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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21

III. Franz Brentano: In Memoriam

For the reasons expressed in the previous chapter, it is impossible to speak adequately about the relation between anthropology (natural science) and anthroposophy (spiritual science) in connection with Max Dessoir's book Beyond the Soul. But I believe that this relation can become visible if I place here what I wrote with a different intention, in memory, namely, of the philosopher Franz Brentano, who died in Zurich in March 1917. The departure of this man, whom I held in the highest esteem, had the effect of bringing before my soul anew his significant life's work; it moved me to express the following.

At this moment when the death of this revered person has interrupted his work, it seems to me that I might make an attempt, from an anthroposophical viewpoint to arrive at a view of Franz Brentano's philosophical life's work. I believe that the anthroposophical viewpoint will not let me fall into a one-sided evaluation of Brentano's world view. I assume this for two reasons. Firstly, no one can accuse Brentano's way of picturing things of having even the slightest tendency in an anthroposophical direction. If he himself had had any cause to judge it, he would certainly have rejected it decisively. Secondly, from my anthroposophical viewpoint, I am in a position to approach the philosophy of Franz Brentano with unconditional reverence.

With respect to my first reason, I believe I am correct in saying that if he had arrived at an assessment of what I mean by anthroposophy, Brentano would have shaped it the way he did his judgment on Plotinus' philosophy. As with it he would certainly also have said of anthroposophy: “mystical darkness and an uncontrolled fantasy roving into unknown regions.” As with neo-platonism he would have urged caution with respect to anthroposophy “so as not, enticed by empty appearances, to lose oneself in the labyrinthine passages of a pseudophilosophy.” Yes, he may also have found anthroposophy's way of thinking to be too dilettantish even to be worthy of being reckoned to the philosophies which he judged the way he did those of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. In his inaugural Vienna address he said of them: “Perhaps the recent past has also been an ... epoch of decay, in which all concepts ran together in a muddy way, and no trace was to be found of a method in keeping with facts.” I believe that Brentano would have judged in this way, even though I also of course not only consider this judgment to be totally unfounded, but also regard as unjustified any pairing of anthroposophy with the philosophies with which Brentano would probably have paired it.

Now with respect to my other reason for coming to terms with Brentano's philosophy, I must confess that for me his philosophy belongs to the most inviting accomplishments in soul research in modern times. It is true that I was only able to hear a few of Brentano's lectures in Vienna some thirty-six years ago; but from then on I have followed his literary activity with warmest interest. Unfortunately, when measured against my wish to hear from him, his publications came at too great an interval from each other. And these writings are mostly of such a kind that one peered through them as though through little openings into a room filled with treasures; one looked, so to speak, through occasional publications upon a broad realm of the unpublished thoughts that this exceptional man bore within himself—bore within himself in such a way that it strove in continuous evolution toward lofty goals of knowledge. When, therefore, in 1911, after a long interval there appeared his book on Aristotle, his brilliant book Aristotle's Teaching on the Origin of the Human Spirit, and his republishing of the most important sections of his Psychology, with its penetrating addenda, the reading of these books was a series of festive joys for me.

With respect to Franz Brentano I feel myself imbued with a kind of soul disposition of which I believe I may say that one acquires it when the anthroposophical viewpoint— out of scientifically acquired conviction—in fact takes hold of one's soul disposition. I strive to gain insight into the value of his views, even though I am under no illusion about the fact that he could—yes, would even have had to—think about anthroposophy in the way indicated above. I am truly not saying this here in order to fall foolishly into a vain self-critique of my soul disposition when confronted by hostile or differing views, but rather because I know how many misunderstandings of my assessments of other spiritual streams have occurred through the fact that in my books I have so often expressed myself in a way stemming from this soul disposition. It seems to me that the whole methodology of Brentano's soul research is permeated with the basic thoughts that moved him in 1868 to set up his guiding principle. As he was entering his philosophical professorship at that time in Wurzburg, he placed his way of picturing things into the light of the thesis: True philosophical research cannot be of any other kind than that which is considered valid in natural-scientific cognition. “Vera philosophiae methodus nulla alia nisi scientiae naturalis est.” 1He later spoke about his setting up of this thesis in the lecture he held in the Vienna Philosophical Society in 1892 (published under the title The Future of Philosophy). What I refer to as Brentano's later reference to his thesis is on page 3. When he then published the first volume of his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint in 1874—at the time of entering his Vienna professorship—he sought to present soul phenomena scientifically, in accordance with the above guiding principle. What Brentano wanted to accomplish with this book and its further manifestations in publications during his lifetime pose a significant scientific problem for me. As is clear from his book, Brentano counted on a series of books to contain his psychology. He promised to publish a second book shortly after the first. But no sequel was ever published to his first book, which contained only the preliminary ideas of his psychology. When he published the lecture he had given in 1889 to the Vienna Bar Association, entitled The Origins of Moral Knowledge, he wrote in the preface:

It would be a mistake, just because of the chance request for this lecture to regard it as the passing work of the moment. It offers the fruits of years of reflection. Of everything I have published so far its contents are definitely the ripest creation. They belong to the thought complex of a "descriptive psychology" which I dare to hope I will be able to reveal in its full scope to the public in the not too distant future. Its far removal from any tradition and more especially the significant development of my own views as presented in Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint will clearly show that I have not in fact been idle during my long literary retirement.

But this “descriptive psychology” also never appeared. By reading his Research into the Psychology of the Senses (1907), which is restricted to one small area, devotees of Brentano's philosophy can reckon what they would have gained from such a descriptive psychology.

The question must be asked: What made Brentano hold back ever and again from continuing his publications, and then not to publish at all something he believed would be ready shortly? I confess that I was shaken to the core when I read the following words in the memorial to Brentano written by Alois Höfler in May 1917: “Brentano was working ahead so confidently on his main problem, proof of God's existence, that a few years ago an excellent Viennese doctor and close friend of Brentano's told me that Brentano had assured him a short while ago that he would now have his proof of God's existence ready in a few weeks ...” I felt the same way when I read in another memorial (by Utitz): “The work that he loved the most fervently, that he applied himself to his whole life long, remains unpublished.”

It seems to me that Brentano's destiny with respect to his projected publications represents a weighty, spiritual-scientific problem. It is true that we can approach this problem only if we are willing to study, in its own special character, what Brentano was able to communicate to the world. I consider it important to note that Brentano wants, with real acumen, to establish as a basis for his psychological research a pure mental picture of the genuine soul element. He asks himself: What is characteristic of all the occurrences that one must address as soulful? And he found what he expressed in the following way in the addenda of his Psychology (1911): “What is characteristic of every soul activity consists, as I believe I have shown, in its relation to something as object.” Mental picturing is a soul activity. Characteristic of it is that I not only picture but that I picture something, that my mental picture relates to something. Borrowing from medieval philosophy, Brentano calls this characteristic of soul phenomena an “intentional relation.” In another place he said:

The characteristic common to everything of a soul nature is what is often called “consciousness,”—to use a term that unfortunately can be quite misleading—i.e., it is a subjective activity, in a so-called intentional relation to something that perhaps is not real but nevertheless is given in an inwardly objective way. No hearing without something heard; no believing without something believed; no hoping without something hoped for; no striving without something striven for; no joy without something to be joyous about; and so on.

