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The Impulse for Renewal in Culture and Science

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The Impulse for Renewal in Culture and Science

Schmidt Number: S-4778

On-line since: 15th July, 2018


Lecture Three by Rudolf Steiner given in Berlin, 7 March 1922

“Anthroposophy and Philosophy.”


My dear venerated friends! It is always difficult when you have a serious scientific conscience to translate the traditional expression of “Logos” into some or other younger language. We usually employ “Word” to translate “Logos” as is commonly found in the Bible. However, when we have the word “Logic” in a sentence we don't use “Word” but rather think about “Thought,” as it operates in the human individual and its laws. Yet when we speak about “philology” we are aware that we are developing a science which is derived from words. I would like to say: what we have today in the word “Logos” is basically in everything which is philosophic. When we speak about “philosophy”, we can, even though defined as experience in relation to the Logos, sense how a reflection of these undetermined experiences are contained in all that we feel in “philosophy”.

Philosophy implies that the words — which no doubt came into question when philosophy was created, that only words were implied — indicate a certain inner personal experience; the word philosophy points to a connection of the Logos to “Sophia”; one could call it a particular, if not personal, general interest. The word philosophy is less directly referred to as possessing a scientific nature but rather an inner relationship to the wisdom filled scientific content. Because our feeling regarding philosophy is not as sure as in those cases when philosophy, on the one hand was included with, I'd rather not call it science, but scientific aims, and on the other hand with something which points to inner human relationships; so we have today an extraordinarily undefined experience when we speak about philosophy or involve ourselves with philosophy. This vague experience is extremely difficult to lift out of the depth of our consciousness if we try to do it through mere dialectical or external definitions, without trying to enter into the personal experience which ran its course in the consequential development. To such an examination the present will produce something special.

If we look back a few decades at people in central Europe, the involvement they were looking for with philosophy was quite a different experience, in central Europe, as it is today in the second decade of the twentieth century, where we basically have lived through so much, not only externally in the physical but also spiritually — one can quietly declare this — than what had been experienced for centuries. When one looks back over the experiences, of — if I may use a pedantic and philistine expression — the philosophic zealot of the fifties, sixties and seventies of the nineteenth century, perhaps even later, which the central Europeans could have, it is essentially as follows. Looking at the time of German philosophy's blossoming, you look back at the great philosophic era of the Fichtes, Schellings, and Hegels; surrounding you there had been a world of the educated and the scholars, a world which this philosophic era thoroughly dismisses and which in the rising scientific world view sees what should be taking the place of the earlier philosophic observations. One admires the magnitude of the elevation of thoughts found in a Schelling, one admires the energy and force of Fichte's development of thoughts, one can perhaps also develop a feeling for the pure comprehensive, insightful thoughts of Hegel, but one would more or less consider this classical time of German philosophy as something subdued.

Besides this is the endeavour to develop something out of science which should present a general world view, right from the striving of the “power/force and matter/substance people,” to those who carefully strive to find a philosophic world view out of natural scientific concepts, but who lean towards the former idealistic philosophy. There were all kinds of thoughts and research in this area.

A third kind of thinker appeared in this sphere, who couldn't go along with the purely scientifically based world view but could on the other hand also not dive into solid thought of the Hegel type. For them a big question came about: How can a person create something within his thoughts, which originate in himself, and place this in an objective relationship to the outer world? — There were epistemologists of different nuances who agreed with the call “Back to Kant”, but this way to Kant was aimed in the most varied ways; there were sharp-witted thinkers like Liebman, Volkelt and so on, who basically remained within the epistemological and didn't get to the question: How could someone take the content of his thoughts and imaginative nature from within himself and find a bridge to a trans-subjective reality existing outside human reality?

What I'm sketching for you now as a situation in which the philosophic zealots found themselves in the last third of the nineteenth Century, which didn't lead to any kind of solution. This was to a certain extent in the middle of some or other drama during a time-consuming work of art, to which no finality had been found. These efforts more or less petered out into nothing definite. The efforts ran into a large number of questions and overall, basically failed to acquire the courage to develop a striving for solutions regarding these questions.

Today the situation in the entire world of philosophy is such that one can't sketch it in the same way as I've done for the situation in the last third of the nineteenth century, in its effort to determine reality. Today philosophic viewpoints have appeared which, I might say, have risen out of quite different foundations, and which make it possible for us to characterise it in quite a different way. Today, if we wish to characterise the philosophic situation, our glance which we have homed in the second half of the twentieth century comes clearly before our soul eyes, namely such sharply differentiated philosophic viewpoints of the West, of central Europe and Eastern Europe. Today things appear in quite a different way which not long ago flowed through our experience of the philosophical approach to be found in three names: Herbert Spencer — Hegel — Vladimir Soloviev. By placing these three personalities in front of us we have the representatives who can epitomise our philosophic character of today. Inwardly this had to some extent already been the case for some time, but these characteristics of the philosophic situation only appear today before the eyes of our souls.

