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Truth and Knowledge
GA 3

vii. Epistemological Conclusion

We have established that the theory of knowledge is a science of significance for all human knowledge. The theory of knowledge alone can explain to us the relationship which the contents of the various branches of knowledge have to the world. Combined with them it enables us to understand the world, to attain a world-view. We acquire positive insight through particular judgments; through the theory of knowledge we learn the value of this insight for reality. Because we have adhered strictly to this absolutely fundamental principle and have not evaluated any particular instances of knowledge in our discussion, we have transcended all one-sided world-views. One-sidedness, as a rule, results from the fact that the enquiry, instead of first investigating the process of cognition itself, immediately approaches some object of this process. Our discussion has shown that in dogmatism, the “thing-in-itself” cannot be employed as its fundamental principle; similarly, in subjective idealism, the “I” cannot be fundamental, for the mutual relationship of these principles must first be defined by thinking. The “thing-in-itself” and “I” cannot be defined by deriving one from the other; both must be defined by thinking in conformity with their character and relationship. The adherent of scepticism must cease to doubt the possibility of knowing the world, for there is no room for doubt in regard to the “given”—it is still untouched by all predicates later bestowed on it by means of cognition. Should the sceptic maintain that our cognitive thinking can never approach the world, he can only maintain this with the help of thinking, and in so doing refutes himself. Whoever attempts to establish doubt in thinking by means of thinking itself admits, by implication, that thinking contains a power strong enough to support a conviction. Lastly, our theory of knowledge transcends both one-sided empiricism and one-sided rationalism by uniting them at a higher level. In this way, justice is done to both. Empiricism is justified by showing that as far as content is concerned, all knowledge of the given is to be attained only through direct contact with the given. And it will be found that this view also does justice to rationalism in that thinking is declared to be both the necessary and the only mediator of knowledge.

The world-view which has the closest affinity to the one presented here, built up on epistemological foundations, is that of A. E. Biedermann.120Note by Rudolf Steiner: See his Christliche Dogmatik, Christian Dogmatics, and edition, 1884–85, the epistemological arguments, Vol. 1. A complete discussion of his point of view has been provided by Eduard von Hartmann; see Kritische Wanderungen durch die Philosophie der Gegenwart, Critical Survey of Contemporary Philosophy, p. 200 ff. But to establish his standpoint, Biedermann uses concepts which do not belong in a theory of knowledge at all. He works with concepts such as existence, substance, space, time, etc., without having first investigated the process of cognition alone. Instead of first establishing the fact that in the process of cognition, to begin with, two elements only are present, the given and thinking, he speaks of reality as existing in different forms. For example,121opus cit., see note 120, above. he says:

“Every content of consciousness contains two fundamental factors; two kinds of existence are given to us in it, and these opposites we designate as physical and spiritual, or as bodily and ideal.” (¶15) “What exists in space and time is material, but the foundation of all processes of existence, the subject of life, this also exists, but as an ideal; it has ideal being.” (¶19)

Such considerations do not belong in a theory of knowledge, but in metaphysics, which in turn can be established only by means of a theory of knowledge. Admittedly, much of what Biedermann maintains is very similar to what I maintain, but the methods used to arrive at this are utterly different. No reason to draw any direct comparison has thus arisen. Biedermann seeks to attain an epistemological standpoint by means of a few metaphysical axioms. The attempt here is to acquire insight into reality by observing the process of cognition.

And we believe that we have shown that all conflicts between world-views result from a tendency to attempt to attain knowledge of something objective (thing, I, consciousness, etc.) without having first gained a sufficiently exact knowledge of what alone can elucidate all knowledge: the nature of knowledge itself.