This intentional inner awareness, therefore, is something which in fact guides us as a kind of leitmotiv in such a way that through it one recognizes everything to which we can apply it as being of a soul nature.

Brentano contrasts soul phenomena with physical phenomena: colors, sound, space, and many others. He finds that these last are different from the soul phenomena through the fact that an intentional relation is not characteristic of them. And he limits himself to attributing this relation to soul phenomena and to denying it to physical phenomena. But now, precisely when one learns to know Brentano's view on the intentional relation, our inner vision is led to the question: Does not a viewpoint like this require us to look at physical phenomena also from the same viewpoint? Now someone who, in the sense of Brentano, tests physical phenomena for a common element as he did with soul phenomena will find that every phenomenon in the physical realm exists through (by virtue of) something else. When a body dissolves in a fluid, this phenomenon of the dissolved body occurs through the relation to it of the dissolving fluid. When phosphorus changes color under the influence of the sun, this phenomenon points in the same direction. All the qualities of the physical world exist through the interrelations of things to each other. What Moleschott says is correct for physical existence: “All existence is an existence through qualities. But there is no quality that does not exist through a relation.” Just as everything of a soul nature contains something in itself by which it points to something outside itself, so conversely, a physical thing is so constituted that it is what it is through the relation to it of something outer. Someone like Brentano who emphasizes with so much acumen the intentional relation of everything of a soul nature, must he not also direct his attention upon a characteristic element of physical phenomena that results from the same train of thought? At the very least, it seems certain that a study like this of the soul element can discover the relation of this soul element to the physical world only if it takes this characteristic element into consideration.2Please see the last part of addendum 7, Brentano's Separation of the Soul from What Is External to the Soul.

Now Brentano discovers three kinds of intentional relations in our soul life. The first is the mental picturing of something; the second is the acceptance or rejection that expresses itself in judging; the third is the loving or hating that is experienced in our feeling. If I say, “God is just,” I am picturing something to myself; but I do not yet accept or reject what I am picturing; but if I say, “There is a God,” I accept what I am picturing through a judgment. If I say, “I like to feel pleasure,” I am not only judging, I am experiencing a feeling. From such presuppositions Brentano distinguishes three basic categories of soul experiences: mental picturing, judging, and feeling (or the phenomena of loving and hating). He replaces the usual division of soul phenomena (into mental picturing, feeling, and willing) with these three basic categories. So whereas many people put mental picturing and judging into the same category, Brentano separates them. He does not agree with combining them, because, unlike other thinkers, he does not regard judgments as merely the connecting of mental pictures, but rather, in fact, as the acceptance or rejection of what has been pictured, which are not activities of mere mental picturing. On the other hand, with respect to their soul content, feeling and will, which other people separate, merge for Brentano into one. What is experienced in the soul when one feels oneself drawn to do something, or repelled from doing it, is the same as what one experiences when one is drawn to pleasure or repelled by pain.

It is evident from Brentano's writing that he sets great store in having replaced the traditional division of soul experience into thinking, feeling, and willing by the other one into mental picturing, judging, and loving/hating. By this division he seeks to clear the way for an understanding of what truth is, on the one hand, and moral goodness on the other. For him truth is based on right judgment; moral goodness on right love. He finds that “We call something true when its acceptance is right. We call something good when the love we bring to it is right.”

One can see from Brentano's presentations that when he observes the right acceptance in judgment with respect to truth and the right experience of love with respect to moral goodness, he is taking a sharp look at soul phenomena and circumscribing them. But, within his thought sphere, one can find nothing that would suffice to make the transition from our soul experience of mental picturing to that of judging. No matter where we look in Brentano's thought sphere we seek in vain the answer to the question: What is happening when the soul is conscious of not merely picturing something to itself, but also of finding itself moved to accept this something though judgment?

Just as little can one escape a question with respect to our right love of the morally good. Within the region that Brentano circumscribes as the "soul element," the only phenomenon pertaining to moral action is right loving. But does not a relation to the outer world also belong to a moral action? With respect to a characterization of a deed for the world, is it enough to say: It is a deed that is rightly loved? 3Please see addendum 5: The Real Basis of an Intentional Relation.

In following Brentano's trains of thought, we mainly have a feeling that they are always fruitful because they take up a problem and move it in one direction with acumen and scientific thoroughness; but one also feels that Brentano's trains of thought do not reach the goal that his starting points promise us. Such a feeling can come over us when we compare his threefold division of our soul life into mental picturing, judging, and loving/hating to the other division into mental picturing, feeling, and willing. One follows his views with a certain amount of agreement, but ultimately remains unconvinced that he has done sufficient justice to the reasons for membering the soul the other way. Let us just take the example of the conclusions he draws from his soul division about the true, the beautiful, and the good. Whoever members our soul life into cognitional mental picturing, feeling, and willing can hardly do otherwise than closely connect our striving for truth with mental picturing, our experience of beauty with feeling, and our accomplishment of the good with willing. The matter looks different in the light of Brentano's thought. There the mental pictures as such have no relation to each other by which the truth as such could already reveal itself. When the soul is striving to perfect itself relative to its mental pictures, its ideal cannot therefore be the truth; beauty is its ideal. Truth does not lie on the path of mere mental picturing; it lies on the path of judging. And the morally good does not find itself as essentially united with our willing; it is a content of our feeling; for, to love rightly is a feeling experience. For our ordinary consciousness, however, the truth can be sought, after all, in our mentally picturing cognition. For, even though the judgment that leads to the truth does not lie only in the connecting of mental pictures but rather is based on an acceptance or rejection of the mental pictures, still the acceptance or rejection of these pictures can only be experienced by our consciousness in mental pictures.

And even though the mental pictures in which something beautiful presents itself to the soul do manifest in certain relationships within our life of mental pictures, still, the beauty is experienced, after all, by our feeling.

And although something morally good should call forth the right love in our soul, still the essential factor in the morally good after all, is the accomplishment through the will of what is rightly loved.

One only recognizes what we actually have in Brentano's thoughts about the threefold division of our soul life when one realizes that he is speaking of something completely different from what those thinkers mean who divide it into mental picturing, feeling, and willing. The latter simply want to describe the experiences of ordinary consciousness. And this consciousness experiences itself in the different kinds of activity of mental picturing, feeling, and willing. What does one actually experience there? I tried to answer this question in my book The Riddle of Man 4Published by Mercury Press, 1990. See pages 132f. Ed. and summarized the findings presented there in the following words:

Human soul experience, as it manifests in thinking, feeling, and willing, is at first bound to the bodily instruments. And this experience takes shape in ways determined by these instruments. If someone asserts, however, that when he observes the manifestations of the soul through the body he is seeing the real life of the soul, he is then caught up in the same error as someone who believes that his actual form is brought forth by the mirror in front of him just because the mirror possesses the necessary prerequisites through which his image appears. Within certain limits this image, as image, is indeed dependent upon the form of the mirror, etc.; but what this image represents has nothing to do with the mirror. In order to completely fulfill its essential being within the sense world, human soul life must have an image of its being. It must have its image in consciousness; otherwise it would indeed have an existence, but no picture, no knowledge of it. This image, now, that lives in the ordinary consciousness of the soul is fully determined by the bodily instruments. Without these, the image would not be there, just as the mirror image would not be there without the mirror. But what appears through this image, the soul element itself, is—in its essential being—no more dependent upon the bodily instrument than the person standing before the mirror is dependent upon the mirror. The soul is not dependent upon the bodily instruments; only the ordinary consciousness of the soul is so.5Although the following comment is superfluous, lam sure, to many readers, I would still like to add that, by the very nature of the matter, with my comparison of consciousness to a mirror image, I am not referring to the usual practice of calling our world of mental pictures a mirror image of the outer world; I am calling the soul's experiences in ordinary consciousness a mirror image of the genuine soul element.