Let's look at the West: Herbert Spencer. If I want to be thorough I would have to give an outline of the entire course of philosophic development, how it went from Bacon, Locke over Mill to Spencer, but this can't be my task today. In Herbert Spencer we meet a personality who wanted to base his philosophy on a pure system of concepts, as is determined in natural science. We find in Spencer a personality who totally agrees with science and out of this agreement arrives at a conclusion: ‘This is the way in which all philosophic thought in the world must be won by natural science.’ So we see how Spencer searched in science to determine certain steps to understand concepts, like for example how matter is constantly contracting and expanding, differentiating and consolidating. He saw this for instance in plants, how the leaves spread out and how they drew together in the seed, and he tried to translate such concepts into clear scientific forms with which to create his world view. He even tried to think about the human community, the social organism, only in such a way in which his thoughts would be analogous to the natural organism. Here he suddenly became cornered.

The natural human organism is connected to the confluence of everything relating to it from the surrounding world, through observations, through imagination and so on. Every single organism is bound to what it can develop under the influence of the nervous or sensory system (sensorium). In the human community organism Herbert Spencer couldn't find a sensorium, no kind of centralised nervous system. For this reason, he constructed a kind of community organism, totally based on science, as the crown of his philosophic structure.

What lay ahead for the West with this? It meant that scientific thought could reach its fully entitled, one-sided development. What lay ahead was the finest observational results and experimental talents developing out of folk talents. What came out of it was interest created to observe the world in its outer sensory reality into the smallest detail, without becoming impatient and wanting to rise out of it to some encompassing concepts. What came out of it was also a tendency to remain within this outer sense-world of facts. There was what I could call, a kind of fear of rising up to one encompassing amalgamation. Because they could do nothing else but exist in what the sense world presented to them, simply being pushed directly into the senses here in the West, there appeared the belief that the entire spiritual world should be handed over to the singular faiths of individuals, and that these beliefs should develop free from all scientific influences. Religious content was not to be touched by scientific exploration. So we see with Herbert Spencer, who in his way took up the scientific way of thought consequentially right into sociology, earnestly separated, on the one hand, from science, which would proceed scientifically, and on the other hand with a spiritual content for people who wanted nothing to do with science.

Let's go now from Herbert Spencer to what we meet with Hegel. It doesn't matter that Hegel, who belonged to the first third of the 19th Century, was outwitted during the second third for central European philosophy because what was characteristic for Middle Europe was most meaningful in what exactly had appeared in Hegel. Let's look at Hegel. Already in his, I could call it, emotional predisposition, lies a certain antipathy against this universalist natural scientific way with which to shape the world view as Herbert Spencer had done in the West, but of course had been prepared by predecessors, both by scientific researchers and philosophers as well. We see how Hegel could not stand Newton and was unsympathetic to his unique way by thinking of the world-all as totally mechanical, how he rejected Newton not merely in terms of the colour theory but also in his interpretation of the cosmos. Hegel took the trouble to go back to Kepler's planetary movement formulations, he analysed Kepler's formulations about planetary movements and found out for himself, that Newton had actually not added anything new because Kepler's formulation already contained the laws of gravitation. This he applied from the basis of a scientifically formulated thought, while with Kepler it had resulted more out of a spiritual experience, which he saw as encompassing and that one could try to grasp the outer natural scientific through the spirit. Kepler is for Hegel simply the personality who is capable of penetrating thoughts with the spirit and building a bridge between what is acceptable scientifically, and what simply has to be believed according to the West, and which is also capable of lifting science into the area which for the West is limited to belief.

From this basis Hegel, in tune with Goethe, strongly opposed the Newtonian colour theory. We can see how the Hegelian system had a kind of antipathy against what appeared quite natural in the Newtonian system. For this Hegel had a decisive talent — to live completely in a thought itself. For Hegel Goethe's utterance to Schiller was obvious: “I see my ideas with my eyes.” It appears naive, however, such naivety, when considered correctly, comes out of the deepest philosophic wisdom. Hegel would simply not have understood how one could state that the idea of the triangle is not to be grasped, because Hegel's life went completely — if I might use the expression — according to the plan of thinking. For him there was also a higher world of revelations, a world of higher spirituality, which gradually casts its shadow images on a plane which is filled with thoughts. From up above the spiritual worlds throw their shadow images on the plane of the human soul, on which human thought can develop. Through this the idea of higher spirituality came about for Hegel, that on the plane of the soul it is shadowed as thoughts. Hegel was inclined to experience these thoughts as fully spiritual, and he also experienced natural events not in their elementary present time, but he saw them in mental pictures, thrown on to the plane of the soul.

