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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

On-line since: 30th November, 2012

XIV

Cognition and the Ultimate Foundation of Things

(See Exposition on Brief, Chapter 14)

K ANT TOOK a great step forward in philosophy in that he directed man's attention to himself. He must seek the reasons for certitude regarding his affirmations in that which is given to him as the capacities of his own mind, and not in truths forced upon him from without. Scientific conviction only through oneself, — that is the slogan of the Kantian philosophy. It is for this reason especially that he called it a critical and not dogmatic philosophy, such as maintains ready-made postulates as handed down and seeks afterwards for the proofs of these. Here appears a contradiction between two scientific trends; but this was not thought out by Kant with that distinctness to which it lends itself.

Let us fix clearly in mind how a scientific postulate comes into existence. It unites two things — either a concept and a percept or two concepts. Of the latter sort, for example, is the postulate: No effect without a cause. It may be that the objective reasons why the two concepts flow together lie beyond that which these contain in themselves, and which alone, therefore, is given to me. I may then have all sorts of formal reasons (freedom from contradiction, fixed axioms) which lead me to a definite combining of thoughts. But these reasons have no influence upon the thing itself. The postulate rests upon something which I can never reach in an objective manner. Therefore, I can never have a real insight into the thing; I know about it only as one standing outside it. According to this view, that which the postulate expresses is in a world unknown to me; the postulate alone is in my own world. This is the character of dogma. There are two sorts of dogma: the dogma of revelation and that of experience. The former hands down to man, in some way or other, truths about things which are beyond the reach of his vision. He possesses no insight into the world from which these postulates spring. He must simply believe in their verity, and cannot get access to the reasons for this belief. The case is quite similar with dogmas of experience. If any one holds the opinion that we should simply limit ourselves to pure experience and can merely observe its transmutations without penetrating to the causative forces, he is applying to the world postulates whose reasons are inaccessible to him. Here also truth is not attained by insight into the inner agency of the thing, but it is imposed by what is exterior to the thing itself. If earlier science was dominated by the dogmas of revelation, contemporary science is suffering from the dogmas of experience.

Our study has shown us that any assumption of a fundamental source of Being which exists outside the Idea is nonsense. The total fundamental essence of Being has poured itself out in the world; it has passed over into the world. In thought, it is manifest in its most complete form, just as it is, in and of itself. If, then, thinking forms a combination, if a judgment occurs, it is the content of the World-Fundament itself, poured out into thought, which is thus united. In thought, postulates are not given to us about a yonder-side World-Fundament, but this in its very substance has flowed into thought. We have a direct insight into the objective, not merely the formal, grounds for the formation of a judgment. The judgment reaches a characterization, not about something alien, but about its own content. Therefore, our view lays foundations for a true knowledge. Our theory of knowledge is really critical. According to our view, not only need nothing be conceded to revelation for which thought itself does not contain objective reasons, but also experience must be cognized within thought, not only on the side of its manifestation, but also as causative. By means of our thinking, we lift ourselves from perceiving reality as product to perceiving it as that which produces.

The essential nature of a thing thus comes to light only when the thing is brought into relation with man. For only in man does the real Being appear for each thing. This truth lays the foundation for a relativism as a world view — that is, the trend of thought which assumes that we see all things in the light which is lent to them by man himself. This point of view bears the name Anthropomorphism. It has many exponents. Most of these, however, believe that this peculiarity of our cognition alienates us from objectivity as it is in and of itself. We perceive all, so they think, through the spectacles of subjectivity. Our conception shows us the exact opposite of this. If we would reach the essential nature of things, we must view them through these spectacles. The world is not merely known to us as it appears, but it appears as it is, although only to thinking contemplation. The form of reality which man delineates in his knowledge is its final true form.

And now we have still to extend to the individual fields of reality that form of cognition which we have come to recognize as the right form — as leading to reality in its true nature. We shall now show how the real nature of experience is to be found in its individual forms.




Last Modified: 16-Aug-2017
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