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The Philosophy of Freedom
GA 4

Preface to the first edition 1894

[ 1 ] In the following is reproduced, in all essentials, what stood as a preface in the first edition of this book. Since it shows the mood of thought out of which I wrote this book twenty-five years ago, rather than having any direct bearing on its contents, I include it here as an appendix. I do not want to omit it altogether, because the opinion keeps cropping up that I need to suppress some of my earlier writings on account of my later ones on spiritual science. Only the very first introductory sentences of this preface (in the first edition) have been altogether omitted here, because today they seem to me quite irrelevant. But the rest of what was said seems to me necessary even today, in spite of, indeed, just because of the natural scientific manner of thinking of our contemporaries.

[ 2 ] Our age can only accept truth from the depths of human nature. Of Schiller's two well-known paths, it is the second that will mostly be chosen at the present time:

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.

(Translation by E. Bulwer Lytton.)

A truth which comes to us from outside always bears the stamp of uncertainty. We can believe only what appears to each one of us in our own hearts as truth.

[ 3 ] Only the truth can give us assurance in developing our individual powers. Whoever is tortured by doubts finds his powers lamed. In a world full of riddles, he can find no goal for his creative energies.

[ 4 ] We no longer want merely to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of truths which we do not fully comprehend. But things we do not fully comprehend are repugnant to the individual element in us, which wants to experience everything in the depths of its inner being. The only knowledge which satisfies us is one which is subject to no external standards but springs from the inner life of the personality.

[ 5 ] Again, we do not want any knowledge of the kind that has become frozen once and for all into rigid academic rules, preserved in encyclopedias valid for all time. Each of us claims the right to start from the facts that lie nearest to hand, from his own immediate experiences, and thence to ascend to a knowledge of the whole universe. We strive after certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.

[ 6 ] Our scientific doctrines, too, should no longer be formulated as if we were unconditionally compelled to accept them. None of us would wish to give a scientific work a title like Fichte's “A Pellucid Account for the General Public concerning the Real Nature of the Newest Philosophy. An Attempt to Compel the Readers to Understand.” Today nobody should be compelled to understand. From anyone who is not driven to a certain view by his own individual needs, we demand no acknowledgment or agreement. Even with the immature human being, the child, we do not nowadays cram knowledge into it, but we try to develop its capacities so that it will no longer need to be compelled to understand, but will want to understand.

[ 7 ] I am under no illusion about these characteristics of my time. I know how much the tendency prevails to make things impersonal and stereotyped. But I know equally well that many of my contemporaries try to order their lives in the kind of way I have indicated. To them I would dedicate this book. It is not meant to give “the only possible” path to the truth, but is meant to describe the path taken by one for whom truth is the main concern.

[ 8 ] The book leads at first into somewhat abstract regions, where thought must draw sharp outlines if it is to reach clearly defined positions. But the reader will also be led out of these arid concepts into concrete life. I am indeed fully convinced that one must raise oneself into the ethereal realm of concepts if one would experience every aspect of existence. Whoever appreciates only the pleasures of the senses is unacquainted with life's sweetest savors. The oriental sages make their disciples live a life of renunciation and asceticism for years before they impart to them their own wisdom. The western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic habits as a preparation for science, but it does require the willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and to betake oneself into the realm of pure thought.

[ 9 ] The realms of life are many. For each one, special sciences develop. But life itself is a unity, and the more deeply the sciences try to penetrate into their separate realms, the more they withdraw themselves from the vision of the world as a living whole. There must be a knowledge which seeks in the separate sciences the elements for leading man back once more to the fullness of life. The scientific specialist seeks through his findings to develop awareness of the world and its workings; in this book the aim is a philosophical one—that knowledge itself shall become organically alive. The separate sciences are stages on the way to that knowledge we are here trying to achieve. A similar relationship exists in the arts. The composer works on the basis of the theory of composition. This theory is a collection of rules which one has to know in order to compose. In composing, the rules of the theory become the servants of life itself, of reality. In exactly the same sense, philosophy is an art. All real philosophers have been artists in the realm of concepts. For them, human ideas were their artists' materials and scientific method their artistic technique. Abstract thinking thus takes on concrete individual life. The ideas become powerful forces in life. Then we do not merely have knowledge about things, but have made knowledge into a real self-governing organism; our actual working consciousness has risen beyond a mere passive reception of truths.

