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The Philosophy of Freedom and Ayn Randian Philosophy of Ego

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  • Durward Starman
    ******* Right, Tom, this is indeed the crucial point. Religious people in our world believe you have to have a fixed moral code to live by, and as soon as you
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 18, 2012
      ******* Right, Tom, this is indeed the crucial point. Religious people in our world believe you have to have a fixed moral code to live by, and as soon as you begin to talk about being a free human being, they react with fear because, if you stopped standing over yourself like a stern judge imposing that code on your actions, they're afraid you'd become a monster. They think every free spirit would become a libertine, doing whatever he felt like doing regardless of what it did to other people.

         But do all people who live for themselves become monsters? If not, why not?

          We do not because of human nature, because it is not what people fear it is. The people who join backward religions and go and commit suicide at their beckoning do so because they prefer a dictator they can believe in to being free. Wilhelm Reich saw this same phenomenon lead to the rise of Hitler.


        Dr. Steiner said that a person who would train himself to be able to reproduce the concepts in his philosophy of freedom the way a pianist reproduces a piece of classical music on the piano, would achieve freedom in his thinking. I've spent over 33 years doing so and can testify it is true; however, doing a very brief version of it here on the Internet is more like reducing a piano concerto to a jingle for a 30-second commercial. ;-) That said however, I'll give it a try, so that we are all on the same page.

        Steiner wrote his book not to arrive at a theoretical answer to the question of human knowledge, but to get the answer to the question, is it possible for human beings to be free? We can be imprisoned or slaves and thus have no freedom from outside causes, but even if we don't, if we are impelled to act by subconscious motives (as the child cries for milk), then freedom is impossible. Therefore the question of whether it's possible for us to be free turns on the answer to the question, is it possible for us to know the reasons for our actions? If our knowledge is severely limited, as many philosophies teach, then we can't be free.

         So Steiner then goes through the whole process of knowing, step-by-step. Untold numbers of philosophies starting with some of the ancient Greeks in the fourth century BC all begin the same way, by criticizing perception as unreliable. Steiner deliberately does not do this, but instead begins with thinking. We can have no doubt about its existence, BECAUSE WE PRODUCE IT. (Of course people who want to start by denying everything objective find a way to even do this these days, but then if they believe their thinking may come from unknowable sources and have no rational basis, I believe other people have no need to listen to them.) ;-)  When we think, we draw a concept from the ideal world by intuition and match it to whatever we perceive -- -- -- such as the concept "triangle" is matched to the perception of all triangular objects ( figures of three sides whose inner angles add up to 180°). All thinkers thinking the concept triangle are thinking the same idea. We participate in something universal when we think, unlike our perception which differs from one person to another -- the exact opposite of what philosophers usually try to enunciate as the truth who start out with the perceived world as the one common to all and our thinking as a little subjective world inside us. 

        Our consciousness is a constant matching up of the ideas gained through pure thinking and our perceptions. An idea related to a physical perception is what Steiner calls by the German term "vorstellungen", representation or mental picture. There is only one concept "lion", but my mental picture of a lion is that concept related to all my perceptions of lions. Then, our feeling of ourselves as individuals makes this whole cognitive process an individual one. So he describes 4 levels, as I see it:

      CONCEPTS & IDEAS                                  SPIRITUAL or IDEAL WORLD

      MENTAL PICTURES                                   Spiritual related to Physical

      PERCEPTIONS                                           PHYSICAL WORLD

      FEELING of all this as personal                    Individual having the cognition.

        Once he establishes this outline of how we know anything, in the second half of the book he goes on to consider what influences our action, and how conscious we are of acting. He draws a distinction between two things: the motive, something temporarily chosen for a particular action, and the driving force of a person, the permanent drives in us which result in our character, that inclines us to prefer one or another motive for action. These four levels he has established are 4 types of driving forces which may make us act:

      Ideas and concepts gained by pure thinking (intuition)

      Percepts gained by the senses

      Mental pictures gained by combining ideas and 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 four temperaments.) So there are four types of people and four types of driving forces they may have.

         Here is how he describes moral knowledge: observation shows us a percept (a situation); we draw by moral intuition the idea of what is right and match it to the situation (just as in general knowing our thinking intuits a concept which we match to a given observation). We create a moral imagination as we do so (just as combining the concept and percept makes a "mental picture"). Then, our feelings experience all this on a personal level--- in moral knowing this leads us to moral technique or how to make the Good a reality in our individual circumstances.

      (Here, for comparison, is how Lievegood pictured his understanding of Steiner's moral cognition in his "Forming Curative Communities":
      General Knowing                                                                     Moral Knowing
      Concept or Idea----Intuition                                                   Moral Intuition

      Mental Picture ---concept related to various percepts               Moral Imagination-A picture of this related to the perceived individual     

      Feeling ---How concepts gain concrete life                              Moral Technique -how to make that image a reality

      PERCEPTS                                                                            SITUATIONS)

        Now,when the percept passes directly into being the driving force of an action, that is "instinct" or blind urge; or, feeling may be made the driving force; or mental pictures of deeds done by self or by others seen before may be. In all these cases, the subjective disposition affects the choice of a motive for one's actions. But when pure ideas are made the driving force for an action, 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)."

