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Thought - the last member

Saturday, 29 June 2019 at 21:04

Goethe on Dr John Dunn. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1828

I am grateful to Joel A. Wendt for isolating these quoted lines from Rudolf Steiner’s Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception.

"It is really the genuine, and indeed the truest, form of Nature, which comes to manifestation in the human mind, whereas for a mere sense-beingonly Nature's external aspect would exist. Knowledge plays here a role of world significance. It is the conclusion of a work of creation. What takes place in human consciousness is the interpretation of Nature to itself. Thought is the last member in a series of processes whereby Nature is formed."


"Man is not behaving inaccordance with the purposes of the Guiding Power of the world when he investigates one or another of His commandments, but when he behaves in accordance with his own insight. For in him the Guiding Power of the world manifests Himself. He does not live as Will somewhere outside of man, He has renounced his own will in order that all might depend upon the will of man. If man is to be enabled to become his own lawgiver, all thought about world-determinations outside of man must be abandoned.”

So, from the above...

“Thought is the last member in a series of processes whereby Nature is formed.”

In saying this, Goethe was a precursor of Vladimir Vernadsky and the theory of evolutionary movement from the biosphere to the higher level of the noosphere.

“…thought about world-determinations outside of man must be abandoned.”

The implications of this are that world-determinations outside of man are revealed to be idols, or external objects of worship which must be abandoned.

Man must take upon himself both crown and mitre, which is what Dante did in the Divine Comedy.

There is a tension in Goethe’s remarkable insight which must be dealt with - and I look forward to reading more of Rudolf Steiner to see if the answer might be found there. The tension is between:

1) man being an instrument of nature by which… ‘human consciousness is the interpretation of Nature to itself’

2) man achieving freedom, by which man behaves ‘in accordance with his own insight’.

© John Dunn.

Truth and Knowledge

Thursday, 27 June 2019 at 22:07

Rudolf Steiner on Dr John Dunn. I’m grappling with an essay by R. H. Brady on Rudolf Steiner’s Truth and Knowledge.

Rudolf Steiner

In an earlier blog I commented that Steiner discovered that it is the shape in which the world is first given, rather than the shape it attains through theorising activity, that is subjective.

But what the human mind, through theorising activity, can bring into being is the phenomenal world in its intelligible fullness. That is objective.Only the human mind can do this.

The following quotes from Brady’s essay explore Steiner’s understanding that the cognitive ability of man holds the possibility of true freedom.

The act of cognition makes the not-self intelligible and the self conscious. It is a free act, for to be active in this manner the I must create the category of cognition through self- determination. Yet consciousness must still grasp itself, and unless the I also grasps its own self-determination, its role as creator of the idea of cognition remains hidden from it.

The I must realise the idea of its own cognitive activity in order to realise its freedom — to grasp that the “laws of logic” are its own intentions, and knowledge its own creation.

If the I can objectify ideas other than those of cognition, this will alsotake place through self-determination, for nothing in the world could demand it.

...the task of thinking is not thrust upon us by an enigmatic universe, but isour own free creation, and the manifest intelligibility of the world isa human product.

...the law is not something given, lying outside the object in which the eventappears, but is the content of the object itself engaged in living activity. The object in this case is our own I. If the I has really penetrated its deed with full insight, in conformity with its nature, then it also feels itself to be master.
© John Dunn.

Human mind

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 at 21:05

Fichte on Dr John Dunn. In my opinion, Fichte’s philosophy was one long polemic against Spinoza. However, Fichte was taken to task by, amongst others, Coleridge for simply repeating all Spinoza’s mistakes from the pole of subjectivity compared to Spinoza’s pole of objectivity.

Rudolf Steiner dealt with Fichte in another way, and it all centred on cognition. R. H. Brady puts Steiner's point this way.

The true shape is not the first in which reality comes before the I, but the shape that the I gives it ... It is the shape in which the world is first given, rather than the shape it attains through theorising activity, that is subjective.

The argument is a rather daring completion of Fichte’s thrust — his notion that somehow everything came from the I. But the I does not create reality because it does not create particularity. It does, however, create the intelligibility of the phenomenal world, which intelligibility it posits “in itself.” One cannot escape the suggestion that in looking at an intelligible world we are also viewing a transformed “I-ness” — or the given in the form of the I.
This is not creating something from nothing.

But what the human mind can bring into being is the phenomenal world in its intelligible fullness. That is objective. Only the human mind can do this.

© John Dunn.

Mutuality of need?

Monday, 24 June 2019 at 21:05

Steiner on Dr John Dunn. The following are quotations by Rudolf Steiner (left) taken from his Truth and Knowledge, also published in English as Truth and Science, which was a slightly expanded version of Steiner’s doctoral thesis.

Consciousness is directional — that is, it is never without an object for consciousness. We are aware of something, something appears for us or tous, whether inward or outward, but we are never simply conscious with an object yet to come. We must be clear about this. Consciousness cannot exist merely in itself, like a thing, but always attends to what is for it. There must be a given before we can become conscious, whether it is (a) given passively or (b) given by intentional activity.
I would add… This understanding of consciousness overcomes all considerations of a subjective or objective ground of consciousness. Consciousness lives in an encounter with what is for it. But this ‘what is for it’ cannot be said to precede consciousness because consciousness would not exist without it, unless (and I leave this as an open question to myself to ponder) consciousness is occupied with something else that ‘is for it’.

