the state first arise in the head of a statesman. These individualities have established laws
over other people, and only he is unfree who forgets this origin and either
looks upon these laws as extra-human commands, that is, as objective moral concepts
of duty independent of man, or turns them into the commanding voice thought of – in
a falsely mystical way – as compelling him in
his own inner being. However, he who does not forget the origin
of such laws, but looks for it in man, will reckon with them as belonging
to the same idea-world as that from which he too draws his moral intuitions. If he believes his own intuitions to be better,
then he will try to replace those in existence with his own; but if he finds the existing
ones justified, he will act in accordance with them as if they were his own. The formula must not be coined: Man is meant
to realize a moral world order which exists independent of him. Insofar as knowledge of man is concerned,
one maintaining this stands at the point where natural science
stood when it believed that the goat has horns in order to be able to butt. fortunately natural scientists have rejected
such a concept of purpose as a dead theory. it is more difficult to get rid of such theories
in ethics. However, just as horns do not exist because
of butting, but butting exists through horns, so man does not exist because of morality,
but morality exists through man. The
free human being acts morally because he has a moral idea, but he does not act in order
that morality may come about. Human individuals, with the moral ideas belonging
to their nature, are the presupposition for a
moral world-order. The human individual is the source of all
morality and the center of earthly life. State and
society have come about only because they are the necessary results of life shared by
individual human beings. That state and society should react in turn
upon the life of the individual is understandable, just as it is
understandable that butting, which exists through
the horns, reacts in turn upon the further development of the goat’s horns, which would
waste away by prolonged disuse. Similarly, the individual would waste away
if he led a separate existence outside a human community. This is just why the social order arises,
so that it can react favorably upon the individual. PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM (SPIRitUAL ACTIVitY)
and MONISM The naive man who regards as real only what
he can see with his eyes and grasp with his hands, also needs to have motives for his
moral life that are perceptible to the senses. He
needs someone who will impart these motives to him in a way that he can understand by
means of his senses. He will let them be dictated to him as commands
by a person whom he considers wiser and more powerful than
himself, or whom he acknowledges, for some other reason, to be a power standing above
him. In this way the moral principles already
mentioned come about through being prescribed by authority of family, state, society,
church, or the Divinity. An undeveloped person still trusts in the
authority of a single individual; a somewhat more advanced person
lets his moral conduct be dictated by a majority (state, society). But it is always perceptible powers upon which
he relies. When
at last the conviction dawns upon him that fundamentally all these are weak human
beings just like himself, then he will seek guidance from a higher power, from a divine
Being, whom, however, he endows with sense-perceptible qualities. He lets the
conceptual content of his moral life be dictated to him by this Being, again in a
perceptible way, for example when God appears in the burning bush, or moves among
men in bodily human form and in a manner perceptible to their ears tells them what to do
and what not to do. The highest level of development of naive
realism in the moral sphere is reached when the moral command (moral idea) has been separated
from every foreign entity, and is hypothetically thought of as an absolute force
in one’s own inner being. What at first is
sensed as the external voice of God, is now sensed as an independent power within man,
and is spoken of in a way that shows the inner power to be identified with the voice of
conscience. When this happens, the level of naive consciousness
has been abandoned and we enter the region where moral laws become independent
rules. They no longer have a bearer,
but have become metaphysical entities, existing by themselves. They are similar to the
invisible-visible forces of the metaphysical realist who does not look for the reality
of things in the human soul’s participation
in this reality through thinking, but who hypothetically imagines reality as an addition
to actual experience. Extra-human moral
rules, therefore, always accompany metaphysical realism. Metaphysical realism cannot
do otherwise than seek the origin of morality too in a sphere beyond human reach!and
here there are several possibilities. If the presupposed Being is thought of as
in itself unthinking, acting according to purely mechanical
laws, as materialism thinks of it, then out of itself it must also produce, by purely
mechanical necessity, the human individual and all that belongs to him. The consciousness of freedom can then be only
an illusion. for while I believe myself to be the creator
of my deeds, it is the material substances of
which I am composed, together with their processes, that are at work within me. I believe
myself to be free, whereas in reality all my actions are but results of the material
processes which are the foundation of my bodily and spiritual organism. according to
this point of view, it is simply because we do not know the motives compelling us, that
we have the feeling of freedom. “We must emphasize that the feeling of freedom
is due to the absence of external compelling motives.” “Our actions as well as our thinking are
subject to necessity.” Another possibility is that the extra-human
absolute is seen as a spiritual Being behind the world of phenomena. Then the impulse to action will also be sought
in such a spiritual power. The moral principles to be found in man’s
reason will be regarded as issuing from this Being-in-itself, which has
its own particular intentions with regard to
man. Moral laws appear to such a dualist as dictated
by the Absolute, and through his reason, man simply has to discover and carry
out these decisions of the Absolute Being. The moral world-order appears to the dualist
as the perceptible reflection of a higher order that stands behind it. Earthly morality is the manifestation of the
extra-human world order. it is not man that matters in this moral order,
but the Being-in-itself, the extrahuman Being. Man ought to do what this Being wills. Eduard von Hartmann, who sees
the Being-in-itself as the Godhead whose very existence is suffering, believes that this
divine Being has created the world in order that through the world he will be redeemed
from his infinitely great pain. This philosopher therefore regards the moral
development of mankind as a process which exists for the
purpose of redeeming the Godhead. “Only through the building up of a moral
world-order by sensible, responsible individuals can the aim of the world-process be carried
through.!” “Existence in its reality is the
incarnation of the Godhead – the world process is the Passion of the God becoming flesh,
and at the same time the path of redemption of Him who was crucified in the flesh; and
morality is the co-operation in the shortening of this path of suffering and redemption.” Here man does not act because he wills, but
he ought to act because it is God’s will to be
redeemed. Just as the materialistic dualist makes man
into an automaton whose conduct is merely the result of purely mechanical laws,
so the spiritualistic dualist (that is, he who
sees the Absolute, the Being-in-itself, as a spiritual entity in which man has no conscious share) makes him into a slave of the will
of the Absolute. Freedom is out of the question
in materialism as well as in one-sided spiritualism, in fact in any kind of metaphysical
realism which does not experience, but infers something extra-human as the true reality. Naive as well as metaphysical realism, in
order to be consistent, must deny freedom for
one and the same reason, since they regard man as being simply the agent or executor
of principles which are forced upon him by necessity. Naive realism kills freedom through
subjection to the authority either of a perceptible being or of an entity thought of as
similar to a perceptible being, or else through submission to the authority of the abstract
inner voice which is interpreted as “conscience;” the metaphysical realist, who merely
infers something extra-human, cannot acknowledge freedom because he lets man be
determined, mechanically or morally, by a “Being-in-itself.” Monism must acknowledge the partial justification
of naive realism because it acknowledges the justification of the world
of perceptions. Someone who is incapable of
bringing forth moral ideas through intuition, will have to receive them from others. Insofar as a man receives his moral principles
from outside, he is positively unfree. But
monism ascribes equal significance to the idea compared with perception!and the idea
can come to manifestation in the human individual. Insofar as man follows the impulses
coming from this side, he feels free. But monism denies all justification to a metaphysics
which merely draws inferences, and consequently also to impulses of action stemming
from a so-called “Being-in-itself,” according to the monistic view, man’s action is unfree
when he obeys some perceptible external compulsion; it is free when he obeys himself. Monism cannot acknowledge any kind of unconscious
compulsion hidden behind perception and concept. When someone maintains that a fellow man was
not free when he performed an action, it must be possible
to prove the existence within the perceptible world of the thing, the person, or the institution
that made the man act; but if an appeal is made to causes for the action lying outside
the sphere of physical and spiritual reality, then monism cannot enter the discussion. according to monism, in his activity man is
partly unfree, partly free. He is unfree in the
world of perceptions, but brings the free spirit to realization in himself. The moral commands which the metaphysical
realist merely infers and cannot but consider as issuing from a higher power, for
the monist are thoughts of men; for the monist the moral world order is neither a
copy of a purely mechanical natural order, nor
of an extra-human world order, but entirely a free undertaking of man. Man does not
have to carry out the will of some Being existing beyond his reach; he carries out his own
will; he does not bring to realization the decisions and intentions of another Being,
but brings his own to realization. Monism does not see the purpose of a foreign
rulership behind man, determining him from outside,
but rather that insofar as they bring intuitive ideas to realization, human beings pursue
solely their own human purposes!and indeed, each individual pursues his own particular
purpose. for the world of ideas expresses itself
not in a community of men, but only in the individual man. The common goal of a group
of men is nothing but the result of the separate will-activities of the individual persons,
and usually of a few outstanding ones whom the rest follow as their authorities. Each one of us is destined to become a free spirit,
just as every rose seed is destined to become a
rose. The monistic view, in the sphere of truly
moral conduct, is a philosophy of freedom!and as it is also a philosophy of reality, it
rejects metaphysical and unreal restrictions of
man’s free spirit just as it acknowledges physical and historical (naively real) restrictions
of the naive man. Since monism does not regard man as a finished
product, as a being who at every moment of his life unfolds his
full nature, it seems futile to discuss whether man, as such, is free or not. Man is seen as a being in the process of self-development,
and one may ask whether, in the course of this development the stage of the free spirit
can be attained. Monism knows that nature does not release
man from its care complete and finished as a
free spirit, but it leads him up to a certain level from which, still unfree, he continues
to develop until he reaches the point where he
finds his own self. To monism it is obvious that a being acting
under physical or moral compulsion cannot be moral in a real sense. it regards the level of transition through
automatic conduct (according to natural urges and instincts)
and through obedient conduct (according to moral rules) as necessary preliminary stages
of morality, but it also recognizes the possibility for man to overcome both transitory
levels through his free spirit. A truly
moral world view is released by monism, both from the fetters of naive moral principles
in man’s inner world, and from the moral principles of the speculating metaphysicist
in the external world. The naive principles of morality can be eliminated
from the world as little as can perceptions. The metaphysical view is rejected because
monism seeks all the factors for explaining world-phenomena within
the world, and none outside it. Just as
monism finds it unnecessary to entertain thoughts of principles of knowledge other than
those inherent in man, so it also definitely finds it unnecessary to entertain
thoughts of principles of morality other than those inherent in man. Human morality, like
human knowledge, is determined through human nature!and just as knowledge would
mean something quite different to beings other than man, so other beings would also have
a different morality. Morality for the monist is a specifically
human quality, and freedom is the form in which human morality finds
expression. First Addition to the Revised Edition, 1918. Difficulty in judging what is presented in
the two preceding chapters may arise because one
believes oneself to be confronted by a contradiction. On the one hand, the experience of thinking
is spoken of as having a general significance of equal value for every
human consciousness; on the other hand, it is shown that though the ideas realized in
moral life are of the same kind as those worked out by thinking, they come to expression in
each human consciousness in an individual way. If one cannot overcome seeing a “contradiction,”
in this, and cannot recognize that it is just in a living experience of this
actually present contrast that a glimpse into man’s
true being is revealed, then it is also impossible to see either the idea of knowledge or the
idea of freedom in their true light. for those who think of concepts as merely
drawn (abstracted) from the sense-world, and who
do not give full recognition to intuitions, the
thought presented here as the reality must seem a “mere contradiction.” for an insight that recognizes how ideas are intuitively
experienced as a self-sustaining reality, it is
clear that in the sphere of the world of ideas man penetrates in cognition into something
which is universal for all men, but when he derives from that same idea world the
intuitions for his acts of will, then he individualizes a member of this idea world by
means of the same activity which, as a general human one, he unfolds in the spiritual
ideal process of cognition. for this reason what appears as a logical contradiction, namely
the universal character of cognitive ideas and the individual character of moral ideas,
when experienced in its true reality, becomes a living concept. A characteristic feature of
human nature consists in the fact that what can be intuitively grasped oscillates in man
like a living pendulum between knowledge which is universally valid, and the individual
experience of this universal element. for the man who cannot recognize one swing
of the pendulum in its reality, thinking will remain
merely a subjective human activity; for the one who cannot recognize the other swing,
all individual life appears to cease in man’s activity of thinking. To the first person, cognition is unintelligible,
to the second, moral life is unintelligible. Both will call in all sorts of representations
in order to explain the one or the other, all of which miss the point,
because both persons, fundamentally, either do not recognize that thinking can be experienced,
or take it to be an activity which merely abstracts. Second Addition to the Revised Edition, 1918. On page 189, materialism was referred to. I am well aware that there are thinkers like
the above-mentioned Th. Ziehen, who do not
in the least consider themselves materialists, but who must nevertheless be described as
such from the point of view expressed in this book. it is not a matter that someone says
that for him the world is not restricted to merely material existence and therefore he
is not a materialist. it is a matter of whether or not he develops
concepts which are applicable only to a material existence. One who says: “Our conduct, like our thinking,
is necessitated,” expresses a concept applicable
only to material processes, but applicable neither to actions nor to existence; and if
he thinks his concepts through, he will have to
think materialistically. That he does not do this is only the outcome
of that inconsistency which is so often the result of a thinking
not carried through. – One often hears it said
nowadays that the materialism of the nineteenth century no longer plays a part in science. But in reality this is not so at all. it is only that at present it is often not
noticed that no other ideas are available than those which
can be applied only to something material. This veils present day materialism, whereas
in the second half of the nineteenth century it
was plain for all to see!and present day veiled materialism is no less intolerant of a view
that grasps the world spiritually than was the openly-admitted materialism of the last
century. However, it deceives many who believe they
must reject a comprehension of the world which includes spirit, because after