        Acting out of the ideal world of pure ideas therefore is free action, not influenced by the body or subjective drives as it still is in the other three cases. This is why Steiner suggested the title for his book in English should be the philosophy of "spiritual activity", because only action that has as its basis an idea intuited from the ideal or spiritual world is free. 

      ******So you're quite right, Tom, Rand & Steiner are quite complementary up to a point. In fact, I would say their philosophies are very complementary, but in trying to live out their philosophy, Rand failed. A person can only be a free spirit and live a good life, meaning doing good to others, only if they have the capacity for moral intuition, in other words being able to draw from the ideal world what is the correct thing to do in each given situation, and not simply following ones drives, feelings or old images of what was supposedly good. ( Of course, from Steiner's point of view, Goethe may have been a good 'philosopher' but certainly didn't practice what he 'preached'. Goethe humiliated his mistress for years by refusing to marry her, as I heard Albert Schweitzer point out; Ayn Rand humiliated her husband and drove him into alcoholism by following a blind urge for an affair with a younger man. )

        I think that is the catch with a philosophy of freedom: it is dependent on having moral intuition, on being able to intuit what is the moral thing to do in each given situation and make that the driving force of your own actions. If we make blind urges, feelings, or mental pictures the motivation for our deeds, we will not truly be being free. This is Steiner's take on the old contradiction between freedom and necessity: "I can be free only when I make myself do only what is right". When people hear this for the first time it sounds contradictory, because they involuntarily picture it as standing over yourself imposing morality on yourself --- but as the Master said, "My burden is easy, my yoke is light." Or as Goethe said, "It is easy, but the easy is hard." What is hard and brings misery, as Ayn Rand demonstrated in her life, is insisting on keeping lower motivations while trying to be a free spirit. 

        To put it all simply, her philosophy and Aristotle's is absolutely true, that the purpose of man's life is to be happy and to live up to his own ideals, no one else's -- but first a man must know himself (Gnothi seauton!), what his nature is, and what will truly make him happy.



      To: steiner@yahoogroups.com
      From: fairoaks@...
      Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2012 22:59:06 +0000
      Subject: [steiner] Re: Pre and Post Steiner


       I found this in Ayn Rand's essay THE OBJECTIVIST ETHICS.
      "The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose."

      That sounds like Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom, almost. Steiner adds the question: What is man's highest pleasure? This brings in the element of ideals that seems to be narrowly fixed with Rand. Steiner has a long chapter examining the pursuit of happiness in POF Chapter 13 The Value Of Life. He concludes our main concern is not the pursuit of "happiness" as such, but we are driven by a desire to achieve our moral ideals, which would be individual, and could cause us great misery with only brief moments of happiness. So this self-fulfillment doesn't necessarily lead to selfishness, but could also lead to helping others, if that was a "freely" selected ideal by the individual.

       [46] "Moral ideals have their root in the moral imagination of man. Their realization depends on the desire for them being sufficiently intense to overcome pains and agonies. They are man's own intuitions. In them his spirit braces itself to action. They are what he wills, because their realization is his highest pleasure. He needs no Ethical theory first to forbid him to strive for pleasure and then to prescribe to him what he shall strive for. He will, of himself, strive for moral ideals provided his moral imagination is sufficiently active to inspire him with the intuitions, which give strength to his will to overcome all resistance."  
      Tom Last

      --- In steiner@yahoogroups.com, "juancompostella" <juancompostella@...> wrote:
      > --- In steiner@yahoogroups.com, Stephen Clarke hozhonahasglii@ wrote:
      > >
      > > Some interesting thinking and original ideas here on these subjects, esp. on the POF.
      > >
      > > Odd, but nice.
      > >
      > >  
      > > No complaints from me.
      > >
      > > Stephen
      > Odd it is, indeed. Rand might have actually been closer to Aristotle than most people even think; a latter-day disciple in the vein of Strato of Lampsachus, who succeeded Theophrastus after 35 years, when his nominee was overruled by some higher council. Apparently, Theophrastus had Neleius (his nominee for successorship) take both his and Aristotle's libraries taken away and kept until the estate of Neleius was found by the book-buyer, Apellicon in the 1st century BC.
      > Thereupon, Apellicon sold them three ways; to Athens, Pergamum, and Rome.
      > So, Ayn Rand could be a 'Stratos' reincarnated for the sake of the mineralized west in the 20th century, and wanting to redeem *himself* to the idea of ego consciousness as the maximum supreme, when we finally take it to the evil forces that hold sway today.
      > I think Ayn Rand had the idea of an individual human being as happy and self-fulfilling as her main goal. Would that be right?
      > Juan

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