[ 10 ] How philosophy as an art is related to human freedom, what freedom is, and whether we do, or can, participate in it—this is the main theme of my book. All other scientific discussions are included only because they ultimately throw light on these questions, which are, in my opinion, the most immediate concern of mankind. These pages offer a “Philosophy of Freedom”.

[ 11 ] All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity did it not strive to raise the value of existence for the personality of man. The sciences attain their true value only by showing the human significance of their results. The ultimate aim of the individual can never be the cultivation of a single faculty, but only the development of all the capacities that slumber within us. Knowledge has value only in so far as it contributes to the all-round development of the whole nature of man.

[ 12 ] This book, therefore, conceives the relationship between science and life, not in such a way that man must bow down before an idea and devote his powers to its service, but in the sense that he masters the world of ideas in order to use them for his human aims, which transcend those of mere science.

[ 13 ] One must be able to confront an idea and experience it; otherwise one will fall into its bondage.

Zweiter Anhang

[ 1 ] In dem Folgenden wird in allem Wesentlichen wiedergegeben, was als eine Art «Vorrede» in der ersten Auflage dieses Buches stand. Da es mehr die Gedankenstimmung gibt, aus der ich vor fünfundzwanzig Jahren das Buch niederschrieb, als daß es mit dem Inhalte desselben unmittelbar etwas zu tun hätte, setze ich es hier als «Anhang» her. Ganz weglassen möchte ich es aus dem Grunde nicht, weil immer wieder die Ansicht auftaucht, ich habe wegen meiner späteren geisteswissenschaftlichen Schriften etwas von meinen früheren Schriften zu unterdrücken.

[ 2 ] Unser Zeitalter kann die Wahrheit nur aus der Tiefe des menschlichen Wesens schöpfen wollen. 1Ganz weggelassen sind hier nur die allerersten Eingangssätze (der ersten Auflage) dieser Ausführungen, die mir heute ganz unwesentlich erscheinen. Was aber des weiteren darin gesagt ist, scheint mir auch gegenwärtig trotz der naturwissenschaftlichen Denkart unserer Zeitgenossen, ja gerade wegen derselben, zu sagen notwendig. Von Schillers bekannten zwei Wegen:

«Wahrheit suchen wir beide, du außen im Leben, ich innen
In dem Herzen, und so findet sie jeder gewiß.
Ist das Auge gesund, so begegnet es außen dem Schöpfer;
Ist es das Herz, dann gewiß spiegelt es innen die Welt»

wird der Gegenwart vorzüglich der zweite frommen. Eine Wahrheit, die uns von außen kommt, trägt immer den Stempel der Unsicherheit an sich. Nur was einem jeden von uns in seinem eigenen Innern als Wahrheit erscheint, daran mögen wir glauben.

[ 3 ] Nur die Wahrheit kann uns Sicherheit bringen im Entwickeln unserer individuellen Kräfte. Wer von Zweifeln gequält ist, dessen Kräfte sind gelähmt. In einer Welt, die ihm rätselhaft ist, kann er kein Ziel seines Schaffens finden.

[ 4 ] Wir wollen nicht mehr bloß glauben; wir wollen wissen. Der Glaube fordert Anerkennung von Wahrheiten, die wir nicht ganz durchschauen. Was wir aber nicht ganz durchschauen, widerstrebt dem Individuellen, das alles mit seinem tiefsten Innern durchleben will. Nur das Wissen befriedigt uns, das keiner äußeren Norm sich unterwirft, sondern aus dem Innenleben der Persönlichkeit entspringt.

