Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Thinking Zodiac: The 12 basic mental viewpoints. Bonus lecture for Wednesday's meeting of the Rudolf Steiner Study Circle

Human and Cosmic Thought. Lecture 2 of 4.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, January 21, 1914 [100 years ago today]:

The study of spiritual science should always go hand in hand with practical experience of how the mind works. It is impossible to get entirely clear about many things that we discussed in the last lecture unless one tries to get a kind of living grasp of what thinking involves in terms of actualities. For why is it that among the very persons whose profession it is to think about such questions confusion reigns, for example, as to the relation between the general concept of the “triangle-in-general” and specific concepts of individual triangles? How is it that people puzzle for centuries over questions such as that of the hundred possible and the hundred real thalers cited by Kant? Why is it that people fail to pursue the very simple reflections that are necessary to see that there cannot really be any such thing as a “pragmatic” account of history, according to which the course of events always follows directly from preceding events? Why do people not reflect in such a way that they would be repelled by this impossible mode of regarding the history of man, so widely current nowadays? What is the cause of all these things?

The reason is that far too little trouble is taken over learning to handle with precision the activities of thinking, even by people whose business this should be. Nowadays everyone wants to feel that he has a perfect claim to say “Think? Well, one can obviously do that.” So they begin to think. Thus we have various conceptions of the world; there have been many philosophers — a great many. We find that one philosopher is after this and another is after that, and that many fairly clever people have drawn attention to many things. If someone comes upon contradictions in these findings, he does not ponder over them, but he is quite pleased with himself, fancying that now he can “think” indeed. He can think again what those other fellows have thought out, and feels quite sure that he will find the right answer himself. For no one nowadays must make any concession to authority! That would deny the dignity of human nature! Everyone must think for himself. That is the prevailing notion in the realm of thought.

I do not know if people have reflected that this is not their attitude in other realms of life. No one feels committed to belief in authority or to a craving for authority when he has his coat made at the tailor's or his shoes at the shoemaker's. He does not say “It would be beneath the dignity of man to let one's things be made by persons who are known to be thoroughly acquainted with their business.” He may perhaps even allow that it is necessary to learn these skills. But in practical life, with regard to thinking, it is not agreed that one must get one's conceptions of the world from quarters where thinking and much else has been learnt. Only rarely would this be conceded today.

This is one tendency that dominates our life in the widest circles, and is the immediate reason why human thinking is not a very widespread product nowadays. I believe this can be quite easily grasped. For let us suppose that one day everybody were to say: “What! — learn to make boots? For a long time that has been unworthy of man; we can all make boots.” I don't know if only good boots would come from it. At all events, with regard to the coining of correct thoughts in their conception of the world, it is from this sort of reasoning that men mostly take their start at the present day. This is what gives its deeper meaning to my remark of yesterday — that although thought is something a man is completely within, so that he can contemplate it in its inner being, actual thinking is not as common as one might suppose. Besides this, there is today a quite special pretension which could gradually go so far as to throw a veil over all clear thinking. We must pay attention to this also; at least we must glance at it.

Let us suppose the following. There was once in Görlitz a shoemaker named Jacob Boehme. He had learnt his craft well — how soles are cut, how the shoe is formed over the last, and how the nails are driven into the soles and leather. He knew all this down to the ground. Now supposing that this shoemaker, by name Jacob Boehme, had gone around and said: “I will now see how the world is constructed. I will suppose that there is a great last at the foundation of the world. Over this last the world-leather was once stretched; then the world-nails were added, and by means of them the world-sole was fastened to the world-upper. Then boot-blacking was brought into play, and the whole world-shoe was polished. In this way I can quite clearly explain to myself how in the morning it is bright, for then the shoe-polish of the world is shining, but in the evening it is soiled with all sorts of things; it shines no longer. Hence I imagine that every night someone has the duty of repolishing the world-boot. And thus arises the difference between day and night.” Let us suppose that Jacob Boehme had said this.

Yes, you laugh, for of course Jacob Boehme did not say this; but still he made good shoes for the people of Görlitz, and for that he employed his knowledge of shoe-making. But he also developed his grand thoughts, through which he wanted to build up a conception of the world; and for that he resorted to something else. He said to himself: My shoe-making is not enough for that; I dare not apply to the structure of the world the thoughts I put into making shoes. And in due course he arrived at his sublime thoughts about the world. Thus there was no such Jacob Boehme as the hypothetical figure I first sketched, but there was another one who knew how to set about things. But the hypothetical “Jacob Boehmes”, like the one you laughed over — they exist everywhere today.

