The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conceptio

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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conceptio

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:17 am

The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception
Fundamental Outlines with Special Reference to Schiller
by Rudolf Steiner
translated by Olin D. Wannamaker
Copyright © 1940 anthroposophic press





Publisher's Notes
Translator's Preface
Preface to the New Edition
Foreword to the First Edition
Chapter I: The Point of Departure
Chapter II: Goethe's Science Considered According to the Method of Schiller
Chapter III: The Function of This Branch of Science
Chapter IV: Definition of the Concept of Experience
Chapter V: Examination of the Content of Experience
Chapter VI: Correction of an Erroneous Conception of Experience As a Totality
Chapter VII: Reference to the Experience of the Individual Reader
Chapter VIII: Thinking as a Higher Experience within Experience
Chapter IX: Thought and Consciousness
Chapter X: The Inner Nature of Thought
Chapter XI: Thought and Perception
Chapter XII: Intellect and Reason
Chapter XIII: The Act of Cognition
Chapter XIV: Cognition and the Ultimate Foundation of Things
Chapter XV: Inorganic Nature
Chapter XVI: Organic Nature
Chapter XVII: Introduction: Spirit and Nature
Chapter XVIII: Psychological Cognition
Chapter XIX: Human Freedom
Chapter XX: Optimism and Pessimism
Chapter XXI: Scientific Knowledge and Artistic Creation
Notes to the First Edition
Notes to the New Edition, 1924
Exposition in Brief
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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Publisher's Notes


This volume is a translation of the treatise Grundlinien einer Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung, published in 1886. This was originally prepared by Rudolf Steiner as a supplement to Goethes naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, as edited by him, with ample introductory and interpretive notes, for Kürschner's collective work Deutsche National-Literatur. The English version is rendered from the second edition, of 1924, and includes the prefatory and supplementary comments of that edition.


A few comments on the translator's usage may be called for.

Wissenschaft has been translated knowledge, scientific knowledge, or science according to the apparent requirement of the context. Erkennen has generally been translatedcognition, but in one or more passages the act of cognition, and, where it seemed necessary, knowledge. Erkenntnis has been translated knowledge, where this seemed adequate, but in one or more instances, for greater exactitude, item of knowledge.

Denken has seemed to the translator generally no more verbal in character than thought, when this appears in English without the definite or indefinite article. On the other hand, thinking seems at times to suggest rather the effort to apprehend than the achievement of apprehension — the search for right concepts rather than the attainment of right concepts. Hence Denken has most frequently been translated thought, though also rather frequently thinking.

Wahrnehmung is translated either perception or percept, according as the context seemed to require the sense the act of perceiving or the perceived.

Idea has been printed with initial capital letter in a few instances where the context seemed to emphasize the sense of objective reality in its usage.
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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When Rudolf Steiner, still a student and tutor in Vienna, published this terse little volume just after his twenty-fifth birthday, he concluded an intellectual struggle in which he had been engaged since childhood. He arrived at a solution of the problem: What is the relation between man's inner and his outer world?

For him the inner world had always been unmistakably a world of reality, not of mere reflections from without and subjective reactions within. His endeavor had been, not to establish the reality of either the inner or the outer world, but — through intense observation of the outer world and intense contemplation of his own mind in its activity — to discover the interrelationship between the mind and the world. Very early — perhaps, by his fifteenth year — he had rejected Kant's theory of the nature of human knowledge, saying to himself: “That may be true for him, but it is not true for me.” When he was later brought into contact with Goethe, first as poet and then as thinker, he discovered that, in the world of living things, Goethe's mode of contemplative, intuitive cognition was identical with his own; and that, through such a direct channel, Goethe had acquired knowledge essential to the innermost nature of plant, animal, and man. Hence, after editing one volume of Goethe's scientific writings, he paused in that task to build an adequate foundation upon which to base Goethe's mode of intuitive thinking and his own interpretation of Goethe.

But he not only solved the central problem with which he had been battling since youth. He also laid foundations deep in the human spirit for all his own creative thinking during the remaining thirty-nine years of his life. The whole wealth of his writings and lectures, dealing with so great a range of themes of deepest human concern, rests solidly upon this foundation. It rests upon this exposition of the reality, the spiritual nature, of human thinking: the truth he had apprehended in inner certitude of experience, and had confirmed under the rigid tests of the intellect, that “becoming aware of the Idea within reality is the true communion of man.” Later writings and lectures which set forth the potential and nascent capacity of the human spirit to rise above the low horizons of our every-day cognitions into a higher and clearer spiritual atmosphere of self-confirming intuitions rests, like everything else he has affirmed, upon the inherent nature of man's cognitive faculties as set forth, explicitly or implicitly, in this first published volume by the still youthful investigator. This compact volume represents a milestone in the history of the human mind, a crucial achievement in the struggle of man to know himself.

In essence, the argument is as follows.

One constituent of direct experience — thought, which appears before our inner activity of contemplation — is unique in manifesting immediately its essential nature and its interrelationships. It thus becomes the only key to disclose the hidden nature of all other experience.

