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Activity Of Consciousness
Aim And Method Of Naturalism
Autonomy Of Spirit
Consciousness Of The Ego
Constructive Criticism
Contrast Between Darwinian And Post-darwinian Views
Creative Power Of Consciousness
Criticisms Of The Mechanistic Theory Of Life
Crities Of Darwinism
Darwinish In General
Darwinism And Teleology
Darwinism In The Strict Sense
De Vries's Mutation-theory
Differences Of Opinion As To The Factors In Evolution
Eimer's Orthogenesis
Evolution And New Beginnings
Feeling Individuality Genius And Mysticism
Freedom Of Spirit
Fundamental Principles Of Naturalism
Goethe's Attitude To Naturalism
Haeckel's Evolutionist Position
How All This Affects The Religious Outlook
How The Religious And The Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict
Individual Development
Intuitions Of Reality
Is There Ageing Of The Mind?
Lamarckism And Neo-lamarckism
Machnical Theories Criticism
Mind And Spirit The Human And The Animal Soul
Mystery : Dependence : Purpose
Natural Selection
Naturalistic Attacks On The Autonomy Of The Spiritual
No Parallelism
Other Instances Of Dissatisfaction With The Theory Of Descent
Pre-eminence Of Consciousness
Preyer's Position
Religion And The Theory Of Descent
Spontaneous Generation
Teleological And Scientific Interpretations Are Alike Necessary
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Space
The Antimony Of Our Conception Of Time
The Antimony Of The Conditioned And The Unconditioned
The Characteristic Features Of Darwinism
The Conservation Of Matter And Energy
The Constructive Work Of Driesch
The Contingency Of The World
The Dependence Of The Order Of Nature
The Development Of Darwinism
The Ego
The Fundamental Answer
The Law Of The Conservation Of Energy
The Mechanics Of Development
The Mystery Of Existence Remains Unexplained
The Organic And The Inorganic
The Position Of Bunge And Other Physiologists
The Problema Continui
The Real World
The Recognition Of Purpose
The Religious Interpretation Of The World
The Spontaneous Activity Of The Organism
The Supremacy Of Mind
The Theory Of Descent
The True Naturalism
The Two Kinds Of Naturalism
The Unconscious
The Unity Of Consciousness
The Views Of Albrecht And Schneider
The Views Of Botanists Illustrated
The World And God
Theory Of Definite Variation
Theory Of Life
Various Forms Of Darwinism
Virchow's Caution
Virchow's Position
Weismann's Evolutionist Position
What Is Distinctive In The Naturalistic Outlook
What Is Distinctive In The Religious Outlook

Freedom Of Spirit

The consciousness of the ego leads us naturally to the consciousness of
freedom. Freedom of the mind is no simple idea; it embraces various
contents which bear the relation of stages to one another, and each higher
stage presupposes the one below it. Freedom is, first of all, the word
which expresses that we are really agents, not mere points of transit for
phenomena foreign to ourselves, but starting-points of phenomena peculiar
to us, actual causes, beings who are able to initiate activity, to control
things and set them in motion. Here the whole question of freedom becomes
simply the question of the reality and causality of the will. Is the will
something really factual, or is it only the strange illusion to which
Spinoza, for instance, referred in his illustration of the flying stone?
It would be purely an illusion of that kind if materialism were the true
interpretation of things, and the psychical were nothing more than an
accompaniment of other "true" realities, and even if the doctrine of
psychical atoms we have already mentioned were correct.

This idea of freedom speedily rises to a higher plane. Freedom is always
freedom from something, in this case from a compulsion coming from
outside, and from things and circumstances foreign to us. In maintaining
freedom of the mind it is asserted that it can preserve its own nature and
laws in face of external compulsion or laws, and in face of the merely
psychological compulsion of the "lower courses of thought," even from the
"half-natural" laws of the association of ideas. Thus "freedom" is
pre-eminently freedom of thought. And in speaking thus we are presupposing
that the mind has a nature of its own, distinguished even from the purely
psychological nature, and has a code of laws of its own, lying beyond the
scope of all natural laws, which psychical motives and physical conditions
may prevent it following, but which they can never suspend or pull down to
their own level.