If one is describing the realm of consciousness that is dependent upon our bodily organization, one is correct in membering it into mental picturing, feeling, and willing.6Please see addendum 6: The Physical and Spiritual Dependencies of Man's Being. But Brentano is describing something different. Bear in mind to begin with that by “judging,” he means an acceptance or rejection of a content of mental pictures. Our judgment is active within our life of mental pictures; but it does not simply accept the mental pictures that arise in the soul; through acceptance or rejection it relates them to a reality. If one observes more closely, this relating of our mental pictures to a reality can only be found in a soul activity that occurs within the soul itself. But this can never totally correspond to what the soul produces when, through judging, it relates a mental picture to a sense perception. For there the compulsion of the outer impression holds sway, which is not experienced in a purely inner way, but only as an echoed experience, and as a mentally pictured, echoed experience leads to its acceptance or rejection. On the other hand, what Brentano describes corresponds totally in this respect with the kind of cognition that we called "Imaginative cognition" in the first essay of this book. In Imaginative cognition the mental picturing of our ordinary consciousness is not simply accepted; it is developed further in inner soul experience so that out of it the power emerges to relate the soul's experiences to a spiritual reality in such a way that this reality is accepted or rejected. Brentano's concept of judgment, therefore, is not perfectly realized in our ordinary consciousness, but only in the soul that is active in Imaginative cognition.

Furthermore, it is clear that, through Brentano's complete separation of the concept of mental picturing from the concept of judgment, he takes mental picturing to be mere image. But this is how ordinary mental picturing lives in Imaginative cognition. So even this second quality that anthroposophy attributes to Imaginative cognition is to be found in Brentano's characterization of soul phenomena.

What is more, Brentano addresses the experiences of feeling as manifestations of love and hate. Whoever ascends to Imaginative cognition must, in fact, for supersensible vision, transform the kind of soul experience that manifests in ordinary consciousness as loving and hating—in Brentano's sense of the words—in such a way that we can confront certain characteristics of spiritual reality that are described in my book Theosophy, for example, in the following way:

Among the first things one must acquire for an orientation in the soul world is the ability to distinguish between its different kinds of entities in the same way that one distinguishes in the physical world between solid, fluid, and gaseous entities. To attain this, one must know the two basic forces that are of primary significance here. One can call them “sympathy” and “antipathy.” The way these basic forces work in a soul entity determines its kind.

Whereas loving and hating remain something subjective for the life of the soul in the sense world, Imaginative cognition lives along with objective occurrences in the soul world through inner experiences that are equivalent to loving and hating. There also, where he is speaking about soul phenomena, Brentano describes a characteristic of Imaginative cognition through which this cognition already extends into the realm of a still higher kind of knowledge 7The first form of a “seeing cognition”—Imaginative cognition—passes over into the second form, which is called "Inspired cognition" in my books. In addendum 6, The Physical and Spiritual Dependencies of Man's Being, there is a description of how an Imagination that has already passed over into Inspiration actually lives in Brentano's definition of loving and hating. and from the fact that he presents moral goodness as right loving one can see that he has a mental picture of an objective kind of loving and hating in contrast to ordinary consciousness' subjective kind of feeling.

Finally, one must pay particular attention to the fact that for Brentano willing is absent from the realm of soul phenomena. Now, the willing that flows out of ordinary consciousness belongs entirely to the physical world. Although in itself it is a purely spiritual being manifesting in the physical world, our willing, in the form in which it can be thought by ordinary consciousness, realizes itself totally in the physical world. If one is describing the ordinary consciousness present in the physical world, willing must not be absent from this picture. If one is describing the seeing consciousness, nothing from our mental pictures about ordinary willing must pass over into these descriptions. For, in the soul world to which Imaginative consciousness is related, what happens as the result of a soul impulse is different from what occurs through the acts of will characteristic of the physical world. So when Brentano focuses on the soul phenomena in that realm in which Imaginative cognition is active, the concept of willing must evaporate for him.

It really seems obvious that, in describing the essential being of soul phenomena, Brentano was actually compelled to depict the essential being of seeing cognition. This is clear even from certain details of his descriptions. Let us look at one example from the many that could be introduced. He says: “The characteristic common to everything of a soul nature is what is often called ‘consciousness’—to use a term that unfortunately can be quite misleading...” But, when one is only describing those soul phenomena which by belonging to ordinary consciousness are determined by the bodily organization, this term is not at all misleading. Brentano has a sense for the fact, however, that the real soul does not live in this ordinary consciousness, and he feels impelled to speak about the essential being of this real soul in pictures that, to be sure, must be misleading if one wants to apply the usual concept of consciousness to them.

Brentano proceeds in his investigations in such a way that he pursues the phenomena of the anthropological realm up to that point where they compel an unbiased person to form pictures of the soul that coincide with what anthroposophy, following its own paths, discovers about the soul. And the findings on both paths prove to be in fullest harmony with each other, precisely through Brentano's psychology. Brentano himself, however, did not wish to abandon the anthropological path. He was hindered from doing this by his interpretations of the guiding principle he had set up for himself: “True philosophical research cannot be of any other kind than that considered valid by the natural-scientific kind of cognition.” A different interpretation of this guiding principle could have led him to recognize that the natural-scientific approach is seen in the right light precisely at the point when one becomes aware that tills approach, in accordance with its own essential nature, must transform itself in dealing with this spiritual realm. Brentano never wished to make the true soul phenomena—which he called soul phenomena “as such”—into objects of an avowed consciousness. If he had done this, he would have progressed from anthropology to anthroposophy. He feared this path, because he was only able to regard it as an erring into “mystical darkness and an uncontrolled roving of fantasy into unknown regions.” He would not permit himself to investigate at all what his own psychological view demanded. Every time he was faced with the necessity of extending his own path into the anthroposophical realm he stopped short. He wished to answer by anthropology the questions that can only be answered by anthroposophy. This effort was doomed to failure. Because it had to fail, he could not proceed in a satisfying way to develop further what he had begun. To judge by the findings in the first volume of his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, if he had continued on with it, it would have to have become anthroposophy. If he really had produced his Descriptive Psychology, anthroposophy would have to have shone through it everywhere. If he had carried further the ethics in his book The Origins of Moral Knowledge—in a way corresponding to its starting point—he would have to have hit upon anthroposophy.

Before Brentano's soul there stood the possibility of a psychology that could not be given a purely anthropological form. Anthropology cannot even think at all about the most significant questions that must be raised about human soul life. Modern psychology only wants to be anthropological because it considers anything going beyond it to be unscientific. Brentano says, however:

The laws of mental association, of the development of convictions and opinions, and of the germinating of pleasure and love, all these would be anything but a true compensation for not gaining certainty about the hopes of a Plato and Aristotle for the continued existence of our better part after the dissolution of the body... And if the difference between these two views really did signify the inclusion or exclusion of the question of immortality, this would have to be called an extremely portentous difference, and a metaphysical investigation of substance as the bearer of [soul] states would be unavoidable.