Thought is not subjective in itself, but only as regards the prerequisite activity of our contemplation. This is evidenced by the clearly observable fact that we combine thoughts solely according to their inherent content. Our contemplation, as an organ of perception, only brings to manifestation in consciousness objectively real elements of the one thought content of the world. Through the intellectual cognition of single elements of this reality — concepts — and the rational combination of inherently related elements into harmonious complexes — ideas — we are capable of knowing gradually expanding aspects of the total reality. This knowledge is real, not a mere phantasm of the subjective mind.

But the mode of cognition suited to the inorganic is not suited to the organic. In relation to the inorganic, we possess truth when we grasp the cause of a phenomenon. In relation to the organic, we must apprehend the supersensible type, which manifests itself in the single members of a species of plant or animal. This requires direct, intuitive cognition: the mind must perceive in thinking and think in perceiving. Moreover, when we deal with the human being, we must apprehend the central reality — the ego — manifest as a self-sufficing spiritual being in its uniqueness in each single human personality.

Through this mode of intuitive cognition, we may attain to the knowledge that the universal Creative Spirit is in the single human being; that His highest manifestation is in human thought; that man is in harmony with this Guiding Power of the world when he follows freely, as an individual, the guidance of his own intuitions.

* * * * *

The heartfelt thanks of the translator are due to several competent specialists who have rendered important service in this difficult task: to Miss Ruth Hofrichter, of Vassar College, who painstakingly scrutinized the manuscript in its first form some years ago, in comparison with the German text, and pointed out a number of deficiencies; to Dr. Hermann Poppelbaum and Dr. Egbert Weber for very helpful detailed criticisms and suggestions.

O. D. W.

New York City
July 1940
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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This study of the theory of knowledge implicit in Goethe's world-conception was written in the middle of the decade 1880-'90. My mind was then vitally engaged in two activities of thought. One was directed toward the creative work of Goethe, and strove to formulate the view of life and of the world which revealed itself as the impelling force in this creative work. The completely and purely human seemed to me to be dominant in everything that Goethe gave to the world in creative work, in reflection, and in his life. Nowhere in the modern age did that inner assurance, harmonious completeness, and sense of reality in relation to the world seem to me to be as fully represented as in Goethe. From this thought there necessarily arose the recognition of the fact that the manner, likewise, in which Goethe comported himself in the act of cognition is that which issues out of the very nature of man and of the world.

In another direction my thought was vitally absorbed in the philosophical conceptions prevalent at that time regarding the essential nature of knowledge. In these conceptions, knowledge threatened to become sealed up within the being of man himself. The brilliant philosopher Otto Liebmann had asserted that human consciousness cannot pass beyond itself; that it must remain within itself. Whatever exists, as the true reality, beyond that world which consciousness forms within itself — of this it can know nothing. In brilliant writings Otto Liebmann elaborated this thought with respect to the most varied aspects of the realm of human experience. Johannes Volkelt had written his thoughtful books dealing with Kant's theory of knowledge and with Experience and Thought. He saw in the world as given to man only a combination of representations [Vorstellungen, single concepts corresponding to single percepts.] based upon the relationship of man to a world in itself unknown. He admitted, to be sure, that an inevitability manifests itself in our inner experience of thinking when this lays hold in the realm of representations. When engaged in the activity of thinking, we have the sense, in a manner, of forcing our way through the world of representations into the world of reality. But what is gained thereby? We might for this reason feel justified, during the process of thinking, in forming judgments concerning the world of reality; but in such judgments we remain wholly within man himself; nothing of the nature of the world penetrates therein.

Eduard von Hartmann, whose philosophy had been of great service to me, in spite of the fact that I could not admit its fundamental presuppositions or conclusions, occupied exactly the same point of view in regard to the theory of knowledge set forth exhaustively by Volkelt.

There was everywhere manifest the confession that human knowledge arrives at certain barriers beyond which it cannot pass into the realm of genuine reality.

In opposition to all this stood in my case the fact, inwardly experienced and known in experience, that human thinking, when it reaches a sufficient depth, lives within the reality of the world as a spiritual reality. I believed that I possessed this knowledge in a form which can exist in consciousness with the same clarity that characterizes mathematical knowledge.

In the presence of this knowledge, it is impossible to sustain the opinion that there are such boundaries of cognition as were supposed to be established by the course of reasoning to which I have referred.

In reference to all this, I was somewhat inclined toward the theory of evolution then in its flower. In Haeckel this theory had assumed forms in which no consideration whatever could be given to the self-existent being and action of the spiritual. The later and more perfect was supposed to arise in the course of time out of the earlier, the undeveloped. This was evident to me as regards the external reality of the senses, but I was too well aware of the self-existent spiritual, resting upon its own foundation, independent of the sensible, to yield the argument to the external world of the senses. But the problem was how to lay a bridge from this world to the world of the spirit.

In the time sequence, as thought out on the basis of the senses, the spiritual in man appears to have evolved out of the antecedent non-spiritual. But the sensible, when rightly conceived, manifests itself everywhere as a revelation of the spiritual. In the light of this true knowledge of the sensible, I saw clearly that “boundaries of knowledge,” as then defined, could be admitted only by one who, when brought into contact with this sensible, deals with it like a man who should look at a printed page and, fixing his attention upon the forms of the letters alone without any idea of reading, should declare that it is impossible to know what lies behind these forms.