all, the natural scientific comprehension of the
world “has long ago abandoned materialism.” world PURPOSE and LIFE PURPOSE (THE DESTINATION
OF MAN) Among the many currents of thought pursued
in the cultural life of mankind, it is possible to trace one which can be described as the
overcoming of the concept of purpose in those spheres to which it does not belong. Purpose belongs to a special sequence of
phenomena. In reality one can only speak of purpose when,
in contrast to the relation between cause and effect where an earlier
event determines a later one, the reverse is the
case and the later event influences the earlier. This applies only to human action. Man
carries out a deed which he represents to himself first of all, and he lets the representation
determine his action. The later, the deed, with the help of the
representation influences the earlier, the person who acts. This detour through the act of representing
is always necessary for a connection to have purpose. In a process which can be divided into cause
and effect, perception must be distinguished from concept. The perception of the cause precedes the perception
of the effect; cause and effect would simply remain side by side
in our consciousness if we were not able to connect them with one another through their
corresponding concepts. The perception of
an effect can follow only upon the perception of the cause. The effect can have a real
influence upon the cause only through the conceptual factor. for the perceptual factor of
the effect is simply not present prior to the perceptual factor of the cause. If someone says
that the blossom is the purpose of the root, that is, that the blossom influences the root,
then he can say this only concerning that factor in the blossom which he confirms in
it through his thinking. The perceptual factor of the blossom had as
yet no existence at the time the root came into being. for a connection of things to have purpose
it is necessary to have not merely an ideal connection (the
law in it) of the later with the earlier, but also
the concept (the law) of the effect must really, i.e. by means of a perceptible process,
influence the cause. However, a perceptible influence of a concept
upon something else is to be observed only in human actions. This is therefore the only sphere in which
the concept of purpose is applicable. Naive consciousness, which regards as real
only what is perceptible, attempts – as we said before
– to place something perceptible where only ideal factors are to be recognized. In perceptible events it also looks for perceptible
connections, or, if it does not find them, imagines them to be there. The concept of
purpose, valid for subjective actions, is an element that easily lends itself to such
imaginary connections. The naive man knows how he brings about an
event, and from this he concludes that nature must do likewise. In the purely ideal connections of nature
he sees not only imperceptible forces but also imperceptible real purposes. Man makes
his tools to fit a purpose; on the same pattern, the naive realist lets the Creator build up
all organisms. Only very gradually does this mistaken concept
of purpose disappear from the sciences. In philosophy, even today, it still does a
great deal of mischief. The purpose of
the world is thought to exist outside the world, and man’s destination (therefore
also his purpose) outside man, and so on. Monism rejects the concept of purpose in every
sphere, with the sole exception of human action. it looks for laws of nature, but not for purposes
of nature. Purposes of nature are
arbitrary assumptions, just like the imperceptible forces! and from the standpoint
of monism, life purposes that man does not set himself are unjustifiable assumptions. Only that is purposeful which man has first
made so, for only through the realization of
an idea does a purpose arise!and ideas are effective in a realistic sense in man alone. therefore human life has only the purpose
and the destination that the human being gives it. To the question: What is man’s task in life? monism can only answer: The task he sets himself. My mission in the world is not predetermined,
but at every moment is the one I choose. I do not begin life along a fixed route. Only by human beings are ideas realized according
to purpose. it is therefore
inadmissible to speak of the embodiment of ideas through history. All such phrases as:
“History is the development of mankind toward freedom,” or the realization of the moral
world order, and so on, are untenable from the monistic point of view. The adherents of the concept of purpose believe
that by abandoning it they would also have to abandon all order and uniformity in
the world. Listen, for example, to Robert
Hamerling: “As long as there are instincts in nature,
it is foolish to deny purposes in it. Just as the structure of a limb of the human
body is not determined and conditioned by an
idea of this limb, floating in the air, but by the connection with the greater totality,
the body, to which the limb belongs, so the structure
of every being in nature, be it plant, animal, or man, is not determined and conditioned
by an idea of it floating in the air, but by the formative principle of the great totality
of nature which expresses and organizes itself according to a purpose.” and on page 191 of the same volume: “The theory of purpose maintains only that
in spite of the thousand discomforts and miseries of the life of creatures, lofty purpose
and plan are unmistakably present in the formations and in the development of nature. – A purpose and a plan, however, that come
to realization only within the bounds of natural laws, and cannot aim at a Utopia in which
life is not confronted by death, growth by decay, with all the more or less unpleasant,
but quite unavoidable intermediary stages between
them. When the opponents of the concept of purpose
bring a laboriously-collected rubbish-heap of partial or complete, imaginary or real
examples showing lack of purpose, against a
world full of wonders of purpose such as nature shows in all its realms, then I find it just
as droll.” – What is it that here is called purpose? A concordance of perceptions that form a totality. But since all perceptions are based on laws
(ideas) which we discover by means of our thinking, it follows that the planned concord
between single parts of a perceptual totality is just the ideal concord between the single
parts of the idea totality contained in the perceptual totality. When it is said that an animal or a man is
not determined by an idea floating in the air, then this is a misleading
way of putting it, and the condemned view ceases to be absurd when rightly formulated. Certainly an animal is not determined by an
idea floating in the air, but indeed is determined by an idea inborn in it and constituting
the law of its nature. it is just because the idea is not outside
of the object, but is effective in it as its nature, that one cannot speak
of purpose. Just those who deny that the beings of
nature are determined from outside (whether by an idea floating in the air or existing outside the creature in the mind of a world
Creator, is immaterial in this context) should admit that these beings are not determined
by purpose and plan from outside, but by cause and law from within. I construct a machine according to a purpose
when I bring its parts in connection with one another in a
way that they did not acquire from nature. The
purpose contained in the arrangement consists in the fact that I have placed the idea of
the working of the machine into its foundation. The machine thereby becomes a perceptual
object with a corresponding idea. The beings of nature are also entities of
this kind. One
who says that something contains purpose because it is built according to laws can use
the same description for the beings of nature, if he likes. However, the laws at work in
nature must not be confused with the purposes in subjective human action. for a purpose
to be present, it is always necessary that the effective cause is a concept, and indeed
it must be the concept of the effect. But nowhere in nature are concepts in evidence
as causes; concepts always appear only as the
ideal connection between cause and effect. Causes are present in nature only in the form
of perceptions. Dualism speaks of world purpose and nature
purpose. Where, for perception, a link can
be seen between cause and effect according to law, there the dualist assumes that one
sees only the copy of a connection in which the
absolute Being has realized its purposes. for
monism, along with the absolute Being that cannot be experienced and is only inferred,
the reason for assuming any world purpose also falls away. Addition to the Revised Version, 1918. No one who thinks through without prejudice
what is presented here, could come to the conclusion that the author rejects the concept
of purpose for all facts not produced by man,
because his view is similar to that of those thinkers who, by rejecting this concept, create
the possibility of presenting, first, everything except human action – and then
human action too – as being only a natural process. The fact that thinking is presented here as
a purely spiritual process should be a protection against such misunderstanding. The reason for here rejecting the concept
of purpose for the spiritual world also, insofar
as it lies outside human action, is because in
that world something higher is revealed than purpose realized in human life!and when
the purpose of mankind’s destination, thought of on the pattern of human purpose, is
referred to here as a mistaken concept, it is meant that the individual human beings
set themselves purposes, and the result of these
is the total activity of mankind. This result is
then something higher than its parts, the single human purposes. MorAL IMAGINATION (DARWINISM and MorALitY) A free spirit acts according to his impulses;
these are intuitions chosen by means of thinking from the totality of his world of
ideas. The reason an unfree spirit singles out a
particular intuition from his idea world in order to use it as a basis for a deed, lies
in the world of perception given to him, i.e. in
his past experience. Before making a decision he
recalls what someone else has done or recommended as suitable in a similar instance, or
what God has commanded to be done in such a case and so on, and he acts accordingly.
for a free spirit these preconditions are not the only impulses to action. He makes an absolutely original decision. In doing so he worries neither about what
others have done in such an instance, nor what commands they
have laid down. He has purely ideal
reasons which move him to single out from the sum of his concepts a particular one and
to transform it into action. But his action will belong to perceptible
reality. What he
brings about will therefore be identical with a quite definite perceptual content. The
concept will be realized in a particular concrete event. As concept, it will not contain this
particular event. it would be related to the event only in the
same way as a concept in general is related to a perception, for example,
as the concept, lion is related to a particular lion. The link between concept and perception is
the representation. for the unfree spirit this intermediate link
is given from the outset. At the outset the
motives are present in his consciousness as representations. When he wants to do
something he does it as he has seen it done or as he is told to do it in the particular
instance. Here authority is most effective by way of
examples, that is, by conveying quite definite particular actions to the consciousness
of the unfree spirit. The Christian, as
unfree spirit, acts less on the teaching than on the example of the Redeemer. Rules have
less value when they refer to positive deeds than when they refer to what should not be
done. Laws appear in the form of general concepts
only when they forbid something, not when they bid things to be done. Laws concerning what he should do must be
given to the unfree spirit in a quite concrete form:
Clean the walk in front of your door! Pay your
taxes in such and such an amount to the Treasury Department, etc. Laws which are meant
to prevent deeds take on conceptual form: Thou shalt not steal! Thou shalt not commit
adultery! But these laws also influence the unfree spirit
only through reference to a concrete representation such as that of the
corresponding earthly punishment, the pangs of conscience, eternal damnation, and so on. As soon as the impulse to action is present
in general conceptual form (for example: Thou shalt do good to thy fellow men! Thou shalt live in a way that best furthers
thy welfare!), then in each case must be found
first of all the concrete representation of the
deed (the relation of the concept to a perceptual content). for the free spirit, who is driven
neither by any example nor by fear of punishment, etc. it is always necessary to
transform the concept into a representation. By means of imagination representations are
produced by man out of his world of ideas. therefore what the free spirit needs in order
to carry out his ideas, in order to bring them
to fruition, is moral imagination. Moral imagination is the source from which
the free spirit acts. Hence, only people with moral imagination
are also morally productive in the real sense of the word. Those who merely preach morality, that is,
people who devise moral rules without being able to condense
them into concrete representations, are morally unproductive. They are like those critics who know how to
explain rationally what a work of art should be like, but are
incapable of any artistic creation themselves. In order to produce a representation, man’s
moral imagination must set to work in a definite sphere of perception. Men’s deeds do not create perceptions, but
transform already existing perceptions, that is, impart
a new form to them. In order to be able to
transform a definite perceptual object, or a sum of such objects, in accordance with
a moral representation, one must have grasped
the laws at work in the perceptual picture (the way it has worked hitherto, to which
one now wants to give a new form or a new direction). Further, one must find a way by which these
laws can be transformed into new ones. This part of moral activity depends on a knowledge
of the sphere of phenomena with which one has to do. it must therefore be sought in a branch of
general scientific knowledge. Hence moral deeds presuppose not only the
faculty of moral ideation as well as moral imagination, but also the ability
to transform the sphere of perceptions without breaking the laws of their natural connection. [footnote: Only superficiality could find
in the use of the word “faculty” in this
and other passages, a reversion to the teachings of
older psychology concerning soul faculties. The exact meaning of this word, as used here,
will be seen when compared with what is said on in another paragraph. This ability is moral
technique. it can be learned in the sense in which science
in general can be learned. Because people usually are better able to
find the concepts for the already created world
than productively out of imagination to decide future deeds, not yet in existence, it very
well may be possible that persons without moral imagination receive moral
representations from others, and skillfully imprint these into actual reality. The opposite
may also occur: that persons with moral imagination are without the technical skill, and
therefore must make use of others for carrying out their representations. Insofar as knowledge of the objects in the
sphere of our activity is necessary, our action will depend upon this knowledge. What must be considered here are laws of nature. Here
we have to do with natural science, not with ethics. Moral imagination and the faculty of moral
ideation can become objects of knowledge only after they have been produced by the
individual. By then they no longer regulate
life, but have already regulated it. They must be explained in the same way as
all other effective causes (they are purposes only for
the subject). We therefore deal with them as
with a natural philosophy of moral representations. In addition to the above, one cannot have
ethics in the form of a science of standards. The standardized character of moral laws has
been retained at least insofar as to enable one to explain ethics in the same sense as
dietetics, which deduce general rules from the
life-condition of the organism in order that on this basis they can influence the body
in a particular way. This comparison is mistaken, because our moral
life is not comparable with the life of the organism. The function of the organism takes place without
our doing anything about it; we find its laws present,
ready-made, and therefore can investigate them and then apply what we discover. But moral laws are first created by us. We cannot
apply them until they have been created. The mistake arises through the fact that moral
laws, insofar as their content is concerned, are not newly created at every moment, but
are handed over. Those that we take over from our ancestors
appear as given, like the natural laws of the organism. But they can never be applied by a later generation
with the same rights as can dietetic rules. for they apply to individuals and not, like
natural laws, to examples of a species. As an organism I am such an example of a species,
and I shall live in accordance with nature if I apply
the natural laws of the species to my particular case. As a moral being I am an individual and have
laws which are wholly my own. This view seems to contradict the fundamental
teaching of modern natural science described as the theory of evolution. But it only seems to do so. By evolution is meant the
real development of the later out of the earlier in accordance with natural law. By
evolution in the organic world is meant that the later (more perfect) organic forms are
real descendents of the earlier (imperfect) forms, and have developed from them in
accordance with natural laws. according to his view, the adherent of the