For example, we find among them physicists and chemists who have learnt the laws governing the combination and separation of substances; there are zoologists who have learnt how one examines and describes animals; there are doctors who have learnt how to treat the physical human body, and what they themselves call the soul. What do they all do? They say: When a person wants to work out for himself a conception of the world, then he takes the laws that are learnt in chemistry, in physics, or in physiology — no others are admissible — and out of these he builds a conception of the world for himself. These people proceed exactly as the hypothetical shoemaker would have done if he had constructed the world-boot, only they do not notice that their world-conceptions come into existence by the very same method that produced the hypothetical world-boot. It does certainly seem rather grotesque if one imagines that the difference between day and night comes about through the soiling of shoe-leather and the repolishing of it in the night. But in terms of true logic it is in principle just the same if an attempt is made to build a world out of the laws of chemistry, physics, biology, and physiology. Exactly the same principle! It is an immense presumption on the part of the physicist, the chemist, the physiologist, or the biologist, who do not wish to be anything else than physicist, chemist, physiologist, biologist, and yet want to have an opinion about the whole world. The point is that one should go to the root of things and not shirk the task of illuminating anything that is not so clear by tracing it back to its true place in the scheme of things. If you look at all this with method and logic, you will not need to be astonished that so many present-day conceptions of the world yield nothing but the “world-boot”. And this is something that can point us to the study of spiritual science and to the pursuit of practical trains of thought; something that can urge us to examine the question of how we must think in order to see where shortcomings exist in the world.

There is something else I should like to mention in order to show where lies the root of countless misunderstandings with regard to the ideas people have about the world. When one concerns oneself with world-conceptions, does one not have over and over again the experience that someone thinks this and someone else that; one man upholds a certain view with many good reasons (one can find good reasons for everything), while another has equally good reasons for his view; the first man contradicts his opponent with just as good reasons as those with which the opponent contradicts him. Sects arise in the world not, in the first place, because one person or another is convinced about the right path by what is taught here or there. Only look at the paths which the disciples of great men have had to follow in order to come to this or that great man, and then you will see that herein lies something important for us with regard to karma. But if we examine the outlooks that exist in the world today, we must say that whether someone is a follower of Bergson, or of Haeckel, or of this or that (karma, as I have already said, does not recognize the current world-conception), depends on other things than on deep conviction. There is contention on all sides!

Yesterday I said that once there were Nominalists, persons who maintained that general concepts had no reality, but were merely names. These Nominalists had opponents who were called Realists (the word had a different meaning then). The Realists maintained that general concepts are not mere words, but refer to quite definite realities. In the Middle Ages the question of Realism versus Nominalism was always a burning one, especially for theology, a sphere of thought with which present-day thinkers trouble themselves very little. For in the time when the question of Nominalism versus Realism arose (from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries) there was something that belonged to the most important confessions of faith, the question about the three “Divine Persons” — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — who form One Divine Being, but are still Three real Persons. The Nominalists maintained that these three Divine Persons existed only individually, the “Father” for Himself, the “Son” for Himself, and the “Holy Ghost” for Himself; and if one spoke of a “Collective God” Who comprised these Three, that was only a name for the Three. Thus Nominalism did away with the unity of the Trinity. In opposition to the Realists, the Nominalists not only explained away the unity, but even regarded it as heretical to declare, as the Realists did, that the Three Persons formed not merely an imaginary unity, but an actual one.

Thus Nominalism and Realism were opposites. And anyone who goes deeply into the literature of Realism and Nominalism during these centuries gets a deep insight into what human acumen can produce. For the most ingenious grounds were brought forward for Nominalism, just as much as for Realism. In those days it was more difficult to be reckoned as a thinker because there was no printing press, and it was not an easy thing to take part in such controversies as that between Nominalism and Realism. Anyone who ventured into this field had to be better prepared, according to the ideas of those times, than is required of people who engage in controversies nowadays. An immense amount of penetration was necessary in order to plead the cause of Realism, and it was equally so with Nominalism. How does this come about? It is grievous that things are so, and if one reflects more deeply on it, one is led to say: What use is it that you are so clever? You can be clever and plead the cause of Nominalism, and you can be just as clever and contradict Nominalism. One can get quite confused about the whole question of intelligence! It is distressing even to listen to what such characterizations are supposed to mean.