Thus my look was guided along the path from sense-observation to the spiritual, which was firmly established in my inner experiential knowledge. Behind the sensible phenomena, I sought, not for a non-spiritual world of atoms, but for the spiritual, which appears to reveal itself within man himself, but which in reality inheres in the objects and processes of the sense-world itself. Because of man's attitude in the act of knowing, it appears as if the thoughts of things were within man, whereas in reality they hold sway within the things themselves. It is necessary for man, in experiencing the apparent, [in einem Schein-Erleben] to separate thoughts from things; but, in a true experience of knowledge, he restores them again to things.

The evolution of the world is thus to be understood in such fashion that the antecedent non-spiritual, out of which the succeeding spirituality of man unfolds, possesses also a spiritual beside itself and outside itself. The later spirit-permeated sensible, amid which man appears, comes to pass by reason of the fact that the spiritual progenitor of man unites with imperfect, non-spiritual forms, and, having transformed these, then appears in sensible forms.

This course of thought led me beyond the contemporary theorists of knowledge, even though I fully recognized their acumen and their sense of scientific responsibility. It led me to Goethe.

I am impelled to look back from the present to my inner struggle at that time. It was no easy matter for me to advance beyond the course of reasoning characterizing contemporary philosophies. But my guiding star was always the self-substantiating recognition of the fact that it is possible for man to behold himself inwardly as spirit, independent of the body and dwelling in a world of spirit.

Prior to my work dealing with Goethe's scientific writings and before the preparation of this theory of knowledge, I had written a brief paper on atomism, which was never printed. This was conceived in the direction here indicated. I cannot but recall what pleasure I experienced when Friedrich Theodor Vischer, to whom I sent that paper, wrote me some words of approval.

But in my Goethe studies it became clear to me that my way of thinking led to a perception of the character of the knowledge which is manifest everywhere in Goethe's creative work and in his attitude toward the world. I perceived that my point of view afforded me a theory of knowledge which was that belonging to Goethe's world-conception.

During the 'eighties of the last century I was invited through the influence of Karl Julius Schröer, my teacher and fatherly friend, to whom I am deeply indebted, to prepare the introductions to Goethe's scientific writings for the Kürschner National-Literatur, and to edit these writings. During the progress of this work, I traced the course of Goethe's intellectual life in all the fields with which he was occupied. It became constantly clearer to me in detail that my own perception placed me within that theory of knowledge belonging to Goethe's world-conception. Thus it was that I wrote this theory of knowledge in the course of the work I have mentioned.

Now that I again turn my attention to it, it seems to me to be also the foundation and justification, as a theory of knowledge, for all that I have since asserted orally or in print. It speaks of an essential nature of knowledge which opens the way from the sense world to a world of spirit.

It may seem strange that this youthful production, written nearly forty years ago, should now be published again, unaltered and expanded only by means of notes. In the manner of its presentation, it bears the marks of a kind of thinking which had entered vitally into the philosophy of that time, forty years ago. Were I writing the book now, I should express many things differently. But the essential nature of knowledge I could not set forth in any different light. Moreover, what I might write now could not convey so truly within itself the germ of the spiritual world-conception for which I stand. In such germinal fashion one can write only at the beginning of one's intellectual life. For this reason, it may be well that this youthful production should again appear in unaltered form. The theories of knowledge existing at the time of its composition have found their sequel in later theories of knowledge. What I have to say in regard to these I have said in my book Die Rätsel der Philosophie. [The Riddles of Philosophy — not yet translated into English] This also will be issued in a new edition at the same time by the same publishers. That which I outlined many years ago as the theory of knowledge implicit in Goethe's world-conception seems to me just as necessary to be said now as it was forty years ago.

Rudolf Steiner

The Goetheanum, Dornach bei Basel,
Switzerland, November 1923
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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When Professor Kürschner did me the honor of intrusting to me the task of editing the scientific writings of Goethe for the Deutsche National-Literatur, I was fully aware of the difficulties confronting me in such an undertaking. It would be necessary for me to oppose a point of view which had become almost universally established.

While the conviction is everywhere gaining ground that Goethe's poetical writings are the basis of our whole culture, even those who go farthest in recognition of his scientific writings see in these nothing more than premonitions of truths which have been fully confirmed in the later progress of science. Because of his genius — so it is held — it was possible for him at a glance to attain to premonitions of natural laws that were later discovered again by strictly scientific methods quite independently of him. What is admitted in the highest degree as regards the other activities of Goethe — that every well informed person must reach a judgment with regard to these — is not admitted as regards his scientific point of view. It is by no means acknowledged that, by familiarizing ourselves with the scientific works of the poet, something may be gained which science does not also afford us apart from him.

When I was introduced by my beloved teacher, Karl Julius Schröer, to the world-conception of Goethe, my thinking had already taken a direction which made it possible for me to direct my attention, beyond the single discoveries of the poet, to the fundamentals: to the manner in which Goethe blended such a single discovery with the totality of his conception of Nature; the manner in which he made use of this discovery in order to arrive at an insight into the interrelationships of the entities of Nature, or — to use the striking expression he himself employed in the paperAnschauende Urteilskraft[perceptive power of thought.Cf. Goethes naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, inKürschners Deutsche National-Literatur,Vol. I, p. 115.] — in order to participate mentally in the productions of Nature. I soon recognized that those achievements which contemporary science attributes to Goethe were not the essential thing, while the really significant matter was overlooked. Those single discoveries would really have been made without Goethe's researches; but his lofty conception of Nature will be absent from science so long as this conception is not derived from Goethe himself. It was thus that the direction to be taken by my introductions for the edition was determined. These must show that each single detailed opinion expressed by Goethe is to be derived from the totality of his genius. [The manner in which my opinions blend with the totality of Goethe's world-conception is discussed by Schröer in his foreword toKürschners Deutsche National-Literatur,Vol. I, pp. I-XIV. Cf. also his edition ofFaust, Vol. II, 2nd edition, p. VII.]

