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The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.



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The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity

On-line since: 6th February, 2006

V

The Activity of Knowing the World


It follows from the preceding consideration that it is impossible, through investigation of the content of our observation, to prove that our perceptions are mental pictures. This was supposedly proven by showing that if the process of perception does take place in the way one pictures it in accordance with the naive-realistic assumptions about the psychological and physiological constitution of our individuality, then we do not have to do with things-in-themselves, but merely with our mental pictures of the things. Now if naive realism consistently pursued, leads to results which represent the exact opposite of its presuppositions, then these presuppositions must be deemed unfit for founding a world view and must be dropped. In any case it is inadmissible to reject the presuppositions and to allow what follows from them to hold good, as does the critical idealist, who bases his assertion that the world is my mental picture upon the line of argument above. (Eduard von Hartmann, in his book The Basic Problem of Epistemology, gives a detailed presentation of this line of argument.

The correctness of critical idealism is one thing; the power of its proofs to convince in another. How matters stand with respect to the former will be shown later in the course of our considerations. But the power of its proof to convince is nil. If someone builds a house, and with the addition of the second floor, the ground floor collapses, the second floor falls along with it. Naive realism and critical idealism relate to each other as this ground floor to the second floor.

Whoever is of the view that the entire perceived world is only a mental picture, and indeed the effect upon my soul of things unknown to me, for him the real question of knowledge has to do of course not with the mental pictures which are only present in my soul, but rather with the things which lie beyond our consciousness and are independent of us. He asks how much we can know indirectly about the latter, since they are not directly accessible to our observations. Someone taking this standpoint does not bother himself about the inner connection of his conscious perceptions, but only about their no longer conscious causes, which have an existence independent of him, while, in his view, the perceptions disappear as soon as he turns his senses away from the things. Our consciousness functions, from this point of view, like a mirror, whose images of specific things also disappear the moment its reflecting surface is not directed toward them. Someone, however, who does not see the things themselves, but only their mirror images, must, from the behavior of the latter, inform himself indirectly be inferences about the nature of the former. This is the stand-point of modern science, which uses perceptions only as a last resort to obtain information about the processes of matter which stand behind our perceptions and which alone truly exist. If the philosopher as critical idealist allows any real being to exist at all, then his striving for knowledge, using mental pictures as a means, directs itself only to this real being. His interest skips over the subjective world of mental pictures and goes straight for what produces these mental pictures.

But the critical idealist can go so far as to say that I am closed off in my world of mental pictures and cannot get out of it. If I think a thing behind my mental pictures, this thought is also, after all, nothing more than my mental picture. Such an idealist will then either deny the thing-in-itself completely, or at least declare it to have absolutely no significance for human beings, which means that it is as good as not there, because we can know nothing about it.

To a critical idealist of this sort, the whole world appears as a dream, in the face of which any urge for knowledge would be simply meaningless. For him there can be only two types of people: deluded ones, who consider their own dream-spinnings to be real things, and wise ones, who see into the nothingness of this dream world and who, by and by, must lose all desire to bother themselves further about it. From this standpoint even one's own personality can become a mere dream image. In exactly the same way as our own dream image appears among the images of our sleep-dreams, the mental picture of my own “I” joins the mental picture of the outer world within waking consciousness. We are given in our consciousness then, not our real “I,” but only our mental picture “I.” Now, whoever denies that things exist, or at least denies that we can know anything about them, must also deny the existence — or, at least the knowledge — of his own personality. The critical idealist comes then to the declaration, “All reality transforms itself into a wonderful dream, without a life that is dreamt, and without a spirit who is having the dream; into a dream that hangs together with a dream about itself.” (See Fichte, The Vocation of Man.*)

*Die Bestimmung des Menschen

It does not matter whether the person who believes that he knows our immediate life to be a dream imagines there to be nothing behind this dream, or whether he relates his mental pictures to real things: life itself must lose all scientific interest for him. But while all science must be total nonsense for the person who believes that the universe accessible to us is limited to a dream, for the person who believes himself able to draw inferences about the things from his mental pictures, science will consist in investigating these “things-in-themselves.” The first view can be called absolute illusionism; the second view is called transcendental realism by Eduard von Hartmann, its most consequential proponent.*

*In terms of this world view, knowledge is called transcendental which believes itself to be conscious of the fact that nothing can be directly stated about the things-in-themselves, but which draws indirect inference, from the known subjective, about the unknown lying beyond the subjective (the transcendental). According to this view, the thing-in-itself is beyond the sphere of the world directly knowable for us: i.e., it is transcendent. Our world, however, can be related to the transcendental transcendentally. Hartmann's view is called realism, because it goes out beyond the subjective, the ideal, to the transcendental, the real.

