Monday 30 November 2020

How do we recognise when we Know some-thing? (A model of intuition, based on Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom)

In Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom (1894) he has a model of thinking that describes thoughts as being formed from the combination of a sensory percept (or a memory of a perception) with a concept - or idea. Percept and concept, combined equals a though; the process of this combination through time is think-ing. 


But many or most of our concepts are false - being derived (perhaps especially nowadays) from external sources that are untruthful. And, naturally, when our sensory perceptions are understood using untrue concepts - then the resulting thinking will itself be false. 

However, for Steiner, the true and correct concept to join-with a percept is actually universally available - from what might be termed a realm of truth. We might, in this model, think of the realm of truth as a kind of divine omnipresent, all permeating ether of true ideas. In principle, it is possible to know the truth - really to Know something - if we combine our perceptual inputs with those real-and-true concepts, drawn from the divine ether


How might this happen? In the first place, we must be correctly motivated - and this motivation could be described in terms of love; and also in terms of a seeking motivated by the transcendental values of truth, beauty and virtue. 

A properly motivated person can therefore - in principle - know the truth; because he is always able to access the true concept with which to interpret his sensory/ memory perceptions. 


Yet we all know that what happens in our modern lives is that we are confused and distracted by a vast deluge of false concepts. It is usually very difficult to pick out the true concept from among some many, such frequently arriving, wrong, untrue, misleading ideas that are swirling in our thoughts. 

We need, therefore, to be able to recognise when we really-know something, from the more frequent occasions when we are wrong about it, because we are using wrong ideas to interpret it. 

The answer lies in that type of introspection which could be termed intuition; and my purpose here is to explain a model of intuition based on the Steiner model of thinking. 

I believe that we can, by introspection, recognise the provenance of a true concept. That is, we can we can look within our own thinking, and recognise when a concept comes from the 'realm of reality'. And I believe that this is an inbuilt (indeed God-given) ability. 


In other words, those who are capable of love have the ability to know when they Know

This is to know that our ideas come from a divine realm. With the proviso that this provenance-detection of reality is only available to those whose motivations (at that particular moment of introspection) are good (loving, truthful, virtuous, in pursuit of transcendental beauty). 

And, those whose real motivations are selfish, self-seeking, unloving, dishonest, manipulative, un-virtuous etc - are Not able to know when they Know. 


Such people (and I think there are many of them; and nearly all of us, for much of the time) live is a state of un-fixable, chronic confusion. They are unsure about everything - all of the time, because all of their ideas are wrong. 

And even if they - by chance - stumble-upon a truth, they will not be able to recognise that truth intuitively - it will be indistinguishable from the distracting mass of errors; because their motivations are to use that truth in some way that sustains the side of evil; against God and divine creation. 


So those with Good motivation can recognise when they really-know something. However, this inner, wordless knowing is different-from explaining to our-selves what exactly it is that we know - typically using language or symbols. This is a further and fallible, error prone, matter. 

Self-explaining is, indeed, a matter of 'modelling' - inevitably by selection and simplification, the totality of what we know, into something manageable with our cognitive ability and in the available time.

And - having explained our inner knowing to ourselves; there is a further step of 'translation' involved in communicating (or rather, trying to communicate) that inner-explanation to other people. And it is only this which is available 'objectively' (as we call it) in public discourse - to be subjected to analysis etc.  

It is in these at-least-two stages of modelling - of summarising and communicating - our recognised real-knowledge; that the varieties of differences in intuitions arise. But, all intuitions of knowing are - in and of themselves, true - hence the same; whoever is accessing them at any particular time and place.


Note added: This is just to emphasise that the above is a model, Steiner's is a model - therefore it is certainly wrong. It is an attempt to overcome our Ahrimanic consciousness with something else Ahrimanic. All true - therefore it is something that may, or may not, help understanding; but itself needs to be overcome. And in our era we need to overcome System with The Personal - with relationships between persons; and bringing that personal understanding (which is spontaneous in young chidlren) to consciousness, and consciously choosing it. Just a reminder... 


Epimetheus said...

There's some extreme synchronicity going around the world these days, people on separate continents suddenly fascinated and concerned with the same things.

TonguelessYoungMan said...

@Epimetheus - Well, the mundane and obvious answer to that would be that it's because of increased interconnectedness due to our new communications technologies. The internet being the prime example.