Storm's Journal

  It is people who live by rules that are always hoping 
  to get them changed.  (Robert Harbison) 

--| In Reply to the Free Man |--- 

Those who defend general moral standards might reply to these arguments that
if everyone strives to live his own life and do what he pleases, there can
be no distinction between a good deed and a crime; every corrupt impulse
that lies within me has as good a claim to express itself as has the
intention of serving the general good. What determines me as a moral being
cannot be the mere fact of my having conceived the idea of an action, but
whether I judge it to be good or evil. Only in the former case should I
carry it out.

My reply to this very obvious objection, which is nevertheless based on a
misapprehension of my argument, is this: If we want to understand the nature
of the human will, we must distinguish between the path which leads this
will to a certain degree of development and the unique character which the
will assumes as it approaches this goal. On the path towards this goal the
standards play their rightful part. The goal consists of the realization of
moral aims grasped by pure intuition. Man attains such aims to the extent
that he is able to raise himself at all to the intuitive world of ideas. In
any particular act of will such moral aims will generally have other
elements mixed in with them, either as driving force or as motive.
Nevertheless intuition may still be wholly or partly the determining factor
in the human will. What one should do, that one does; one provides the stage
upon which obligation becomes deed; one's own action is what one brings
forth from oneself. Here the impulse can only be wholly individual. And, in
truth, only an act of will that springs from intuition can be an individual

To regard evil, the deed of a criminal, as an expression of the human
individuality in the same sense as one regards the embodiment of pure
intuition is only possible if blind instincts are reckoned as part of the
human individuality. But the blind instinct that drives a man to crime does
not spring from intuition, and does not belong to what is individual in him,
but rather to what is most general in him, to what is equally present in all
individuals and out of which a man works his way by means of what is
individual in him. What is individual in me is not my organism with its
instincts and its feelings but rather the unified world of ideas which
lights up within this organism.

My instincts, urges and passions establish no more than that I belong to
the general species man; it is the fact that something of the idea world
comes to expression in a particular way within these urges, passions and
feelings that establishes my individuality.

Through my instincts and cravings, I am the sort of man of whom there are
twelve to the dozen; through the particular form of the idea by means of
which I designate myself within the dozen as "I", I am an individual. Only a
being other than myself could distinguish me from others by the difference
in my animal nature; through my thinking, that is, by actively grasping what
expresses itself in my organism as idea, I distinguish myself from others.
Therefore one cannot say of the action of a criminal that it proceeds from
the idea within him. Indeed, the characteristic feature of criminal actions
is precisely that they spring from the non-ideal elements in man.

(Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 9)


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