Both these views have in common with naive realism that they seek to gain a footing in the world through an investigation of perceptions. But within this realm they are nowhere able to find firm ground.

A major question for the proponent of transcendental realism would have to be how the “I” brings about the world of mental pictures out of itself. A serious striving for knowledge about a world of mental pictures given to us, which disappears as soon as we close our senses to the outer world, can kindle itself only to the extent that such a world is a means of investigating indirectly the world of the “I”-in-itself. If the things of our experience were mental pictures, then our everyday life would be like a dream and knowledge of the true state of affairs would be like waking up. Our dream pictures also interest us as long as we are dreaming and therefore not recognizing them in their dream character. The moment we wake up we no longer ask about the inner connections of our dream pictures, but rather about the physical, physiological, and psychological processes that underlie them. Just as little can the philosopher, who considers the world to be his mental picture, interest himself in the inner connections of the details of this world. If he admits to an existing “I” at all, he will not then ask how one of his mental pictures relates to another, but rather what occurs, within the soul existing independently of him, while his consciousness contains a certain train of mental pictures. If I dream that I am drinking wine which causes a burning in my throat, and then wake up with an irritation in my throat that makes me cough (see Weygandt, How Dreams Arise, 1893*), then the moment I wake up, the dream event ceases to have an interest for me. My attention is now directed only toward the physiological and psychological processes through which the irritation in my throat brings itself symbolically to expression in the dream picture. In the same way, as soon as he is convinced that the world given him has the character of mental pictures, the philosopher must skip over this world into the real soul existing behind it. The situation is far worse, to be sure, if illusionism totally denies the “I”-in-itself behind the mental pictures, or at least considers it to be unknowable. One can very easily be led to such a view by the observation that, in contrast to dreaming, there is indeed the waking state, in which we have the chance to see through our dreams and to relate them to real circumstances, but that we have no state which stands in a similar relationship to our life of waking consciousness. Whoever adopts this view lacks the insight that there is something which in fact does relate to mere perceiving in the same way that experience in the waking state relates to dreaming. This something is thinking.

*Entstehung der Träume.

The naive person cannot be accused of the lack of insight referred to here. He gives himself over to life and takes things as real in the form they present themselves to him in experience. But the first step which is undertaken to go beyond this standpoint can only consist in the question of how thinking relates to the perception. Regardless of whether or not the perception continues to exist in the form presented to me before and after my mental picturing: if I want to say anything at all about the perception, this can happen only with the help of thinking. If I say that the world is my mental picture, I have expressed thereby the result of a thought process, and if my thinking is not applicable to the world, then this result is an error. Between the perception and any kind of statement about it, thinking presses in.

We have already given the reason why, during the contemplation of things, thinking is for the most part overlooked (see page 28). The reason lies in the fact that we direct our attention only upon the object we are thinking about, but not at the same time upon our thinking. The naive consciousness therefore treats thinking as something which has nothing to do with the things, but which stands completely apart from them and carries on its contemplation of the world. The picture of the phenomena of the world that the thinker sketches is regarded, not as something which belongs to the things, but rather as something existing only in man's head; the world is also complete without this picture. The world is set and complete in all its substances and forces; and of this complete world man sketches a picture. One must only ask those who think in this way, what right they have to declare the world complete without thinking. Does not the world bring forth thinking in the head of man with the same necessity as it brings forth the blossom from the plant? Plant a seed in the earth. It puts forth root and stem. It opens into leaves and blossoms. Set the plant before you. It unites in your soul with a definite concept. Why does this concept belong any less to the whole plant than leaf and blossom do? You say that the leaves and blossoms are there without a perceiving subject; that the concept appears only when the human being stands before the plant. Quite so. But blossoms and leaves also arise on the plant only when earth is there, into which the seed can be placed, when light and air are there, within which leaves and blossoms can unfold. The concept of the plant arises in exactly the same way when a thinking consciousness approaches the plant.

