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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

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

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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

3. The Task of Science

On-line since: 20th March, 2002

3. The Task of Science

Ultimately it is true for all science what Goethe expressed so aptly with the words: “In and for itself, theory* is worth nothing, except insofar as it makes us believe in the interconnections of phenomena.” Through science we are always bringing separate facts of our experience into a connection with each other. In inorganic nature we see causes and effects as separate from each other, and we seek their connections in the appropriate sciences. In the organic world we perceive species and genera of organisms and try to determine their mutual relationships. In history we are confronted with the individual cultural epochs of humanity; we try to recognize the inner dependency of one stage of development upon the other. Thus each science has to work within a particular domain of phenomena in the sense of the Goethean principle articulated above.

* Theorie. In German, this word still connotes more of the sense of the Greek original: what thinking “sees.” –Ed.

Each science has its own area in which it seeks the interconnections of phenomena. But there still remains a great polarity in our scientific efforts: between the ideal** world achieved by the sciences on the one hand and the objects that underlie it on the other. There must be a science that also elucidates the interrelationships here. The ideal and the real world, the polarity of idea and reality, these are the subject of such a science. These opposites must also be known in their interrelationship.

** Throughout this book “ideal” usually means “in the form of ideas.” –Ed.

To seek these relationships is the purpose of the following discussion. The existence of science on the one hand, and nature and history on the other are to be brought into a relationship. What significance is there in the mirroring of the outer world in human consciousness; what connection exists between our thinking about the objects of reality and these objects themselves?

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