theory of organic evolution would have to represent
to himself that there was once a time on earth when it would have been possible to watch
the gradual development of reptiles out of proto-amniotes, if one could have been present
there as observer and had been endowed with a sufficiently long span of life. He also would have to represent to himself
that it would have been possible to observe the development of the solar system out of
the Kant-Laplace primerdial nebula if, during
that infinitely long time, one could have occupied a suitable spot out in the world-ether. The fact that in such a representation,
both the nature of protoamniotes and that of the Kant-Laplace primordial nebula would
have to be thought of in a way other than that of the materialistic thinker, will not
be considered here. But it should not occur to any evolutionist
to maintain that he can extract from his concept of the proto-amniote the
concept of the reptile with all its characteristics, if he had never seen a reptile!and
just as little could one extract the solar system from the Kant-Laplace primordial nebula,
if this concept is thought of as being determined only from the direct perception
of the primordial nebula. In other words, this
means: if the evolutionist thinks consistently, then he is able to maintain only that out
of earlier phases of evolution later ones come
about as real facts, that if we are given the
concept of the imperfect and the concept of the perfect, we can recognize the connection;
but never should he say that the concept derived from what was earlier suffices to
develop from it what came later. In the sphere of ethics this means that one
can recognize the connection of later moral concepts with
earlier ones, but not that as much as a single new moral idea could be extracted from earlier
ones. As a moral being, the individual
produces his own content. This content which he produces is for ethics
something given, just as reptiles are something given for natural
science. Reptiles have evolved out of
proto-amniotes, but from the concept of the protoamniote the natural scientist cannot
extract the concept of the reptile. Later moral ideas develop out of earlier ones,
but from the moral concepts of an earlier cultural
epoch ethics cannot extract those for a later one. The confusion arises because when we investigate
nature the facts are there before we gain knowledge of them, whereas in the case
of moral action we ourselves first produce the facts which we afterwards cognize. In the evolutionary process of the moral world
order we do what nature does at a lower level: we alter something perceptible. As we
have seen, an ethical rule cannot be cognized straight away like a law of nature; it must
first be created. Only when it is present can it become the
object of cognition. But can we not make the old the standard for
the new? Is it not necessary for man to
measure by the standard of earlier moral rules what he produces through his moral
imagination? for something that is to reveal itself as morally productive, this would be
as impossible as it would be to measure a new
species in nature by an old one and say, Because reptiles do not harmonize with the
protoamniotes, their form is unjustified (diseased). Ethical individualism then, is not in opposition
to an evolutionary theory if rightly understood, but is a direct continuation of
it. it must be possible to continue Haeckel’s
genealogical tree, from protozoa to man as organic being, without interruption of the
natural sequence, and without a breach in the uniform development, right up to the
individual as a moral being in a definite sense. But never will it be possible to deduce the
nature of a later species from the nature of an ancestral species. True as it is that the
moral ideas of the individual have perceptibly evolved out of those of his ancestors, it
is also true that an individual is morally barren
if he himself has no moral ideas. The same ethical individualism that I have
built up on the foundation of the preceding consideration, could also be derived from
an evolutionary theory. The final result would
be the same, only the path by which it was reached would be different. The appearance of completely new moral ideas
through moral imagination is, in relation to an evolutionary theory, no more of a marvel
than is the appearance of a new kind of animal from previous ones. Only such a theory must, as monistic world
view, reject in moral life and also in science, every influence
from a Beyond (metaphysical) which is merely inferred and cannot be experienced
by means of ideas. This approach would then
be following the same principle which urges man on when he seeks to discover the
causes for new organic forms and in doing so does not call upon any interference by
some Being from outside the world, who is to call forth every new kind according to
a thought of a new creation, by means of supernatural
influence. Just as monism has no
need of supernatural thoughts of creation for explaining living organisms, neither does
it derive the morality of the world from causes
which do not lie within the world we can experience. The monist does not find that the nature of
a will impulse, as a moral one, is exhausted by being traced back to a continuous
supernatural influence upon moral life (divine world rulership from outside), to
a particular revelation at a particular moment in
time (giving of the Ten Commandments), or to the appearance of God on the earth
(Christ). Everything that happens to and in man through
all this becomes a moral element only if within human experience it becomes
an individual’s own. for monism, moral processes are products of the world like everything
else in existence, and their causes must be sought in the world, i.e. in man,
since man is the bearer of morality. Ethical individualism, therefore, is the crowning
of that edifice to which Darwin and Haeckel aspired for natural science. it is spiritualized science of evolution carried
over into moral life. Whoever from the outset restricts the concept
natural within an arbitrary boundary, in a narrow-minded manner, may easily fail to find
any room in it for the free individual deed. The consistent evolutionist is in no danger
of remaining at such a narrow-minded view. He cannot let natural development come to
an end with the ape, while granting to man a
“supernatural” origin; in his search for man’s ancestors he must seek spirit already
in nature; also, he cannot remain at the organic
functions of man and consider only these to be natural; he cannot but consider the free,
moral life of man to be the spiritual continuation of organic life. In accordance with his fundamental principles
the evolutionist can maintain only that a new moral deed comes about through a kind
of process other than a new species in nature; the characteristic feature of the
deed, that is, its definition as a free deed, he must
leave to direct observation of the deed. So, too, he only maintains that men have
developed out of not yet human ancestors. How men are constituted must be determined
by observation of men themselves. The results of this observation cannot possibly
contradict a true history of evolution. Only if it were asserted that the results
exclude a natural development would it contradict recent
tendencies in natural science. [footnote:
We are entitled to speak of thoughts (ethical ideas) as objects of observation. for,
although the products of thinking do not enter the field of observation, so long as thinking
goes on, they may well become objects of observation subsequently, and in this way we
can come to know the characteristic feature of the deed.] Ethical individualism, then, cannot be opposed
by natural science when the latter is properly understood; observation shows freedom
to be characteristic of the perfect form of human conduct. This freedom must be attributed to the human
will, insofar as this will brings purely ideal intuitions to realization. for these do not come about through external
necessity, but exist through themselves. When we recognize an action to be an image
of such an ideal intuition, we feel it to be
free. In this characteristic feature of a deed lies
its freedom. From this point of view, how do matters stand
with regard to the distinction, mentioned earlier between the two statements: “To
be free means to be able to do what one wants,” and the other: “To be able, to
desire or not to desire, as one pleases, is the real
meaning of the dogma of free will”? Hamerling bases his view of free will on just
this distinction and declares the first statement
to be correct, the second to be an absurd tautology. He says: “I can do what I want. But to say, I can will what I want, is an
empty tautology.” Now whether I can do, that is, transform into
reality what I want, what I have set before me as the idea of my doing, depends
on external circumstances and on my technical skill. To be free means to be able to determine for
oneself by moral imagination the representations (impulses)
on which the action is based. Freedom is
impossible if something external to me (mechanical processes or a merely inferred God
whose existence cannot be experienced) determines my moral representations. In other
words, I am free only if I produce these representations myself, not when I am only able
to carry out the impulse which someone else has induced in me. A free being is someone
who is able to will what he considers right. One who does something other than what he
wills, must be driven to it by motives which do not lie within himself. Such a man is
unfree in his action. therefore, to be able to will what one considers
right or not right, as one pleases, means to be free or unfree, as
one pleases. This, of course, is just as absurd
as it is to see freedom in the ability to be able to do what one is forced to will. But the
latter is what Hamerling maintains when he says: “it is perfectly true that the will is always
determined by motives, but it is absurd to say
that it is therefore unfree; for a greater freedom one can neither wish for nor imagine
than the freedom to let one’s will realize itself
in accordance with its strength and determination.” Indeed, a greater freedom can be wished for,
and only this greater is true freedom. Namely: to decide for oneself the motive (foundation)
of one’s will. There can be circumstances under which a man
may be induced to refrain from doing what he wants to do. But to let others prescribe to him what he
ought to do, that is, to do what another, and not what he himself considers
right, this he will accept only insofar as he does not feel free. External powers may prevent my doing what
I want; they then simply force me to be inactive or to be unfree. it is only when they enslave my spirit, drive
my motives out of my head and want to put theirs in the place
of mine, that they intentionally aim at making me unfree. This is why the Church is not only against
the mere doing, but more particularly against impure thoughts, that
is, against the impulses of my action. The
Church makes me unfree if it considers impure all impulses it has not itself indicated. A
Church or other community causes unfreedom when its priests or teachers take on the
role of keepers of conscience, that is, when the believers must receive from them (at the
Confessional) the impulses for their actions. Addition to Revised Edition, 1918. In this interpretation of the human will is
presented what man can experience in his actions and,
through this, come to the conscious experience: My will is free. it is of particular significance that the
right to characterize the will as free is attained through the experience:
In my will an ideal intuition comes to realization. This experience can only come about as a result
of observation, but it is observation in the sense that the human will
is observed within a stream of evolution, the
aim of which is to attain for the will the possibility of being carried by pure ideal
intuition. This can be attained because in ideal intuition
nothing is active but its own self- sustaining essence. If such an intuition is present in human consciousness,
then it is not developed out of the processes of the organism,
but the organic activity has withdrawn to make room for the ideal activity. If I observe will when it is an image
of intuition, then from this will the necessary organic activity has withdrawn. The will is
free. This freedom of will no one can observe who
is unable to observe how free will consists in the fact that, first, through
the intuitive element the necessary activity of the
human organism is lamed, pressed back, and in its place is set the spiritual activity
of idea-filled will. Only one who is unable to make this observation
of the two-fold aspect of will that is free, will believe that every
will-impulse is unfree. One who can make the
observations will attain the insight that man is unfree insofar as he is unable to carry
through completely the process of repressing the organic activity, but that this unfreedom
strives to attain freedom, and that this freedom is by no means an abstract ideal, but is a
directive force inherent in human nature. Man is free to the degree that he is able
to realize in his will the same mood of soul
he also experiences when he is conscious of elaborating pure ideal (spiritual) intuitions. THE VALUE OF LIFE (PESSIMISM and OPTIMISM) The question concerning life’s value is
a counterpart to the question concerning its purpose or destination. In this connection we meet with two contrasting
views, and between them all imaginable attempts at compromise. One view says: The
world is the best possible, and to live and be active in it is a blessing of untold value. Everything exists harmoniously and is full
of purpose; it is worthy of admiration. Even
what is apparently bad and evil may be seen to be good from a higher point of view, for
it represents a beneficial contrast to the good;
we are more able to appreciate the good when it is contrasted with evil. moreover, evil is not genuinely real: it is
only that we see as evil a lesser degree of good. Evil is the absence of good; it has no significance
in itself. The other view maintains: Life is full of
misery and want, everywhere displeasure outweighs pleasure, pain outweighs joy. Existence is a burden, and under all
circumstances non-existence would be preferable to existence. The main representatives of the former view,
i.e. optimism, are Shaftesbury and Leibnitz; those of the latter, i.e. pessimism,
are Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann. Leibnitz says the world is the best of all
possible worlds. A better one is impossible. for
God is good and wise. A good God would want to create the best possible
world; a wise God would know which is the best possible;
He is able to distinguish it from all other possible inferior ones. Only a bad or unwise God could create a world
inferior to the best possible. Starting from this viewpoint, one will easily
be able to indicate the direction human conduct should take in order to contribute
its share to the best of all worlds. All that man
has to do is to find out God’s decisions and to act in accordance with them. When he
knows what God’s intentions are with regard to the world and mankind, then he will also
do what is right!and he will feel happy to add his share to the rest of the good in the
world. therefore, from the optimistic standpoint
life is worth living. This view cannot but
stimulate us to cooperative participation. Schopenhauer presents matters differently. He thinks of the world’s foundation not
as an all-wise and all-kind Being, but as blind
urge or will. Eternal striving, ceaseless craving
for satisfaction which yet can never be attained, in his view is the fundamental essence of
all will. for if an aim one has striven for is attained,
then immediately another need arises, and so on. Satisfaction can always be only for an infinitely
short time. All the rest
of the content of our life is unsatisfied urge, that is, dissatisfaction and suffering. If at last
the blind urge is dulled, then all content is gone from our lives; an infinite boredom
pervades our existence. therefore, the relative best one can do is
to stifle all wishes and needs within one, and exterminate one’s
will. Schopenhauer’s pessimism leads to
complete inactivity; his moral aim is universal laziness. By a very different argument Hartmann attempts
to establish pessimism and use it as a foundation for ethics. In keeping with a favorite trend of our time,
he tries to base his world view on experience. By observation of life he wishes to find out
whether pleasure or displeasure is the more plentiful in the
world. He passes in review before the tribunal
of reason whatever appears to men to be worth while in life, in order to show that on
closer inspection all so-called satisfaction turns out to be nothing but illusion. it is
illusion when we believe that in health, youth, freedom, sufficient income, love (sexual
enjoyment), pity, friendship and family life, honor, reputation, glory, power, religious
edification, pursuit of science and of art, hope of a life hereafter, participation in
the furtherance of culture, – we have sources
of happiness and satisfaction. Soberly
considered, every enjoyment brings much more evil and misery than pleasure into the
world. The displeasure of a hangover is always greater
than the pleasure of intoxication. Displeasure far outweighs pleasure in the
world. No person, even the relatively happiest,
if asked, would want to live through the misery of life a second time. Since Hartmann
does not deny the presence of an ideal factor (wisdom) in the world, but even grants it
equal significance with blind urge (will), he can attribute the creation of the world
to his primordial Being only if he lets the pain
in the world serve a wise world purpose. He sees
the pain in the world as nothing but God’s pain, for the life of the world as a whole
is identical with the life of God. The aim of an all-wise Being, however, could
only be release from suffering, and since all existence
is suffering, release from existence. The