"Der Mensch ist frei, und waer' er in Ketten geboren."

Here at last we arrive at what is so often exclusively, but erroneously,
included under the name of freedom, or "freedom of the will," that is
practical freedom, the freedom to recognise moral laws and ideals, and to
form moral judgments against all psychological compulsion, and to will to
allow ourselves to be determined by these. From this question of moral
freedom we might finally pass to that with which it is usual over-hastily
to begin: the problem of so-called freedom of choice, of the "equilibrium"
of the will, a problem in which are centred all the purely theoretical
interests of the doctrine of the will in general, and ethical interests in
particular. The whole domain is so enormous that we cannot even attempt to
sketch it here. The general bearing of the whole can be made clearest at
the second stage, but we cannot entirely pass over the first.

In this inquiry into the problem of the will it is not necessary to
discuss whether we are able by it to bring about external effects,
movements, and changes in our bodies. We may postpone this question once
more. The most important part of the problem lies in the domain of the
psychical. To move an arm or a leg is a relatively unimportant function of
the will as compared with the deliberate adoption of a rule of conduct,
with inward self-discipline, self-culture, and the development of

That we "will," and what it is to will, cannot really be demonstrated at
all, or defended against attacks. It simply is so. It is a fundamental
psychical fact which can only be proved by being experienced. If there
were anywhere a will-less being, I could not prove to him that there is
such a thing as will, because I could never make clear to him what will
is. And the theories opposed to freedom of the will cannot be refuted in
any way except by simply saying that they are false. They do not describe
what really takes place in us. We do not find within ourselves either the
cloud-shadows or the play of psychical, minima already referred to, with
their crowding up of images, bringing some into prominence and displacing
them again while we remain passive--we find ourselves willing. These
theories should at least be able to explain whence came this marvellous
hallucination, this appearance of will in us, which must have its cause,
and they should also be able to say whence came the idea of the will.
Spinoza's example of the stone, which seemed to itself to fly when it was
simply thrown, does not meet the facts of the case. If the thrown stone
had self-consciousness, it would certainly not say, "I am flying," but
would merely wonder, "What has happened to me suddenly?"

We cannot demonstrate what will is, we can only make it clear to ourselves
by performing an act of will and observing ourselves in the doing of it.
Let us compare, for instance, a psychical state which we call "attention"
with another which we call "distraction." In this last there is a stage
where the will rests. There is actually an uninhibited activity of "the
lower course of thought," a disconnected "dreaming," a confused automatic
movement of thoughts and feelings according to purely associative laws.
Then suddenly we pull ourselves together, rouse ourselves out of this
state of distraction. Something new comes into the course of our thoughts.
It is the will. Now there is control and definite guidance of our thoughts
and rejection of subsidiary association--ideas that thrust themselves upon
us. Particular thoughts can be selected, particular feelings or mental
contents kept in focus as long as we desire. In thus selecting and guiding
ideas, in keeping them in mind or letting them go, we see the will in

This brings us to freedom of thought. This lies in the fact, not merely
that we can think, but that we can and desire to think rightly, and that
we are able to measure our thoughts by the standard of "true" or "false."
Naturalism is proud of the fact that it desires nothing more than to
search after truth. To this it is ready to sacrifice all expressions of
feeling or sentiment, and all prejudices. The truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth is its ideal, even if all pet ideas have to give way
before it. It usually saddles itself with the idea of the good and the
beautiful along with this "idea of truth," but is resolved, since it must
soon see for itself that it is able to secure only a very doubtful basis
for these, to sacrifice them to truth if need be. This is worthy of
honour,(107) but it implies a curious self-deception. For if naturalism be
in the right, thought is not free, and if thought be not free there can be
no such thing as truth, for there can be no establishing of what truth is.