Now, as a contrast to what we have been saying, we will bring forward something that is perhaps not nearly so discerning as much that has been advanced with regard to Nominalism or to Realism, but it has perhaps one merit — it goes straight to the point and indicates the direction in which one needs to think.

Let us imagine the way in which one forms general concepts; the way in which one synthesizes a mass of details. We can do this in two ways: first as a man does in the course of his life through the world. He sees numerous examples of a certain kind of animal: they are silky or woolly, are of various colors, have whiskers, at certain times they go through movements that recall human “washing”, they eat mice, etc. One can call such creatures “cats”. Then one has formed a general concept. All these creatures have something to do with what we call “cats”. But now let us suppose that someone has had a long life, in the course of which he has encountered many cat-owners, men and women, and he has noticed that a great many of these people call their pets “Pussy”. Hence he classes all these creatures under the name of “Pussy”. Hence we now have the general concept “Cats” and the general concept “Pussy”, and a large number of individual creatures belonging in both cases to the general concept. And yet no one will maintain that the general concept “Pussy” has the same significance as the general concept “Cats”. Here the real difference comes out. In forming the general concept “Pussy” which is only a summary of names that must rank as individual names, we have taken the line, and rightly so, of Nominalism; and in forming the general concept “Cats” we have taken the line of Realism, and rightly so. In one case Nominalism is correct; in the other, Realism. Both are right. One must only apply these methods within their proper limits. And when both are right, it is not surprising that good reasons for both can be adduced. In taking the name “Pussy” I have employed a somewhat grotesque example. But I can show you a much more significant example, and I will do so at once.

Within the scope of our objective experience there is a whole realm where Nominalism — the idea that the collective term is only a name — is fully justified. We have “one”, “two”, “three”, “four”, “five”, and so on, but it is impossible to find in the expression “number” anything that has a real existence. “Number” has no existence. “One”, “two”, “three”, “five”, “six”, — they exist. But what I said in the last lecture, that in order to find the general concept one must let that which corresponds to it pass over into movement — this cannot be done with the concept “Number”. One “one” does not pass over into “two”. It must always be taken as “one”. Not even in thought can we pass over into two, or from two into three. Only the individual numbers exist, not “number” in general. As applied to the nature of numbers, Nominalism is entirely correct; but when we come to the single animal in relation to its genus, Realism is entirely correct. For it is impossible for a deer to exist, and another deer, and yet another, without there being the genus “deer”. The figure “two” can exist for itself, “one”, “seven”, etc., can exist for themselves. But in so far as anything real appears in number, the number is a quality, and the concept “number” has no specific existence. External things are related to general concepts in two different ways: Nominalism is appropriate in one case, and Realism in the other.

On these lines, if we simply give our thoughts the right direction, we begin to understand why there are so many disputes about conceptions of the world. People generally are not inclined, when they have grasped one standpoint, to grasp another as well. When in some realm of thought somebody has got hold of the idea “general concepts have no existence”, he proceeds to extend to it the whole make-up of the world. This sentence, “general concepts have no existence” is not false, for when applied to the particular realm which the person in question has considered, it is correct. It is only the universalizing of it that is wrong. Thus it is essential, if one wants to form a correct idea of what thinking is, to understand clearly that the truth of a thought in the realm to which it belongs is no evidence for its general validity. Someone can offer me a perfectly correct proof of this or that and yet it will not hold good in a sphere to which it does not belong. Anyone, therefore, who intends to occupy himself seriously with the paths that lead to a conception of the world must recognize that the first essential is to avoid one-sidedness. That is what I specially want to bring out today. Now let us take a general look at some matters which will be explained in detail later on.

There are people so constituted that it is not possible for them to find the way to the sprit, and to give them any proof of the spirit will always be hard. They stick to something they know about, in accordance with their nature. Let us say they stick at something that makes the crudest kind of impression on them — Materialism. We need not regard as foolish the arguments they advance as a defence or proof of Materialism, for an immense amount of ingenious writing has been devoted to the subject, and it holds good in the first place for material life, for the material world and its laws.