It is entirely arbitrary to regard the sum of what we experience of a thing through mere perception as a totality, as a complete whole, and to regard what results from thinking contemplation as something merely added on which has nothing to do with the thing itself. If I am given a rosebud today, the picture presented to my perception is complete only for the moment. If I set the bud in water, then I will be given a completely different picture of my object tomorrow. If I do not turn my eye from the rosebud, then I will see its present stage pass over continuously into tomorrow's through innumerable intermediary stages. The picture presented to me at any specific moment is only a chance part taken from an object that is continuously becoming. If I do not set the bud in water, then it will not bring to development a whole series of stages which lie in it as potential. Likewise I can be prevented from further observation of the blossom tomorrow, and thus have an incomplete picture.

It is a completely unfounded opinion, bound to chance happenings, which would declare with reference to the picture presented at one particular time, that that is the thing.

Just as little is it admissible to declare that the sum total of a thing's perceptual characteristics is the thing. It could very well be possible that a spirit was able to receive the concept at the same time as, and unseparated from, the perception. It would not occur at all to such a spirit to regard the concept as something not belonging to the thing. He would have to ascribe to the concept an existence inseparably bound up with the thing.

Let me make myself even clearer through an example. If I throw a stone horizontally through the air, I see it in different places, one after another. I connect these places into a line in mathematics I learn to know different line forms, among them the parabola I know the parabola to be a line that arises when a point moves in a certain lawful way. When I investigate the conditions under which the thrown stone moves, I find that the line of its motion is identical with that which I know as a parabola. That the stone happens to move in a parabola is the result of the given conditions and follows necessarily from them. The form of the parabola belongs to the whole phenomenon just as much as everything else about it which comes into consideration. The spirit described above, who did not have to take the roundabout way of thinking, would not only be given a sum of sight sensations at different places, but also, unseparated from the phenomenon, the parabolic form of the trajectory, which we only then add to the phenomenon through thinking.

It is not due to the objects that they are given to us at first without their corresponding concepts, but rather it is due to our spiritual organization. Our total being functions in such a way that, for each thing within reality, the elements which come into consideration about the thing flow to us from two sides: from the sides of perceiving and of thinking.

How I am organized to grasp things has nothing to do with their nature. The split between perceiving and thinking is first present the moment I, the observing person, approach the things. Which elements do or do not belong to the thing cannot depend at all upon the way I arrive at knowledge about these elements.

Man is a limited being. First of all he is a being among other beings. His existence belongs to space and time. Because of this fact there [is] only a limited part of the total universe can be given him. But this limited part connects on all sides, both in time and in space, with other things. Were our existence joined to things in such a way that every happening in the world would be at the same time our happening, then there would not be a distinction between us and things. But then there would also be no individual things for us. Then all happening would merge together into a continuum. The cosmos would be a unity and a self-enclosed whole. The flow of happening would be interrupted nowhere. Because of our limitations something appears to us as individual which is not in truth an individual thing. Nowhere, for example, is the individual quality of red present all by itself. It is surrounded on all sides by other qualities, to which it belongs, and without which it could not exist. For us, however, it is necessary to lift certain parts out of the world and to look at them in their own right. Our eye can grasp individual colors only one by one out of a complex of many colors; our intellect can grasp only individual concepts out of a system of interrelated concepts. This separating out is a subjective act, and is due to the fact that we are not identical with the world process, but are one being among other beings.

