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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

7. Calling upon the Experience of Every Single Reader

On-line since: 20th March, 2002

7. Calling upon the Experience of Every Single Reader

We wish to avoid the error of attributing any characteristic beforehand to the directly “given,” to the first form in which the outer and inner world appear, and of thus presenting our argument on the basis of any presupposition. In fact, we are characterizing experience as precisely that in which our thinking plays no part at all. There can be no question, therefore, of any error in thinking at the beginning of our argument.

The basic error of many scientific endeavours, especially those of the present day, consists precisely of the fact that they believe they present pure experience, whereas in fact they only gather up the concepts again that they themselves have inserted into it. Someone could object that we have also assigned a whole number of attributes to pure experience. We called it an endless manifoldness, an aggregate of unconnected particulars, etc. Are those then not conceptual characterizations also? In the sense in which we use them, certainly not. We have only made use of these concepts in order to direct the reader's eye to reality free of thoughts. We do not wish to ascribe these concepts to experience; we make use of them only in order to direct attention to that form of reality which is devoid of any concept.

All scientific investigations must, in fact, be conducted in the medium of language, and it can only express concepts. But there is, after all, an essential difference between using certain words in order to attribute this or that characteristic directly to a thing, and making use of words only in order to direct the attention of the reader or listener to an object. To use a comparison, we could say: It is one thing for A to say to B, “Observe that man in the circle of his family and you will gain a very different impression of him than if you get to know him only through the way he is at work”; it is another if A says, “That man is an excellent father.” In the first case, B's attention is directed in a certain sense; he is called upon to judge a personality under certain circumstances. In the second case a particular characteristic is simply ascribed to this personality; an assertion is there fore made. Just as the first case relates to the second, so we believe the starting point of our book relates to the starting point of other books on this subject. If, because of necessities of style or possibilities of expression, the matter appears at any point to be other than this, let us state here expressly that our discussions have only the intention just described and are far from any claim to having asserted any thing pertaining to the things themselves.

If we now wished to have a name for the first form in which we observe reality, we believe that the expression that fits the matter the very best is: manifestation to the senses. (5) By sense we do not mean merely the outer senses, the mediators of the outer world, but rather all bodily and spiritual organs whatsoever that sense the perception of immediate facts. It is, indeed, quite usual in psychology to use the expression inner sense for the ability to perceive inner experiences.

Let us use the word manifestation, however, simply to designate a thing perceptible to us or a perceptible process insofar as these appear in space or in time.

We must still raise a question here that is to lead us to the second factor we have to consider with respect to a science of knowledge: to thinking.

Must we regard the form of experience we have described thus far as how things actually are? Is it a characteristic of reality? A very great deal depends upon answering this question. If this form of experience is an essential characteristic of the things of experience, if it is something which, in the truest sense of the word, belongs to them by their very nature, then one could not imagine how one is ever to transcend this stage of knowing at all. One would then simply have to resort to writing down everything we perceive, in disconnected notes, and our science would be a collection of such notes. For what would be the purpose of any investigation into the interconnection of things if the complete isolation we ascribe to them in the form of experience were truly characteristic of them?

The situation would be entirely different (6) if, in this form of reality, we had to do not with reality's essential being but only with its inessential outer aspect, if we had only the shell of the true being of the world before us which hides this being and challenges us to search further for it. We would then have to strive to penetrate this shell. We would have to take our start from this first form of the world in order then to possess ourselves of its true (essential) characteristics. We would then have to overcome its manifestation to the senses in order to develop out of it a higher form of manifestation. --The answer to this question is given in the following investigations.




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