Again, there are people who, owing to a certain inwardness, are naturally predisposed to see in all that is material only the revelation of the spiritual. Naturally, they know as well as the materialists do that, externally, the material world exists; but matter, they say, is only the revelation, the manifestation, of the underlying spiritual. Such persons may take no particular interest in the material world and its laws. As all their ideas of the spiritual come to them through their own inner activity, they may go through the world with the consciousness that the true, the lofty, in which one ought to interest oneself — all genuine reality — is found only in the spirit; that matter is only illusion, only external phantasmagoria. This would be an extreme standpoint, but it can occur, and can lead to a complete denial of material life. We should have to say of such persons that they certainly do recognize what is most real, the spirit, but they are one-sided; they deny the significance of the material world and its laws. Much acute thinking can be enlisted in support of the conception of the universe held by these persons. Let us call their conception of the universe: Spiritism. Can we say that the Spiritists are right? As regards the spirit, their contentions could bring to light some exceptionally correct ideas, but concerning matter and its laws they might reveal very little of any significance. Can one say the Materialists are correct in what they maintain? Yes, concerning matter and its laws they may be able to discover some exceptionally useful and valuable facts; but in speaking of the spirit they may utter nothing but foolishness. Hence we must say that both parties are correct in their respective spheres.

There can also be persons who say “Yes, but as to whether in truth the world contains only matter, or only spirit, I have no special knowledge; the powers of human cognition cannot cope with that. One thing is clear — there is a world spread out around us. Whether it is based upon what chemists and physicists, if they are materialists, call atoms, I know not. But I recognize the external world; that is something I see and can think about. I have no particular reason for supposing that it is or is not spiritual at root. I restrict myself to what I see around me.” From the explanations already given we can call such Realists, and their concept of the universe: Realism. Just as one can enlist endless ingenuity on behalf of Materialism or of Spiritism, and just as one can be clever about Spiritism and yet say the most foolish things on material matters, and vice versa, so one can advance the most ingenious reasons for Realism, which differs from both Spiritism and Materialism in the way I have just described.

Again, there may be other persons who speak as follows. Around us are matter and the world of material phenomena. But this world of material phenomena is in itself devoid of meaning. It has no real meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency; unless from this external world something can emerge toward which the human soul can direct itself, independently of the world. According to this outlook, there must be a realm of ideas and ideals within the world-process. Such people are not Realists, although they pay external life its due; their view is that life has meaning only if ideas work through it and give it purpose. It was under the influence of such a mood as this that Fichte once said: Our world is the sensualized material of our duty. The adherents of such a world-outlook as this, which takes everything as a vehicle for the ideas that permeate the world-process, may be called Idealists and their outlook: Idealism. Beautiful and grand and glorious things have been brought forward on behalf of this Idealism. And in this realm that I have just described — where the point is to show that the world would be purposeless and meaningless if ideas were only human inventions and were not rooted in the world-process — in this realm Idealism is fully justified. But by means of it one cannot, for example, explain external reality. Hence one can distinguish this Idealism from other world-outlooks:

We now have side by side four justifiable world-outlooks, each with significance for its particular domain. Between Materialism and Idealism there is a certain transition. The crudest kind of materialism — one can observe it specially well in our day, although it is already on the wane — will consist in this, that people carry to an extreme the saying of Kant — Kant did not do this himself! — that in the individual sciences there is only so much real science as there is mathematics. This means that from being a materialist one can become a ready-reckoner of the universe, taking nothing as valid except a world composed of material atoms. They collide and gyrate, and then one calculates how they inter-gyrate. By this means one obtains very fine results, which show that this way of looking at things is fully justified. Thus you can get the vibration-rates for blue, red, etc.; you take the whole world as a kind of mechanical apparatus, and can reckon it up accurately. But one can become rather confused in this field. One can say to oneself: “Yes, but however complicated the machine may be, one can never get out of it anything like the perception of blue, red, etc. Thus if the brain is only a complicated machine, it can never give rise to what we know as soul-experiences.” But then one can say, as du Bois-Reymond once said: If we want to explain the world in strictly mathematical terms, we shall not be able to explain the simplest perception, but if we go outside a mathematical explanation, we shall be unscientific. The most uncompromising materialist would say, “No, I do not even calculate, for that would presuppose a superstition — it would imply that I assume that things are ordered by measure and number.” And anyone who raises himself above this crude materialism will become a mathematical thinker, and will recognize as valid only whatever can be treated mathematically. From this results a conception of the universe that really admits nothing beyond mathematical formulae. This may be called Mathematism.

Someone, however, might think this over, and after becoming a Mathematist he might say to himself: “It cannot be a superstition that the color blue has so and so many vibrations. The world is ordered mathematically. If mathematical ideas are found to be real in the world, why should not other ideas have equal reality?” Such a person accepts this — that ideas are active in the world. But he grants validity only to those ideas that he discovers outside himself — not to any ideas that he might grasp from his inner self by some sort of intuition or inspiration, but only to those he reads from external things that are real to the senses. Such a person becomes a Rationalist, and his outlook on the world is that of Rationalism. If, in addition to the ideas that are found in this way, someone grants validity also to those gained from the moral and the intellectual realms, then he is already an Idealist. Thus a path leads from crude Materialism, by way of Mathematism and Rationalism, to Idealism.