The principles according to which this must be carried out constitute the subject matter of the present brief treatise. It undertakes to show that what we set forth as Goethe's scientific views is capable of being established upon its own self-sufficing foundation.

With this, I have said all that seemed to me necessary as a preface to the following discussion, except that I must discharge a pleasing duty — the expression of my most heartfelt thanks to Professor Kürschner, who has lent me his assistance in this composition with the same extraordinary friendliness that he has always shown toward my scientific undertakings.

Rudolf Steiner

The end of April, 1886
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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I. The Point of Departure

WHEN WE trace any one of the intellectual currents of the present time back to its source, we invariably arrive at one of the great spirits of our “classical age.” Goethe or Schiller, Herder or Lessing gave an impulse; and from this impulse has issued this or that intellectual movement which continues even to-day. Our whole German culture is based so squarely upon the great writers of that epoch that many who consider themselves entirely original achieve nothing more than the expression of what was long ago intimated by Goethe or Schiller. We have entered into such a living union with the world created by them that any one who would turn aside from the track already pointed out by them can scarcely count upon being understood by us. Our way of looking upon life and the world is determined by them to such an extent that no one can arouse our sympathetic interest who does not seek for points of contact with our world as thus determined.

Only as regards one branch of our intellectual life must we admit that it has not yet found such a point of contact. It is that branch of knowledge which proceeds beyond the mere assemblage of observed data, beyond the cognizance of single experiences, and seeks to provide a satisfying total view of the world and of life. It is that which is generally called philosophy. For this, our classical period actually seems to be non-existent. It seeks its salvation in an artificial seclusion and aristocratic isolation from all the rest of our intellectual life. This statement cannot be disproved by reference to the fact that a number of older and younger philosophers and scientists have undertaken to interpret Goethe and Schiller. For these have not attained to their scientific standpoints by developing the germs existing in the scientific works of these heroes of the mind. They have arrived at their scientific standpoints apart from the world-conception represented by Goethe and Schiller, and have afterwards compared them with this. And this they have done, not for the purpose of gaining from the scientific opinions of the great thinkers something to serve as a means of guidance for themselves, but rather to test these opinions and see whether they could be maintained in the face of their own course of reasoning. This point we shall later treat more thoroughly. First, however, we should like to point out the effects which this attitude toward the highest stage of evolution in contemporary culture produces in that field of knowledge with which we are concerned.

A large part of the educated reading public of the present time will at once lay aside unread any literary-scientific work which lays claim to being philosophical. Seldom, if ever, has philosophy enjoyed so little favor as at present. Except for the writings of Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann, who have dealt with problems of life and the world of the most widespread interest and have, therefore, gained a wide circulation, it is not too much to say that philosophical works are at present read only by professional philosophers. Nobody except these persons concerns himself with such writings. The educated man who is not a specialist has the vague feeling: “These writings contain nothing suited to a person of my intellectual needs. What is there discussed does not concern me; it is in no way related to what I require for my mental satisfaction.” This lack of interest in philosophy cannot be due to anything other than the circumstance to which I have referred; for there exists, face to face with this indifference, an ever increasing need for a satisfying conception of the world and of life. The dogmas of religion, which were for a long time an adequate substitute, are more and more losing their convincing power. The need is steadily growing to attain through thought to that which man once owed to faith in revelation — the satisfaction of his spirit. The interest of cultured persons could not, therefore, be lacking if this particular branch of knowledge marched in step with the whole evolution of culture, if its representatives would take up a position with reference to the great questions that move humanity.

In this matter we must always keep before our minds the truth that the proper procedure is never that of creating a spiritual need artificially, but quite the contrary: that of discovering the need which exists and satisfying this need. The task of science is not that of propounding questions but that of giving careful attention to these when they are put forth by human nature and by the contemporary stage of evolution, and of answering them. Our modern philosophers set tasks for themselves that are not at all the outflow of that stage of culture whereon we now stand — questions for which no one is seeking answers. Those questions which must be propounded by our culture, because of the position to which our great thinkers have elevated it, are passed over by science. Thus we possess a philosophical knowledge which no one is seeking and suffer from a philosophical need which no one satisfies.

