Page 8 - The Philosophy of Freedom By Rudolf Steiner
P. 8

The translation was revised in 1939 by Dr. Hermann Poppelbaum, whose object was to "check certain 

words and phrases from the strictly Steiner point of view". He wrote in his preface as follows:

The readers of the German original of this book will know that the author's argument is largely based 

upon a distinction between the different elements making up the act of Knowledge. English 

philosophical terms are rarely exact equivalents of German philosophical terms, and the translator's 

standing problem is to avoid, or at least to minimize, the ambiguities resulting therefrom. The aim of 

the present revision of the original translation has been to help the reader to understand the analysis of 

the act of Knowledge and to enable him to follow the subsequent chapters without being troubled by 

ambiguous terms.

In spite of Dr. Poppelbaum's removal of certain ambiguities, readers were still troubled by difficulties 

that did not derive from the original German. When I was asked by the publishers to prepare this new 

edition, it soon became clear to me that further alterations to words and phrases would not be 

sufficient to remove these difficulties. It may therefore be helpful to state briefly what my guiding 

principles have been in making this translation.

Steiner did not write his book as a thesis for students of philosophy, but in order to give a sound 

philosophical basis to the experience of oneself as a free spirit -- an experience that is open to 

everybody. The book is written in such a way that the very reading of it is a help towards participating 

in this experience. For this reason all the terms used must convey a real meaning to the reader, and any 

explanations required must be in words that are self-evident. Indeed, Steiner states clearly that the 

terms he uses do not always have the precise meanings given in current scientific writings, but that his 

intention is to record the facts of everyday experience (see Chapter 2).

I have tried throughout to convey the essential meaning of Steiner's original words, and to follow 

closely his train of thought, so that the English reader may have as nearly as possible the same 

experience that a German reader has from the original text. Thus the structure of the original has been 

preserved, sentence by sentence. It might be argued that a "free" translation, making full use of 

English idiom and style, would be far more appropriate for an English reader; this could cut out the 

wordy repetitions and lengthy phrases typical of German philosophical writing and make for a more 

readable text. But it would also have to be written out of the English philosophical tradition, and 

would require a complete reconstruction of Steiner's arguments from the point of view of an 

Englishman's philosophy.

This might be an excellent thing to do, but would constitute a new work, not a translation. Even if it 

were attempted, there would still be the need for a close translation making Steiner's path of 

knowledge available in detail for the English reader.

The method I have followed was to make a fresh translation of each passage and then compare it with 

the existing one, choosing the better version of the two. Where there was no advantage in making a 

change, I have left the earlier version, so that many passages appear unaltered from the previous 

edition. This is therefore a thoroughly revised, rather than an entirely new, translation. It is my hope 

that it will prove straightforward reading for anyone prepared to follow the author along the path of 

experience he has described. The following notes explaining certain of the terms used are intended tor 

those who want to compare this edition with the German original, or who are making a special study

   6   7   8   9   10