But now Idealism can be enhanced. In our age there are some men who are trying to do this. They find ideas at work in the world, and this implies that there must also be in the world some sort of beings in whom the ideas can live. Ideas cannot live just as they are in any external object, nor can they hang as it were in the air. In the nineteenth century the belief existed that ideas rule history. But this was a confusion, for ideas as such have no power to work. Hence one cannot speak of ideas in history. Anyone who understands that ideas, if they are there are all, are bound up with some being capable of having ideas will no longer be a mere Idealist; he will move on to the supposition that ideas are connected with beings. He becomes a Psychist and his world-outlook is that Psychism. The Psychist, who in his turn can uphold his outlook with an immense amount of ingenuity, reaches it only through a kind of one-sidedness, of which he can eventually become aware.

Here I must add that there are adherents of all the world-outlooks above the horizontal stroke; for the most part they are stubborn folk who, owing to some fundamental element in themselves, take this or that world-outlook and abide by it, going no further. All the beliefs listed below the line have adherents who are more easily accessible to the knowledge that individual world-outlooks each have one special standpoint only, and they more easily reach the point where they pass from one world-outlook to another.

When someone is a Psychist, and able as a thinking person to contemplate the world clearly, then he comes to the point of saying to himself that he must presuppose something actively psychic in the outside world. But directly he not only thinks but feels sympathy for what is active and willing in man, then he says to himself: “It is not enough that there are beings who have ideas; these beings must also be active, they must be able also to do things.” But this is inconceivable unless these beings are individual beings. That is, a person of this type rises from accepting the ensoulment of the world to accepting the Spirit or the Spirits of the world. He is not yet clear whether he should accept one or a number of Spirits, but he advances from Psychism to Pneumatism, to a doctrine of the Spirit.

If he has become in truth a Pneumatist, then he may well grasp what I have said in this lecture about number — that with regard to figures it is somewhat doubtful to speak of a “unity”. Then he comes to the point of saying to himself: It must therefore be a confusion to talk of one undivided Spirit, of one undivided Pneuma. And he gradually becomes able to form for himself an idea of the Spirits of the different Hierarchies. Then he becomes in the true sense a Spiritist, so that on this side there is a direct transition from Pneumatism to Spiritism.

These world-outlooks are all justified in their own field. For there are fields where Psychism acts illuminatingly, and others where Pneumatism does the same. Certainly, anyone who wishes to deliberate about an explanation of the universe as thoroughly as we have tried to do must come to Spiritism, to the acceptance of the Spirits of the Hierarchies. For to stop short at Pneumatism would in this case mean the following. If we are Spiritists, then it may happen that people will say to us: “Why so many spirits? Why bring numbers into it? Let there be One Undivided Spirit!” Anyone who goes more deeply into the matter knows that this objection is like saying: “You tell me there are two hundred midges over there. I don't see two hundred; I see only a single swarm.” Exactly so would an adherent of Pneumatism stand with regard to a Spiritist. The Spiritist sees the universe filled with the Spirits of the Hierarchies; the Pneumatist sees only the one “swarm” — only the Universal Spirit. But that comes from an inexact view.

Now, there is still another possibility: someone may not take the path we have tried to follow to the activities of the spiritual Hierarchies, but may still come to an acceptance of certain spiritual beings. The celebrated German philosopher, Leibnitz, was a man of this kind. Leibnitz had got beyond the prejudice that anything merely material can exist in the world. He found the actual, he sought the actual. (I have treated this more precisely in my book Riddles of Philosophy.) His view was that a being — as, for example, the human soul — can build up existence in itself. But he formed no further ideas on the subject. He only said to himself that there is such a being that can build up existence in itself, and force concepts outwards from within itself. For Leibnitz, this being is a “Monad”. And he said to himself: “There must be many Monads, and Monads of the most varied capabilities. If I had here a bell, there would be many monads in it — as in a swarm of midges — but they would be monads that had never come even so far as to have sleep-consciousness, monads that are almost unconscious, but which nevertheless develop the dimmest of concepts within themselves. There are monads that dream; there are monads that develop waking ideas within themselves; in short, there are monads of the most varied grades.”