Anthroposophy shows that metaphysical speculation cannot take one into the region indicated by Brentano; the only way to enter it is through activation of soul powers which cannot descend into ordinary consciousness. Through the fact that in his philosophy Brentano portrays the essential being of the soul in such a way that the essen79 tial being of seeing cognition comes to clear expression in this portrayal, this philosophy is a perfect vindication of anthroposophy. And one can regard Brentano as a philosophical investigator whose path takes him to the very doors of anthroposophy, but does not wish to open these doors, because the picture he has made for himself of natural- scientific thinking created the belief in him that by opening these doors he would land himself in the abyss of nonscience.


The difficulties often confronting Brentano when he wishes to extend his picture of the soul stem from the fact that he relates his picture of the essential being of the soul element to what is present in ordinary consciousness. He is motivated to do this by his wish to remain in the thought mode that seems to him to be scientifically valid. But this approach, with its means of cognition, can only in fact attain to that part of the soul element that is present as the content of ordinary consciousness. This content, however, is not the real soul element but only its mirror image. Brentano grasps this image only from the side of intelligent understanding, and not from the other side, the side of observation. In his concepts he paints a picture of the soul phenomena that occur in the reality of the soul; when he observes, he believes himself to have a reality in his mirror image of the soul element.8Please see addendum 7, Brentano's Separation of the Soul Element from What is External to the Soul.

Another philosophical stream that Brentano met with the strongest antipathy—that of Eduard von Hartmann— also took its start from a natural-scientific way of picturing the world. Eduard von Hartmann has recognized the image character of ordinary consciousness. But he also utterly rejects any possibility of bringing its corresponding reality into human consciousness in any way. He consigns this reality to the region of the unconscious. He grants the power to speak about this region only to the hypothetical application of the concepts which one has formed through ordinary consciousness and extended beyond it.9This view is expressed in his two books Modern Psychology, Leipzig 1901, and Outline of Psychology, Bad Sachsa 1908. Anthroposophy maintains that spiritual observation can go beyond the realm of ordinary consciousness. And that concepts are also accessible to this spiritual observation that no more need to be merely hypothetical than those acquired in the sense-perceptible world.

For Eduard von Hartmann the supersensible world is not known directly; it is inferred from what we know directly. Hartmann belongs to those present-day philosophers who do not wish to form concepts without having, as a starting point for forming these concepts, the testimony of sense observation and of their experiences in ordinary consciousness. Brentano forms such concepts, however. But he is mistaken about the reality in which they can be formed through observation. His spirit proves to be curiously divided. He would like to be a pure natural scientist, thinking in the natural-scientific mode that has developed in recent times. And yet he must form concepts that this mode would only consider justified if one did not consider this mode to be the only valid one. This division in Brentano's investigative spirit can be explained if one really studies his first books: The Manifold Significance of “Being,” According to Aristotle (1862), The Psychology of Aristotle (1867), and The Creationism of Aristotle (1882).

In these books Brentano follows Aristotle's trains of thought with exemplary scholarship. And in this pursuit he acquires a kind of thinking that cannot be limited to the concepts that hold sway in anthropology. In these books he has in view a concept of soul that derives the soul element out of the spiritual element. This soul element, stemming from the spiritual element, uses the organism—formed by physical processes—to form mental pictures for itself within sense-perceptible existence. What forms mental pictures for itself in the soul is spiritual in nature; it is Aristotle's “nous.” But this “nous” is a twofold being; as “nous pathetikos,” it only suffers things to happen to it; it allows itself to be stimulated to its mental pictures by the impressions given it by the organism. In order for these mental pictures to appear as they are in the active soul, however, this activity must work as “nous poetikos.” What the “nous pathetikos” provides would be mere phenomena within a dark soul existence; they are illuminated by the “nous poetikos.” Brentano says in this connection: “The ‘nous poetikos’ is the light that illumines the phantasms and makes visible to our spiritual eye the spiritual within the senseperceptible.” If one wants to understand Brentano, the point is not only how far he went in taking up Aristotle's mental pictures into his own convictions, but above all that he moved about in these pictures with his own thinking in a devoted way. In doing so, however, his thinking was active in a realm in which the starting point of sensory observation—and along with it the anthropological basis for forming concepts—is not present. And this basic characteristic of his thinking remained in Brentano's research. True, he wants to grant validity only to what can be recognized as conforming with the present-day, natural-scientific mode; but he has to form thoughts that do not belong in that realm. Now, according to the purely natural-scientific method, one can only say something about soul phenomena insofar as they are mirror images—determined by the bodily organization—of the real being of the soul; i.e., insofar as, in their nature as mirror images, they arise and pass away with the bodily organization. What Brentano must think the reality of the soul to be, however, is something spiritual, something independent of the bodily organization, in fact, that through the “nous poetikos” makes visible to our spiritual eye the spiritual within the sense-perceptible.

The fact that Brentano can move about with his thinking in such realms prohibits him from conceiving of the soul's essential being as something arising through the bodily organization and passing away with it. Because he rejects supersensible observation, however, he can observe within the soul's essential being no content that extends beyond physical existence. The moment he tries to ascribe a content to the soul that the soul could unfold without the help of the bodily organization, Brentano feels himself to be in a world for which he finds no mental pictures. In this frame of mind he turns to Aristotle and finds there also a picture of the soul that gives him no content other than that acquired in bodily existence. Characteristic in its one-sidedness is something Brentano wrote in this connection in his Psychology of Aristotle:

Now just as a person, when he has lost a foot or another limb, is no longer a complete substance, so, when his whole bodily part has fallen prey to death, he is of course much less a complete substance. To be sure, the spiritual part continues to exist; but those are very much in error who, like Plato, believe that the separation from the body is a benefit to them and, as it were, a liberation from an oppressive prison; the soul, after all, must now renounce all the numerous services that the bodily forces have rendered.

Brentano got into an extraordinarily interesting dispute with the philosopher Eduard Zeller over Aristotle's conception of the essential being of the soul. Zeller maintained that it is in line with Aristotle's views to accept a pre-existence of the soul before its union with the bodily organization, whereas Brentano denied any such view to Aristotle, and only allowed Aristotle to think that the soul is first created into the bodily organization; so the soul has no pre-existence, but does indeed have an after-existence when the body disintegrates. Brentano maintained that only Plato accepted pre-existence, but Aristotle did not. It is undeniable that the reasons Brentano brings for his opinion and against Zeller's are weighty ones. Irrespective of Brentano's intelligent interpretation of Aristotle's relevant assertions, we are indeed faced with a difficulty in ascribing to Aristotle a belief in the pre-existence of the soul when we consider that any such belief seems to contradict a basic principle of Aristotelian metaphysics. Aristotle states, namely, that a “form” could never exist before the "substance" that bears the form. A spherical shape never exists without the substance that fills it. Since Aristotle considers the soul element to be the “form” of the bodily organization, however, it seems that we cannot ascribe to him the belief that the soul could exist before the bodily organization arose.