Can consciousness be the ‘what is for it’ for phenomena that lie outside it, i.e., essential to the existence of those phenomena?

Is there a mutuality of need? That is, each needs the other to exist.

In all of the above considerations, the question of subjectivity versus objectivity is overcome. Herein lies Steiner’s critique of
Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s subjective stance.
Fichtes sees the world-picture more and more as a construction of the I. He emphasises ever more strongly that it is essential for the science of knowledge to awaken the faculty for watching the I while it constructs the world. He who is able to do this appears to Fichte to be at a higher stage of knowledge than someone who can see only the construction, only the finished product ... Ordinary consciousness sees only what is posited [was gesetzt ist], what is in some way or other determined. It lacks insight into the antecedent, into the ground — that is, why something is posited in just the way it is, and not otherwise. To secure knowledge of these antecedents is, for Fichte, the task of a completely new sense organ.
Ronald H. Brady has commented that in a reversal of the usual criticisms, Fichte’s error arises not from his radical turn toward the activity of the “I” but because the turn was not radical enough. Fichte’s critics fault him for deriving the world from his own subjectivity — Steiner, for supposing, along with his critics, that the content of intentional activity is determined only by the subjective self. The same remarks could be levelled at many of the modern critics of phenomenology and some of its practitioners. One needs, as Fichte argues, a 'completely new sense organ' to approach the problem, but it was not Fichte who measured the ground:
No matter from what aspect Fichte is considered, we shall find that his line of thought gains power and life when we think of the activity of the I, which he presents as grey and empty of content, as filled and organised by what we have called the process of cognition.
What is cognition?
Since before cognition begins the given field is given but not yet understood, the field contains only that which may be directly given — directly presented in some sense of the term. The relations inherent in the field are not apparent, for they wait upon the cognitive act to become so.
© John Dunn.

Grail quest

Friday, 21 June 2019 at 22:06

Parsifal on Dr John Dunn. The modern world to this extent is a Spinozist world - a world obsessed by oneness, wholeness, togetherness… and I mean this at a deeply philosophical level, not only the warm platitudes of popular culture. The individual is lost in the dark wood of all this inclusiveness; and I do not mean simply subsumed into the crowd, I mean lost to himself.

Whilst trapped in the darkness we will experience slavery as freedom, in other words the ‘freedom’ to pursue actions prompted by others, human or machine. The would-be escapee must first win a personal battle to save the ‘I’ or all is lost - forever.

The search for an answer is the Grail quest of our times, the answer to the question - what is the I? Or to put is more personally - who am I?

Perceval went on many a misguided adventure, lost many battles, made wrong turns in the woods. The journey is not a straight line. We all know about that. There is many a false path, but no experience is wasted.

The much-acclaimed goal of individuation is a false grail, which in reality is but another path of subsumption into the whole. And yet it seems that we must pass through this stage before smashing the idols of our culture to discover the real path to truth.

Beyond individuation, and here lies the paradox, the quest for the ‘I’ is about encounter.

© John Dunn.

Thinking power

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 at 20:40

Rudolf Steiner on Dr John Dunn. Thinking... a reality interwoven with light, dipping down warmly into the phenomena of the world. This dipping down occurs with a power that flows forth in the activity of thinking itself — the power of love in spiritual form. (Rudolf Steiner - The Philosophy of Freedom)

With the above quotation by Rudolf Steiner in mind, is the really true love encounter not so much between two people, but rather between thinking spirit and me.

It is time to reassess Martin Buber and his concept of
I-It and I-Thou relationships in the light of the above.

Buber maintained that in every human encounter that we undergo, we feel that there could be something more, something more lasting and more fulfilling. This ‘more’ is encounter with God, or absolute relation.

At the highest level, in Buber’s thinking, God represents the ‘eternal Thou’, the only entity with which we can maintain a permanent Between. In any other meeting, there is constant vacillation; even our most treasured Thou occasionally regresses to an It, even if for only a few moments.

There are connections here that lead to ‘the power of love in spiritual form’being another way of saying that thinking is the power of God in spiritual form.

Buber’s the eternal ‘I thou’ is love, and God is love.

God incarnates in some way in the thinking human being.

© John Dunn.


Tuesday, 18 June 2019 at 19:55

Rilke on Dr John Dunn. Jung and others fell and worshipped before the power of One; to aspire for us all to become as One; to bring about One world; to proffer a perennial ‘truth’ common to all religions. This is Tikkun, the return to the One. This is the end-game of Spinozism in which freedom is the recognition of this necessity. And the price of this necessary freedom? Answer - the end of the creative imagination, death of the self and the end of humanity.

In the Grail quest and all the apparent life journeys, there is always an obsession with ‘return’ and, in particular, a return to wholeness, or oneness, whereas this is the very opposite of what it means to be human. To be human is to be a disrupter, an over-turner of equilibria. The human mind does not abide by the laws of nature - Dante recognised that much. This is the very mystery of mind.

Rainer Maria Rilke (pictured above) approximated to something nearing the truth in the Eighth of his Duino Elegies, even though he bemoans the fact that it is the fate of man to stand in opposition to oneness.

“That's what Fate means: being opposite, and nothing else, and always opposite”
© John Dunn.
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