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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Truth and Science
GA 3

VII. Theory of Knowing Final Remarks

We have grounded 78t/n This chapter marks the end of Steiner’s original doctoral dissertation. the theory of knowing (Erkenntnistheorie) on the concept of the act of clear, conscious, logical scientific thinking about perceptions (Wissenschaft) as the significant way to understand all human conceptions (Wissen). Only through clear logical thinking do we procure the relationship between individual concepts and the world. With the help of this sort of scientific thinking, it is possible to come to a world outlook. We reach the basic meaning of conception (positives Wissen) through the individual perceptions. The value of perceptions for reality we experience through the theory of knowing, through epistemology. By sticking strictly to this principle, and not using any individual perceptions in our argument about immediately approaching some object of the cognitive process, we have overcome all one-sided world outlooks. One-sidedness usually arises due to the investigation immediately approaching some object of the cognitive process, instead of addressing the cognitive process itself. After our discussions, dogmatism must drop its "thing-in-itself" and subjective idealism must drop its "I" as a primary principle, because their mutual relationship is determined essentially only by thinking. “Thing-in-itself” and “I” cannot be determined by deriving one from the other, but both must be determined by thinking, according to their character and relationship. Skepticism must abandon its doubts about the knowability of the world, because there is nothing to doubt about what is "given", as it is still untouched by all the predicates given by knowing. But if it wanted to claim that thinking cognition could never approach things, it could only do this through thinking reflection, which would also prove it wrong. Anyone who wants to establish doubt in thinking implicitly admits that thinking has sufficient power to support convictions. Our epistemology, finally, overcomes one-sided empiricism and one-sided rationalism by uniting both at a higher level. In this way, it does justice to both. We do justice to the empiricist by showing that to attain awareness of all the contents of the given, it is sufficient to merely be in direct contact with it. The rationalist also finds his due in our argument, since we declare thinking to be the necessary and only mediator of knowing.

The next thing our world outlook touches on, if we have grounded it on the theory of knowing, is the presentation of A. E. Biedermann.79A. E. Biedermann’s epistemological arguments in his 1884-85 edition Christliche Dogmatik, Vol. 1. A complete discussion of his point of view has been provided by Eduard von Hartmann’s Kritische Wanderungen durch die Philosophie der Gegenwart, Critical Survey of Contemporary Philosophy, p. 200 ff. But Biedermann needs (for the grounding of his standpoint’s declaration) something that in no way belongs in the theory knowing. He operates with the concepts of existence, substance, space, time, etc., without having first examined the cognitive process itself. Instead of stating that initially only the two elements given and thinking are present in the cognitive process, he speaks of modes of existence of reality.

So, he says for example in section 15, "Two basic certainties are contained in the contents of consciousness: 1. There are two types of existence given to us, whose contrasting existence we describe as sensory and spiritual, material and ideal existence." And in section 19, “Whatever has a spatial-temporal existence exists as something material; what the grounds are of all processes involving existence-awareness and subjectivity of life, the existing ideal, is real as an ideal-existence.” Such considerations do not belong in epistemology, but in metaphysics, which can only be justified with the help of epistemology. It must be admitted that Biedermann's claims are in many ways like mine, but my method has absolutely no bearing on his. I therefore find no reason to deal with him directly. Biedermann tries to gain an epistemological point of view with the help of some metaphysical axioms. We seek to arrive at a view of reality by considering the cognitive process.

And I believe that I have shown definitively that all conflicts between world viewpoints arise due to trying to experience objective perceptions (things, the “I”, awareness, etc.) without specifically becoming familiar with what primarily and alone can open an understanding to all other perceptions, namely the essential nature of what it is to experience conceptions (des Wissens) itself.