Our central branch of knowledge, that which ought to solve for us the real world-riddle, must not be an exception in comparison with all other branches of the intellectual life. It must seek for its sources where these have been found by the others. It must not only take cognizance of the great classic thinkers, but also seek in them the germs for its own evolution. The same wind must blow through this as through the rest of our culture. This is a necessity inhering in the very nature of things. To this necessity must we ascribe the fact that modern researchers have undertaken to interpret our classic writers as we have explained above. These interpretations reveal nothing more than a vague feeling that it will not suffice simply to pass over the convictions of those thinkers and proceed with the order of the day. But they prove only that no one has arrived at the point of a further developing of their opinions. This is evidenced by the manner in which the approach is made to Lessing, Herder, Goethe, and Schiller. In spite of all the excellence of many productions of this class, it must be said of almost everything that has been written in regard to the scientific works of Schiller and Goethe that it is not developed organically from Schiller's or Goethe's own views but takes a retrospective relationship to them. Nothing can more strongly substantiate this than the fact that representatives of the most diverse tendencies in science have seen in Goethe the genius who experienced beforehand premonitions of their points of view. Representatives of world-conceptions which possess absolutely nothing in common refer with seemingly equal justification to Goethe, when they feel the need to see their respective points of view recognized at a high point in human history. One can scarcely imagine a sharper contrast than that between the teachings of Hegel and Schopenhauer. The latter calls Hegel a charlatan and his philosophy a meaningless rubbish of words, mere nonsense, barbaric word-combinations. The two men actually have nothing whatever in common except their unlimited admiration for Goethe, and their belief that he acknowledged himself as adhering to their respective views of the world.

Nor is the case different as regards more recent scientific tendencies. Haeckel, who has elaborated Darwinism with the gift of genius and with a logic as inflexible as iron, and whom we must consider by far the most significant follower of the English investigator, sees in Goethe's point of view the anticipation of his own. Another contemporary scientific investigator, A. F. W. Jessen, writes in regard to the theory of Darwin: “The stir which has been created among many specialists in research and many laymen by this theory — often before brought forward and as often disproved by thorough investigation, but now supported by many apparently sound arguments — shows how little, unfortunately, the results of scientific research are known and understood by people.” [Cf. Jessen: Botanik, der Gegenwart und Vorzeit, p. 459.] n regard to Goethe, the same investigator says that he rose “to comprehensive researches in both inanimate and animate Nature,” [Ibid., p. 343.] in that he found through a “thoughtful, deeply penetrating observation of Nature the fundamental law of all plant-formation.” [Ibid., p. 332.] Each of these two investigators is able to cite a wearisome number of illustrations to show the harmony existing between his own scientific tendency and the “thoughtful observations of Goethe.” But, if each of these standpoints could justly refer to Goethe's thought, this must cast a dubious light upon the unity of that thinking. The basis of this phenomenon, however, lies in the very fact that neither of these points of view really grows out of Goethe's world-conception, but each has its roots quite outside that conception. The phenomenon arises from the fact that men seek out external agreement as to details, torn out of the totality of Goethe's thought and thus deprived of their meaning, but are not willing to attribute to this totality the inner fitness to serve as the basis for a scientific trend of thought. Goethe's opinions have never been made points of departure for scientific researches but always only material for instituting comparisons. Those who have busied themselves with these opinions have seldom been students surrendering themselves with unprejudiced minds to his ideas, but usually critics sitting in judgment upon him.

It is even said that Goethe had far too little scientific sense; that he was all the worse philosopher for being so excellent a poet; that for this reason it would be impossible to find in him the basis for a scientific point of view. This is an utter misconception of Goethe's nature. Goethe was, to be sure, no philosopher in the ordinary sense of the term, but it must not be forgotten that the wonderful harmony of his personality led Schiller to declare: “The poet is the only true human being.” What Schiller here intended by the expression “true human being,” — this Goethe was. No element belonging to the very highest form of the universally human was lacking in his personality. But all these elements united in him to form a totality which is, as such, effectual. Thus it comes about that his opinions regarding Nature rest upon a profound philosophical sense even though this philosophical sense does not enter his consciousness in the form of definite scientific statements. Whoever immerses himself in that totality will be able — provided he brings with him philosophic capacities — to release this philosophic sense and set it forth as Goethe's form of knowledge. But he must take his point of departure from Goethe and not approach him with a ready-made opinion. Goethe's intellectual powers are always effective in the manner requisite to the most rigid philosophy, even though he has not left such a philosophy as a complete system.

Goethe's view of the world is the most many-sided imaginable. It proceeds from a central point which rests in the unified nature of the poet, and it always brings to the fore that side which corresponds to the nature of the object. The unity of the activity of intellectual forces lies in the nature of Goethe; the temporary form of that activity is determined by the object concerned. Goethe borrowed his manner of observation from the external world instead of obtruding his own upon the world. Now, the thinking of many men is effectual only in one definite way; it serves only for a certain type of objects; it is not unified, as was Goethe's, but only uniform. Let us endeavor to express this more thoroughly: — There are men whose intellects are especially adapted to think out merely mechanical interdependencies and effects; they conceive the entire universe as a mechanism. Others have the impulse to take into consciousness everywhere the secret mystical element of the external world; they become adherents of mysticism. All sorts of errors arise from the fact that such a way of thinking, entirely appropriate to one type of objects, is declared to be universal. This explains the conflict between various world-conceptions. If a thinker holding such a one-sided conception confronts Goethe's view, which is unlimited — because it always takes its manner of observation, not from the mind of the observer, but from the nature of the thing observed — then it may easily be understood that this one-sided thinker lays hold upon that element in Goethe's thought which harmonizes with his own. Goethe's view of the world includes within itself, in just the sense indicated, many tendencies of thought, whereas it cannot in turn be penetrated by any one-sided conception.

