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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

14. The Ground of Things and the Activity of Knowing

On-line since: 20th March, 2002

14. The Ground of Things and the Activity of Knowing

Kant, insofar as he directed the human being back upon himself, achieved a great step in philosophy. The human being should seek the grounds of certainty for his beliefs in what is given to him in his spiritual abilities and not in truths forced upon him from outside. Scientific conviction through oneself alone, that is the slogan of Kantian philosophy. He therefore called it above all a critical philosophy in contrast to a dogmatic one that receives fixed beliefs from tradition and afterward seeks proofs for them. With this, an antithesis of two scientific directions is given; but this antithesis was not thought through by Kant as keenly as it could have been.

Let us look more exactly at the way a scientific postulate can arise. A postulate joins two things: either a concept with a perception, or two concepts. A postulate of the latter kind is, for example: there is no effect without a cause. Now, the factual reasons for two concepts flowing together can lie beyond what they themselves contain and therefore beyond what alone is given me. I may then also have some formal reasons (logical consistency, particular axioms) for arriving at a particular combination of thoughts. But these have no influence upon the thing itself. The postulate rests upon something that I can never reach factually. A real insight into the thing is therefore not possible for me; I know about it only as an outsider. Here, what the postulate speaks of is in a world not known to me; the postulate alone is in my world. This is the nature of dogma. There are two kinds of dogma: the dogma of revelation and that of experience. The first kind passes down to man in one way or another truths about things that are withheld from his view. He has no insight into the world from which the postulates spring. He must believe in their truth; he has no access to their basis. The situation with the dogma of experience is quite similar. Someone who believes he should stick to bare, pure experience and can observe only its changes, without penetrating to its causal forces, is also setting up postulates about a world whose basis is inaccessible to him. Here too the truth is not attained through insight into the inner workings of the things, but rather is imposed by something external to the thing itself. Whereas the dogma of revelation ruled earlier science, present-day science suffers from the dogma of experience.

Our view has shown that any assumption about some ground of being that lies outside of the idea is nonsense. The entire ground of being has poured itself into the world and has merged with it. In thinking, the ground of being shows itself in its most perfect form, as it is in and for itself.

If thinking therefore makes a connection, forms a judgment, it is the very content of the ground of the world itself, having flowed into thinking, that is connected. In thinking, postulates are not given to us about some ground of the world in the beyond; rather the ground of the world, in its very substance, has flowed into thinking. We have direct insight into the factual grounds, not merely the formal grounds, for why a judgment takes place. The judgment does not determine anything about something foreign to it but only about its own content. Our view, therefore, establishes a true knowing. Our epistemology is really critical. According to our view, not only must nothing be allowed in, with respect to revelation, for which there are no factual grounds within thinking; but also experience must be recognized not only from the aspect of its manifestation, but also within thinking, as something causative. Through our thinking we lift ourselves from the view of reality as a product to a view of reality as something that produces.

Thus the essential being of a thing comes to light only when the thing is brought into relationship with the human being. For only within the human being does there manifest for each thing its essential being. This establishes relativism as a world view, that is, the direction in thought that assumes we see all things in the light bestowed upon them by human beings themselves. This view also bears the name anthropomorphism. It has many adherents. The majority of them, however, believe that this characteristic of our activity of knowing takes us away from objectivity as it is in and for itself. We perceive everything, so they believe, through the glasses of subjectivity. Our view shows us the exact opposite of this. We must look at things through these glasses if we want to come to their essential being. The world is not known to us only in the way it manifests to us, but rather it manifests as it is, although only to thinking contemplation. The form of reality that the human being produces in science is the ultimate, true form of reality.

Now it is still our task to extend into the individual realms of reality the way of knowing we have recognized as the correct one, i.e., the one that leads to the essential being of reality. We will now show how, in individual forms of experience, their essential being is to be sought.




Last Modified: 03-Jul-2017
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