Now Brentano, with his concept of the soul, became so caught up in the Aristotelian picture of the impossibility of pre-existence that he could not see how this picture breaks down at a crucial point. Can one really think of “form” and “matter” in such a way that one accepts the view that form could not exist prior to the matter that fills it? The spherical shape could not after all be present prior to the substance filling it? The sphere, as it appears in a substance, is certainly not present prior to the balling up of the substance. Before the substance comes together like this, however, those forces are present which act upon this substance and whose effect upon the substance reveals itself in its spherical shape. And within these forces, prior to the appearing of this spherical shape, this shape is certainly living already in another way.10A mistaken view about the validity of the assertion that form cannot exist prior to the matter filling it can arise in connection with crystal formation only because there the form seems to emerge directly out of the forces dwelling in the matter. Nevertheless, unbiased thinking cannot do otherwise than situate the formative forces within the material element before the formed matter actually arises. Aristotle's picture becomes completely untenable, however, when we consider the plant, whose formative forces can certainly not be sought in the conditions within the seed alone, but rather in the effects of the outer world that are present long before the formation of the sense-perceptible plant. Had Brentano not felt bound, through his interpretation of the natural-scientific approach, to find the content for his concept of the soul from observation of the bodily organization, he would perhaps have noticed that the Aristotelian concept of the soul is itself burdened with an inner contradiction. Thus, through his study of Aristotle's world view, he could only think up pictures of the soul that lift it out of the realm of the bodily organization, but without indicating a soul content that allows me, with unbiased thinking, to be able to really picture the soul as independent of the bodily organization.

Besides Aristotle, Leibnitz is another philosopher whom Brentano particularly appreciates. It is especially Leibnitz's way of viewing the soul that seems to have attracted him. Now one can say that Leibnitz has a way of picturing things in this realm that seems to be a significant extension of Aristotle's view. Whereas, Aristotle makes the essential content of human thinking dependent upon sense observation, Leibnitz frees this content from its sensory foundation. Following Aristotle one will accept the statement: There is nothing in thinking that was not previously in the senses (nihil est in intellectu, quod non fuerit in sensu); Leibnitz, however, is of the view that there is nothing in thinking that was not previously in the senses, except thinking itself (nihil est in intellectu, quod non fuerit in sensu, nisi ipse intellectus). It would be incorrect to ascribe to Aristotle the view that the essential being active in thinking is the result of forces working in the body. However, by making the “nous pathetikos” the passive receiver of sense impressions and the “nous poetikos” the illuminator of these impressions, nothing remained in his philosophy that could become the content of a soul life independent of sensory existence. In this respect, Leibnitz's statement proves to be more fruitful. Through it our attention is especially directed toward the essential being of the soul that is independent of the bodily organization. This attention, to be sure, is limited to the merely intellectual part of this essential being. And in this regard, Leibnitz's statement is one-sided. Nevertheless, this statement is a guideline that in our present-day “natural-scientific” age can lead to something that Leibnitz could not yet attain. In his time our picture of the purely natural origin of the characteristics of the bodily organization was still too imperfect. This is different now. To a certain extent today one can know scientifically how the organic bodily forces are inherited from one's ancestors, and how the soul operates within these inherited organic forces. To be sure, many who believe that they are taking the correct "natural-scientific standpoint" will not acknowledge the following view, even though, for a correct grasp of natural-scientific knowledge, it proves necessary: that everything by which the soul operates in the physical body is determined by the bodily forces that proceed from ancestor to descendant in a line of physical inheritance, with the exception of the soul content itself. This is how we can extend Leibnitz's statement today. And then it represents the anthropological validation of the anthroposophical way of looking at things. Then it directs the soul to seek its own essential content within a spiritual world, and to do this in fact through a different kind of cognition than that customary in anthropology. For, anthropology has access only to what is experienced by the bodily organization in ordinary consciousness.11There are thinkers who are repelled by the view that the essential kernel of one's soul is not inherited from its physical ancestors but originates from the spiritual world, because this view demeans the process of human procreation. The philosopher J. Frohschammer is one of these thinkers (see his book The Origin of Human Souls). According to him, we must believe that even children's souls stem from their parents, since "these living human beings do not beget mere bodies or animals" (see also Frohschammer's book on The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas). An objection based on this opinion does not apply to the view we are presenting in this book. For, one need not think that the soul kernel, descending from the spiritual world and uniting itself with what is inherited from the ancestors, is unconnected with the souls of its parents before birth, even though one does not picture this soul kernel as arising through the act of procreation.

The view is quite tenable that Brentano had all the prerequisites, with Leibnitz as his starting point, for opening our vision to the essential being of the soul as an entity anchored in the spirit, and for strengthening the results of this vision through today's natural-scientific knowledge. Anyone who pursues Brentano's presentations can see the path laid out before him. The path that leads to a purely spiritual, recognizable soul being, could have become visible to him, if he had developed further what already lay in the sphere of his awareness when he wrote such statements as these:

But how are we to picture the engagement of the Godhead in the appearance of a human soul in a body? After creatively bringing forth the spiritual part of man out of all eternity, did the Godhead then connect it with an embryo in such a way that this spiritual part—existing up till then as a distinct spiritual substance unto itself—now ceased to be a real entity unto itself and became a part of a human nature, or did the Godhead only then bring forth this spiritual part creatively? When Aristotle accepted the first possibility, he had to believe that the same spirit would be connected again and again with ever different embryos; for, according to him, the human race perpetuates itself by endless procreation, while on the other hand, the number of spirits existing through all eternity can only be a limited one. All Aristotle interpreters agree, however, that he rejected palingenesis 12Literally, “rebirth.” Ed. in his more mature period. Therefore, this possibility is out of the question, (see his book Aristotle and his World View 1911)

Although the validation of a spiritual vision of the soul's repeated earth lives through palingenesis does not lie in Aristotle's train of thought, it could have resulted for Brentano through his connecting his soul concept, which he had refined through his work with Aristotle, with the knowledge of modern natural science.

Brentano's receptivity to the epistemology of medieval philosophy would have made it all the easier for him to have taken this path. Anyone who really grasps this epistemology acquires a number of ideas able to relate the results of modern natural science to the spiritual world in a way that is not visible to the ideas arising in the purely natural-scientific research of anthropology. In many circles today one fails to recognize how much a way of picturing things like that of Thomas Aquinas can deepen natural science in a spiritual direction. In such circles one believes that modern natural-scientific knowledge requires a turning away from that way of picturing things. The truth is that one wishes at first to encompass what natural science recognizes as the being of the world with thoughts that, upon closer inspection, turn out to be incomplete in themselves. Their completion would consist in our considering them to be the kind of essential entities in the soul that they are thought to be in Thomas Aquinas' way of picturing things. And Brentano did find himself on his way to gaining the right relation to this way of picturing things. He writes, after all:

In writing The Manifold Significance of Being According to Aristotle and later my Psychology of Aristotle, I wished to further our understanding of his teachings in a twofold way: first and foremost, directly through an illumination of several of the most important points of his teachings; then secondly and indirectly—but in a more general way—by opening new and helpful sources of understanding. I drew the reader's attention to the incisive commentaries of Thomas Aquinas and showed that one can find in them truer presentations of many of Aristotle's teachings than are to be found in later interpretations.13See Brentano's Aristotle's Teachings on the Origins of the Human Spirit, 1911.

Brentano barred the path that such studies could have revealed to him, because of his inclination toward Bacon's and Locke's way of picturing things and toward everything philosophically connected with that approach. He regarded that approach above all as according with the natural-scientific method. Precisely this approach, however, leads one to think that the content of our soul life is utterly dependent upon the sense world. And since this way of thinking wants to proceed only anthropologically, only that enters into its domain as psychological results which, in truth, is not a soul reality, but only a mirror image of this reality, i.e., the content of ordinary consciousness.