The philosophical sense, which is an essential element in the organism of the genius of Goethe, is also significant from the point of view of his poetry. Though it was alien to Goethe's mind to set forth in clear conceptual form what was mediated to him by this sense, as was done by Schiller, yet the philosophical sense was an active factor in his artistic creative work as in that of Schiller. Goethe's and Schiller's poetic productions are unthinkable apart from their world-conception, which was the background. In this matter we are concerned more with the actually formulated basic principles in Schiller, but in Goethe rather with the manner in which he looked at things. But the fact that the greatest poets of our nation at the climax of their creative work could not do without that philosophical element proves more than all else that this is a necessary constituent in the history of human evolution. Resting upon Goethe and Schiller will enable us to tear our central science away from its academic isolation and incorporate it into the rest of our cultural evolution. The scientific convictions of our great thinkers of the classic age are bound by a thousand ties to their other endeavors; they are such as were demanded by the cultural epoch which created them.
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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II. Goethe's Science Considered According to the Method of Schiller

IN THE preceding pages we have determined the direction that is to be taken by the following inquiries. They are to constitute a development of that which became manifest in Goethe as a scientific sense; an interpretation of his way of observing the world.

The objection may be raised that this is not the way in which to present a point of view scientifically. A scientific opinion must never under any circumstances rest upon authority, but must always rest upon principles. Let us at once discuss this objection. An opinion based upon Goethe's world-conception is not accepted by us as truth simply because it can be deduced from this conception, but because we believe that Goethe's view of the world can be supported by tenable basic principles and can be represented as a self-sustaining view. The fact that we take our point of departure from Goethe shall not prevent us from being just as much concerned to show grounds for the opinions maintained by us as are the exponents of any science which claims to be free from presuppositions. We represent Goethe's view of the world, but we shall confirm this according to the requirements of science.

The road that must be taken by such inquiries has already been indicated by Schiller. No one perceived the greatness of Goethe's genius so clearly as did he. In his letters to Goethe he held up before the latter an image of Goethe's own nature; in his letters concerning the aesthetic education of the human race he develops the ideal of the artist as he had recognized this in Goethe; and in his essays on naïve and sentimental poetry he describes the nature of genuine art as he had come to know this in the poetical works of Goethe. This is our justification for designating our discussion as being built upon the foundation of the Goethe-Schiller world-conception. Its purpose is to consider the scientific thought of Goethe according to the method for which Schiller has already provided a model. Goethe's look is directed toward Nature and toward life; and the manner of observation followed by him shall be the subject (the content) of our discussion. Schiller's look is directed toward the mind of Goethe, and the manner of observation which he followed shall be the ideal of our own method.

In this manner we believe the scientific endeavors of Goethe and Schiller are made fruitful for the present age.

According to the customary scientific terminology, our work must be conceived as a theory of knowledge. The questions discussed will, indeed, be of a very different sort from those which are now almost always posed by that branch of philosophy. We have seen why this is so. Where similar inquiries appear nowadays, they almost invariably take Kant as their point of departure. It has been altogether overlooked in scientific circles that, beside the science of knowledge set up by the great thinker of Königsberg, there is at least the possibility of another trend of thought in this field, no less capable than that of Kant of dealing profoundly with the facts.

Otto Liebmann at the beginning of the 'sixties gave expression to the conviction that we must return to Kant if we would attain to a view of the world free of contradictions. This is the reason why we possess to-day a Kant literature almost beyond the possibility of survey. But this road also will fail to afford any assistance to philosophical thinking, which will not again play a role in our cultural life until, instead of returning to Kant, it enters more deeply into the scientific conceptions of Goethe and Schiller.

And now we shall touch upon one of the basic questions of a science of knowledge corresponding to these preliminary remarks.
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:23 am

III. The Function of This Branch of Science

WITH REGARD to all knowledge, that holds true which Goethe expressed so aptly in the words: “Theory is of no use in and of itself save as it causes us to believe in the interrelationship of phenomena.” By means of science, we are always bringing separate facts of experience into relationship. We perceive in inorganic Nature causes and effects separated, and we seek for their connection in the appropriate sciences. In the organic world we become aware of species and genera of organisms, and we endeavor to establish the reciprocal relationships among them. Single cultural epochs of humanity appear before us in history, and we endeavor to learn the inner dependence of one evolutionary stage upon another. Thus every branch of science has to work in some definite field of phenomena in the sense conveyed by the statement quoted above from Goethe.

Each branch of science has its sphere in which it seeks for the interrelationship among phenomena. But there yet remains a great antithesis in our scientific endeavors: on one side, the ideal world [die ideele Welt — the world of ideas] gained by the sciences, and, on the other, the objects upon which that world is based. There must be a branch of science which here also clarifies the interrelationships. The ideal and the real world, the antithesis between idea and reality, — these constitute the problem of such a science. These contrasting elements also must be understood in their reciprocal relationships.

It is the purpose of the following discussion to seek for these relationships. The facts of science on the one hand and Nature and history on the other are to be brought into relationship. What is the significance of the reflection of the external world in human consciousness? What relationship exists between our thinking about the objects of reality and these objects themselves?
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:24 am

IV. Definition of the Concept of Experience

TWO SPHERES thus stand over against one another, — our thinking and the objects with which this is occupied. These latter are designated, in so far as they are accessible to our observation, as the content of experience. Whether or not there are other objects of thought outside the field of our observation, and of what sort these may be, we shall for the moment leave undetermined. Our first task shall be to fix sharply the boundaries of the two spheres, experience and thought. We must first have experience before us in determinate outlines and then investigate the nature of thought. Here we enter upon the first task.

