Sunday, December 20, 2009


THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM can be seen as the crowning achievement of nineteenth-century philosophy. It answers all the problems of knowledge and morality that philosophers had raised, argued over, and eventually left unsolved with the conclusion that “we can never know”. Yet this great achievement received no recognition, and only when Steiner had acquired a large following of people thankful for all that he had given them of his spiritual revelation, did there arise the desire to read also his earlier work, upon which he always insisted his whole research was firmly based. Perhaps if Steiner had spent the rest of his life expounding his philosophy, he would today be recognized throughout the world as a major philosopher; yet his achievement in going forward himself to develop the science of the spirit is much the greater, and this will surely be recognized in time. Indeed, philosophy has got itself a bad name, perhaps from its too-frequent negative results, and it might even be better to consider the Philosophy of Freedom not just as a chapter of philosophy, but as the key to a whole way of life.

This is Steiner's most Important philosophical work that deals both with epistemology, the study of how man knows himself and the world, and with the issue of human freedom. In the first half of the book Steiner focuses on the activity of thinking in order to demonstrate the true nature of knowledge. There he shows the fallacy of the contemporary idea of thinking, pointing out that the prevailing belief in the limits to knowledge is a self-imposed limit that contradicts its own claim to truth. The possibility for freedom is taken up in the second half of the book. The Issue is not political freedom, but something more subtle; freedom of the will. There are those who maintain that man's thoughts and actions are Just as determined as a chemical reaction or a honey bee's behavior. Steiner points again to the activity of thinking, from which arises the possibility of free human action.