Everything depends now on determining the place of that being, which we ourselves are, in relationship to the other beings. This determination must be distinguished from the mere becoming conscious of ourselves. This last is based on the act of perceiving, just as is our becoming conscious of every other thing. The perceptions of myself shows me a sum of characteristics, which I bring together into my personality as a whole, in the same way that I bring together the characteristics of yellow, metallically-shiny, hard, etc., into the unity “gold.” The perception of myself does not lead me out of the realm of what belongs to me. This perception of myself is to be distinguished from what I determine, thinking, about myself. Just as, through my thinking, I incorporate an individual perception of the outer world into the whole world complex, so do I incorporate the perceptions I have about myself into the world process through thinking. My perceiving of myself encloses me within definite limits; my thinking has nothing to do with these limits. In this sense I am a twofold being. I am enclosed within the region which I perceive as that of my personality, but I am the bearer of an activity which, from a higher sphere, determines my limited existence. Our thinking is not individual the way our experiencing and feeling are. It is universal. It receives an individual stamp in each single person only through the fact that it is related to his individual feeling and experiencing. Through these particular colorings of the universal thinking, individual people differ from one another. A triangle has only one single concept. For the content of this concept it is a matter of indifference whether the human bearer of consciousness who grasps it is A or B. But the content of this concept will be grasped in an individual way by each of the two bearers of consciousness.

This thought is opposed by a preconception people have which is difficult to overcome. This bias does not attain to the insight that the concept of the triangle which my head grasps is the same as the one comprehended by the head of my neighbor. The naive person considers himself to be the creator of his concepts. He believes, therefore, that each person has his own concepts. It is a fundamental requirement of philosophical thinking that it overcome this preconception. The oneness of the concept “triangle” does not become a plurality through the fact that it is thought by many. For the thinking of the many is itself a oneness.

In thinking we have given to us the element which fuses our particular individuality into one whole with the cosmos. Inasmuch as we experience and feel (and also perceive), we are separate beings; inasmuch as we think, we are the all-one being; which permeate all. This is the deeper basis of our twofold nature: we see an utterly absolute power come into existence within us, a power which is universal; but we learn to know it, not where it streams forth from the center of the world, but rather at a point on the periphery. If the first were the case, then the moment we came to consciousness, we would know the solution to the whole riddle of the world. Since we stand at a point on the periphery, however, and find our own existence enclosed within certain limits, we must learn to know the region which lies outside of our own being with the help of thinking, which projects into us out of the general world existence.

Through the fact that the thinking in us reaches out beyond our separate existence and relates itself to universal existence, there arises in us the drive for knowledge. Beings without thinking do not have this drive. When other things confront them, no questions are aroused thereby. These other things remain external to such beings. With thinking beings, when confronted by an outer thing, the concept wells up. The concept is what we receive from the thing, not from without, but rather from within. Knowledge is meant to yield the balance, the union of the two elements, the inner and the outer.

A perception* is therefore nothing finished, closed off, but rather it is the one side of total reality. The other side is the concept. The act of knowledge is the synthesis of perception and concept. The perception and the concept of a thing, however, first constitute the entire thing.

* By “perception” Rudolf Steiner still means the object of perception, not the act of perceiving. See pages 32–34.

— Translator's note. 

The preceding considerations yield proof that it is nonsensical to seek something which the individual entities of the world have in common beyond the ideal content with which thinking presents us. All attempts must founder which strive for any world unity other than this self-coherent ideal content which we acquire for ourselves through thinking contemplation of our perceptions. Not a human personal god, nor force or matter, nor will without idea (Schopenhauer) can be considered by us to be a valid universal world unity. These beings all belong to only one limited region of our observations. Humanly limited personality we perceive only with respect to ourselves, force and matter only with respect to outer things. With respect to the will, it can only be considered to be what our limited personality manifests as activity. Schopenhauer wants to avoid making “abstract” thinking into the bearer of world unity, and seeks, instead of it, something which presents itself to him directly as real. This philosopher believes that we will never really get at the world as long as we regard it as an outer world. “In actuality, the sought-for meaning of the world which confront me solely as my mental picture, or the transition from this world, as mere mental picture of the subject knowing it, over to what it might still be besides mental picture, could nevermore be found, if the researcher himself were nothing more than purely knowing subject (winged angel's head without body). But now he himself has roots in that world, finds himself in it, namely, as an individual, which means that this activity of knowing, which is the determining bearer of the whole world as a mental picture, is after all given entirely through the medium of a body, whose sensations, as shown, are the starting point for the intellect in viewing the world. For the purely knowing subject as such, this body is a mental picture like any other, an object among objects: the motions, the actions of it are known to him in that respect no differently than the changes in all other observable objects, and would be just as foreign and incomprehensible to him, if the significance of his own motions and actions were not disclosed to him somehow in a completely different way. ... To the knowing subject, which arises as an individual through its identification with the body, this body is given in two completely different ways: one is as a mental picture when the body is viewed intellectually, as object among objects, and subject to the laws of these objects but then at the same time in a completely different way also as that something, known directly by everyone, which the word “will” characterizes. Every true act of his will is immediately and unfailingly also a movement of his body; he cannot really will an act, without at the same time perceiving that it manifests as a movement of his body. The act of will and the action of the body are not two objectively known different states, connected by the bond of causality; they do not stand in the relationship of cause and effect; but they are rather one and the same, only given in two completely different ways: one completely direct and one for the intellect in contemplation.” By this train of thought Schopenhauer believe himself justified in finding the objectivity of will within the human body. He is of the opinion that, in the actions of the body, he feels directly a reality, the thing-in-itself in concrete. Against these arguments it must be objected that the actions of our body come to consciousness only through self-perceptions and as such have nothing over other perceptions. If we want to know their nature, we can do this only through thinking contemplation, that means through incorporating them into the ideal system of our concepts and ideas.

