Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Truth and Science
GA 3

I. Preliminary Comments

A theory of knowing should be a scientific investigation of what all other sciences assume unexamined, namely knowing itself. This means that it must have the character of basic philosophical science from the outset. Only in this manner can we experience the value and significance of insights gained through the other sciences. In this respect, it forms the basis for all scientific endeavors. Obviously, it can fulfill its proper function only by assuming no presuppositions (insofar as possible given the possibilities of humankind’s ability to know things). This is probably generally admitted. Nevertheless, when examining the well-known systems of knowing in detail, one finds that a whole series of presuppositions are made at the starting point of each investigation, which then significantly impair further explanations convincing anybody. Particularly noticeable are hidden assumptions, usually made when the basic epistemological problems (erkenntnistheoretischen Grundprobleme) are posed. If the questions posed by a science are misguided, then one must doubt from the outset that a correct solution has been found.

The history of science teaches us that countless errors, plaguing entire ages, can be traced back solely to the fact that certain problems were posed incorrectly. We do not need to go back to Aristotle's Physics or Llull’s Ars Magna 21t/n Ramon Llull 1232–1315 was a visionary who wrote in Catalan, Latin, and Arabic in Majorca. His Ars Magna was lost in the Nazi’s library purges and the destruction of WWII, but was rediscovered in 2001. to substantiate this statement, for we can find enough examples in modern times. The numerous questions about the significance of rudimentary organs in certain organisms could only be properly asked when the conditions for this had been created, through the discovery of basic laws of biogenesis. So long as biology was under the influence of teleological 22t/n Explaining phenomena on their end purpose rather than on some theoretical cause. views, it was impossible to raise the relevant problems in such a way that a satisfactory answer would be possible. People certainly had fanciful ideas about the function of the pineal gland in the human brain, if they were even asking about its function! Only when people sought clarification of the matter through comparative anatomy and asked themselves whether this organ was not just a remnant of lower forms of human development was the goal approached. To give another example, what fanciful modifications certain questions in physics went through in discovering the mechanics of heat and conservation of energy! In short, the success of scientific investigations depends largely on whether the problems are posed correctly.

Even though the study of knowing (Erkenntnistheorie, epistemology) occupies a very special position as a prerequisite for all other sciences, it can still be foreseen that successful progress in its investigation will only be possible if the basic questions are raised in the correct form.

The following discussions primarily aim at a formulation of the problem of knowing that does strict justice to the character of the theory of knowing (Erkenntnistheorie, epistemology) as a completely presupposition-free science. This will also shed light on the relationship between J. G. Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre 23t/n Wissenschaftslehre was Fichte’s name for his 1794 Principles of Science. Science at that time included the liberal arts and philosophy. Fichte stated that a person’s experiencing or knowing must include knowing oneself as the knower. This came to be known as transcendental idealism, understanding the world not based on religious beliefs, but resting solely on perceptions and concepts that involve the observer, the knower. Fichte was a full professor with enthusiastic student attendance at his lectures, but was dismissed from the University of Jena in 1799 for supposedly being an atheist. He left for Berlin, the only German state that did not raise an outcry at his philosophy and at his adherence to Freemasonry. (Principles of Science) and my own basic study of scientific knowing (Grundwissenschaft) presented here. Fichte's attempt to create a reliable foundation for science in general is related to the task of this work, as will become clear as this investigation proceeds.