purpose of the world’s creation is to transform existence into nonexistence, which is so
much better. The world process is nothing but a continual
battle against God’s pain, which at last will end with the annihilation
of all existence. The moral life of men must
therefore be participation in the annihilation of existence. God has created the world in
order to rid Himself of His infinite pain through it. The world “in a certain sense is to be
regarded as an itching eruption on the absolute,” through which the unconscious healing
power of the absolute rids itself of an inward disease, “or even as a painful drawing-
plaster which the alone Being applies to Himself in order first to divert an inner pain
outward, and then to remove it altogether.” Human beings are parts of the world. In them
God suffers. He has created them in order to split up His
infinite pain. The pain each one
of us suffers is but a drop in the infinite ocean of God’s pain. Man must recognize to the full that to pursue
individual satisfaction (egoism) is folly, that
he ought to follow solely his task and through selfless devotion dedicate himself to the
world-process of redeeming God. In contrast to Schopenhauer’s pessimism,
that of von Hartmann leads us to devoted activity for
a lofty task. But is the above really based on experience? To strive after satisfaction means that the
life activities go beyond the life content of the
being in question. A being is hungry, that is, it strives for
satiety when for their continuation, its organic functions demand
to be supplied with new life content in the form of nourishment. The striving for honor consists in the person
not regarding what he does as worth while unless he receives appreciation
from others. Striving for knowledge
arises when a person finds that something is missing in the world that he sees, hears,
etc. as long as he has not understood it. The fulfilment of striving produces pleasure
in the striving individual; non-fulfilment produces
displeasure. Here it is important to observe
that pleasure or displeasure depend only upon the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of striving. The striving itself can by no means be regarded
as displeasure. therefore, if it so happens that in the moment a striving is fulfilled,
immediately a new one arises, I should not say
that the pleasure has produced displeasure in me, because in all circumstances an
enjoyment produces desire for its repetition, or for a new pleasure. Here I can speak of
displeasure only when this desire runs up against the impossibility of its fulfilment. Even
when an experienced enjoyment produces in me the demand for the experience of a
greater or more refined pleasure, I can speak of a displeasure being produced by the
previous pleasure only at the moment when the means of experiencing the greater or
more refined pleasure fail me. Only when displeasure follows enjoyment as
a natural law, for example when woman’s sexual enjoyment
is followed by the suffering of childbirth and the nursing of children, is it possible
to regard the enjoyment as the source of pain. If
striving as such called forth displeasure, then the removal of striving would be
accompanied by pleasure. But the opposite is the case. When the content of our life lacks
striving, boredom is the result, and this is connected with displeasure!and as the striving
naturally may last a long time before it attains fulfilment, and as it is satisfied with the
hope of fulfilment meanwhile, it must be acknowledged that displeasure has nothing to
do with striving as such, but depends solely on its non-fulfilment. Schopenhauer, then, is
wrong in any case in regarding desire or striving (the will) as such, to be a source of pain. In reality, even the opposite is correct. Striving (desire), as such, gives pleasure. Who
does not know the enjoyment caused by the hope of a remote but intensely desired aim? This joy is the companion of all labor, the
fruits of which will be ours only in the future. This pleasure is quite independent of the
attainment of the aim. Then when the aim is
attained, to the pleasure of striving is added that of the fulfilment as something new. Should someone now say: To the displeasure
of a non-fulfilled aim is added that of disappointed hope, and in the end this makes
the displeasure of non-fulfilment greater than the awaited pleasure of fulfilment, then
the answer would be: Even the opposite could be the case; the recollection of past
enjoyment, at the time when the desire was still
not satisfied, will just as often act as consolation for the displeasure of non-fulfilment. In
the moment of shattered hopes, one who exclaims, I have done what I could! proves this
assertion. The blessed feeling of having tried one’s
best is overlooked by those who say of every unsatisfied desire that not only
has the pleasure of fulfilment not arisen, but also
the enjoyment of desiring has been destroyed. The fulfilment of a desire calls forth pleasure
and its non-fulfilment, displeasure. From
this must not be concluded that pleasure means satisfaction of a desire, displeasure means
its non-satisfaction. Both pleasure and displeasure may also appear
in a being where they are not the result of desire. Illness is displeasure for which there has
been no desire. One
who maintains that illness is an unsatisfied desire for health, makes the mistake of
regarding the obvious but unconscious wish, not to be ill, as a positive desire. When
someone receives a legacy from a rich relative of whose existence he had no notion, this
event gives him pleasure without any preceding desire. therefore, one who sets out to investigate
whether the balance is on the side of pleasure or of displeasure, must bring into the account
the pleasure of desiring, the pleasure of the
fulfilment of desire, and those pleasures which come to us without any striving on our
part. On the debit side of our account-sheet would
have to be entered the displeasure of boredom, the displeasure of unfulfilled striving,
and, lastly, displeasures that come without being preceded by any desire. To the last kind belongs also the displeasure
caused by work which is not self-chosen but is forced upon us. Now the question arises: What is the right
means of estimating the balance between debit and credit? Eduard von Hartmann is of the opinion that
reason is able to establish this. However he also says: “Pain and pleasure
exist only insofar as they are felt.” From this
statement it would follow that there is no other yardstick for pleasure than the subjective
one of feeling. I must feel whether the sum of my feelings
of displeasure, compared with my feelings of pleasure, leaves me with a
balance of joy or of pain. But disregarding this,
Hartmann maintains that: “Even if the life-value of every being can
be estimated only according to its own subjective measure, this is not to say that
every being is able to calculate, from all that
influences its life, the correct algebraic sum or, in other words, that its final judgment
of its own life, in regard to its subjective
experiences, is correct.” This, however, only means that rational judgment
is still made to estimate the value of feeling. [footnote: One who wants to calculate whether
the sum total of pleasure or of displeasure is the greater, overlooks that
he is calculating something which is never experienced. Feeling does not calculate, and what matters
for a real estimation of life is true experience, not the result of an imagined
calculation.] One whose view more or less inclines in the
direction of thinkers like Eduard von Hartmann may believe that in order to arrive
at a correct valuation of life he must clear out of the way those factors which falsify
our judgment about the balance of pleasure or
displeasure. There are two ways in which he can do this. One way is by showing that our
desires (urges, will) act disturbingly in our sober judgment of our feeling-values. While,
for example, we should tell ourselves that sexual enjoyment is a source of evil, the
fact that the sexual instinct is very strong in
us misleads us into anticipating a pleasure far
greater than in fact occurs. We want to enjoy, and therefore will not admit
to ourselves that we suffer through the enjoyment. Another way is to subject feelings to criticism,
and attempt to prove that the objects to which
feelings attach themselves are revealed as illusions by the insight of reason, then are
destroyed the moment our continually growing intelligence recognizes the illusion. He can reason out the situation in the following
way. If an ambitious person wants to
make clear to himself whether, up to the moment of making this calculation, pleasure or
displeasure has occupied the greater part of his life, he must free himself from two
sources of error before passing judgment. As he is ambitious, this fundamental feature
of his character will make him see the pleasures
of recognition of his achievements as larger, and the hurts suffered through being
slighted as smaller than they are. At the time
he suffered from being slighted he felt it just because he was ambitious, but in
recollection this appears in a milder light, whereas the pleasures of recognition to which
he is so very susceptible leave a deeper impression. Now it is of real benefit for an
ambitious person that this is so. The deception diminishes his feeling of displeasure
in the moment of self-observation. Nevertheless, his judgment will be misled. The sufferings,
over which a veil is drawn, he really did experience in all their intensity, and therefore
he really gives them a wrong valuation on his
balance-sheet of life. In order to come to a
correct judgment, an ambitious person would have to get rid of his ambition during the
time he is making his calculation. He would have to consider his life up to that
point without placing distorting glasses before
his mind’s eye. Otherwise he is like a merchant
who, in making up his books, also enters his own business zeal on the income side. He could go even further. He could say: The ambitious man must also
make clear to himself that the recognition he pursues is
something valueless. Through his own effort, or
with the help of others, he must come to see that for a sensible person recognition by
others counts little, since one can always be sure that “In all matters which are not vital questions
of evolution or are already finally settled by
science, the majority is wrong and the minority right.” “Whoever makes ambition his
lodestar, puts the happiness of his life at the mercy of an unreliable judgment.” If the ambitious person admits all this to
himself, he will have to recognize as illusion, not only everything his ambition caused him
to regard as reality, but also the feelings attached to the illusions. for this reason
it could then be said: From the balance sheet of
life-values must also be erased those feelings of pleasure that have been produced by
illusions; what then remains represents, free of all illusions, the totality of pleasure
in life, and this, in contrast to the totality of displeasure,
is so small that life is no joy and nonexistence is preferable to existence. While it is quite obvious that the deception
caused by the interference of ambition leads to a false result when making up the account
of pleasure, what is said about the recognition of the illusory character of the
objects of not only everything pleasure must nonetheless be challenged. To eliminate from the balance-sheet all pleasurable
feelings connected with actual or supposed illusions
would positively falsify it. for the ambitious
person did genuinely enjoy being appreciated by the multitude, quite irrespective of
whether later he or someone else recognizes this appreciation as illusion. The pleasure
already enjoyed is not diminished in the least by such recognition. The elimination of all
such “illusory” feelings from life’s balance-sheet, far from making our judgment
about feelings more correct, actually eliminates
from life feelings which were genuinely present. and why should these feelings be eliminated? One possessing them derives pleasure
from them; one who has overcome them, gains through the experiences of self-conquest
(not through the vain emotion, What a noble fellow I am! but through the objective
sources of pleasure which lie in the self-conquest) a pleasure which is indeed
spiritualized, but no less significant for that. If feelings are erased from the balance-sheet
because they attached themselves to objects which later are revealed as illusions, then
life’s value is made dependent not on the quantity, but on the quality of pleasure,
and this, in turn, on the value of the objects
which cause the pleasure. If I set out to determine
the value of life by the quantity of pleasure or displeasure it brings, then I have no right
to presuppose something else by which to determine
first the qualitative value of pleasure. If
I say I will compare the amount of pleasure with the amount of displeasure and see which
is greater, then I must also bring into the account all pleasure and displeasure in their
actual quantities, regardless whether they are based on illusions or not. To ascribe to a
pleasure which rests on illusion a lesser value for life than to one which can be justified
by reason, is to make the value of life dependent on factors other than pleasure. Someone estimating pleasure as less valuable
when it is attached to a worthless object, is
like a merchant who enters in his accounts the considerable profit of a toy-factory at
a quarter of the actual amount because the factory
produces playthings for children. When it is only a matter of weighing pleasure
against displeasure, the illusory character of the objects of some pleasures must be left
out of the picture altogether. The rational consideration of the quantities
of pleasure and displeasure produced by life, which Hartmann recommends, has led us as far
as knowing how to set up the account, that is, to knowing what we have to put down
on each side of our balance sheet. But how
are we to make the actual calculations? Is reason also capable of determining the
balance? The merchant has made a mistake in his account
if the calculated balance does not agree with the profit which has demonstrably been
enjoyed from the business or which can still be expected. The philosopher, too, will undoubtedly have
made a mistake in his judgment if the calculated surplus of pleasure or,
as the case may be, of displeasure, cannot be
proved by actual sentiments. for the moment I shall not go into the account
of those pessimists who base their world view on rational estimation; but a person
who is to decide whether or not to carry on the
business of life will first demand proof that the calculated surplus of displeasure exists. Here we touch the point where reason is not
in a position to determine on its own the surplus of pleasure or of displeasure, but
where it must point to this surplus in life in the
form of perception. for reality is attainable for man not through
concept alone, but through the inter-penetration, mediated by
thinking, of concept and perception (and a feeling is a perception. A merchant, too, will give up his business
only when the loss of income, calculated by his
accountant, is confirmed by the facts. If this is
not the case, he will let the accountant go through the books once more!and in regard
to life, man will do exactly the same. If the philosopher wants to show him that
displeasure is far greater than pleasure, and if he has
not felt it to be so, he will reply: You have gone
astray in your brooding; think things through once more. But if there comes a time in a
business when such losses are really present that no credit any longer suffices to meet
the claims, then the result will be bankruptcy,
even though the merchant may have avoided keeping himself informed about his affairs
by means of accounts. Similarly, if there
comes a time when the quantity of displeasure a man suffers is so great that no hope
(credit) of future pleasure could carry him through the pain, then this would lead to
bankruptcy of life’s business. However, the number of suicides is relatively
small in proportion to the number of those who bravely live on. Very few people give up the business of life
because of the displeasure involved. What follows from this? Either that it is not correct to say that
the amount of displeasure is greater than the
amount of pleasure, or that we do not make our
continuation of life at all dependent upon the amount of pleasure or displeasure we feel. The pessimist, Eduard von Hartmann, in a quite
extraordinary manner reaches the conclusion that life is valueless because
it contains more pain than pleasure, and yet he
maintains the necessity of carrying it through. This necessity lies in the fact that the world
purpose mentioned above can be achieved only through the ceaseless, devoted
labor of human beings. So long as men still pursue their egoistic
desires they are useless for such selfless labor. Not until they have convinced themselves through
experience and reason that the enjoyments of life pursued
out of egoism are unattainable, do they devote themselves to their real task. In this way the pessimistic conviction is
supposed to be a source of selflessness. An education based on pessimism is meant to
exterminate egoism by convincing men of its hopelessness. This means that this view considers striving
for pleasure to be fundamentally inherent in
human nature. Only through insight into the impossibility
of its fulfilment does this striving abdicate in favor of higher tasks
of humanity. Of such a moral world view, which, from recognition
of pessimism, hopes to achieve devotion to non-egoistical aims in life, it
cannot be said that it really overcomes egoism in the true sense of the word. Moral ideas are supposed to be strong enough
to take hold of the will only when man has recognized that
selfish striving after pleasure cannot lead to any satisfaction. Man, whose selfishness desires the grapes
of pleasure, finds them sour because he cannot reach them; he turns his
back on them and devotes himself to an unselfish life. according to the opinion of pessimists, moral