A person with this outlook does not come so far as to picture to himself the individual spiritual beings in concrete terms, as the Spiritist does, but he reflects in the world upon the spiritual element in the world, allowing it to remain indefinite. He calls it “Monad” — that is, he conceives of it only as though one were to say: “Yes, there is spirit in the world and there are spirits, but I describe them only by saying, ‘They are entities having varying powers of perception.’ I pick out from them an abstract characteristic. So I form for myself this one-sided world-outlook, on behalf of which as much as can be said has been said by the highly intelligent Leibnitz. In this way I develop Monadism.” Monadism is an abstract Spiritism.

But there can be persons who do not rise to the level of the Monads; they cannot concede that existence is made up of being with the most varied conceptual powers, but at the same time they are not content to allow reality only to external phenomena; they hold that “forces” are dominant everywhere. If, for example, a stone falls to the ground, they say “That is gravitation!” When a magnet attracts bits of iron, they say “That is magnetic force!” They are not content with saying simply “There is the magnet,” but they say “The magnet presupposes that supersensibly, invisibly, a magnetic force is present, extending in all directions.” A world-outlook of this kind — which looks everywhere for forces behind phenomena — can be called Dynamism.

Then one may say “No, to believe in ‘forces’ is superstition” — an example of this is Fritz Mauthner's Critique of Language, where you find a detailed argument to this effect. It amounts to taking your stand on the reality of the things around us. Thus by the path of Spiritism we come through Monadism and Dynamism to Realism again.

But now one can do something else still. One can say “Certainly I believe in the world that is spread out around me, but I do not maintain any right to claim that this world is the real one. I can say of it only that it ‘appears’ to me. I have no right to say more about it.” There you have again a difference. One can say of the world that is spread out around us “This is the real world,” but one can also say “I am clear that there is a world which appears to me; I cannot speak of anything more. I am not saying that this world of colors and sounds — which arises only because certain processes in my eyes present themselves to me as colors, while processes in my ears present themselves to me as sounds — I am not saying that this world is the true world. It is a world of phenomena.” This is the outlook called Phenomenalism.

We can go further and can say “The world of phenomena we certainly have around us, but all that we believe we have in these phenomena is what we have ourselves added to them, what we have thought into them. Our own sense-impressions are all we can rightly accept.” Anyone who says this — mark it well! — is not an adherent of Phenomenalism. He peels off from the phenomena everything which he thinks comes only from the understanding and the reason, and he allows validity only to sense-impressions, regarding them as some kind of message from reality. This outlook may be called Sensationalism.

A critic of this outlook can then say “You may reflect as much as you like on what the senses tell us, and bring forward ever so ingenious reasons for your view — and ingenious reasons can be given — I take my stand on the point that nothing real exists except that which manifests itself through sense-impressions; this I accept as something material.”

This is rather like an atomist saying “I hold that only atoms exist, and that however small they are, they have the attributes which we recognize in the physical world” — anyone who says this is a materialist. Thus, by another path, we arrive back at Materialism.

All these conceptions of the world that I have described and written down for you really exist, and they can be maintained. And it is possible to bring forward the most ingenious reasons for each of them; it is possible to adopt any one of them and with ingenious reasons to refute the others. In between these conceptions of the world one can think out yet others, but they differ only in degree from the leading types I have described, and can be traced back to them. If one wishes to learn about the web and woof of the world, then one must know that the way to it is through these twelve points of entry. There is not merely one conception of the world that can be defended, or justified, but there are twelve. And one must admit that just as many good reasons can be adduced for each and all of them as for any particular one. The world cannot be rightly considered from the one-sided standpoint of one single conception, one single mode of thought; the world discloses itself only to someone who knows that one must look at it from all sides. Just as the Sun — if we go by the Copernican conception of the universe — passes through the signs of the Zodiac in order to illuminate the Earth from twelve different points, so we must not adopt one standpoint, the standpoint of Idealism, or Sensationalism, or Phenomenalism, or any other conception of the world with a name of this kind; we must be in a position to go all round the world and accustom ourselves to the twelve different standpoints from which it can be contemplated. In terms of thought, all twelve standpoints are fully justifiable. For a thinker who can penetrate into the nature of thought, there is not one single conception of the world, but twelve that can be equally justified — so far justified as to permit of equally good reasons being thought out for each of them. There are twelve such justified conceptions of the world.

Tomorrow we will start from the points of view we have gained in this way, so that from the consideration of man in terms of thought we may rise to a consideration of the cosmic.


No comments:

Post a Comment