THE AIM OF THE
preceding discussion has been to throw light on the
relationship between our cognizing personality and the objective
world. What does the possession of knowledge and science mean for us?
This was the question to which we sought the answer.
Our discussion has shown that the innermost core of the world comes to
expression in our knowledge. The harmony of laws ruling throughout the
universe shines forth in human cognition.
It is part of man's task to bring into the sphere of apparent reality
the fundamental laws of the universe which, although they rule all
existence, would never come to existence as such. The very nature of
knowledge is that the world-foundation, which is not to be found as
such in objective reality, is present in it. Our knowledge —
pictorially expressed — is a gradual, living penetration into the
A conviction such as this must also necessarily throw light upon our
comprehension of practical life.
Our moral ideals determine the whole character of our conduct in life.
Our moral ideals are ideas which we have of our task in life — in other
words, the ideas we form of what we should bring about through our deeds.
Our action is part of the universal world-process. It is therefore
also subject to the general laws of that world-process.
Whenever something takes place in the universe, two things must be
distinguished: the external course the event follows in space and
time, and the inner law ruling it.
To recognize this law in the sphere of human conduct is simply a
special instance of cognition. This means that the insight we have
gained concerning the nature of knowledge must be applicable here
also. To know oneself to be at one with one's deeds means to possess,
as knowledge, the moral concepts and ideals that correspond to the
deeds. If we recognize these laws, then our deeds are also our own
creations. In such instances the laws are not something given, that
is, they are not outside the object in which the activity appears;
they are the content of the object itself, engaged in living activity.
The object in this case is our own I. If the I has really penetrated
its deed with full insight, in conformity with its nature, then it
also feels itself to be master. As long as this is not the case, the
laws ruling the deed confront us as something foreign, they rule
us; what we do is done under the compulsion they exert over us.
If they are transformed from being a foreign entity into a deed completely
originating within our own I, then the compulsion ceases. That which
compelled us, has become our own being. The laws no longer rule over
us; in us they rule over the deed issuing from our I. To carry out a
deed under the influence of a law external to the person who brings
the deed to realization, is a deed done in unfreedom. To carry out a
deed ruled by a law that lies within the one who brings it about, is a
deed done in freedom. To recognize the laws of one's deeds, means to
become conscious of one's own freedom. Thus the process of knowledge
is the process of development toward freedom.
Not all our deeds have this character. Often we do not possess
knowledge of the laws governing our deeds. Such deeds form a part of
our activity which is unfree. In contrast, there is that other part
where we make ourselves completely at one with the laws. This is the
free sphere. Only insofar as man is able to live in this
sphere, can he be called moral. To transform the first sphere of
our activity into one that has the character of the second is the task
of every individual's development, as well as the task of mankind as a whole.
The most important problem of all human thinking is: to understand man
as a free personality, whose very foundation is himself.