[ 5 ] Wir wollen auch kein solches Wissen, das in eingefrorenen Schulregeln sich ein für allemal ausgestaltet hat, und in für alle Zeiten gültigen Kompendien aufbewahrt ist. Wir halten uns jeder berechtigt, von seinen nächsten Erfahrungen, seinen unmittelbaren Erlebnissen auszugehen, und von da aus zur Erkenntnis des ganzen Universums aufzusteigen. Wir erstreben ein sicheres Wissen, aber jeder auf seine eigene Art.

[ 6 ] Unsere wissenschaftlichen Lehren sollen auch nicht mehr eine solche Gestalt annehmen, als wenn ihre Anerkennung Sache eines unbedingten Zwanges wäre. Keiner von uns möchte einer wissenschaftlichen Schrift einen Titel geben, wie einst Fichte: «Sonnenklarer Bericht an das größere Publikum über das eigentliche Wesen der neuesten Philosophie. Ein Versuch, die Leser zum Verstehen zu zwingen.» Heute soll niemand zum Verstehen gezwungen werden. Wen nicht ein besonderes, individuelles Bedürfnis zu einer Anschauung treibt, von dem fordern wir keine Anerkennung, noch Zustimmung. Auch dem noch unreifen Menschen, dem Kinde, wollen wir gegenwärtig keine Erkenntnisse eintrichtern, sondern wir suchen seine Fähigkeiten zu entwickeln, damit es nicht mehr zum Verstehen gezwungen zu werden braucht, sondern verstehen will.

[ 7 ] Ich gebe mich keiner Illusion hin in bezug auf diese Charakteristik meines Zeitalters. Ich weiß, wie viel individualitätloses Schablonentum lebt und sich breit macht. Aber ich weiß ebenso gut, daß viele meiner Zeitgenossen im Sinne der angedeuteten Richtung ihr Leben einzurichten suchen. Ihnen möchte ich diese Schrift widmen. Sie soll nicht «den einzig möglichen» Weg zur Wahrheit führen, aber sie soll von demjenigen erzählen, den einer eingeschlagen hat, dem es um Wahrheit zu tun ist.

[ 8 ] Die Schrift führt zuerst in abstraktere Gebiete, wo der Gedanke scharfe Konturen ziehen muß, um zu sichern Punkten zu kommen. Aber der Leser wird aus den dürren Begriffen heraus auch in das konkrete Leben geführt. Ich bin eben durchaus der Ansicht, daß man auch in das Ätherreich der Begriffe sich erheben muß, wenn man das Dasein nach allen Richtungen durchleben will. Wer nur mit den Sinnen zu genießen versteht, der kennt die Leckerbissen des Lebens nicht. Die orientalischen Gelehrten lassen die Lernenden erst Jahre eines entsagenden und asketischen Lebens verbringen, bevor sie ihnen mitteilen, was sie selbst wissen. Das Abendland fordert zur Wissenschaft keine frommen Übungen und keine Askese mehr, aber es verlangt dafür den guten Willen, kurze Zeit sich den unmittelbaren Eindrücken des Lebens zu entziehen, und in das Gebiet der reinen Gedankenwelt sich zu begeben.

[ 9 ] Der Gebiete des Lebens sind viele. Für jedes einzelne entwickeln sich besondere Wissenschaften. Das Leben selbst aber ist eine Einheit, und je mehr die Wissenschaften be strebt sind, sich in die einzelnen Gebiete zu vertiefen, desto mehr entfernen sie sich von der Anschauung des lebendigen Weltganzen. Es muß ein Wissen geben, das in den einzelnen Wissenschaften die Elemente sucht, um den Menschen zum vollen Leben wieder zurückzuführen. Der wissenschaftliche Spezialforscher will sich durch seine Erkenntnisse ein Bewußtsein von der Welt und ihren Wirkungen erwerben; in dieser Schrift ist das Ziel ein philosophisches: die Wissenschaft soll selbst organisch-lebendig werden. Die Einzelwissenschaften sind Vorstufen der hier angestrebten Wissenschaft. Ein ähnliches Verhältnis herrscht in den Künsten. Der Komponist arbeitet auf Grund der Kompositionslehre. Die letztere ist eine Summe von Kenntnissen, deren Besitz eine notwendige Vorbedingung des Komponierens ist. Im Komponieren dienen die Gesetze der Kompositionslehre dem Leben, der realen Wirklichkeit. Genau in demselben Sinne ist die Philosophie eine Kunst. Alle wirklichen Philosophen waren Begriffskünstler. Für sie wurden die menschlichen Ideen zum Kunstmateriale und die wissenschaftliche Methode zur künstlerischen Technik. Das abstrakte Denken gewinnt dadurch konkretes, individuelles Leben. Die Ideen werden Lebensmächte. Wir haben dann nicht bloß ein Wissen von den Dingen, sondern wir haben das Wissen zum realen, sich selbst beherrschenden Organismus gemacht; unser wirkliches, tätiges Bewußtsein hat sich über ein bloß passives Aufnehmen von Wahrheiten gestellt.