ideals are not strong enough to overcome egoism, but they establish their
rulership on the ground which recognition of
the hopelessness of egoism has first cleared for them. If in accordance with their natural disposition
human beings strove after pleasure which they could not possibly attain, then annihilation
of existence and redemption through non-existence would be the only rational goal!and
if one accepts the view that the real bearer of the pain of the world is God, it
follows that the task of men consists in helping to bring about the salvation of God. To commit suicide does not advance, but hinders,
the accomplishment of this aim. God must have created men wisely for the sole
purpose of bringing about His salvation through their
action. Otherwise creation would be
purposeless!and such a view of the world envisages extra-human purposes. Every one of
us has to perform his own definite task in the general work of salvation. If he withdraws
from the task by suicide, another has to do the work which was intended for him. Someone else must bear the agony of existence
in his place!and since in every being it is, fundamentally, God who is the ultimate
bearer of all pain, it follows that the suicide does not in the least diminish the quantity
of God’s pain, but rather imposes upon God the additional difficulty of creating a substitute
to take over the task. All this presupposes that pleasure is the
standard of life’s value. Now life manifests itself
through a number of craving (needs). If the value of life depended on whether it
brought more pleasure than displeasure, a craving
which brought a surplus of displeasure to its
owner, would have to be called valueless. Let us examine craving and pleasure, in order
to see whether or not craving can be measured by pleasure!and lest we give rise to the
suspicion that life does not begin for us below the level of the “aristocratic intellect,”
we shall begin our examination with a “purely
animal” need: hunger. Hunger arises when our organs are unable to
continue their proper function without a fresh supply of substance. What a hungry man aims at, in the first place,
is to have his hunger stilled. As soon as the supply of nourishment has reached
the point where hunger ceases, everything that the food-instinct
craves has been attained. The enjoyment
connected with satiety consists, to begin with, in the removal of the pain which is
caused by hunger. Also to the mere food-instinct a further need
is added. Man does not merely
desire to overcome the disturbance in the functioning of his organs by the consumption
of food, or to get rid of the pain of hunger:
he seeks to accompany this with pleasurable sensations of taste. When he feels hungry and is within half an
hour of an enjoyable meal, he may even avoid spoiling his enjoyment of
the better food by refusing inferior food which might satisfy his hunger sooner. He needs hunger in order to obtain the full
enjoyment from his meal. In this way hunger becomes a cause of pleasure
for him at the same time. If all the hunger in the world could be satisfied,
then the total amount of enjoyment due to the need for nourishment
would come about. To this would have to be
added the special pleasure which gourmets attain by cultivating the sensitiveness of
their taste-nerves beyond the usual measure. This amount of enjoyment would have the greatest
value possible if no aspect of this kind of enjoyment remained unsatisfied, and if
with the enjoyment a certain amount of displeasure did not have to be accepted into
the bargain. The view of modern natural science is that
nature produces more life than it can sustain, that is, nature produces more hunger than
it is able to satisfy. The surplus of life produced
must perish in pain in the struggle for existence. it is granted that at every moment of the
world process, the needs of life are greater than the corresponding available means of
satisfaction, and the enjoyment of life is thereby impaired. But the individual enjoyments
actually present are not in the least reduced thereby. Wherever a desire is satisfied, there
the corresponding amount of pleasure is also present, even though in the creature itself
which desires, or in its fellow-creatures, a large number of unsatisfied cravings exist. What is thereby diminished is not the quantity,
but the value of the enjoyment of life. If
only a part of the needs of a living creature find satisfaction, the creature experiences
enjoyment accordingly. This has a lesser value the smaller it is
in proportion to the total demands of life in the sphere of the desire
in question. We might represent this value as a
fraction, of which the numerator is the enjoyment actually experienced and the
denominator is the sum total of needs. This fraction has the value 1 when the numerator
and the denominator are equal, i.e. when all needs are fully satisfied. The fraction
becomes greater than 1 when a creature experiences more pleasure than its desires
demand. it becomes smaller than 1 when the amount
of enjoyment falls short of the sum total of desires. But the fraction can never be nought so long
as the numerator has any value at all, however small. If a man were to make up a final account before
his death, and thought of the amount of enjoyment connected
with a particular craving (e.g. hunger) as being distributed over the whole of his
life with all the demands made by this craving, then the value of the pleasure experienced
might perhaps be very small, but it could never
be nil. If the quantity of enjoyment remains constant,
then with every increase in the needs of the living being the value of the
pleasure diminishes. The same is true for the
totality of life in nature. The greater the number of living beings in
proportion to those able to fully satisfy their cravings, the
smaller is the average pleasure-value of life. The
shares in life enjoyment, made out to us in the form of instincts, become less valuable
in proportion as we cannot expect to cash them
at their full face value. If I get enough to eat
for three days and then have to go hungry for three days, the enjoyment during the three
days when I do eat is not thereby diminished. But I have to think of it as distributed over
six days, and this reduces its value for my food instinct by half. The same applies to the
quantity of pleasure in relation to the degree of my need. If I am hungry enough for two
sandwiches and can have only one, the enjoyment gained from it has only half the value
it would have had if after I had eaten it my hunger had been stilled. This is how the value
of a pleasure is determined in life. it is measured by the needs of life. Our desire is the
yardstick; pleasure is what is measured. The enjoyment of eating has a value only
because hunger is present, and it attains a value of a specific degree through the
proportion it bears to the degree of the hunger present. Unfulfilled demands of our life throw their
shadow even upon desires which have been satisfied, and impair the value of enjoyable
hours. But one can also speak of the present
value of a feeling of pleasure. This value is the more insignificant, the
less the pleasure is in proportion to the duration and intensity
of our desire. An amount of pleasure reaches its full value
for us when its duration and degree exactly coincide with our desire. An amount of pleasure which is smaller than
our desire diminishes the value of pleasure; a greater
amount produces a surplus which has not been demanded and which is felt as pleasure only
so long as we are able to increase our desire during the enjoyment. If we are not able to increase our demand
in order to keep pace with the increasing pleasure, then the pleasure
turns into displeasure. The thing that
otherwise would satisfy us now assails us without our wanting it, and we suffer under
it. This is proof that pleasure has value for
us only so long as we can measure it by our desires. An excess of pleasurable feeling turns into
pain. This may be observed especially
in people whose desire for a particular kind of pleasure is very small. In people whose
desire for food is dulled, eating readily produces nausea. This too shows that the desire is
the yardstick for measuring the value of pleasure. Here pessimism could say: The unsatisfied
craving for food brings not only the displeasure of lost enjoyment, but also positive
pain, torment and misery into the world. In this he can point to the untold misery
of people who starve, and to the amount of displeasure such people suffer indirectly
through lack of food!and if he wants to extend the assertion to the rest of nature, he can
point to the torment of animals that starve to death at certain times of the year. The pessimist maintains that these evils far
outweigh the amount of enjoyment which the food-instinct
brings into the world. There is no doubt that one can compare pleasure
and displeasure, and can determine the surplus of the one or the other, as is done
in the case of profit and loss. But when the
pessimist believes that there is a surplus on the side of displeasure and that from this
one can conclude that life is valueless, he already
makes a mistake, insofar as he makes a calculation that is not made in actual life. Our desire, in each instance, is directed
to a definite object. The value of the pleasure of
satisfaction will, as we have seen, be the greater, the greater the amount of pleasure,
in relation to the degree of our desire.[footnote:
We disregard here the instance where excessive increase in pleasure turns it into
displeasure.] But upon the degree of our desire
also depends how great is the amount of displeasure we are willing to accept in order to
achieve the pleasure. We compare the quantity of displeasure not
with the quantity of pleasure, but with the intensity of our desire. If someone finds great pleasure in eating,
by reason of his enjoyment in better times he
will find it easier to bear a period of hunger than will someone for whom eating is no enjoyment. A woman who desires a child
compares the joy of possessing the child, not with the amount of displeasure due to
pregnancy, childbirth, cares of nursing, etc. but with her desire to have the child. We never want a certain quantity of pleasure
in the abstract, but a concrete satisfaction in
a quite definite way. When we want a pleasure which must be satisfied
by a particular object or a particular sensation, it will
not satisfy us if we are offered some other object or
some other sensation, even though they give the same amount of pleasure. One desirous
of food cannot substitute the pleasure this would give him by a pleasure equally great
but produced by a walk. Only if our desire were, quite generally,
for a certain quantity of pleasure, would it have to die away at once
if this pleasure were unattainable except at
the price of an even greater quantity of displeasure. But because we aim toward a
particular kind of satisfaction, we experience the pleasure of realization even when we
have to bear a much greater displeasure along with it. The instincts of living creatures
tend in definite directions and aim at definite goals, and for this reason we cannot set
down as an equivalent factor in our calculations the amount of displeasure that must be
endured on the way to the goal. Provided the desire is sufficiently intense
to still be present in some degree after having overcome
the displeasure – however great that may be – then the pleasure of satisfaction can
still be tasted to the full. The desire, therefore,
does not measure the pain directly against the pleasure achieved, but indirectly by
relating its own intensity to that of the displeasure. The question is not whether the
pleasure to be gained is greater than the displeasure, but whether the desire for the
goal is greater than the opposition of the displeasure
involved. If the opposition is greater than
the desire, then the desire yields to the inevitable, weakens, and strives no further. Since
our demand is always for some quite specific kind of satisfaction, the pleasure connected
with it acquires significance for us in such a way that once we have achieved satisfaction,
we need take the quantity of displeasure into account only insofar as it has reduced the
intensity of our desire. If I am passionately fond of beautiful views,
I never calculate the amount of pleasure the view from the mountain-top
gives me as compared directly with the displeasure of the toilsome ascent and
descent, but I reflect whether, after having overcome all difficulties, my desire for the
view will still be sufficiently intense. Consideration of pleasure and pain can lead
to a result only indirectly in relation to the
intensity of the desire. therefore the question is not at all whether
there is a surplus of pleasure or of displeasure, but whether the
desire for the pleasure is strong enough to overcome the displeasure. A proof of the correctness of this view is
the fact that we put a higher value on pleasure when it must be purchased at the price of
great displeasure, than when it simply falls into
our lap like a gift from heaven. When sufferings and misery have toned down
our desire and yet our aim is attained, then the pleasure,
in proportion to the remaining quantity of desire, is all the greater!and as I have shown,
this proportion represents the value of the pleasure. A further proof is given in the fact that
all living beings (including man) seek satisfaction for their cravings
as long as they are able to bear the opposing pain
and agony. The struggle for existence is but a consequence
of this fact. All existing life
strives for fulfilment, and only that part gives up the fight in which the desire has
been suffocated by the power of the assailing difficulties. Each living being seeks food until
lack of food destroys its life. Man, too, lays hands on himself only when
he believes (rightly or wrongly) that he is not able to
attain the aims in life which to him are worth while. As long as he still believes in the possibility
of attaining what in his view is worth striving for, he will fight against all suffering
and pain. Philosophy would first have to
convince man that the element of will has sense only when the pleasure is greater than
the displeasure, for it is man’s nature to strive
to attain the objects of his desire if he is able to
bear the necessary displeasure involved, be it ever so great. The above mentioned
philosophy would be mistaken, because it would make the human will dependent on a
factor (surplus of pleasure over displeasure) which is fundamentally foreign to man’s
nature. The actual yardstick for measuring will is
desire, and the latter persists as long as it can. One can compare the calculation that is made
in actual life, – not the one an abstract philosophy makes concerning the question
of pleasure and pain connected with the satisfaction of a desire – with the following. If when buying a certain quantity of
apples, I am forced to take twice as many bad ones as good ones because the seller wants
to clear his stock, then I shall not hesitate for one moment to accept the bad apples as
well if the few good ones are worth so much to me that, in addition to their purchase
price, I am also prepared to bear the expense of disposing of the bad ones. This example
illustrates the relation between the amounts of pleasure and displeasure that arise through
an instinct. I determine the value of the good apples not
by subtracting the sum of the good ones from that of the bad ones, but by
whether the good ones retain any value for me despite the presence of the bad ones. Just as I leave the bad apples out of account
in my enjoyment of the good ones, so I give myself up to the satisfaction of a desire
after having shaken off the unavoidable pain. Even if pessimism were correct in its assertion
that there is more displeasure than pleasure in the world, this would have no
influence on the will, since living beings would
still strive after what pleasure remains. The empirical proof that pain outweighs joy,
if such proof could be given, would certainly
be effective for showing the futility of the school of philosophy that sees the value of
life in a surplus of pleasure (Eudaemonism)!! it would not, however, be
suitable for showing that will in general is
irrational, for will does not seek a surplus of pleasure, but seeks the amount of pleasure
that remains after removing the displeasure!and this always appears as a goal worth
striving for. Attempts have been made to refute pessimism
by asserting that it is impossible by calculation to determine the surplus of pleasure
or of displeasure in the world. The
possibility of any calculation depends on the comparability of the things to be calculated
in respect to their quantity. Every displeasure and every pleasure has a
definite quantity (intensity and duration). Further, we can compare pleasurable feelings
of different kinds with one another, at least approximately,
with regard to their quantity. We know whether
we derive more pleasure from a good cigar or from a good joke. No objection can be
raised against the comparability of different kinds of pleasures and displeasures in respect
to their quantity. The investigator who sets himself the task
of determining the surplus of pleasure or displeasure in the world, starts
from presuppositions which are undeniably legitimate. One may declare the conclusions of pessimism
to be mistaken, but one cannot doubt that quantities of pleasure and displeasure
can be scientifically estimated, and the balance of pleasure determined thereby. But it is incorrect to maintain that the result
of this calculation has any consequence for the
human will. The cases in which we really
make the value of our activity dependent on whether pleasure or displeasure shows a
surplus, are those in which the objects toward which our activity is directed are
indifferent to us. When it is only a question of whether after
my work I am to amuse myself by a game or by light conversation,
and if I am completely indifferent what I do
for this purpose, I then ask myself: What gives me the greatest surplus of pleasure?