Most deeply rooted in the naive consciousness of mankind is the opinion that thinking is abstract, without any concrete content. It can give at most an “ideal” reflection of the world whole, but definitely not this world whole itself. Whoever judges in this way has never made clear to himself what a perception is without its concept. But let us look at this world of perception: it appears as mere juxtaposition in space and succession in time, an aggregate of particulars without interconnection. Not one of the things which come and go there upon the stage of perception has anything, which can be perceived, to do directly with any other. There, the world is a multiplicity of objects of equal value. None plays a role greater than any other in the functioning of the world. If we want to become clear about whether this or that fact has greater significance than the other, then we must consult our thinking. If our thinking is not working, we see an animal's rudimentary organ, which has no significance for its life, as of equal value with its mot important bodily member. The individual facts come forth in their significance, both for themselves and with respect to the other parts of the world, only when thinking weaves its threads from being to being. This activity of thinking is one full of content. For only through an altogether definite and concrete content can I know why the snail stands at a lower stage of development than does the lion. Mere sight, mere perception gives me no content which could instruct me as to the level of organization.

Thinking, out of man's world of concepts and ideas, brings this content to meet the perception. In contrast to the content of perception, which is given us from outside, the content of thought appears within us. Let us call the form in which it first arises, “intuition.” Intuition is for thinking what observation is for the perception. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge. We confront an observed thing in the world as foreign to us, as long as we do not have within us the corresponding intuition which fills in the piece of reality missing in the perception. For someone who does not have the ability to find the intuitions which correspond to the things, full reality remains closed. Just as the colorblind person sees only differences in brightness without the qualities of color, so the person without intuition can only observe unconnected perceptual fragments.

To explain a thing, to make it comprehensible, means nothing other than to set it into the context out of which it has been torn through the configuration of our organization described above. There is no such thing as an object separated off from the whole world. All separating off has only subjective validity for our organization. For us the whole world breaks down into above and below, before and after, cause and effect, thing and mental picture, matter and force, object and subject, etc. The single things which confront us in observation join themselves together, part by part, through the interconnected, unified world of our intuitions; and through thinking we join together again into oneness everything which we have separated through our perceiving.

The puzzling aspect of an object lies in its separate existence. This puzzling aspect, however, is evoked by us, and can, within the conceptual world, also be dispelled again.

Other than through thinking and perceiving, nothing is given us directly. The question now arises as to how things stand, in the light of these considerations, with respect to the significance of the perception. We have, to be sure, recognized that the proof which critical idealism brings of the subjective nature of our perceptions collapses; but along with this insight into the incorrectness of its proof, it is still not yet determined that the view itself is based on error. Critical idealism, in marshalling its proof, does not take its start form the absolute nature of thinking, but rather bases itself upon the fact that naive realism, consistently pursued, cancels itself out. How does the matter present itself if the absoluteness of thinking is recognized?