[ 10 ] Wie sich die Philosophie als Kunst zur Freiheit des Menschen verhält, was die letztere ist, und ob wir ihrer teilhaftig sind oder es werden können: das ist die Hauptfrage meiner Schrift. Alle anderen wissenschaftlichen Ausführungen stehen hier nur, weil sie zuletzt Aufklärung geben über jene, meiner Meinung nach, den Menschen am nächsten liegenden Fragen. Eine «Philosophie der Freiheit» soll in diesen Blättern gegeben werden.

[ 11 ] Alle Wissenschaft wäre nur Befriedigung müßiger Neugierde, wenn sie nicht auf die Erhöhung des Daseinswertes der menschlichen Persönlichkeit hinstrebte. Den wahren Wert erhalten die Wissenschaften erst durch eine Darstellung der menschlichen Bedeutung ihrer Resultate. Nicht die Veredlung eines einzelnen Seelenvermögens kann Endzweck des Individuums sein, sondern die Entwickelung aller in uns schlummernden Fähigkeiten. Das Wissen hat nur dadurch Wert, daß es einen Beitrag liefert zur allseitigen Entfaltung der ganzen Menschennatur.

[ 12 ] Diese Schrift faßt deshalb die Beziehung zwischen Wissenschaft und Leben nicht so auf, daß der Mensch sich der Idee zu beugen hat und seine Kräfte ihrem Dienst weihen soll, sondern in dem Sinne, daß er sich der Ideenwelt bemächtigt, um sie zu seinen menschlichen Zielen, die über die bloß wissenschaftlichen hinausgehen, zu gebrauchen.

[ 13 ] Man muß sich der Idee erlebend gegenüberstellen können; sonst gerät man unter ihre Knechtschaft.

Second appendix

[ 1 ] The following is an essential reproduction of what was in the first edition of this book as a kind of "preface". Since it is more a reflection of the mood from which I wrote the book twenty-five years ago than anything directly related to its content, I have included it here as an "appendix". I do not wish to omit it completely for the reason that the view repeatedly arises that I have to suppress something of my earlier writings because of my later writings in the humanities.

[ 2 ] Our age can only want to draw truth from the depths of the human being. 1Only the very first opening sentences (of the first edition) of these remarks are omitted here, which seem quite insignificant to me today. But what is said in the rest of it seems to me to be necessary to say even today despite the scientific way of thinking of our contemporaries, indeed precisely because of it. Of Schiller's well-known two ways:

"We both seek truth, you outside in life, I inside
in the heart, and so each finds it for sure.
If the eye is healthy, it meets the Creator outside;
If it is the heart, then it certainly reflects the world inside"

the present is especially pious to the second. A truth that comes to us from the outside always bears the stamp of uncertainty. We may only believe in what appears to each of us as truth within ourselves.

[ 3 ] Only the truth can bring us security in the development of our individual powers. Those who are tormented by doubt are paralyzed. In a world that is mysterious to him, he cannot find a goal for his work.