So it is impossible in Hegel's philosophy to separate, in an outer way, wisdom from belief, which was quite natural in the West. For Hegel his life task was the unification of the spiritual world (which the West wanted to simply refer to as part of the large sphere of belief) with the sensory physical world, into such a world about which one can have knowledge. This means there is no longer knowledge on the one hand and belief on the other; here the human soul faces the great, meaningful problem: How does one find during earthly life the bridge between belief and knowledge, between spirit and nature? To a certain extent it was the tragedy of Hegel that the problem he posed in such a grandiose manner, he wanted to understand actually only on the level of thinking, that he wanted to understand the experience of the inner power, the inner liveliness of thinking, but he could not grasp anything living from the content of thought.

Consider Hegel's logic — he wanted to return repeatedly to the concept of the Logos! He felt that when we actually wanted to attain a true understanding of the Logos, then the Logos must be something which is not merely something thought, but a real activity which floods and works through the world. For him the Logos did not only have an abstract, logical content, but for him it became real world content. If we look at one of the three parts of his philosophy, namely his “logic” we only find abstract concepts! So it is terribly moving for someone who enters on the one side into the Hegelian philosophy, with his whole being, and has the fundamental experience: that which can be grasped through the Logos, must be penetrated with the creative principle of the world. The Logos must be “God before the creation of the world” — to use an expression of Hegel.

This is on the one side. Now how did Hegel develop this idea of the Logos on the other side? He starts with “being” and arrives at “nothing”, goes from “becoming” to “existence.” He arrives at the goal through the causality, to the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose rather than cause. One can look at the all the concepts of Hegel's logic and ask oneself: Is that what, “before the beginning of creation as the content of the divine” could have been there? This is abstract logic, the demand of the creative, the logos as postulate, but as a purely human thought postulate! One finds this tragic. This tragedy goes further, for the Hegelian philosophy is deemed as valid. Yet it contains instances where through action new life can germinate. It contains sprouts. Hegel saw his redemption in this: being — nothing — becoming — existence.

When people are presented with Hegel, they say: ‘This is a dark one, we don't need to be lured into it.’ However, when one makes the effort to allow one's inner soul to enter into it, to experience the concept inwardly, as Hegel tried to experience it, then all the ideas of empiricism and rationalism disappears, then thought experiences and the one who is thinking is directly thought of. Whoever goes along with it finds the impetus of loosening the thoughts from the abstraction, and take Hegel's logic as the sprouts which can become something quite different, when they become alive. For me Hegel's logic looks like the seed of a plant in which one can hardly see what it will become and yet still carries the most varied structures possible within it.

For me it appears that when this seed sprouts, when one lovingly cares for it and plants it into the soul's earth through anthroposophical research, then what emerges is that thought can not only be thought but can be experienced as reality. Here we have the central European aspect.

If we now go to the East, we have in Vladimir Soloviev a man who is able like no other philosopher, to become gradually more the content of our own philosophic striving, who must now become so important to us because we allow the particularities of his character to work in on us. We see in Soloviev both the European-eastern way of thinking, which is of course not Oriental-Asiatic. Soloviev absorbed everything which was European, he only developed it in an Eastern fashion. What do we see being developed in terms of human scientific striving? Here we see how actually this method of thinking, found mostly in the West by Herbert Spencer, which Soloviev basically looked down on, is something against which the truth and knowledge he was seeking, could so to speak be illustrated. In comparison, what he actually presents is a full experience of spirituality itself. It appeared in full consciousness to him, it appeared more atavistically, subconsciously, yet it is an experience in spirituality itself. It was more or less a dreamlike attempt to knowingly experience what in the West — here quite consciously — was transposed into the realm of belief. So we find in the East a discussion which can be experienced in an imprecise way, which looks like a one-sided experience which Hegel wanted to use to cross the bridge out of the natural existence to the spiritual world.