Let us assume that a certain perception, red for example, arises in my consciousness. The perception shows itself, as I continue looking, to be connected with other perceptions, for example with that of a certain shape, with certain temperature and tactile perceptions. This combination I designate as an object of the sense world. I can now ask myself what else is to be found, besides this object, in that section of space within which the above perceptions appear to me. I will find mechanical, chemical, and other processes within this part of space. Now I go further and investigate the processes that I find on the way from the object to my sense organ. I can find processes of motion within an elastic medium which, by their very nature, do not have the least thing in common with the original perceptions. I get the same result when I investigate the further transmitting from sense organ to brain. In each of these areas I have new perceptions, but what weaves as a connecting medium through all these spatially and temporally separated perceptions is thinking. The vibrations of the air which transmit the sound are given to me as perceptions in exactly the same way as the sound itself. Only thinking joins all these perceptions to each other and reveals them in their mutual interrelationships. We cannot say that anything other than what is directly perceived exists except what is known through the ideal interconnections of our perceptions (ideal in that they are to be discovered through thinking). The relationship, going beyond what is merely perceived, of the object of perception to the subject of perception, is therefore a purely ideal one, that means, expressible only through concepts. Only in the event that I could perceive how the object of perception affects the subject of perception, or, the other way round, that I could observe the building up of the perceptible entity by the subject, would it be possible to speak as does modern physiology and the critical idealism founded upon it. This view confuses an ideal relationship (of the object to the subject) with a process which could only be spoken of if it were perceivable. The sentence: “No color without a color-sensitive eye,” therefore cannot mean that the eye brings forth the color, but rather only that an ideal connection, knowable through thinking, exists between the perception “color” and the perception “eye.” Empirical science will have to determine how the characteristics of the eye and those of colors relate to each other; through which configurations, the organ of sight transmits the perception of colors, etc. I can follow how one perception follows upon another, how it stands spatially in relationship with other perceptions; and I can bring this then into a conceptual formulation; but I cannot perceive how a perception comes forth out of the unperceivable. All endeavors to seek relationships between perceptions other than thought relationships must necessarily founder.

What, then, is a perception? This question, when asked in a general way, is absurd. A perception always arises as an entirely specific one, as a definite content. This content is directly given, and is all that is in the given. One can only ask with respect to this given, what it is besides perception, i.e., what it is for thinking. Thus, the question about the “what” of a perception can only refer to the conceptual intuition that corresponds to it. From this point of view the question the question as to the subjectivity of the perception in the sense of critical idealism cannot be raised at all. Only that may be labeled as subjective which is perceived as belonging to the subject. To form the bond between subjective and objective is not the task of any real process in the naive sense, i.e. of any perceptible happening; rather, it is the task of thinking alone. For us, therefore, something is objective which presents itself to perception as situated outside of the perceiving subject. My perceiving subject remains perceptible to me when the table now standing in front of me will have disappeared from the circle of my observations. The observation of the table has called forth in me a change, which likewise remains. I retain the ability to create a picture of the table again later. This ability to bring forth a picture remains connected with me. Psychology calls this picture a memory picture. It is, however, that which alone can rightly be called the mental picture of the table. This picture corresponds, namely, to the perceptible change of my own state through the presence of the table within my field of vision. And indeed, this change does not refer to any “I-in-itself” standing behind the perceiving subject, but rather the change of the perceptible subject himself. The mental picture is therefore a subjective perception in contrast to the objective perception when the object is present on the horizon of perception. The confusing of the subjective with the objective perception leads to the mistaken view of idealism: that the world is my mental picture.

It will now be our next task to determine more closely the concept of the mental picture. What we have brought forward so far about the mental picture is not its concept, but only indicates the path along which it is to be found within the field of perception. The exact concept of the mental picture will then also make it possible for us to gain a satisfactory explanation of the relationship of mental picture and object. This will then also lead us over the boundary where the relationship between human subject and the object belonging to the world will be led down from the purely conceptual field of knowing activity into our concrete individual life. Once we know what to make of the world, it will be an easy matter also to orient ourselves accordingly. We can be active with our full strength only when we know the object, belonging to the world, to which we are devoting our activity.

