Saturday, June 18, 2016

Modern Science: Darkness Visible


Rudolf Steiner, from The Riddles of Philosophy, Part 2, Chapter 8:


"The percept is that part of reality that is given objectively; the concept, the part that is given subjectively, through intuition. Our mental organization tears the reality apart into these two factors. The one factor presents itself to perception, the other to intuition. Only the union of the two, that is, the percept fitting systematically into the universe, constitutes the full reality. If we take mere percepts by themselves we have no reality but rather disconnected chaos. If we take by itself the law and order connecting the percepts, then we have nothing but abstract concepts. Reality is not contained in the abstract concept. It is, however, contained in thoughtful observation, which does not one-sidedly consider either concept or percept alone, but rather the union of the two."
In accepting this point of view we shall be able to think of mental life and of reality as united in the self-conscious ego. This is the conception toward which philosophical development has tended since the Greek era and that has shown its first distinctly recognizable traces in the world conception of Goethe. The awareness arises that this self-conscious ego does not experience itself as isolated and divorced from the objective world, but its detachment from this world is experienced merely as an illusion of its consciousness. This isolation can be overcome if man gains the insight that at a certain stage of his development he must give a provisional form to his ego in order to suppress from his consciousness the forces that unite him with the world. If these forces exerted their influences in his consciousness without interruption, he would never have developed a strong, independent self-consciousness. He would be incapable of experiencing himself as a self-conscious ego. The development of self-consciousness, therefore, actually depends on the fact that the mind is given the opportunity to perceive the world without that part of reality that is extinguished by the self-conscious ego prior to an act of cognition.
The world forces belonging to this part of reality withdraw into obscurity in order to allow the self-conscious ego to shine forth in full power. The ego must realize that it owes its self-knowledge to a fact that spreads a veil over the knowledge of the world. It follows that everything that stimulates the soul to a vigorous, energetic experience of the ego conceals at the same time the deeper foundations in which this ego has its roots. All knowledge acquired by the ordinary consciousness tends to strengthen the self-conscious ego. Man feels himself as a self-conscious ego through the fact that he perceives an external world with his senses, that he experiences himself as being outside this external world, and that, at a certain stage of scientific investigation, he feels himself in relation to this external world in such a way that it appears to him as “illusion.” Were it not so, the self-conscious ego would not emerge. If, therefore, in the act of knowledge one attempts merely to copy what is observed before knowledge begins, one does not arrive at a true experience of full reality, but only at an image of a “half reality.”
Once this is admitted to be the situation, one can no longer look for the answer of the riddles of philosophy within the experiences of the soul that appear on the level of ordinary consciousness. It is the function of this consciousness to strengthen the self-conscious ego. To achieve this it must cast a veil over the connection of the ego with the objective world, and it therefore cannot show how the soul is connected with the true world. This explains why a method of knowledge that applies the means of the natural scientific or similar modes of conception must always arrive at a point where its efforts break down. This failing of many modern thinkers has previously been pointed out in this book, for, in the final analysis, all scientific endeavor employs the same mode of thinking that serves to detach the self-conscious ego from the true reality. The strength and greatness of modern science, especially of natural science, is based on the unrestrained application of this method.