Steiner's Philosophy, Pt. 2
- To repeat the conclusion of Pt. One:
IDEAS SPIRITUAL (IDEAL) THINKING
REPRESENTATIONS I MENTAL
OR MENTAL PICTURES I PICTURING
PERCEPTS PHYSICAL PERCEPTION
Observation with our senses gives us 'percepts'; we draw concepts from the spiritual world by intuition; and then we match each percept to our concepts. A middle entity is created by this pairing, the vorstellungen, literally "represention" or mental picture. For instance, the physical lion I see with my eyes, the concept "lion" is the pure idea of one I draw by intuition from the ideal world---and my mental picture of "lion" is the middle ground. Lastly, our feeling of ourselves makes the whole cognitive process an individual one. Feeling is individual, not universal like thinking.
In Steiner's philosophy there are thus 4 Levels of consciousness:
1. Pure thinking in ideas & concepts---gained through intuition;
2. Mental pictures or individualized concepts---gained through imagination;
3. Perceptions----gained through observation;
4. Feeling of all this as personal---gained as a secondary result of sensation.
Die Philosophie der Freiheit, Part Two
In the second half of the book, Steiner goes on to consider what influences our actions. He distinguishes between the MOTIVE (something temporary, chosen for a particular action), and the "DRIVING FORCE" of a person (the permanent drives in us, which result in our character). This is what inclines us to prefer one motive over another.
He once again speaks of the 4 Levels as 4 types of driving forces that may make us act:
Ideas & Concepts gained by pure thinking (intuition).
Percepts gained by the senses.
Mental pictures gained by combining ideas & percepts.
Feeling- sensations of pleasure/pain accompanying percepts.
A preponderance of one or the other in a person makes one type of "characterological disposition" or Temperament. (Yes, that's the 4 temperaments--- Fire, Earth, Air, Water----although he doesn't call them that in this book.)
Now, our MORAL knowledge he describes as being gained in a similar way as other knowledge: observation shows us a percept (a situation); we draw by what he calls "Moral Intuition" the Idea of what is right, and match it to the situation, creating a Moral Imagination as we do so---just as combining the concept & percept makes a mental picture.
So knowing what is the moral thing to do is a constant process of matching our pure ideas of the Good to each situation we find ourselves in; this is why what is "good" cannot be written down once and for all, like moral rules to follow which are always right. (To quote Scripture, in Deut. 30, "This day is set before thee Good and Evil---Choose thou.")
Then, our feelings experience all this on a personal, individual, subjective level: in moral knowing, this leads us to "Moral Technique", or in other words how to make the Good a reality in our individual circumstances.
Bernard Lievegood, who has worked extensively with the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, pictured his understanding of Steiner's moral cognition in his "Forming Curative Communities" in this way:
KNOWLEDGE IN GENERAL MORAL KNOWLEDGE
Concept or Idea--- Intuition Moral Intuition
Mental picture--concept related to Moral Imagination-
various percepts A picture of this related to the
perceived individual situation
Feeling ---how concepts gain Moral Technique -How
concrete life to make that image a reality
When the 'percept' passes directly into being the driving force of an action, that's instinct (I see something and immediately act). Or, feeling may be made the driving force of your actions, in which case you are acting out of subjective reasons that only have meaning for you personally. Or, mental pictures of deeds done by self or by others seen before can be made the driving force---"good" actions you have personally seen, or virtuous stories from Scripture or other literature, etc. But in all these cases, the subjective disposition affects the choice of a motive for one's action.
When pure Ideas, however, are made the driving force, the acting is out of the universal, NOT the personal. The highest driving force thus is "...an action determined purely and simply by its own ideal content. Such an action presupposes the capacity for moral intuitions (Ch. 9)." This does not mean each man merely following his own will, as some have interpreted Steiner in a libertine way; because it can be true only for the man who is able to think in pure ideas and draw these by moral intuition from the ideal world. Without the moral intuition it cannot be true, so an undeveloped person cannot do this. But when one can, one acts purely out of love for the deed itself that one truly recognizes to be Good.
In short, just as Steiner strove to demonstrate that we are not limited in our thinking but are able to know Truth ---because when we experience pure Ideas through Intuition we are having spiritual experience not limited by the body or senses--- so he leads the reader to know that reaching up to this level in spirit also enables one to know the Good and to make this pure intuition the source of acting. In this case one truly acts freely, out of the highest in oneself, not influenced by the body or subjective drives.
Steiner said that the proper English title for his book would be The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, because only action from this source is truly FREE.