Addendum to the Revised Edition of 1918. The view characterized here can be regarded as one to which man is at first as though naturally impelled when he begins to reflect upon his relationship to the world. He seems himself entangled in a thought configuration which unravels for him as he is forming it. This thought configuration is of such a kind that everything necessary for it is not yet fulfilled with its merely theoretical refutation. One must live it through in order, out of insight into the aberration into which it leads, to find the way out. It must appear within an investigation of the relationship of man to the world, not because one wants to refute others whom one believes to hold an incorrect view about this relationships, but rather because one must know what perplexity every first reflection upon such a relationship can bring. One must gain the insight as to how one can refute oneself with respect to these first reflections. This is the point of view from which the above line of argumentation is put forward.

Whoever wants to develop for himself a view about the relationship of man to the world becomes conscious that he brings about at least a part of this relationship through the fact that he makes mental pictures for himself about the things and occurrences of the world. Through this, his gaze is drawn away from what is outside in the world and directed upon his inner world, upon his life of mental pictures. He begins to say to himself, “I can have a relationship to no thing and to no occurrence, if a mental picture does not arise in me.” From noting this fact, it is only a step to the opinion that I do, after all, experience only my mental picture: I know of a world outside of me only insofar as it is a mental picture within me. With this opinion the naive standpoint of reality is abandoned which the human being takes before any reflecting about his relationship to the world. From this standpoint, he believes he has to do with real things. Self-reflection forces him away from this standpoint. It does not let him look at all upon a reality such as naive consciousness believes to have before itself. It lets him look merely upon his mental pictures; these interpose themselves between one's own being and a supposed real world such as the naive standpoint believes itself justified in affirming. The human being can no longer look through the intervening world of mental images, upon a reality such as that. He must assume that he is blind to this reality. In this way there arises the thought of a “thing-in-itself” which is inaccessible to knowledge. — So long as one goes no further than to contemplate the relationship to the world into which man seem to enter through his life of mental pictures, one will not be able to escape this thought configuration. One cannot remain at the naive standpoint of reality if one does not want to close oneself off artificially to the desire for knowledge. The fact that this desire for knowledge about the relationship of man and world is present, shows that this naive standpoint must be abandoned. If the naive standpoint offered something which one can acknowledge as the truth, then one could not feel this desire. — But one does not arrive at something different which one could regard as the truth, if one merely abandons the naive standpoint, but — without noticing it — retains the kind of thinking which this standpoint imposes. One falls into just such an error when one says to oneself, “I experience only my mental pictures, and although I believe that I am dealing with realities, I am only conscious of my mental pictures of realities; I must therefore assume that only outside of the circle of my consciousness do the true realities, the ‘things-in-themselves,’ life, of which I know absolutely nothing directly, which somehow approach me and influence me in such a way that my world of mental pictures arises in me.” Whoever thinks in this way only adds in thought, to the world lying before him, another one; but, with respect to this world, he would actually have to start all over again from the beginning with his thought work. For the unknown “thing-in-itself” is thereby thought to be no different at all in its relationship to man's own being than the known thing of the naive standpoint of reality. — One escapes the perplexity into which one comes through pondering this standpoint critically only when one notices that there is something — within what a person can experience and perceive inside himself and outside in the world — that absolutely cannot suffer the fate of having the mental picture interpose itself between the occurrence and the contemplating human being. And this is thinking. With respect to thinking, the human being can remain upon the naive standpoint towards reality. If he does not do so, it is only because he has noticed that for something else he must abandon this standpoint, but does not become aware that the insight thus gained is not applicable to thinking. If he becomes aware of this, then he opens the way for himself to the other insight, that within thinking and through thinking, he must come to know that element to which man seems to blind himself through the fact that he must interpose his life of mental pictures between the world and himself. — The author of this book has been reproached by someone highly esteemed by him for remaining, in his consideration of thinking, at a naive realism of thinking like the sort which exists when one regards the real world and the mentally pictured world as one. But the author of these considerations believes that he has in fact shown that the validity of this “naive realism” for thinking does necessarily follow out of an unprejudiced observation of thinking; and that the naive realism which is otherwise not valid is overcome through the knowledge of the true being of thinking.




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