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RUDOLF STEINER'S OBSERVATIONS ON STAR KNOWLEDGE


1892

{Rebuttal of Kantian view; view of necessary conditions for the start of knowledge.}

“The outcome of what follows is that truth is not, as is usually assumed, an ideal reflection of something real, but is a product of the human spirit, created by an activity which is free; this product would exist nowhere if we did not create it ourselves. The object of knowledge is not to repeat in conceptual form something which already exists, but rather to create a completely new sphere, which when combined with the world given to our senses constitutes complete reality. Thus man's highest activity, his spiritual creativeness, is an organic part of the universal world-process. The world-process should not be considered a complete, enclosed totality without this activity. Man is not a passive onlooker in relation to evolution, merely repeating in mental pictures cosmic events taking place without his participation; he is the active co-creator of the world-process, and cognition is the most perfect link in the organism of the universe.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 11-12)

“It is hoped in this essay to lay a foundation for overcoming the subjectivism inherent in all theories of knowledge based on Kant's philosophy. Indeed, I believe I have achieved this by showing that the subjective form in which the picture of the world presents itself to us in the act of cognition - prior to any scientific explanation of it - is merely a necessary transitional stage which is overcome in the very process of knowledge. In fact the experience which positivism and neo-Kantianism advance as the one and only certainty is just the most subjective one of all.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 15-16)

“As early as 1792 G.E.Schulze maintained in his Aenesidemus that all our knowledge consists of mere representations , and that we can never go beyond our representations. Schopenhauer, with a characteristic philosophical fervor, puts forward the view that the enduring achievement of Kantian philosophy is the principle that the world is `my representation'.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 39)

“Even if these different assertions were correct, or led to a correct formulation of the problem, the place to discuss them is definitely not at the beginning of a theory of knowledge. For they all represent at the outset a quite specific insight into the sphere of knowledge. To say that my knowledge extends to begin with only as far as my representations, is to express a quite definite judgment about cognition. In this sentence I add a predicate to the world given to me, namely, its existence in the form of representation. But how do I know, prior to all knowledge, that the things given to me are representations?

“The physicist who observes phenomena that occur in our environment when, for instance, we perceive a sound, is led to conclude that these phenomena have not the slightest resemblance to what we perceive as sound. Out there in the space surrounding us, nothing is to be found except vibrations of material bodies and of air, It is concluded from this that what we ordinarily call sound or tone is solely a subjective reaction of our organism to those wave-like movements. Likewise it is found that light, color and heat are something purely subjective.

“These considerations of the physicist are amplified by those of the psycho-physicist in the form of a science of specific sense-energies. J. Muller has shown that each sense can be affected only in a characteristic manner which is conditioned by its structure, so that it always reacts in the same way to any external stimulus. If the optic nerve is stimulated, there is a sensation of light, whether the stimulus is in the form of pressure, electric current, or light. On the other hand, the same external phenomenon produces quite different sensations, according to which sense organ transmits it. This leads to the conclusion that there is only one kind of phenomenon in the external world, namely motion, and that the many aspects of the world which we perceive derive essentially from the reaction of our senses to this phenomenon. According to this view, we do not perceive the external world itself, but merely subjective sensations which it releases in us.

“If this line of thought is correct and is pursued to its conclusion, it must then be admitted that our consciousness does not contain the slightest element of what could be called external existence.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 39-44)

“The view which accepts the reality of our directly given picture of the world as certain and beyond doubt, is usually called na´ve realism. The opposite view, which regards this world-picture as merely the content of our consciousness, is called transcendental idealism.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pg. 46)

“At the staring point of a theory of knowledge, the concept is only the initial relation between cognition and world-content.

“This directly given world-content includes everything that enters our experience in the widest sense: sensations, perceptions, opinions, feelings, deeds, pictures of dreams and imaginations, representations, concepts and ideas.

“Illusions and hallucinations too, at this stage are equal to the rest of the world-content. For their relation to other perceptions can be revealed only through observation based on cognition.” Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pg. 56)

“Concepts and ideas, therefor, comprise a part of the given and at the same time lead beyond it. This makes it possible to define what other activity is concerned in attaining knowledge.

“For proof presupposes thinking. One may be able to prove a particular fact, but one can never prove proof as such. We can only describe what a proof is. In logic, all theory is pure empiricism; in the science of logic there is only observation. But when we want to know something other than thinking, we can do so only with the help of thinking; this means that thinking has to approach something given and transform its chaotic relationship with the world-picture into a systematic one. All knowledge depends on man's establishing a correct relationship between two or more elements of reality, and comprehending the result of this.

“There is no doubt that many of our attempts to grasp things by means of thinking, fail . . . ” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 64-65)

“The activity of thinking is only a formal one in the up-building of our scientific world-picture, and from this it follows that no cognition can have a content which is a priori, in that it is established prior to observation (thinking divorced from the given); rather must the content be acquired wholly through observation. In this sense all our knowledge is empirical. Nor is it possible to see how this could be otherwise.

“We have established that the nature of the activity of cognition is to permeate the given world-picture with concepts and ideas by means of thinking. What follows from this fact? If the directly given were a totality, complete in itself, then such an elaboration of it by means of cognition would be both impossible and unnecessary. We should then simply accept the given as it is, and would be satisfied with it in that form. The act of cognition is possible only because the given contains something hidden; this hidden does not appear as long as we consider only its immediate aspect; the hidden aspect only reveals itself through the order that thinking brings into the given. In other words, what the given appears to be before it has been elaborated by thinking, is not its full totality.” (Truth and Knowledge, 1981, pp. 67-70)


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