If a person delves into the spiritual development of someone from central Europe, like Soloviev, then he will primarily have an extraordinary uncomfortable feeling. He is reminded of an experience of something misty, mystical; an overheated element in the soul life which doesn't arrive at concepts, which can externally leave him empty completely, but which can only be experienced inwardly. He senses the entirely vague mystical experience, but he also finds that Soloviev makes use of conceptual forms and means of expression which we know, from Hegel, Humes, Mills, even those of Spencer, but only as illustrations. Throughout one can say he doesn't remain stuck in the mist but through the way with which he treats religious aspects as scientific, how he searches for it everywhere and unfolds it as philosophy, he can evermore be measured and criticised according to the philosophic conceptual development of the West.

So we find ourselves today in the following situation. In the West comes the striving to formulate a world view scientifically; science is on the one side and the spiritual on the other side and wrestle in the centre with the problem of how to create a bridge to include both, to express it imprecisely, as Hegel said: “Nature is Spirit in its dissimilarity,” “Spirit is the concept of when it has returned again to itself.” In all these stuttering expressions lie the tragedy that Hegel could only care for abstract ideas, which he strived for. Then in the East, with Soloviev we see how it was somewhat still maintained, how well the church fathers wanted to save it in terms of philosophy, before the Council of Nicaea. It places us completely back in the first three post Christian Centuries of the West.

So we have in the East an experience of the spiritual world, which is not able to soar up into self-owned terminological formulations, formulations and concepts used by the West in which they express themselves, and as a result remain in vague, somewhat extraneous, foreign expressions.

So we see how the threefold nature of the philosophic world view unfolded. By our tracing how the threefold philosophic world view was formed through the characteristics and abilities of humanity in the West, the centre and the East, we can see that we are obliged today — because science as something embracing must spread over all of mankind — to find something which can lift it above these various philosophic aspects which basically still provide elements where philosophy is still a human-personal matter. We see today in different ways in the West, central Europe and the East, how they love wisdom. We understand that in ancient times, philosophy could still be an inner condition of the soul. Now however, in recent times, where people are strongly differentiated, this way of loving wisdom expresses itself in a magnitude of ways. Perhaps we could realise due to this, what we have to do ourselves, particularly what we have to do in Central Europe, where the most tragic and intensified problem is raised even if it is not regarded in the same way by all philosophic minds.

If I want to summarise all of what I have brought into a picture, I would like to express it as follows. Regarded philosophically Soloviev speaks like the old priest who lived in higher worlds and who had developed a kind of inner ability to live in these higher worlds: priestly speech translated philosophically is what one encounters all the time with Soloviev. In the West, with Herbert Spencer, speaks the man of the world who wants to enter practical life — as it has come out of Darwinian theory — to expand science in such a way that it becomes the practical basis of life. In the Middle we have neither the man of the world not the priest: Fichte, Schelling, Hegel have no priestly ways like a Soloviev. In the Middle we have the teacher, the educators of the people and it is also here where the German philosophy emerged, for example, from religious deepening; because the priest became the teacher once again. The educated also adheres to the Hegelian philosophy.

We see recently — as with Oswald Külpe — how it has happened that philosophy, when it was already lost, is no more than a summary of the individual sciences. From inorganic science you can ask — what are the concepts? From organic science you can ask — what are the concepts? Likewise with history, with the science of religion, and so on. One collects these concepts and forms a separate abstract unit. I would like to say that the subject of the teaching in the separate sciences should create the totality of teaching. This is what the science in the Middle must basically come to after the entire assessment.

If we look back at what has happened, we see with Herbert Spencer the unconditional belief in science, the belief for the necessity to cling to observation, experiment and a thinking mind, which can be experienced through the observation and experiment; and one is mistaken about the contradiction which appears here, when the acquired concepts can be applied to the social organism and — although these do not have the most important characteristics of a natural organism, the sensorium — they are nevertheless grasped with the same concepts which arise in natural existence. We see the inclination to the natural sciences so strong that some characters — like Newton — became one-sidedly stuck to the mechanistic and even satisfied their soul-striving with it. It is generally known that Newton had tried in a one-sided mystical way to clarify the Apocalypse; besides his scientific world view he had his own mystical needs.

Let's look, for example, at everything which has arisen from natural science and what it gradually in the course of the 19th Century has subconsciously taken over in Central Europe; because in Central Europe science has simply followed the pattern of the Western scientific way of thinking. There is a tendency not to take notice of it, but still all points of view are modelled on the Western pattern. How wild the people become when someone tries to apply Goethe's way of thinking in physics in contrast to them taking shelter under Newton!