[ 4 ] We no longer merely want to believe; we want to know. Faith demands recognition of truths that we do not fully understand. What we do not fully understand, however, resists the individual, who wants to live through everything with his deepest inner being. Only knowledge that does not submit to any external norm but arises from the inner life of the personality satisfies us.

[ 5 ] We also do not want such knowledge that has been formed once and for all in frozen school rules and preserved in compendia valid for all times. We believe we are each entitled to start from our closest experiences, our immediate experiences, and from there to ascend to knowledge of the whole universe. We strive for certain knowledge, but each in his own way.

[ 6 ] Our scientific teachings should also no longer take on such a form as if their recognition were a matter of unconditional compulsion. None of us would like to give a scientific treatise a title such as Fichte once gave it: "Sonnenklarer Bericht an das größere Publikum über das eigentliche Wesen der neuesten Philosophie. An attempt to force the reader to understand." Today, no one should be forced to understand. We do not demand recognition or agreement from anyone who is not driven to an opinion by a special, individual need. Nor do we currently want to force knowledge on the immature human being, the child, but rather seek to develop his abilities so that he no longer needs to be forced to understand, but wants to understand.

[ 7 ] I am under no illusion with regard to this characteristic of my age. I know how much individuality-less templateism lives and spreads. But I know just as well that many of my contemporaries are trying to organize their lives along the lines I have indicated. I would like to dedicate this book to them. It is not intended to show "the only possible" path to the truth, but it is intended to tell of the path taken by someone who is concerned with the truth.

[ 8 ] The writing first leads into more abstract areas, where the thought must draw sharp contours in order to arrive at secure points. But the reader is also led out of the dry concepts into concrete life. I am of the opinion that one must also rise into the etheric realm of concepts if one wants to live through existence in all directions. He who knows how to enjoy only with the senses does not know the delicacies of life. Oriental scholars make their students spend years in a life of renunciation and asceticism before they tell them what they themselves know. The Occident no longer demands pious exercises and asceticism for science, but it does demand the good will to withdraw for a short time from the immediate impressions of life and to enter the realm of pure thought.

[ 9 ] There are many areas of life. Special sciences develop for each one. But life itself is a unity, and the more the sciences strive to delve into the individual areas, the more they distance themselves from the view of the living whole of the world. There must be a knowledge that seeks the elements in the individual sciences in order to bring man back to full life. The specialized scientific researcher wants to acquire an awareness of the world and its effects through his findings; in this writing the goal is a philosophical one: science itself should become organic and alive. The individual sciences are the precursors of the science we are striving for here. A similar relationship prevails in the arts. The composer works on the basis of the theory of composition. The latter is a sum of knowledge, the possession of which is a necessary precondition for composing. In composing, the laws of compositional theory serve life, real reality. In exactly the same sense, philosophy is an art. All real philosophers were conceptual artists. For them, human ideas became artistic material and the scientific method became an artistic technique. Abstract thinking thus gains concrete, individual life. Ideas become powers of life. We then not only have a knowledge of things, but we have turned knowledge into a real, self-controlling organism; our real, active consciousness has taken precedence over a merely passive assimilation of truths.

[ 10 ] How philosophy as an art relates to the freedom of man, what the latter is, and whether we are or can become partakers of it: that is the main question of my writing. All other scientific explanations are included here only because they ultimately shed light on what I believe to be the questions closest to man. A "philosophy of freedom" is to be given in these pages.

[ 11 ] All science would only be the satisfaction of idle curiosity if it did not strive to increase the value of existence of the human personality. The sciences only attain their true value by presenting the human significance of their results. It is not the ennoblement of a single faculty of the soul that can be the ultimate aim of the individual, but the development of all the faculties that lie dormant within us. Knowledge has value only in that it contributes to the all-round development of the entire human nature.

[ 12 ] This writing therefore understands the relationship between science and life not in such a way that man must bow to the idea and dedicate his powers to its service, but in the sense that he takes possession of the world of ideas in order to use them for his human goals, which go beyond the merely scientific ones.

[ 13 ] One must be able to confront the idea experientially; otherwise one falls under its bondage.