What is experience? Every one is conscious of the fact that his thinking is kindled through collision with reality. Objects meet us in space and time; we become aware of an external world of many parts very highly complicated, and we live in a more or less richly elaborated inner world. The first form in which all this meets us is already fixed. We have no share in its coming to pass. It is as if springing forth from an unknown Beyond that reality first offers itself to the grasp of our senses and our minds. At first we can do nothing more than to permit our look to sweep over the multiplicity which meets us.

This first activity of ours is the grasp of the senses upon reality. We must grasp firmly what is offered to the senses, for it is only this that we can call pure experience.

We feel forthwith the need to penetrate by means of the classifying intellect into the unending multiplicity of forms, forces, colors, tones, etc., which appear to us. We are impelled to explain the mutual interdependencies of all the single entities that come to meet us. When an animal appears in a determinate region, we inquire regarding the influence of the latter upon the life of this animal; if we see that a stone begins to roll, we seek for other occurrences with which this is connected. But what comes about in this fashion is no longer pure experience. It has already a twofold origin — experience and thinking.

Pure experience is that form of reality in which it appears to us when we meet it with the complete exclusion of ourselves.

It is to this form of reality that we may apply the words Goethe used in his essay entitledNature: “We are surrounded and encircled by her. Unbidden and without warning, she takes us up in the round of her dance.”

As regards the objects of the external senses, this fact stares us in the face, so that it will scarcely be denied by any one. A body appears at first before us as a complex of forms, colors, sensations of heat and light, which are suddenly there as if they had come forth from a primal source to us quite unknown.

The psychological conviction that the sense world, as it lies before us, is in itself nothing but a product of the interaction between our organism and an external world of molecules unknown to us does not contradict our assertion. If it were really true that color, heat, etc., were nothing more than the manner in which our organism is affected by the external world, yet the process which metamorphoses the occurrences of the external world into color, heat, etc., lies entirely beyond our consciousness. Whatever may be the role played in this by our organism, what appears to our thought as the already existent form of reality, not subject to our control — that is, experience — is not the molecular occurrence; it is those colors, tones, etc.

The matter is not so clear in the case of our inner life. But adequate consideration will here remove all doubt that our inner states also appear on the horizon of consciousness in the same form as do the things and facts of the external world. A feeling makes its impact upon me as does a sensation of light. The fact that I bring it into nearer relationship with my own personality has no significance from this point of view. We must go still further. Even thought itself appears to us at first as an item of experience. In the very act of examining our thought, we set it over against ourselves, we conceive its first form as coming from an unknown source.

This cannot be otherwise. Our thinking, especially when we lay hold upon its form as an individual activity within consciousness, is contemplation — that is, it directs the look outward toward what stands before it. Here it remains at first as activity. It would look into emptiness, into nothing, if something did not exist over against it.

Everything which is to become an object of our knowledge must adapt itself to this form of setting itself before us. We are incapable of lifting ourselves above this form. If we are to win in thinking a means for deeper penetration into the world, then thought itself must first become experience. We must seek for thought itself as one among the facts of experience.

Only thus will our world-conception avoid the loss of inner unity. This would occur at once should we attempt to bring into it an alien element. We stand facing pure experience and seeking within experience for that element which sheds light over itself and over the rest of reality.
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Re: The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conce

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V. Examination of the Content of Experience

LET US now fix our attention upon pure experience. In what does this consist when it comes into our consciousness, not elaborated by our thinking? It is merely juxtaposition in space and succession in time; an aggregate of nothing but unrelated single entities. No one of the objects which there come and go has anything to do with any other. At this stage, the facts of which we become aware, and which mingle with our inner life, are absolutely without bearing one upon another.

There the world is a multiplicity of things of uniform importance. No thing, no occurrence, can lay claim to any greater function in the fabric of the world than any other constituent in the realm of experience. If it is to become clear to us that this or that fact possesses greater significance than another, we must not merely observe things but arrange them in thought-relationships. The rudimentary organ of an animal, which may not have the least significance in its organic functioning, possesses just as much value for our experience as the most important organ of the animal's body. That distinction between greater and lesser importance does not become apparent to us till we think back over the relationships of the individual constituents; that is, until we work over our experience.

For our experience the snail, which belongs to a lower stage in organization, is of equal value with the most highly evolved animal. The distinctions between degrees of perfection in organization become evident to us only when we lay hold conceptually upon the multiplicity given to us in experience, and work it through. From this point of view, likewise, the culture of the Eskimo and that of the educated European are of equal value; Caesar's significance in the history of human evolution appears to mere experience no greater than that of one of his soldiers. In the history of literature, Goethe stands no higher than Gottsched so long as we are considering mere experiential actualities.

At this stage of observation, the world appears to our minds as an absolutely flat surface. No part of this surface rises above any other; none reveals to our minds any distinction as compared with others. Only when the spark of thinking strikes this surface do there come to light elevations and depressions; one thing appears more or less lifted above the other, all takes on a certain sort of form, lines run out from one form to another; the whole becomes a self-sufficient harmony.