and I definitely refrain from an activity if the
scales incline toward the side of displeasure. When buying a toy for a child we would consider
what will give him the greatest pleasure. In all other cases we are not determined exclusively
by considerations of the balance of pleasure. therefore, when pessimistic philosophers of
ethics believe that by showing displeasure to
be present in greater quantity than pleasure, they are preparing the way for selfless
devotion toward cultural work, they do not realize that by its very nature the human
will is not influenced by this knowledge. Human striving directs itself to the measure
of possible satisfaction after all difficulties
have been overcome. Hope of this satisfaction is
the very foundation of human activity. The work of each individual and of the totality
of cultural work springs from this hope. Pessimistic ethics believes that it must present
the pursuit of happiness as an impossibility for
man, in order that he may devote himself to his proper moral tasks. But these moral tasks are nothing but the
concrete natural and spiritual cravings, and their satisfaction
is striven for, despite the displeasure involved. The pursuit of happiness, which the pessimist
wants to exterminate, does not exist at all. Rather, the tasks which man has to fulfil
he fulfils because from the depth of his being he
wills to fulfil them when he has truly recognized their nature. Pessimistic ethics maintains
that man can devote himself to what he recognizes as his life’s task, only when he has
given up the pursuit of pleasure. But there are no ethics that can invent life-tasks
other than the realization of the satisfactions
demanded by man’s desires, and the fulfilment of his moral ideals. No ethics can take from him the pleasure he
has in the fulfilment of what he desires. When the pessimist says: Do not strive after
pleasure, for you can never attain it, strive for what you recognize to
be your task, then the answer is: it is inherent in
human nature to do just this, and it is the invention of a philosophy gone astray when
it is maintained that man strives only for happiness. He strives for the satisfaction of what his
being demands, and its fulfilment is his pleasure; he has in mind the concrete objects of
this striving, not some abstract “happiness.” When pessimistic ethics demands: Strive not
after pleasure, but after the attainment of what you recognize to be your life’s task,
it lays its finger on the very thing that, through
his own nature, man wants. He does not need to
be turned inside out by philosophy, he does not need to discard his human nature before
he can be moral. Morality lies in striving for an aim that
has been recognized as justified; it lies in human nature to pursue it so long
as the displeasure connected with it does not
extinguish the desire for it altogether!and this is the nature of all real will. Ethics does
not depend on the extermination of all striving after pleasure in order that bloodless
abstract ideas can set up their control where they are not opposed by a strong longing for
enjoyment of life; ethics depends rather on that strength will has when it is carried
by ideal intuitions; it achieves its aim even
though the path be full of thorns. Moral ideals spring from the moral imagination
of man. Their attainment depends upon
whether his desire for them is strong enough to overcome pain and suffering. They are his
intuitions, the driving forces spanned by his spirit; he wills them, because their attainment
is his highest pleasure. He needs no ethics first to forbid him to
strive for pleasure and then to prescribe to him what he ought to
strive for. Of himself, he will strive for moral
ideals when his moral imagination is active enough to impart to him intuitions that give
strength to his will and enable him to carry them through, despite the obstacles present
in his own organization, to which necessary displeasure
also belongs. If a man strives for sublimely great ideals,
it is because they are the content of his own
nature and their realization will bring him a joy compared with which the pleasure,
derived from the satisfaction of their ordinary cravings by those who lack ideals, is of
little significance. Idealists revel spiritually in translating
their ideals into reality. Anyone who wants to exterminate the pleasure
in the fulfilment of human desires will first have to make man a slave who acts, not
because he wants to, but only because he ought to. for the attainment of what has been
willed gives pleasure. What we call
goodness is not what a man ought but what he wills to do when he unfolds the fulness
of his true human nature. Anyone who does not acknowledge this must
first drive out of man all that man himself wills, and then prescribe
to him from outside what content he is to give his will. Man values the fulfilment of a desire because
the desire springs from his own nature. Achievement has its value because it has been
willed. If one denies value to the aims of
man’s own will, then worth while aims must be taken from something that man does not
will. Ethics based on pessimism arises from a disregard
for moral imagination. Only someone
who considers the individual human ego incapable of giving a content to its striving
would see the totality of will as a longing for pleasure. A man without imagination
creates no moral ideas. They must be given to him. Physical nature sees to it that he
strives to satisfy his lower desires. But to the development of the whole man belong
also desires that arise from the spirit. Only if one takes the view that man has no
such spiritual desires can one maintain that he should receive
them from outside!and then it would also be justifiable to say that it is man’s
duty to do what he does not will. All ethics which
demand of man that he should suppress his will in order to fulfil tasks that he does
not will, reckon not with the whole man, but with
one in whom the faculty of spiritual desire is lacking. for a man who is harmoniously
developed, the so-called ideas of what is “right” are not outside but within the
sphere of his own nature. Moral action does not
consist in extermination of one-sided self-will, but in the full development of human
nature. One considering moral ideals to be attainable
only if man exterminates his own will, does not know that these ideals are
willed by man just as much as the satisfaction of
so-called animal instincts. it cannot be denied that the views outlined
here can easily be misunderstood. Immature
persons without moral imagination like to look upon the instincts of their undeveloped
natures as the full content of humanity, and to reject all moral ideas which they have
not produced, in order that they may “live themselves
out” without restriction. But it is
obvious that what holds good for a fully developed human being does not apply to one
who is only half-developed. One who still has to be brought by education
to the point where his moral nature breaks through the
shell of his lower passions, cannot lay claim to
what applies to a man who is mature. Here there is no intention to outline what
an undeveloped man requires to be taught, but
rather to show what human nature includes when it has come to full maturity. for this is also to prove the possibility
of freedom, which manifests itself, not in actions done
under constraint of body or soul, but in actions sustained by spiritual intuitions. The fully mature man gives himself his value. He neither strives for pleasure, which is
given to him as a gift of grace either from nature or from the Creator, nor does he merely
fulfil what he recognizes as abstract duty after he has divested himself of the desire
for pleasure. He does what he wants to do, that is, he acts
in accordance with his ethical intuitions, and in the attainment of what
he wants he feels the true enjoyment of life. He
determines life’s value by the ratio between what he attains and what he attempts. Ethics
which puts “you ought” in the place of “I will,” mere duty in the place of inclination,
determines man’s value by the ratio between what duty demands of him and what he
fulfils. it applies a standard to man that is not applicable
to his nature. – The view
developed here refers man back to himself. it recognizes as the true value of life only
what each individual himself regards as such according to what he desires. This view
accepts neither a value of life not recognized by the individual, nor a purpose of life
which has not sprung from the individual. In the individual who is capable of true self
knowledge it recognizes someone who is his own master and the assessor of his own
value. Addition to the Revised Edition, 1918. What is presented in this chapter can be
misunderstood if one clings to the apparent objection that the will is simply the irrational
factor in man and that this must be proved to him because then he will realize that his
ethical striving must consist in working toward ultimate emancipation from the will. An
apparent objection of this kind was brought against me by a competent critic who stated
that it is the business of the philosopher to make good what the thoughtlessness of
animals and most men fail to do, namely, to strike a proper balance in life’s account. But
in making this objection he does not recognize the real issue: If freedom is to be attained,
then the will in human nature must be carried by intuitive thinking; at the same time it
is true that an impulse of will may also be determined
by factors other than intuition, but morality and its worth can be found only in
the free realization of intuitions flowing from
the nature of true manhood. Ethical individualism is well able to present
morality in its full dignity, for it is not of the opinion
that the truly moral is brought about by conforming to an external rule, but is only
what comes about through man when he develops his moral will as a member of his
total being, so that to do what is immoral appears to him as a stunting and crippling
of his nature. INDIVIDUALitY and SPECIES The view that it is inherent in man to develop
into an independent, free individuality seems to be contradicted by two facts: that
he exists as a member within a natural totality (race, tribe, nation, family, male or female
sex) and that he is active within a totality (state, church, etc.). He shows the general characteristics of the
community to which he belongs, and he gives his deeds a content
that is determined by the place he occupies within a plurality. Is individuality possible nevertheless? Can we regard man as a totality in himself
when he grows out of a totality and integrates
himself into a totality? The characteristic features and functions
of the individual parts belonging to a whole are
determined by the whole. A tribe is such a whole, and all the human
beings comprising it have characteristic features which are conditioned
by the nature of the tribe itself. How
the individual member is constituted and his actions will be determined by the character
of the tribe. This is why the physiognomy and activity of
the individual will express something generic. If we ask why some particular thing about
him is like this or that, we are referred beyond the nature of the individual
to the species. The species explains why
something about the individual appears as it does. But man makes himself free from what is generic.
for the generic qualities of the human race, when rightly experienced by the individual
do not restrict his freedom, and ought not to be made to restrict it by artificial
means. Man develops qualities and activities, the
sources of which we can seek only in himself. In this, the generic element serves him
only as a medium through which to express his own particular being. The characteristic
features that nature has given him he uses as a foundation, giving them the form that corresponds to his own being. We shall look in vain among the laws of the
species for the reason for an expression of this being. Here we have to do with something individual
which can be explained only through itself. If a person has advanced so far as to loosen
himself from the generic, and we still attempt to explain everything about him from the
character of the species, then we have no sense for what is individual. it is impossible to understand a human being
completely if one’s judgment is based on a
concept of the species. The tendency to judge according to species
is most persistent where the differences of sex are concerned. Man sees in woman, and woman in man,
nearly always too much of the general character of the other sex, and too little of the
individual. In practical life this harms men less than
women. The social position of
women is often so unworthy because in many respects it is not determined, as it should
be, by the individual qualities of the particular woman herself, but by general
representations of what is considered the natural task and needs of woman. Man’s activity
in life comes about through the individual’s capacities and inclinations, whereas woman’s
tends to be determined exclusively by the fact that she is a woman. Woman is supposed
to be the slave of her species, of womanhood in general. As long as men continue to
debate whether according to her “natural disposition” woman is suited to this or
that profession, the so-called woman’s question
cannot advance beyond the most elementary stage. What woman is capable of in terms of her own
nature, woman must be left to judge for herself. If it is true that women are useful only in
those occupations they occupy at present, then they will hardly have it in
themselves to attain anything else. But they must
be allowed to decide for themselves what is in accordance with their nature. The reply to
him who fears an upheaval of our social conditions as a result of accepting woman, not as
an example of her species but as an individual, would be that social conditions, in which
the status of one-half of humanity is below the dignity of man, are indeed in great need
of improvement. [footnote: Immediately upon the publication
of this book (1894) I met with the objections to the above arguments that, already now,
within the character of her sex, a woman is able to shape her life as individually as
she likes, and far more freely than a man who is
already de-individualized, first by school, and later by war and profession. I am aware
that this objection will be urged today, perhaps even more strongly. Nonetheless, I feel
bound to let my sentences stand, and must hope that there are readers who also recognize
how utterly such an objection goes against the concept of freedom developed in this book
and will judge my sentences above by another standard than that of man’s loss of
individuality through school and profession.] One judging human beings according to their
generic qualities stops short just at the very
frontier beyond which they begin to be beings whose activity depends on free self-
assessment. What lies below this frontier can naturally
be the object of scientific study. Thus the characteristics of race, tribe, nation
and sex are subjects of special sciences. Only men who wanted to live simply as examples
of the species could possibly fit the general picture of man these scientific studies
produce. All these sciences are unable to
reach the particular content of the individual. Where the sphere of freedom (in thinking
and doing) begins, there the possibility of determining the individual according to the laws of the species ceases. The conceptual content which man, through
thinking, must bring into connection with perception in order
to take hold of full reality, no one can fix once for all and hand over
to mankind ready-made. The individual must
gain his concepts through his own intuition. How the individual has to think, cannot be
deduced from any concept of a species; this depends singly and solely on the individual
himself. Just as little is it possible from general
human qualities to decide what concrete aims an individual will set himself. One wishing to understand a particular individual
must broaden his understanding to encompass the essential nature of the other, and not
stop short at those qualities which are typical. In this sense every single human being is
a problem!and every science which deals with
abstract thoughts and concepts of species is
only a preparation for that insight which becomes ours when a human individuality
shares with us his way of looking at the world, and that other insight which we obtain
from the content of his will. Whenever we feel: here we have to do with
that in a man which is free from the typical way of thinking
and free from a will based on the species, there we must cease to make use of any concepts
that apply to our own I if we want to understand him. Cognition consists in combining the concept
with the perception by means of thinking. In the case of all other objects the observer
must gain his concepts through his own intuition; when it is a case
of understanding a free individuality, the essential thing is to receive into our own
I those concepts by which the free individuality determines himself, in their pure form (without
mixing them with our own conceptual content). People who immediately mingle their own concepts
with every judgment of another, can never reach an understanding
of an individuality. Just as a free individuality
frees himself from the characteristics of the species, so our cognition must become
free from the means by which all that belongs to
species is understood. Only to the degree that a man has made himself
free from the characteristics of the species in the way indicated, can he be considered
to be a free spirit within a human community. No man is all species, none is all individuality. But every human being
gradually frees a greater or lesser part of his being from the animal-like life of the
species, as well as from the commands of human authorities ruling him. With that part of his being for which a man
is unable to achieve such freedom, he is a member of the natural and spiritual organism
of the world in general. In this respect he
does what he sees others do, or as they command. Only that part of his activity which
springs from his intuitions has ethical value in the true sense!and those moral instincts
that he has in him through the inheritance of social instincts become something ethical
through his taking them over into his intuitions. All moral activity of mankind has its
source in individual ethical intuitions and their acceptance by human communities. One
could also say: The moral life of mankind is the sum-total of the products of the moral
imagination of free human individuals. This is the conclusion of monism. THE CONSEQUENCES OF MONISM What is here called monism, this unitary explanation
of the world, derives from human experience the principles it uses for explaining
the world. The source of activity also is
sought within the world to be observed, that is, in human nature accessible to self-
knowledge, more particularly in moral imagination. Monism refuses to seek the origin of
the world accessible to perceiving and thinking, outside of that world, by means of
abstract conclusions. for monism, the unity that thinking observation – which can be
experienced – brings to the manifold plurality of perceptions is, at the same time, just
what the human need for knowledge demands, and by means of which entry into physical
and spiritual realms is sought. One looking for another unity behind the one
sought by thinking observation, thereby shows only that
he does not recognize the agreement between what is found by thinking and what
the urge for knowledge demands. The single
human individual actually is not separated from the universe. He is part of it, and the
connection of this part with the rest of the cosmos is present in reality; it is broken
only for our perception. At first we see this part as a being existing
by itself because we do not see the cords and ropes by which the fundamental
forces of the cosmos sustain our life. One remaining at this standpoint sees the
part of the whole as a truly independently existing being, as a monad, who somehow receives
information about the rest of the world from outside. But monism, as meant here, shows that one
can believe in this independence only so long as what is perceived
is not woven by thinking into the network of the world of concepts. When this happens, separate existence of parts
is revealed as a mere appearance due to perceiving. Man can find his self-enclosed total
existence within the universe only through the intuitive experience of thinking. Thinking
destroys the appearance due to perceiving, inserting our individual existence into the
life of the cosmos. The unity of the world of concepts, which
contains the objective perceptions, also embraces the content of
our subjective personality. Thinking shows us
reality in its true character as a self-enclosed unity, whereas the manifoldness of
perceptions is only its appearance determined by our organization. Recognition of the reality in contrast to
the appearance resulting from perceiving has always been the goal of human thinking. Science has striven to recognize perceptions
as realities by discovering the laws that connect
them. But where the view was held that
connections ascertained by human thinking had only a subjective significance, the real
reason for the unity of things was sought in some entity existing beyond the world to
be experienced (an inferred God, will, absolute
Spirit, etc.)!and on this basis, in addition to
knowledge of the connections that are recognizable through experience, one strove to
attain a second kind of knowledge which would go beyond experience and would reveal
the connection between experience and the ultimate entities existing beyond experience
(metaphysics arrived at by drawing conclusions and not by experience). From this
standpoint, it was thought that the reason we can grasp the connection of things through
strictly applied thinking is that an original creator built up the world according to logical
laws, and the source of our deeds was thought to be contained in the will of the creator. it
was not realized that thinking encompasses both subjective and objective in one grasp,
and that in the union of perception with concept full reality is mediated. Only as long as
we consider in the abstract form of concepts the laws pervading and determining
perceptions, do we deal in actual fact with something purely subjective. But the content
of the concept, which is attained – with the help of thinking – in order to add it to
perception, is not subjective. This content is not derived from the subject
but from reality. it is that part of reality that our perceiving
cannot reach. it is experience, but not
experience mediated through perceiving. One unable to recognize that the concept is
something real, thinks of it only in that abstract form in which he grasps it in his
consciousness. But this separation is due to our organization,
just as the separateness of perceptions is due to our organization. The tree that one perceives, has no existence
by itself. it is only a part of the great organism of
nature, and its existence is possible only in
a real connection with nature. An abstract concept has no reality in itself,
any more than a perception, taken by itself, has any reality. The perception is the part of reality that
is given objectively, the concept is the part
that is given subjectively (through intuition). Our spiritual organization tears reality into
these two factors. One factor
appears to perception, the other to intuition. Only the union of the two, that is, the
perception fitted systematically into the universe, is full reality. If we consider the mere
perception by itself, we do not have reality, but a disconnected chaos; if we consider by
itself the law that connects perceptions, we are dealing with mere abstract concepts. The
abstract concept does not contain reality, but thinking observation which considers
neither concept nor perception one-sidedly, but the union of both, does. Not even the most subjective orthodox idealist
will deny that we live within a reality (that we are rooted in it with our real existence). He only questions whether we also reach
ideally, i.e. in our cognition, what we actually experience. By contrast, monism shows
that thinking is neither subjective nor objective, but is a principle embracing both sides of
reality. When we observe with thinking, we carry out
a process that in itself belongs in the sequence of real occurrences. By means of thinking we overcome – within
experience itself – the one-sidedness of mere perceiving. We are not able through abstract conceptual
hypotheses (through pure conceptual reflection) to devise the nature of reality, but when
we find the ideas that belong to the perceptions we live within reality. The monist does
not try to add something to our experience that cannot be experienced (a Beyond), but
in concept and perception sees the real. He does not spin metaphysics out of mere abstract
concepts; he sees in the concept, as such, only one side of reality, namely, that side
which remains hidden from perceiving but having
meaning only in union with perceptions. Monism calls forth in man the conviction that
he lives in a world of reality and does not have to go beyond this world for a higher
reality that cannot be experienced. The monist
does not look for Absolute Reality anywhere but in experience, because he recognizes
that the content of experience is the reality!and he is satisfied by this reality, because he
knows that thinking has the power to guarantee it. What dualism looks for only behind
the world of observation, monism finds within it. Monism shows that in our cognition we
grasp reality, not in a subjective image which slips in between man and reality, but in its
true nature. for monism the conceptual content of the world
is the same for every human individual. according to monistic principles, the reason
one human individual regards another as akin to himself
is because it is the same world content that expresses itself in the other also. In the unitary world of concepts there are
not as many concepts of lions as there are individuals
who think of a lion, but only one concept, lion.