If Brentano had recognized the image nature of ordinary consciousness, he would not have been able, in his pursuit of anthropological research, to stop short at the gates leading into anthroposophy.

One could of course counter my view with the opinion that Brentano simply lacked the gift of spiritual vision and so did not seek the transition from anthropology to anthroposophy, even though he was moved by his own particular spiritual disposition to characterize soul phenomena in an interesting form and so intelligently that this form can be validated through anthroposophy. I myself am not of this opinion, however. I am not of the view that spiritual vision is attainable only as a special gift of exceptional personalities. I must regard this vision as a faculty of the human soul that anyone can acquire for himself if he awakens in himself the soul experiences that lead to it. And Brentano's nature seems to me to be quite especially capable of such an awakening. I believe, however, that one can hinder such an awakening with theories that oppose it; that one keeps this vision from arising if one is entangled in ideas that from the beginning call into question the validity of such vision. And Brentano kept this vision from arising in his soul through the fact that for him the ideas that so beautifully validate this vision always succumbed to the ideas that reject it and that make one fear that through such vision one could “lose oneself in the labyrinthine passages of a pseudo-philosophy.” 14Please see addendum 8, An Objection Often Raised against Anthroposophy.


In 1895 Brentano published a reprint of a lecture he had given in the Literary Society in Vienna with reference to a book by H. Lorm, Baseless Optimism. This lecture contains his view about the “four phases of philosophy and their present status.” There Brentano expresses his belief that the course of development of philosophical research can be compared, in a certain respect, with the history of the arts.

Whereas other sciences, as long as they are practiced at all, show a continuous progress interrupted only occasionally by periods of inaction, philosophy, like the arts, shows decadent periods, in addition to those of positive development, that are often no less rich—yes, even richer—in epoch-making occurrences than periods of healthy fruitfulness.

Brentano distinguishes three such periods in the course of philosophy's development where healthy fruitfulness has passed over into decadence. Each of these periods begins with the fact that out of a purely philosophical astonishment over the riddles of the world, a truly scientific interest stirs and that this interest then seeks knowledge out of a genuine, pure drive to know. This healthy epoch is then followed by another in which the first stage of decadence appears. The purely scientific interest recedes, and people look for thoughts by which to regulate their social and personal lives, and to find their way among them. There, philosophy no longer wishes to serve a pure striving for knowledge, but rather the interests of life. A further decline occurs in the third period. Through the uncertainty of thoughts that did not arise out of purely scientific interests, one loses confidence in the possibility of true knowledge and falls into skepticism. The fourth epoch is one of complete decay. In the third epoch, doubt had undermined the whole scientific foundation of philosophy. Out of unscientific dark depths one seeks to arrive at the truth through mystical experience in fantastical, blurred concepts. Brentano pictured the first cycle of development as beginning with Greek natural philosophy; according to him, this healthy phase ended with Aristotle. Within this phase he holds Anaxagoras in particularly high esteem. He is of the view that even though the Greeks stood at the very beginning then with respect to many scientific questions, still their kind of research would be considered valid by a strictly natural-scientific way of thinking. The Stoics and Epicureans follow then in the second phase. They already represent a decline. They want ideas that stand in the service of life. In the New Academy, especially through the influence of Aenesidemus, Agrippa, and Sextus Empirikus one sees skepticism root out all belief in established scientific truths. And in Neo-Platonism, among philosophers like Ammonius Sakkas, Plotinus, Porphyrius, Jamblichus, and Proklus scientific research is replaced by a mystical experience straying into the labyrinthine passages of pseudo-philosophy.

In the Middle Ages, though perhaps not so distinctly, one sees these four phases repeat themselves. With Thomas Aquinas a philosophically healthy way of picturing things begins, reviving Aristotelianism in a new form. In the next period, represented by Duns Scotus, an art of disputation holds sway—analogous to the first period of decline in Greek philosophy—that is taken to grotesque extremes. Then follows Nominalism, bearing a skeptical character. William of Occam rejects the view that universal ideas relate to anything real, and in doing so assigns to the content of human truth only the value of a conceptual summary standing outside of reality; whereas reality supposedly lies only in the particular individual things. This analogue of skepticism is replaced by the mysticism—no longer striving along scientific lines—of Eckhardt, Tauler, Heinrich Suso, the author of German Theology, and others. Those are the four phases of philosophical development in the Middle Ages.

In modern times, beginning with Bacon of Verulam, a healthy development begins again, based on natural-scientific thinking, in which then Descartes, Locke, and Leibnitz work further in a fruitful way. There follows the French and English philosophy of Enlightenment, in which principles, as one found them compatible with life, determined the style of the flow of philosophical thought. Then, with David Hume, skepticism appears; and following it, the phase of complete decay sets in, in England with Thomas Reid, in Germany with Kant. Brentano sees an aspect of Kant's philosophy that allows him to compare it with the Plotinian period of decadence in Greek philosophy. He criticizes Kant for not seeking truth in the agreement of our mental pictures with real objects as a scientific researcher does, but rather in believing that objects should conform to our human capacity for mental picturing. Brentano believes, therefore, that he must ascribe to Kant's philosophy a kind of basic mystical character that then manifests a totally unscientific nature in the decadent philosophy of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

Brentano hopes for a new philosophical upsurge arising from a scientific work in the philosophical sphere modeled upon the natural-scientific way of thinking that has become dominant in modern times. As an introduction to such a philosophy, he set forth the thesis: True philosophical research cannot be of any other kind than that considered valid by the natural-scientific kind of cognition. He wanted to devote his life's work to this thesis.

In the preface to the reprint of the lecture in which he presented his view of the "four phases of philosophy," Brentano states that:

His view of the history of philosophy might strike many people as odd in its newness; for me, however, it has been an established fact for many years and has been the foundation of academic lectures in the history of philosophy given by me and several of my students now for more than two decades. I am under no illusion about the fact that my view will encounter prejudices and that these may perhaps be too strong to dispel with the first clash. Nevertheless, I hope that the facts and considerations I present cannot fail to make an impression upon anyone who pursues them thoughtfully.

It is altogether my opinion that one can receive a significant impression from Brentano's presentations. Insofar as from a particular point of view, they represent a classification of phenomena arising in the course of philosophical development, they are based on well-founded insights into the course taken by this development. The four phases of philosophy present differences that are founded within reality.

As soon as one enters into a study of the driving forces within the individual phases, however, one does not find that Brentano has accurately characterized these forces. This is evident at once in his insight about the first phase of the philosophy of antiquity. The basic features of Greek philosophy from its Ionic beginnings up to Aristotle do, indeed, reveal many features that justify Brentano in seeing in them what he considers to be a natural-scientific way of thinking. But does this way of thinking really arise from what Brentano calls the natural-scientific method? Are not the thoughts of this Greek philosophy far more a result of what they experienced in their own souls as the essential being of man and his relation to the world-all? Anyone who answers this question in accordance with the facts will find that the inner impulses for the thought content of this philosophy came to direct expression—precisely in Stoicism and Epicurianism—in the whole practical philosophy of life of later Greek times. One can see how, in the soul forces that Brentano finds to be at work in the second phase, there lies the starting point for the first phase of the philosophy of antiquity. These forces were directed toward the sense-perceptible and social form of manifestations of the world-all, and therefore could only appear in an imperfect way in the phase of skepticism—which was driven to doubt the direct reality of this form of manifestation—and in the following phase of a seeing cognition, which must go beyond this form. For this reason these phases of ancient philosophy appear decadent.