How does the development happen in biology? Goethe created an organism for which the integration into its concepts depended on an understanding of a mathematical nature. Time was short to obtain a biology more appropriate to modern thinking than to that of olden times. The progress in the 19th Century in central Europe however brought about not the Goethean biology but Darwinism, which was interspersed with concepts contrary to those of Goethe, like the concepts of the 16th Century opposed to those of the 18th Century. Only in Central Europe did these concepts develop; in the West people remained with those concepts that sufficed for the understanding of nature. So it happened that certain concepts in the West simply were not available and simply got lost because people in Central Europe had adopted western thinking. For example, that a thought, a lively thought, can form a concept of grasping a reality, quite apart from empiricism, as it had happened with Hegel — this is not present in Central Europe; it got lost because the central European thinking was flooded by western thinking.

So we have the task in Central Europe to look at what scientific thinking can be. Anthroposophists resent it when this scientific way of thinking is cared for with as much love as for the researcher himself. Nothing, absolutely nothing will be said by me in opposition to scientific thinking; if someone believes this then it is a misunderstanding. However, I must understand the scientific way of thinking in its purity and then also try to characterise it in its purity. Now these things are presented to those who confront scientific thinking with impartiality — somewhat like a western researcher will present them, like Haeckel in his genial way did it — these results are presented in a western way of research, when they are thus left and not reinterpreted philosophically, not given as solutions, not as answers, but are presented above all as questions. The totality of natural science does not gradually become an answer to a question for the impartial person, because it turns into the great world question itself. This is experienced everywhere: what is now being researched in the most beautiful way by these researchers — for my sake right up to atomic theory, which I don't negate but only want to put it in its correct place — this comes to a question and out of the West a great question is posed to us. Where does this question come from?

When we link our gaze to the outer world and only turn to the observation of the given elements, we don't fathom its complete reality. We are born as human beings in the world, are constituted as such, as we already were before and take part in the reality by looking at ourselves in our own inner being. As we look then at the outer world, the sense perceptible objects — we find that part which is living in us, is missing in reality, as we can only through human struggle connect to the other half-reality, which observes us from the outside. If we look towards the West, so we see the half-reality is researched with particular devotion; however, it only provides a number of questions because it's only a half-reality. So on the one side there appears only one half of reality as a given; if one really looks at it, it raises questions. In Central Europe you discover examples of questions which Western thinking can answer and one tries to push through to thinking. That is the Hegelian philosophy.

In the East one felt that which lives above the thought, which works down into the thought; but one couldn't come as far as awakening it to life, that so to speak the flesh could also sustain a skeleton. Soloviev was able to develop it in flesh, muscles and even blood in his philosophy — but the skeleton was missing. As a result, he took Hegel's concepts, those of Humes and others, and built in a foreign skeletal system. Only when one is in the position of not using a foreign skeletal system then something comes about which can be lived through spiritually. So, however, as it happened with Soloviev, it leads to a shadowed existence because it didn't manifest into a skeletal system which could as a result be descriptive. If one doesn't want to remain with building only an outer skeletal system, but live spiritually and prepare oneself through strong spiritual work, then one develops for oneself an inner skeleton within spiritual experiences; one develops the necessary concepts. For this, various exercises have been given in my writings, “Occult Science” and “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” and in others. Here one develops what really can become a conceptual organism. This is then the other side of reality, and this side of reality has its seed in the eastern philosophy of Soloviev.

In central Europe there is always the big problem of striking a bridge between nature and the spiritual. For us it has at the same time become a meaningful historical problem: to strike the bridge between West and East, and this task must stand before us in philosophy. This task also directs itself into Anthroposophy. If Anthroposophy becomes capable of inward thought experiences developing into living form, then it may on the other side experience quite materialistic natural phenomena as they are experienced in the West, because then it will not be through abstract concepts but through living scientific circles that the bridge is built between mere belief and knowledge, between knowing and subjective certainty. Then out of philosophy a real Anthroposophy will develop and philosophy can be fructified from both sides by these living sciences. Only then would Hegel's philosophy be awakened to life, when through the anthroposophical experience you let the blood of life be spiritually added to it. Then there won't be a logical base which is so abstract that it can't be “Spirit on the other side of Nature”, as Hegel wanted it, but that it really can be grasped, not as abstraction but as the living spirituality of philosophy.

This gives Anthroposophy the following task. How must we, according to our present viewpoints, which lie decades behind Hegel, strike the bridge between what we call truth on the one side, which must encompass all of reality, and that which we call science on the other side, which also must encompass the entirety of reality? Briefly, the problem must be raised — and that is the most important philosophic problem in Anthroposophy: what is the relationship between truth and science?

This is the problem I wanted to present in the introduction today at the start of our consideration, which I believe you will now understand.




Last Modified: 16-Aug-2019
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