THE THEORY OF FREEDOM
THE GOAL OF KNOWLEDGE
am indicating correctly one of the fundamental characteristics of our
age when I say that, at the present day, all human interests tend to
centre in the cult of human individuality. An energetic effort is
being made to shake off every kind of authority. Nothing is accepted
as valid, unless it springs from the roots of individuality.
Everything which hinders the individual in the full development of
his powers is thrust aside. The saying “Each one of us must
choose his hero in whose footsteps he toils up to Olympus” no
longer holds for us. We allow no ideals to be forced upon us. We are
convinced that in each of us, if only we probe deep enough into the
very heart of our being, there dwells something noble, something
worthy of development. We no longer believe that there is a norm of
human life to which we must all strive to conform. We regard the
perfection of the whole as depending on the unique perfection of each
single individual. We do not want to do what anyone else can do
equally well. No, our contribution to the development of the world,
however trifling, must be something which, by reason of the
uniqueness of our nature, we alone can offer. Never have artists been
less concerned about rules and norms in art than today. Each of them
asserts his right to express, in the creations of his art, what is
unique in him. There are dramatists who write in dialect rather than
conform to the standard diction which grammar demands.
expression for these phenomena can be found than this, that they
result from the individual's striving towards freedom, developed to
its highest pitch. We do not want to be dependent in any respect, and
where dependence must be, we tolerate it only on condition that it
coincides with a vital interest of our individuality.
too, will be sought in an age such as ours only in the depths of
human nature. Of the following two well-known paths
described by Schiller, it is the second which will today be found
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
Truth seek we both — Thou in the life without thee and
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
which comes to us from without bears ever the stamp of uncertainty.
Conviction attaches only to what appears as truth to each of us in
our own hearts.
alone can give us confidence in developing our powers. He who is
tortured by doubts finds his powers lamed. In a world of riddle of
which baffles him, he can find no aim for his activity.
longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the
acceptance of truths which we do not wholly comprehend. But the
individuality which seeks to experience everything in the depths of
its own being, is repelled by what it cannot understand. Only that
knowledge will satisfy us which springs from the inner life of the
personality, and submits itself to no external norm.
do not want any knowledge that has encased itself once and for all in
hide bound formulas, and which is preserved in Encyclopædias
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.
scientific doctrines, too, are no longer to 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.
Nowadays there is no attempt to compel anyone to understand. We claim
no agreement with anyone whom a distinct individual need does not
drive to a certain view. We do not seek nowadays to cram facts of
knowledge even into the immature human being, the child. We seek
rather to develop his faculties in such a way that his understanding
may depend no longer on our compulsion, but on his will.
under no illusion concerning the characteristics of the present age.
I know how many flaunt a manner of life which lacks all individuality
and follows only the prevailing fashion. But I know also that many of
my contemporaries strive to order their lives in the direction of the
principles I have indicated. To them I would dedicate this book. It
does not pretend to offer the “only possible” way to
Truth, it only describes the path chosen by one whose heart is set
reader will be led at first into somewhat abstract regions, where
thought must draw sharp outlines if it is to reach secure
conclusions. But he will also be led out of these arid concepts into
concrete life. I am fully convinced that one cannot do without
soaring into the ethereal realm of abstraction, if one's experience
is to penetrate life in all directions. He who is limited to the
pleasures of the senses misses the sweetest enjoyments of life. The
Oriental sages make their disciples live for years a life of
resignation and asceticism before they impart to them their own
wisdom. The Western world no longer demands pious exercises and
ascetic practices as a preparation for science, but it does require a
sincere willingness to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate
impressions of life, and to betake oneself into the realm of pure
spheres of life are many and for each there develop a special
science. But life itself is one, and the more the sciences strive to
penetrate deeply into their separate spheres, the more they withdraw
themselves from the vision of the world as a living whole. There must
be one supreme science which seeks in the separate sciences the
elements for leading men back once more to the fullness of life. The
scientific specialist seeks in his studies to gain a knowledge of the
world and its workings. This book has a philosophical aim: science
itself is to be infused with the life of an organic whole. The
special sciences are stages on the way to this all-inclusive science.
A similar relationship is found in the arts. The composer in his work
employs the rules of the theory of composition. This latter is an
accumulation of principles, knowledge of which is a necessary
presupposition for composing. In the act of composing, the rules of
theory become the servants of life, of reality. In exactly the same
sense philosophy is an art. All genuine philosophers have been
artists in concepts. Human ideas have been the medium of their art,
and scientific method their artistic technique. Abstract thinking
thus gains concrete individual life. Ideas turn into life forces. We
have no longer merely a knowledge about things, but we have now made
knowledge a real, self-determining organism. Our consciousness, alive
and active, has risen beyond a mere passive reception of truths.
philosophy, as an art, is related to freedom; what freedom is; and
whether we do, or can, participate in it — these are the
principle problems of my book. All other scientific discussions are
put in only because they ultimately throw light on these questions
which are, in my opinion, the most intimate that concern mankind.
These pages offer a “Philosophy of Freedom”.
science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity did
it not strive to enhance the existential value of human personality.
The true value of the sciences is seen only when we have shown the
importance of their results for humanity. The final aim of the
individuality can never be the cultivation of any single faculty, but
only the development of all capacities which slumber within us.
Knowledge has value only in so far as it contributes to the all-round
unfolding of the whole nature of man.
book, therefore, does not conceive the relation between science and
life in such a way that man must bow down before the world of ideas
and devote his powers to its service. On the contrary, it shows that
he takes possession of the world of ideas in order to use them for
his human aims, which transcend those of mere science.
confront ideas as master; lest he become their slave.