And which soul forces are at work in the course of philosophical development in the Middle Ages? No one who really knows the relevant facts can doubt that Thomism represents the peak of this course of development with respect to those relationships that Brentano is investigating. But one cannot fail to recognize that, through the Christian standpoint of Thomas Aquinas, the soul forces at work in the Greek philosophy of life no longer operate merely out of philosophical impulses, but have taken on a more-than-philosophical character. What impulses are working in Thomas Aquinas insofar as he is a philosopher? One need have no sympathy for the weaknesses of the Nominalist philosophy of the Middle Ages; but one will indeed be able to discover that the soul impulses working in Nominalism also form the subjective basis for the Realism of Thomas. When Thomas recognizes the universal concepts synthesizing the phenomena of sense perception to be something that relates to a spiritually real element, he thus gains the strength for his Realistic way of picturing things out of his feeling for what these concepts signify within the existence of the soul itself, apart from the fact that they relate to sense phenomena. Precisely because Thomas did not relate the universal concepts directly to the events of sense-perceptible existence, he experienced how in these concepts another reality shines through to us, and how actually they are only signs for the phenomena of sense-perceptible life. Then, as this undertone of Thomism arose in Nominalism as an independent philosophy, this undertone naturally had to reveal its one-sidedness. The feeling that the concepts experienced in the soul establish a Realism in relation to the spirit had to disappear and the other feeling had to become dominant that the universal concepts are mere synthesizing names. When one sees the being of Nominalism in this way, one also understands the preceding second phase of medieval philosophy—that of Duns Scotus—as a transition to Nominalism. However, one cannot but understand the whole force of medieval thought work, insofar as it is philosophy, out of the basic view that revealed itself in a one-sided way in Nominalism. But then one will arrive at the view that the real driving forces of this philosophy lie in the soul impulses that, in keeping with Brentano's classification, one must designate as belonging to the third phase. And in that epoch which Brentano calls the mystical phase of the Middle Ages it becomes quite clear how the mystics belonging to it, persuaded of the Nominalistic nature of conceptual cognition, do not turn to this cognition but rather to other soul forces in order to penetrate to the core of the world's phenomena.

If, in line with Brentano's classification, we now pursue the activity of the driving soul forces in the philosophy of our time, we find that the inner character traits of this epoch are completely different from those indicated by Brentano. Because of certain of its own character traits, the phase of the natural-scientific way of thinking that Brentano finds realized in Bacon of Verulam, Descartes, Locke, and Leibnitz absolutely resists being thought of purely as natural-scientific in Brentano's sense. How can one deal in a purely natural-scientific way with Descartes' basic thought: “I think therefore I am;” how is one to bring Leibnitz's Monadology or his “predetermined harmony” into Brentano's way of picturing things? Even Brentano's view of the second phase, to which he assigns the French and English Enlightenment philosophy, creates difficulties when one wants to remain with his mental pictures. One would certainly not wish to deny to this epoch its character as a time of decadence in philosophy; but one can understand this epoch in light of the fact that, in its main representatives, those non-philosophical soul impulses which were energetically at work in the Christian view of life were lamed, with re result that a relation to the supersensible world powers could not be found in a philosophical way. At the same time the Nominalistic skepticism of the Middle Ages worked on, preventing a search for a relation between the content of knowledge experienced in the soul and a spiritually real element.

And if we move on to modern skepticism and to that way of picturing things that Brentano assigns to the mystical stage, we then lose the possibility of still agreeing with his classification. To be sure, we must have the skeptical phase begin with David Hume. But the description of Kant, the “critical” thinker, as a mystic proves after all to be a too strongly one-sided characterization. Also, the philosophies of Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and the other thinkers of the period after Kant cannot be regarded as mystical, especially if one bases oneself on Brentano's concept of mysticism. On the contrary, precisely in the sense of Brentano's classification, one will find a common basic impulse running from David Hume, through Kant, to Hegel. This impulse consists in the refusal, based on mental pictures gained in the sensory world, to depict any philosophical world picture of a true reality. As paradoxical as it may seem to call Hegel a skeptic, he is one after all in the sense that he ascribes no direct value as reality to the mental pictures taken from nature. One does not deviate from Brentano's concept of skepticism by regarding the development of philosophy from Hume to Hegel as the phase of modern skepticism. One can consider the fourth modern phase as beginning only after Hegel. Brentano, however, will certainly not wish to bring what arises there as the natural-scientific picture anywhere near mysticism. Still, look at the way Brentano himself wishes to situate himself with his philosophizing into this epoch. With an energy that could hardly be surpassed he demands a natural-scientific method in philosophy. In his psychological research he strives to keep to this method. And what he brings to light is a validation of anthroposophy. What would have to have arisen as the continuation of his anthropological striving, if he had gone further in the spirit of what he pictured, would be anthroposophy. An anthroposophy, to be sure, that stands in complete harmony with the natural-scientific way of thinking.

Is not Brentano's life work itself the most valid proof that the fourth phase of modern philosophy must draw its impulses from those soul forces that both Neo-Platonism and medieval mysticism wished to activate but could not, because they could not arrive with their inner soul activity at the kind of experience of spiritual reality that occurs with fully conscious clarity of thinking (or of concepts)? Just as Greek philosophy drew its strength from the soul impulses which Brentano sees as realizing themselves in the second philosophical phase out of a practical philosophy of living, and just as medieval philosophy owes its strength to the impulses of the third phase—that of skepticism—so must modern philosophy draw its impulses from the fundamental powers of the fourth phase—from that of a knowing seeing. If, in accordance with his way of picturing things, Brentano can regard Neo-Platonism and medieval mysticism as decadent philosophies, so one could recognize the anthroposophy that complements anthropology as the fruitful phase of modern philosophy, if one leads this philosopher's own ideas about the development of philosophy to their correct conclusions, which Brentano himself did not draw but which follow quite naturally from his ideas.


The picture we gave of Brentano's relation to the cognitional demands of our day explains why his reader receives impressions that are not limited to what is directly contained in the concepts he presents. Undertones sound forth all the time as one is reading. These emerge from a soul life that lies far deeper behind the ideas he expresses. What Brentano stimulates in the spirit of the reader often works more strongly in the latter than what the author expresses in sharply-edged pictures. One also feels moved to go back often and reread a book by Brentano. One may have thought through much of what is said today about the relation of philosophy to other cognitional views; Brentano's book The Future of Philosophy, will almost always rise up in one's memory when one is reflecting in this way. This is a reprint of a lecture to the Philosophical Society in Vienna in 1892 which he gave in order to oppose—with his view of the future of philosophy—what the jurist Adolf Exner had to say on this subject in his inaugural address on Political Education (1891). This publication of the lecture contains notes that offer far-ranging historical perspectives on the course of mankind's spiritual development. In this book all the tones are sounded of what can speak to an observer of today's natural-scientific outlook about the necessity of progressing from this outlook to an anthroposophical one.