The illustrations we have chosen seem to us to show with sufficient clearness what we mean in speaking of the greater or lesser significance of the objects of perception (here considered as identical with the things of experience): what we mean by that knowledge which first comes into existence when we observe these objects in their interrelationship. These illustrations, we believe, insure us against the objection that the realm of our experience already reveals endless distinctions among its objects before thinking appears on the field: that a red surface, for instance, is different from a green surface even without any activity of thought. That is true. But any one who would bring this argument to bear against us has entirely misconstrued our assertion. This is just what we maintain: that what is presented to us by experience is an endless mass of single entities. These single entities must naturally be different one from another; otherwise they would not appear to us as an endless unrelated multiplicity. We do not refer to an indistinguishableness among the things perceived, but to the absolute want of meaning in the single facts of the senses for the totality of our image of reality. It is just because we recognize this endless qualitative difference that we are driven to the conclusion indicated.

If we were met by a unity, well defined, composed of harmoniously ordered constituents, we could not speak of the lack of distinction in significance among the constituents in relation to one another.

Whoever for such a reason considers the comparison we have used inapplicable must have failed to take hold of it at the real point of similarity. It would certainly be fallacious if we should compare the perceptual world, with its endlessly varied forms, to the uniform monotony of a surface. But our surface was not intended to resemble the manifold world of phenomena, but the unified total image that we have of this world so long as thinking has not come in contact with it. After the action of thought, each single entity in this total image appears, not as it was mediated by mere experience, but with the significance which it bears in relation to the whole of reality. At the same time, each appears with characteristics which were wholly wanting in its experiential form.

According to our conviction, Johannes Volkelt has been remarkably successful in delineating within clear outlines that which we are justified in designating as pure experience. Five years ago [1881] this was strikingly described in his book on Kants Erkenntnistheorie; [Kant's Theory of Knowledge] [Johannes Volkelt: Immanuel Kants Erkenntnistheorie. Leipzig, 1879.] and in his latest publication, Erfahrung und Denken, [Experience and Thought] [Johannes Volkelt: Erfahrung und Denken. Kritische Grundlegung der Erkenntnistheorie. Hamburg and Leipzig, 1886.] he has pursued the subject still further. He has done this, to be sure, in support of a point of view fundamentally different from ours and a purpose unlike that of the present book. But this need not hinder us from setting down here his remarkable characterization of pure experience. This description simply shows us the images which pass before our consciousness in a brief period in a manner utterly void of interrelationships. Volkelt says [Kants Erkenntnistheorie, p. 168 f.]: “For example, my consciousness now has as its content the impression that I have worked diligently to-day; immediately thereto is linked the impression that I can with a clear conscience take a walk; again there suddenly appears the perceptual image of the door opening and the postman entering; the image of the postman soon appears with out-stretched hand, then with mouth opening, then doing the opposite; at the same time there blend with the perceptual content of the opening mouth all sorts of impressions of hearing — among others, that of rain beginning outside. The image of the postman vanishes from my consciousness and the impressions which now enter have as their content, one by one: grasping the scissors, opening the letters, a critical feeling at illegible writing, visual images of the most varied written symbols, and, united with these, manifold imaginative images and thoughts; scarcely is this series at an end when there reappears the impression of having worked diligently and — accompanied by depression — the consciousness of the continuing rain; then both of these vanish from my consciousness and there emerges an impression whose content is that a difficulty supposed to have been overcome in to-day's work has not been overcome; accompanying this there enter the impressions: freedom of will, empirical necessity, responsibility, the value of virtue, incomprehensibility, etc., and these unite with one another in the most varied and complicated ways — and so it continues.”

Here is described for us, with regard to a certain limited space of time, what we really experience, that form of reality in which thinking has no participation.

It need not be supposed that a different result would have been attained if, instead of this every-day experience, we had described what occurs in a piece of scientific research or in an unusual natural phenomenon. In these cases as in that, what passes before consciousness consists of unrelated images. Thinking for the first time institutes interrelationship.

We must also attribute to the pamphlet of Dr. Richard Wahle, Gehirn und Bewusstsein [Brain and Consciousness.] (Vienna 1884), the service of having indicated in clear contours that which is given to us by experience void of any element of thought, only we must make the reservation that what Wahle describes as characteristics pertaining without restriction to the phenomena of the outer and the inner world holds good only for the first stage of our observation of the world, that stage which we have described. According to Wahle, we know only a juxtaposition in space and succession in time. There can be, according to him, no talk of a relationship between the things appearing beside one another or after one another. For example, there may be somewhere and somehow an inner relationship between the warm sunbeam and the warming of the stone, but we know nothing of a causal relationship; to us the only thing that is clear is that the second fact comes after the first. There may likewise be somewhere, in a world inaccessible to us, an inner relationship between our brain-mechanism and our mental activity; but we know only that the two are occurrences running in parallel lines; we are not at all justified, for example, in assuming a causal relationship between the two.

Of course, when Wahle sets forth this assertion as the ultimate truth of science, we must oppose this extension of the assertion; but it is entirely correct as applied to the first form in which we become aware of reality.

Not only are the things of the outer world and the processes of the inner void of interrelationship at this stage of our knowledge, but even our own personality is an isolated unit in comparison with the rest of the world. We perceive ourselves as one of the numberless percepts without relationship to the objects which surround us.
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