Let us attempt to make this plain in the following manner: According to
the naturalistic-psychological theory, the play of our thoughts, our
impressions of things and properties, their combination in judgments or in
"perceptions," are dependent on physiological processes of the brain, and
therefore upon natural laws, or, according to some, on peculiar
attractions and repulsions among the impressions themselves, regulated by
the laws of association. If that and that only were the case, I should be
able to say that such a conception was present in my mind, or that this or
that thought had arisen in me, and I might perhaps be able to trace the
connection which made it necessary that it should arise at that particular
time. But every thought would be equally right. Or rather there could be
no question of right or wrong in the matter at all. I could not forbid any
thought to be there, could not compel it to make way for another, perhaps
exactly its opposite. Yet I do this continually. I never merely observe
what thoughts are in my own mind or in another's. For I have a constant
ideal, a plumb-line according to which I measure, or can measure, every
train of thought. And I can compel others to apply this same plumb-line to
their thoughts. This plumb-line is logic. It is the unique law of the mind
itself which concerns itself about no law of nature or of association
whatsoever. And however mighty a flood of conceptions and associations may
at times pour through me in consequence of various confused physiological
states of excitement affecting the brain, or in consequence of the
fantastic dance of the associations of ideas, the ego is always able in
free thought to intervene in its own psychical experiences, and to test
which combinations of ideas have been logically thought out and are
therefore right, and which are wrong. It often enough refrains from
exercising this control, leaving the lower courses of thought free play.
Hence the mistakes in our thinking, the errors in judgment, the thousand
inconsistencies and self-deceptions. But the mind can do otherwise, can
defend itself from interruptions and extraneous influences by making use
of its freedom and of its power to follow its own laws and no others. It
is thus possible for us to have not only psychical experiences but
knowledge; only in this way can truth be reached, and error rejected. Thus
science can follow a sure course. Thus alone, for instance, could the
great edifice of geometry and arithmetic have been built up in its
indestructible certainty. The progress from axiom to theorem and to all
that follows is due to free thought, obeying the laws of inference and
demonstration, and entirely unconcerned about the laws of association or
the natural laws of the nervous agitations, the electric currents, and
other plays of energy which may go on in the brain at the same time. What
have the laws of the syllogism to do with the temporary states of tension
in the brain, which, if they had free course, would probably follow lines
very different from those of Euclid, and if they chanced once in a way to
follow the right lines from among the millions of possibilities, would
certainly soon turn to different ones, and could never examine them to see
whether they were right or not. Thus it is not any highly aspiring
emotional desire or any premature prejudice, but the solid old science of
logic that first and most determinedly shuts the door in face of the
claims of naturalism. If we combine this with what has already been said
on page 154, we shall see how dangerous it would be for naturalism to be
proved right in the dispute; for then it would be wholly wrong.

For, as it is only through the free, thinking mind that true and false can
be distinguished and brought into relation with things, so only through it
can we have an ideal of truth to be recognised and striven after, and that
spontaneous, pertinacious, searching, following, and discovering which
constitutes science as a whole and in detail. And in so far as naturalism
itself claims to be nothing more than an attempt towards this goal, it is
itself only possible on the basis of something which it denies.

Freedom of thought is also the most obvious example of that freedom of the
spirit in morally "willing," which it is the business of ethical science
to teach and defend. As in the one case thought shows itself superior to
the physiologically or psychologically conditioned sequence of its
concepts, so the free spirit, in the uniqueness of its moral laws, reveals
itself as lord over all the motives, the lower feelings of pleasure and
pain that have their play within us. As in the one case it is free to
measure according to the criteria of true or false, and thus is able to
intervene in the sequence of its own conceptions, correcting and
confirming, so in the other it is able to estimate by the criteria of good
or bad. As in the one case it carries within it its own fundamental laws
as logic, so in the other the moral ideals and fundamental judgments which
arise out of its own being. And in both cases it is free from nature and
natural law, and capable of subordinating nature to its own rules, in so
far as it "wills," and of becoming subordinate to nature--in erroneous
thinking and non-moral acting--in so far as it does not will.

Next: Feeling Individuality Genius And Mysticism

Previous: Consciousness Of The Ego

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