The representatives of this natural-scientific way of picturing things live for the most part in the belief that this outlook is forced upon them by the real being of things. They are of the opinion that they organize their knowledge in accordance with the way reality manifests itself. In this belief they are deluding themselves, however. The truth is that in recent times the human soul—out of its own active development over thousands of years—has unfolded a need for the kind of mental pictures which comprise the natural-scientific picture of the world. It is not because reality presented this picture to them as the absolute truth that Helmholtz, Weisman, Huxley, and others arrived at their picture, but because they had to form this picture within themselves in order through it to shed a certain light upon the reality confronting them. It is not because of compulsion from a reality outside the soul that one forms a mathematical or mechanical picture of the world, but rather because one has given shape in one's soul to mathematical and mechanical pictures and thus opened an inner source of illumination for what manifests in the outer world in a mathematical and mechanical way.

Although generally what has just been described holds good for every developmental stage of the human soul, it does appear in the modern natural-scientific picture in a quite particular way. When these mental pictures are thought through consistently from a certain angle, they destroy any concepts of a soul element. This can be seen in the absolutely not trivial but most dubious concept of a “soul science without soul” that has not been thought up only by philosophical dilettantes but also by very serious thinkers.15This picture of a “soul science without soul” also belongs to the realm of the riddles described in this book as existing at the “borderland of our knowing activity”; and if this picture is not experienced in such a way that it is taken as the starting point of a seeing consciousness, it then walls off the entryway to true knowing of the soul, instead of showing a path to such knowing. The mental pictures formed by natural science are leading to ever more insight into the dependency of the phenomena of ordinary consciousness upon our bodily organization. If the fact is not recognized at the same time that what arises in this way as the soul element is not this soul element itself, but only its manifestation in a mirror image, then the true idea of the soul element slips away from our observation, and the illusory idea arises that sees in the soul element only a product of the bodily organization. On the other hand, however, this latter view cannot stand up before an unbiased thinking. To this unbiased thinking, the ideas that natural science forms about nature show a soul connection— to a reality lying behind nature—that does not reveal itself in these ideas themselves. No anthropological approach, out of itself, can arrive at thorough-going mental pictures of this soul connection. For, it does not enter ordinary consciousness.

This fact shows up much more strongly in today's natural- scientific outlook than was the case in earlier historical stages of knowledge. At these earlier stages, when observing the outer world, one still formed concepts that took up into their content something of the spiritual foundations of this outer world. And one's soul felt itself, in its own spirituality, as unified with the spirit of the outer world. In accordance with its own essential being, recent natural scientists must think nature in a purely natural way. Through this, to be sure, it gains the possibility of validating the content of its ideas by observation of nature, but not the existence of these ideas themselves, as something with inner soul being.

For this reason, precisely the genuine natural-scientific outlook has no foundation if it cannot validate its own existence by anthroposophical observation. With anthroposophy one can fully endorse the natural-scientific outlook; without anthroposophy, one will again and again want to make the vain attempt to discover even the spirit out of the results of natural-scientific observation. The natural-scientific ideas of recent times are in fact the results of the soul's living together with a spiritual world; but only in living spiritual vision can the soul know about its living together with that world.16Where the genuine natural-scientific approach leads is convincingly shown in a book by Oskar Hertwig, which is outstanding in many respects, The Development of Organisms, a Refutation of Darwin's Theory of Chance, 1916. Precisely when a work, like that underlying this book, is so exemplary in its application of the natural-scientific method, it can lead to innumerable soul experiences at the “boundaries of our knowing activity.” The question could easily arise: Then why does the soul seek to form natural-scientific pictures, if precisely through them it is creating for itself a content that cuts it off from its spiritual foundation? From the standpoint of the beliefs that see the natural-scientific outlook to have been formed in accordance with the way the world does in fact manifest to us, there is no way to find an answer to this question. But an answer is definitely forthcoming if one looks toward the needs of the soul itself. With mental pictures, such as only could have been formed by a pre-natural-scientific age, our soul experience could never have arrived at a full consciousness of itself. In its ideas of nature, which also continued a spiritual element, it would indeed have felt an indefinite connection with the spirit, but it would not have been able to experience the spirit in its own full, independent, and particular nature. Therefore, in the course of mankind's development, our soul element strives to set forth the kind of ideas that do not contain this soul element itself, in order, through them, to know itself as independent of natural existence. The connection with the spirit, however, must then be sought in knowledge not through these ideas of nature but through spiritual vision. The development of modern natural science is a necessary stage in the course of mankind's soul evolution. One understands the basis of this development when one sees how the soul needs it in order to find itself. On the other hand, one recognizes the epistemological implications of this development when one sees how precisely it makes spiritual vision a necessity.17What is expressed here is presented in a detailed way in my book The Riddles of Philosophy. One of the basic thoughts of that book is to show how natural-scientific cognition proves its power in the soul progress of humanity.

Adolf Exner, whose views are opposed by Brentano's book The Future of Philosophy, confronted a natural science that wishes, it is true, to develop its ideas of nature in purity, but that is not prepared to advance to anthroposophy when it is a matter of grasping the reality of the soul. Exner found “natural-scientific education” to be unfruitful in developing ideas that must work in the way people live together in human society. For solving the questions of social life facing us in the future, therefore, he demands a way of thinking that does not rest on a natural-scientific basis. He finds that the great juridical questions confronting the Romans were solved by them in such a fruitful way because they had little gift for the natural-scientific way of picturing things. And he attempts to show that the eighteenth century, in spite of its attraction to the natural-scientific way of thinking, proved quite inadequate in mastering social questions. Exner directs his gaze upon a natural-scientific outlook that is not striving scientifically to understand its own foundation. It is understandable that he arrived at the views he did when confronted by such an outlook. For, this outlook must develop its ideas in such a way that they bring before the soul what is of nature in all its purity. From such ideas no impulse is gained for thoughts that are fruitful in social life. For, in social life souls confront each other as souls. Such an impulse can arise only when the soul element, in its spiritual nature, is experienced through a knowing vision (erkennendes Schaueri), when the natural-scientific, anthropological view finds its complement in anthroposophy.

Brentano bore ideas in his soul that definitely lead into the anthroposophical realm in spite of the fact that he wished to remain only in the anthropological realm. This is why the arguments he mounts against Exner are so penetrating, even though Brentano does not wish to make the transition to anthroposophy himself. They show how Exner does not speak at all about the real abilities of a natural-scientific outlook that understands itself; they show how he tilted with windmills in his battle against a way of thinking that misunderstands itself. One can read Brentano's book and everywhere feel in it how justified everything is that points through his ideas in one direction or another, without finding that he expresses fully what it is that he is pointing toward.

With Franz Brentano a personality has left us whose work, when experienced, can mean an immeasurable gain. This gain is completely independent of the degree of intellectual agreement that one brings to this work. For, this gain springs from the manifestations of a human soul that have their source much deeper in the world's reality than that sphere in which in ordinary life, intellectual agreement is to be found. And Brentano is a personality destined to work on in the course of humanity's spiritual development through impulses that are not limited to the extension of the ideas he developed. I can very well imagine someone's total disagreement with what I have presented here as Brentano's relation to anthroposophy; regardless of one's scientific standpoint, however, it seems to me impossible—if one lets work upon oneself the philosophical spirit that breathes through the writings of this man—that one could arrive at anything less than the feelings of high esteem for the value of Brentano's personality that underly the intentions of this essay.