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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Human and Cosmic Thought
GA 151


CAN THERE BE such a discipline as the science of philosophy? That might seem to be putting the cart before the horse, but in these lectures Rudolf Steiner seems to be providing us with just that. What convinces you of something? What constitutes your ground of knowledge? I mean you, the reader! In geometry, for example, some people are only convinced when the subject has been expressed in algebraic form, while others are only inwardly sure of the matter when it has been expressed synthetically. These two groups rely on a different inner foundation for their knowledge. Mathematically either approach is valid, and neither group has the right to bully the other, although that does happen! The point is that we all have a definite inner foundation upon which we stand, which is perhaps most clearly experienced in an existential crisis, for then we are forced to find an inner rock to support us. At first we might imagine that there are as many foundations as knowers, but in these lectures Rudolf Steiner shows that there are twelve main philosophical standpoints, and that fruitful progress in philosophy depends not upon ‘defending’ one and ‘refuting’ others, but in learning to experience the validity of them all. Different engineering problems require different tools, and it is senseless to say that a spanner should be used to refute a screwdriver. Similarly, some philosophical problems require the use of one standpoint, while others are best approached from a different direction. Philosophical sophistication here requires a deeper insight into all possible approaches.

Although twelve standpoints, with others as nuances of them, are sufficient in one sense, Steiner goes on to show that in addition there are seven principal soul moods with which one may colour one's foundation. These are more concerned with the way one actively pursues knowledge rather than the ground upon which one stands, so that one person may act empirically while standing upon the ground of materialism, while another may act in a gnostic way while standing upon the ground of spiritism. Several philosophers are mentioned whose works are characterised in this way, throwing a remarkable light upon their contribution to philosophy. It is only a pity that Steiner had to be so aphoristic here, although it does leave a rich field of research for others to explore. Even more challenging is the way a philosopher may evolve from one view to another, as illustrated by the tragic example of Nietzsche in the last lecture.

It should be emphasised that what is presented here is not a theory spun out of intellectual effort, which may rightly rouse our scepticism, but is based on Rudolf Steiner's research into the soul and spiritual realities underlying our existence. The numbers seven and twelve and their cosmic connections are not abstract theories or analogies, but spiritually empirical facts. The possibility that exact research into these realms can be conducted needs to be recognised in our time, which is why these lectures constitute a science of philosophy (rather than, say, a philosophy of philosophy) based as they are upon spiritual research into human nature. A valid judgement of their content is only possible in that context.