and the concept which “A” adds to his perception of a lion is the same concept as
“B” adds to his, only apprehended by a different
perceiving subject. Thinking
leads all perceiving subjects to the common ideal unity of all multiplicity. The one world
of ideas expresses itself in them as in a multiplicity of individuals. As long as man apprehends himself merely by means of self-perception,
he regards himself as this particular human being; as soon as he looks
toward the idea-world that lights up within him and embraces all particulars, he sees
absolute reality living and shining forth within
him. Dualism defines the divine primordial Being
as pervading and living in all men. Monism sees this common divine life in reality
itself. The ideal content of another human
being is also my content, and I regard it as a different content only so long as I perceive,
but no longer when I think. In his thinking each man embraces only a part
of the total idea-world, and to that extent individuals
differ one from another by the actual content of
their thinking. But these contents are within one self-enclosed
whole, which encompasses the content of all men’s thinking. In his thinking therefore, man takes hold
of the universal primordial Being pervading all humanity. A life within reality filled with the
content of thought is at the same time a life within God. The merely inferred, not to be
experienced Beyond is based on a misunderstanding on the part of those who believe that
the world in which we live does not contain within itself the cause and reason for its
existence. They do not recognize that through thinking
they find what they need to explain the perceptions. This is also why no speculation has ever brought
to light any content that has not been borrowed from the
reality that is given us. The God that is
assumed through abstract conclusions is nothing but a human being transplanted into the
Beyond; Schopenhauer’s will is the power of human will made absolute. Hartmann’s
unconscious primordial Being, composed of idea and will, is a combination of two
abstractions drawn from experience. Exactly the same is true of all other transcendent
principles that are not based on thinking which is experienced. In truth, the human spirit never goes beyond
the reality in which we live, nor is there any
need to do so, since everything we require in order to explain the world is within the
world. If philosophers eventually declare that they
are satisfied when they have deduced the world from principles they borrow from
experience and transplant into an hypothetical Beyond, then the same satisfaction
must also be possible, if the borrowed content is allowed to remain in this world
where, for thinking to be experienced, it belongs. All attempts to transcend the world are purely
illusory, and the principles transplanted from this world into the Beyond
do not explain the world any better than those within it!and thinking, properly understood,
does not demand any such transcendence at all, because a thought-content
can seek a perceptual content, together with which it forms a reality only within
the world, not outside it. The objects of
imagination, too, are contents which are valid only if they become representations that
refer to a perceptual content. Through this perceptual content they become
part of reality. A concept that is supposed to be filled with
a content from beyond the world given us, is
an abstraction to which no reality corresponds. We can think out only concepts of reality;
in order actually to find reality itself, we must also perceive. An absolute Being for which
a content is devised is an impossible assumption when thinking is properly understood. The monist does not deny the ideal; in fact
he considers a perceptual content, lacking its
ideal counterpart, not to be a complete reality; but in the whole sphere of thinking he
finds nothing that could make it necessary to deny the objective spiritual reality of
thinking and therefore leave the realm which thinking can experience. Monism regards
science that limits itself to a description of perceptions without penetrating to their
ideal complements, as being incomplete. But it regards as equally incomplete all abstract concepts that do not find their complements
in perceptions and nowhere fit into the network of concepts embracing the world to
be observed. therefore it can acknowledge
no ideas that refer to objective factors lying beyond our experience, which are supposed
to form the content of purely hypothetical metaphysics. All ideas of this kind which
humanity has produced, monism recognizes as abstractions borrowed from experience; it
is simply that the fact of the borrowing has been overlooked. Just as little, according to monistic principles,
could the aims of our action be derived from a Beyond outside mankind. Insofar as they are thought, they must originate
from human intuition. Man does not make the purposes of an objective
(existing beyond) primordial Being into his own individual purposes;
he pursues his own, given him by his moral imagination. The idea that realizes itself in a deed, man
detaches from the unitary idea-world, making it the foundation of his
will. Consequently, what come to expression
in his action are not commands projected from a Beyond into the world, but human
intuitions that are within the world. for monism acknowledges no world ruler who
sets our aims and directs our activity from outside. Man will find no such foundation of
existence, whose decisions he must fathom in order to discover the aims toward which
he is to guide his activity. He is referred back to himself. He himself must give content to his
activity. If he seeks for the determining causes of
his will outside the world in which he lives, then his search will be in vain. When he goes beyond the satisfaction of his
natural instincts, for which Mother Nature has provided,
then he must seek these causes in his own moral imagination, unless he finds it
more convenient to let himself be determined by the moral imagination of others. This means: either he must give up being active
altogether, or must act according to determinations he gives himself out of his world of
ideas, or which others give him from that world. When he gets beyond his bodily life of
instincts, and beyond carrying out the commands of others, then he is determined by
nothing but himself. He must act according to an impulse produced
by himself and determined by nothing else. This impulse is indeed determined ideally
in the unitary idea world, but in actual fact it is only through
man that it can be taken from that world and translated into reality. The reason for the actual translation of an
idea into reality through man, monism finds only in man himself. for idea to become deed, man must first will
before it can happen. Such will then has its foundation only in
man himself. therefore
ultimately it is man who determines his own deed. He is free. 1st Addition to the Revised Edition, 1918. In the second part of this book the attempt
has been made to give proof that freedom (spiritual
activity) is to be found in the reality of human deeds. To do this it was necessary to separate from
the total sphere of human deeds those actions that can be deemed free
by unbiased self-observation. They are the
deeds which prove to be the realization of ideal intuitions. No other deeds, if considered
without prejudice, can be regarded as free. But unbiased self-observation will lead man
to recognize that it is inherent in his nature
to progress along the path toward ethical intuitions and their realization. Yet this unprejudiced observation of man’s
ethical nature cannot arrive at an ultimate conclusion about
freedom by itself. for if intuitive thinking
had its source in some other being, if its being were not such as had its origin in itself,
then the consciousness of freedom, which springs from morality, would prove to be an
illusion. But the second part of this book finds its
natural support in the first part, where intuitive thinking is presented as an inner,
spiritual activity of man, which is experienced. To understand this nature of thinking in living
experience is at the same time to recognize the freedom of intuitive thinking!and if one
knows that this thinking is free, then one also recognizes that sphere of the will to
which freedom can be ascribed. Acting human
beings will consider that will as free to which the intuitive life in thinking, on the
basis of inner experience, can attribute a self-sustaining
essence. One unable to do this cannot
discover any altogether indisputable argument for the acceptance of freedom. The
experience which is referred to here finds intuitive thinking in consciousness, which
has reality not only in consciousness!and thereby
it is discovered that freedom is the characteristic feature of all deeds that have
their source in the intuitions of consciousness. 2nd Addition to the Revised Edition, 1918. The content of this book is built upon
intuitive thinking, of which the experience is purely spiritual, and through which, in
cognition, every single perception is placed within reality. This book intends to present
no more than can be surveyed through the experience of intuitive thinking. But it also
intends to present the kind of thought which this experienced thinking requires. it
requires that in the process of knowledge thinking is not denied as a self-dependent
experience. it requires that one does not deny its ability
to experience reality in union with perceptions, instead of looking for reality
only in a world lying outside this experience, an inferred world in relation
to which the human activity of thinking would be something merely subjective. – This characterizes thinking as the element
through which man gradually enters spiritually into reality. (it ought not to be possible to confuse this
world view, based on experienced thinking, with a mere rationalism.) On the other hand, it should be evident from
the whole spirit of this presentation that for
human knowledge, the perceptual element contains a reality-content only if it is grasped
by thinking. What characterizes reality as
reality cannot lie outside thinking. therefore it must not be imagined that the
physical kind of perceiving guarantees the only reality. What comes to meet us as perception is
something man must simply expect on his life journey. All he can ask is: Is one justified
in expecting, from the point of view resulting from the intuitively experienced thinking,
that it is possible for man to perceive not only physically but also spiritually? This can be
expected. for even though on the one hand intuitively
experienced thinking is an active process taking place in the human spirit,
on the other hand it is also spiritual perception grasped without a physical organ. it is a perception in which the perceiver
is himself active, and it is an activity of the self
which is also perceived. In intuitively experienced
thinking man is transferred into a spiritual world as perceiver. What comes to meet him
as perceptions within this world in the same way as the spiritual world of his own
thinking comes to meet him, man recognizes as a world of spiritual perception. This
world of perception has the same relationship to thinking as the world of physical
perception has on the physical side. When man experiences the world of spiritual
perception it will not appear foreign to him, because in intuitive thinking he already has
an experience which is of a purely spiritual character. A number of my writings which
have been published since this book first appeared, deal with such a world of spiritual
perception. The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity lays
the philosophical foundation for these later writings. for here the aim is to show that a properly
understood experience of thinking is already an experience of spirit. for this reason it appears to the author that
one able in all earnestness to enter into the
point of view of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity will not come to a standstill at
the entry into the world of spiritual perception. it
is true that by drawing conclusions from the content of this book it is not possible to
derive logically what is presented in my later books. But from a living grasp of what in
this book is meant by intuitive thinking, the further step will result quite naturally:
the actual entry into the world of spiritual perception. FIRST APPENDIX (Addition to the Revised Edition
of 1918) Various objections brought forward by philosophers
immediately after this book was first published induce me to add the following brief
statement to this revised edition. I can
well understand that there are readers for whom the rest of the book is of interest,
but who will regard the following as superfluous,
as a remote and abstract spinning of thoughts. They may well leave this short description
unread. However, problems arise
within philosophical world views which originate in certain prejudices on the part of the
philosophers, rather than in the natural sequence of human thinking in general. What has
so far been dealt with here appears to me to be a task that confronts every human being
who is striving for clarity about man’s being and his relationship to the world. What
follows, however, is rather a problem which certain philosophers demand should be
considered when such questions are under discussion as those dealt with here, because
through their whole way of thinking, they have created difficulties which do not
otherwise exist. If one simply ignores such problems, certain
people will soon come forward with accusations of dilettantism and
so on!and the opinion arises that the author of a discussion such as this book contains
has not thought out his position in regard to
those views he does not mention in the book. The problem to which I refer is this: There
are thinkers who are of the opinion that a particular difficulty exists when it is a
question of understanding how the soul life of
another person can affect one’s own (the soul life of the observer). They say: My
conscious world is enclosed within me; the conscious world of another person likewise
is enclosed within him. I cannot see into the world of another’s
consciousness. How, then,
do I come to know that we share the same world? A world view which considers that
from a conscious sphere it is possible to draw conclusions about an unconscious sphere
that can never become conscious, attempts to solve this difficulty in the following
way. This world view says: The content of my consciousness
is only a representative of a real world which I cannot consciously reach. In that real world lies the unknown cause
of the content of my consciousness. In that world is also my real being, of which
likewise I have in my consciousness only a representative!and
in it exists also the being of the other person who confronts me. What is experienced consciously by him has
its corresponding reality in his real being, independent of
his consciousness. This reality reacts on my
fundamental but unconscious being in the sphere that cannot become conscious, and in
this way a representative that is quite independent of my conscious experience is
produced in my consciousness. One sees here that to the sphere accessible
to my consciousness, hypothetically is added another
sphere, inaccessible to my consciousness, and this is done because it is believed that
we would otherwise be forced to maintain that the whole external world which seems to confront
me is only a world of my consciousness, and this would result in the
– solipsistic -absurdity that the other persons
also exist only in my consciousness. it is possible to attain clarity about this
problem, which has been created by several of the
more recent approaches to a theory of knowledge, if one endeavors to survey the matter
from the point of view that observes facts in accordance with their spiritual aspect,
as presented in this book. To begin with, what do I have before me when
I confront another personality? Let us consider what the very first impression
is. The first impression is the
physical, bodily appearance of the other person, given me as perception, then the audible
perception of what he is saying, and so on. I do not merely stare at all this; it sets
my thinking activity in motion. To the extent that I confront the other personality
with my thinking, the perceptions become transparent
to my soul. To the extent that I grasp the
perceptions in thinking, I am obliged to say that they are not at all what they appear
to be to the external senses. Within the perceptions as they appear directly
to the senses something else is revealed, namely what they
are indirectly. The fact that I bring them
before me means at the same time their extinction as mere appearances to the senses. But
what, in their extinction, they bring to revelation, this, for the duration of its effect on me,
forces me – as a thinking being – to extinguish my own thinking and to put in its place the
thinking of what is revealed!and this thinking I grasp as an experience that is like the
experience of my own thinking. I have really perceived the thinking of the
other. for the
direct perceptions, which extinguish themselves as appearances to the senses, are grasped
by my thinking, and this is a process that takes place completely within my
consciousness; it consists in the fact that the thinking of the other takes the place
of my thinking. The division between the two spheres of consciousness
is actually cancelled out through the extinction of the appearances
to the senses. In my consciousness this
expresses itself in the fact that in experiencing the content of the other’s consciousness
I am aware of my own consciousness as little
as I am aware of it in dreamless sleep. Just as
my day-consciousness is excluded in dreamless sleep, so in the perceiving of the foreign
content of consciousness, the content of my own is excluded. There are two reasons why
one tends to be deluded about these facts; one is that in perceiving the other person,
the extinction of the content of one’s own consciousness
is replaced not by unconsciousness as in sleep, but by the content of the other’s
consciousness; the other reason is that the alternation between extinction and re-appearance
of self-consciousness occurs too quickly to be noticed in ordinary life. – This whole problem cannot be solved by an
artificial construction of concepts which draws conclusions from what is conscious to
what can never become conscious, but by actual experience of what occurs in the union
of thinking with perception. Instances like the above often occur in regard
to many problems which appear in philosophical literature. Thinkers should seek the path to
unprejudiced observation in accordance with facts, both physical and spiritual, but
instead they erect an artificial construction of concepts, inserting this between themselves
and reality. Eduard von Hartmann, in an essay includes
my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity among philosophical works which are based on “epistemological
monism.” and this theory is rejected by him as one that cannot even be
considered. The reason for this is as follows. according to the viewpoint expressed in the
essay mentioned above, only three possible epistemological standpoints exist. The first is when a person remains at the
naive standpoint and takes perceived phenomena to
be realities existing outside of human consciousness. In this case critical insight is lacking. it is not recognized that after all one
remains with the content of one’s consciousness merely within one’s own consciousness. it is not realized that one is not dealing
with a “table-in-itself” but only with the object of
one’s own consciousness. One remaining at this standpoint, or returning
to it for any reason, is a naive realist. However, this standpoint is impossible, for
it overlooks the fact that consciousness has no other object than
itself. The second standpoint is when all this
is recognized and is taken into account fully. Then to begin with, one becomes a
transcendental idealist. As transcendental idealist one has to give
up hope that anything from a “thing-in-itself” could ever reach
human consciousness!and if one is consistent, then it is impossible not to become an absolute
illusionist. for the world one confronts is transformed into a mere sum of objects of
consciousness, and indeed only objects of one’s own consciousness. One is forced to think of other people too
– absurd though it is – as being present only as the content of one’s
own consciousness. according to von
Hartmann the only possible standpoint is the third one, transcendental realism. This view
assumes that “things-in-themselves” exist, but our consciousness cannot have direct
experience of them in any way. Beyond human consciousness – in a way that
remains unconscious – they are said to cause objects
of consciousness to appear in human consciousness. All we can do is to draw conclusions about
these “things-in-themselves’ ‘ from the merely represented content of our
consciousness which we experience. In the
essay mentioned above, Eduard von Hartmann maintains that “epistemological monism” – and this he considers my standpoint to be
– would in reality have to confess to one of the
three standpoints just mentioned; this is not done, because the epistemological monist
does not draw the actual conclusion of his presuppositions. The essay goes on to say:
“If one wants to find out what position a supposed monist occupies in regard to a
theory of knowledge, it is only necessary to ask
him certain questions and compel him to answer them. Voluntarily he will not give any opinion on
these points, and he will go to any length to avoid answering direct questions
on them, because each answer will show that as a monist his claim to belong to some other
standpoint than one of the above three, in relation to a theory of knowledge, is out
of the question. These questions are as follows:
1) Are things continuous or intermittent in their existence? If the answer is: They are
continuous, then we are dealing with one form or another of naive realism. If the answer
is: They are intermittent, then we have transcendental idealism. But if the answer is:
They are on the one hand continuous (as content of the absolute consciousness, or as
unconscious representations, or existing as possibilities of perceptions), on the other
hand they are intermittent (as content of limited
consciousness), then we recognize transcendental realism. If three persons sit at a table, how many
examples of the table are present? He who answers: One, is a naive realist; he
who answers: Three, is a transcendental idealist; but he who answers:
Four, is a transcendental realist. This last
answer does indeed presuppose that it is legitimate to put under the one heading, ’examples of the table’ something so dissimilar
as the one table as thing-in-itself, and the three tables as perceptual objects in the
three consciousnesses. Whoever finds this too
much will have to answer ‘one and three’ instead of ‘four.’) If two persons are in a
room by themselves, how many examples of these persons are present? One answering:
Two, is a naive realist; one answering: Four (namely, one ‘I’ and one ‘other’ in
each of the two consciousnesses), is a transcendental
idealist; but one answering: Six (namely, two persons as ‘things-in-themselves’
and four objects of representation of persons in the
two consciousnesses), is a transcendental realist. One wishing to prove that
epistemological monism is a different standpoint from any of these three, would have to
answer each of the above questions differently, and I cannot imagine what such answers
could be.” The answers of The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity would be: 1) He who only grasps the perceptual content: and takes this to be the
reality, is a naive realist; he does not make it
clear to himself that he can actually regard the perceptual content as enduring only so
long as he is looking at it and he must, therefore, think of what he has before him as
intermittent. However, as soon as he realizes that reality
is present only when the perceptual content is permeated by thought,
he reaches the insight that the perceptual content that comes to meet him as intermittent,
is revealed as continuous when it is permeated with what thinking elaborates. therefore: the perceptual content, grasped
by a thinking that is also experienced, is continuous,
whereas what is only perceived must be thought of as intermittent – that is, if it
were real, which is not the case.) When three
persons are sitting at a table, how many examples of the table are present? One table only
is present; but as long as the three persons remain at their perceptual pictures they will
have to say: These perceptual pictures are no reality at all!and as soon as they pass
over to the table as grasped in their thinking,
there is revealed to them the one reality of the
table; with their three contents of consciousness they are united in this one reality.) When two persons are in a room by themselves,
how many examples of these persons are present? There are most definitely not six examples
present – not even in the sense of transcendental realism – there are two. Only to begin with, each of the two persons
has merely the unreal perceptual-picture of himself
as well as that of the other person. Of
these pictures there are four, and the result of their presence in the thinking-activity
of the two persons is that reality is grasped. In their thinking-activity each of the persons
goes beyond the sphere of his own consciousness;
within each of them lives the sphere of the other person’s consciousness, as well as
his own. At moments when this merging takes
place, the persons are as little confined within their own consciousness as they are
in sleep. But the next moment, consciousness of the
merging with the other person returns, so that the consciousness of each person – in
his experience of thinking – grasps himself and the other. I know that the transcendental realist describes
this as a relapse into naive realism. But then I have already pointed out in this
book that naive realism retains its justification when applied to a thinking that
is experienced. The transcendental realist
does not enter into the actual facts concerned in the process of knowledge; he excludes
himself from them by the network of thoughts in which he gets entangled. Also, the
monism which is presented in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity should not be called
“epistemological,” but rather, if a name is wanted, a monism of thought. All this has been
misunderstood by Eduard von Hartmann. He did not enter into the specific points
raised in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, but
maintained that I had made an attempt to combine Hegel’s universalistic panlogism
with Hume’s individualistic phenomenalism whereas in actual fact the Philosophy
of Spiritual Activity has no similarity with these two views it is supposed
to combine. (This is also the reason I did
not feel inclined to compare my view with the “epistemological monism” of Johannes
Rehmke, for example. In fact, the viewpoint of the Philosophy of
Spiritual Activity is utterly different from what Eduard von Hartmann
and others call epistemological monism.) SECOND APPENDIX In this Appendix is repeated, in all essentials,
what served as a kind of “foreword” to the
first edition of this book (1894). In this edition I place it as an appendix
because it conveys the kind of thoughts that occupied
me when I wrote the book twenty-five years ago, rather than having any direct bearing
on the content. it is not possible to omit it
altogether, since the opinion crops up, again and again, that because of my writings on
the science of the spirit, I have to suppress some of my earlier writings. [footnote: Only
the very first opening sentences (in the first edition) are left out here, because to-day
they seem to me to be quite irrelevant; whereas
to say the rest seems to me as necessary to-day as it did then, despite the prevalent scientific
trend of thought, and in fact just because of
it.] Our age is one in which truth must be sought
in the depths of human nature. Of Schiller’s
two well-known paths, it will be the second that most appeals to modern man: “Truth seek we both – Thou in the life without
thee and around; I in the heart within. By both can Truth alike be found. The healthy eye can through the world the
great Creator track; The healthy heart is but the glass which gives
Creation back.” “Wahrheit suchen wir beide, du aussen im
Leben, ich innen In dem Herren, und so findet sie jeder gewiss. Ist das Auge gesund, so begegnet es aussen
dam Schöpfer; Ist es das Herz, dann gewiss spiegelt es innen
die Welt.” (translated by E. Bulwer Lytton) A truth which comes to us from outside always
bears the stamp of uncertainty. Only that
truth which appears to us as coming from within ourselves do we trust. Only truth can bring us security in developing
our individual powers. In someone
tormented by doubts, the powers are weakened. He can find no goal for his creative
powers in a world that appears to him as an enigma. No longer do we merely want to believe; we
want to know. Belief demands
acknowledgement of truths which are not quite clear to us. But what is not clearly
recognized goes against what is individual in us, which wants to experience everything
in the depth of its being. Only that kind of knowing satisfies us which
is not subjected to any external standard, but springs from the
inner experience of our personality. Nor do we want a kind of knowledge which has
become hardened into formulas and is stored away, valid for all time. Each of us considers himself justified in
proceeding from his immediate experience, from the facts he
knows, and from there going forward to gain knowledge of the whole universe. We strive for certainty in knowledge, but
each in his own way. Our scientific teachings, too, should no longer
take a form that implies their acceptance to
be a compulsion. Today no one should give a scientific work
a title like that Fichte once gave a book: “A Pellucid Report for the
Broader Public concerning the Essential Nature of Recent Philosophies. An Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.” To-day no
one is to be compelled to understand. We demand neither acceptance nor agreement
from anyone unless his own particular, individual
need urges him to the view in question. Today even the still immature human being,
the child, should not have knowledge crammed into him; rather we should seek to
develop his faculties so that he no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but understands. I am under no illusion concerning these characteristics
of the present age. I know how
much of a stereotypical attitude, lacking all individuality, is prevalent everywhere. But I
also know that many of my contemporaries strive to order their lives in the direction I
have indicated. To them I would dedicate this book. it is not meant to be the “only
possible” way that leads to truth, but it describes a path taken by one whose heart
is set upon truth. This book at first leads the reader into abstract
regions, where thought must have sharp outlines if it is to reach secure conclusions. But the reader is also led out of these arid
concepts into concrete life. I am convinced that one must raise oneself
up into the ethereal realm of concepts if one wants to
experience existence in all its aspects. One
understanding only the pleasures of the senses, misses the essential enjoyments of life. oriental sages make their disciples live a
life of resignation and asceticism for years before they impart their own wisdom to them. The Western world no longer demands
pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation for science, but it does require
that one should have the good will to withdraw
occasionally from the immediate impressions of life and enter the realm of pure thought. The spheres of life are many, and for each
of them special sciences develop. But life itself
is a whole, and the more the sciences strive to penetrate into the depths of the separate
spheres, the more they withdraw themselves from seeing the world as a living unity. There must be a knowledge which seeks in the
separate sciences the principle that leads man back to the fulness of life once more. Through his knowledge the researcher in a
special branch of science wants to become conscious of the world and how it works; in
this book the aim is a philosophical one: science itself must become a living, organic
entity. The various branches of science are preliminary
stages of the science striven for here. A similar relation is to be found in art. The composer’s work is based on the theory
of composition. This latter is a knowledge which is a necessary
prerequisite for composing. In composing, the law of composition serves
life, that is, it serves true reality. In exactly the same sense philosophy is an
art. All genuine philosophers have truly been
artists in concepts. for them, human ideas become the material
for art, and the scientific method becomes artistic technique. Abstract thinking thereby gains concrete,
individual life. Ideas become life-forces. We then have not just a knowledge of things,
but we have made knowledge into a real organism, ruled
by its own laws; the reality of our active consciousness has risen beyond a mere passive
reception of truths. How philosophy as an art is related to human
freedom (spiritual activity), what freedom is, and whether we do or can participate in
it, is the principal problem dealt with in my
book. All other scientific discussions are included
solely because they ultimately throw light on this question which, in my opinion,
is man’s most immediate concern. These
pages offer a “Philosophy of Freedom.” All science would be nothing but the satisfaction
of idle curiosity if it did not strive to elevate the value of existence of the human
personality. The sciences attain their true
value only through presenting the significance of their results in relation to man. The
ultimate goal of the individual cannot be the ennoblement of one single soul-faculty
only, but a development of all the capacities that
slumber within us. All knowledge has value
only insofar as it is a contribution to the all-round unfolding of man’s entire nature. therefore, in this book the relation between
science and life is not regarded in the sense that man must bow down to ideas and let them
enslave him; rather the relation should be that man conquers the world of ideas in order
to make use of it for his human aims, which go beyond the aims of mere science. One must be able to confront the idea in living
experience, or else fall into bondage to it. This is THE END of, THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL
ACTIVITY, By RUDOLF STEINER Thanks for listening. Please subscribe, if you liked this video,
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I go for a walk therefore I am. What it looks like to me. Thinking. Consciousness. Observing. When I think about a rose I have a relationship with it. Real thinking must always be willed.

Iam 47 mins into this book,
from a Christian point of view
I see that he is trying to explain that threw intuitive thought input
one can break the desire of the flesh thus results,
in there true freedom
Though I am familiar with intuitive input on occasion which leaves a longing for more
it seems he's alluding to future events in one's life instead of past
I only wish that I could apply this


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