viewpoints from the perspective
of the philosophy of science
If you want to
understand, if you want to come
to a picture of what science is, what knowledge is, it could be a good
start to try to become clear about the general content of the
activities are today characterized as "Science!", while other
just as definitely are characterized as "Pseudoscience!",
the one making the judgment always having made it clear to himself what
he really means with the words he is using. Especially when you try to
come closer to an understanding of what "an anthroposophically
art of healing" could mean, but also "anthroposophical natural science"
in general, it becomes important to become clear about the different
of the concept and the problems with which it is connected.
CONCEPT OF SCIENCE
Every scientific activity is
two partial activities
is some form of observation/perception. It can take place directly,
the senses, somewhat more indirectly via some form of an, in one or
respect sense improving instrument like a microscope, a telescope or
or even more indirectly via some detecting instrument like a Geiger
an electrocardiograph or an X-ray apparatus (Harré 1976).
other part is some form of thought activity It "surrounds" and
the observation/perception; A more or less conscious thought activity
place as an introduction to the observation. It directs the attention
a special direction, "chooses" observations, steps somewhat back during
the direct moment of perception/observation, to dominate once more
the direct moment of perception/observation.
thought activity distinguishes between different parts of that which is
observed/perceived, gives them names or makes a more specific
analysis of them, it may also quantify them and then relates them to
other, logically or mathematically.
far, most people who have given the problem a thought would probably
"CULTIVATED"; CUT CONCEPT OF SCIENCE
But if you want to relate the
concept to the
rich flora of activities that today are termed "science" and
get any help
to see what they have in common, you have to specify the concept a step
you look at what is today termed science, you find that only certain
of perception and certain types of conceptual formulations are
to use in connection with activities that in a more strict sense are
far as perceptions are concerned, a number of
different types of
instrumental perceptions dominate. Different forms of more direct sense
perceptions have a more ambiguous status. If you continue to
of different forms of inner, psychic states; states of the soul, you
come to a type of perception with a very dubious status, to put it
as something on what to base scientific knowledge. When you come to
of a more spiritual nature, you have passed outside the border
those types of perceptions that are discussed.
the conceptual side, spatially oriented concepts
of a mechanical
character dominate. They should preferably relate to something that is
quantifiable and it is very satisfying if the quantified perceptions
when one of the not exact sciences is concerned) have been chosen in a
random way, exist in a great number and have to be put through a
program to make it possible to describe the results with the help of a
mathematical model, or to make it possible to point to more definite
(significant correlations) between factors that you otherwise don't
understand how the are related to each other.
has this situation come about?
In 1962, the historian and
philosopher of science,
Kuhn, put forward the concept of "paradigm", to make it
understand how scientists work and why, at different times in history,
they have chosen a specific way to describe a phenomenon that would
be difficult to understand, why they have chosen observations of
aspects of the phenomenon and certain types of models to describe it,
other observations and models might have been just as good.
concept is a summarizing term for those factors that direct and put a
to how you are permitted to work within a group of researchers and what
is understood as "science" and "not-science" within that group.
the theory of science in Sweden you today find a distinction being made
between at least six such factors. They are: a definite picture
world, a specific concept of what science is,
a special ideal
of science, a number of aesthetic ideals,
a certain ethic
also a certain "self perspective"; an opinion of the
role of the
researcher in research (Törnebohm 1974, Wallén 1974, Lindström
will become more clear later, a definite concept of matter
plays a very definite role as a paradigmatic factor.
first glance the concept of paradigm may seem somewhat bewildering
in 1970 pointed to 21 senses in which Kuhn used the term), but it
clearer if you look at it as a way to describe how every question,
and hypothesis that you formulate during the daily experimental
independently of if you are conscious of it or not, is connected with a
more or less explicit position in relation to basic philosophical
With the paradigm concept the basic philosophical problems have become
visible again in science, but now related to empirical scientific
makes it possible to characterize different groups of paradigms in a
perspective, based on how they are related to the questions
that have been discussed by philosophers for a number of centuries, the
basic questions concerning the nature of reality
(ontology), the nature
of knowledge (epistemology) and the questions of the nature
of values ("practical
also makes it possible to start to try to understand and characterize
relation between the more natural-scientifically oriented medicine of
and the more spiritual-scientifically oriented art of healing that
today as anthroposophical medicine.
the theory of knowledge
The most basic orientation of
a paradigm is determined
by the picture of reality that comes to expression in its "world
Here you find a dominant orientation towards an "idea"-pole during the
whole period of Greek science, with Aristotle (left)
as the all
overshadowing character, all through the Middle Ages and the time of
As part of a reaction against scholasticism you thereafter find a
reorientation of the interest in the direction of the more
side of reality, that then comes to blossom with modern natural science.
description is modified by wefts of more "matter"-oriented paradigms
Leucippus, Democritus (right), Strato, Epicurus and
1965) during the first period and by more "idea"-oriented wefts during
the latter period (with among others the whole natural-philosophy
scientific tradition) (Eriksson 1969), but this does not change the
With the idea-oriented,
of science from its first beginning in Greece up to and on through the
time of scholasticism, as also with the following "materialistic"
of science you also find connected specific positions in relation to
questions of what matter is and what knowledge is.
and Goodfield (1964) distinguish between three different polarized
in which the conceptual understanding of matter has been moving through
history. They are the polarized field between a more organic and
a more mechanistic conception of matter, between a
a more structurally oriented view of matter and
between more "continuistic"
and more atomistic opinions on the nature of
is not difficult to see an inner connection between an organic, a
and a "continuistically" oriented conception of matter as different
of a common, underlying "idealistically" oriented understanding of
even though the connection has not always been unambiguous in all cases
(different researchers have not always been consequent). It is also
aspects that dominate all research into the nature of matter up to and
partly also after the time of scholasticism.
is also not difficult to see a more mechanistically, structurally and
oriented conception of matter as three different expressions of an
in a more proper sense "materialistically" oriented understanding and
of reality. This conception has, as mentioned earlier, its proponents
during the time of the early Greek science, but lives on more in
up to the time following the scholastic period.
historian of science Northrop also distinguishes, but from a somewhat
perspective, between a "functionalistic" (Aristotelian)
a "physicalistic" theory of nature as two of three
of nature during the period of Greek science (ref by Törnebohm 1977).
The two terms generally coincide with what here has been described as
"idealistic" and a "materialistic" view of reality. We will return to
third theory of nature later.
With the two opinions/views of
reality and the
respectively connected opinions/views of matter you also find connected
definite points of view on the problem of knowledge.
view of knowledge as a paradigmatic factor has two components
to Törnebohm). One is a more theoretically oriented part; "view of
science". The other, termed "science ideal", refers to that science,
within a paradigm is considered to be the best expression/reflection of
what science "is" and should be.
is most common among non-physicists today to point to "physics" as a
ideal, whereby they normally have an inner picture of classical
as it looked during the first part of the 19th century (neither within
the natural scientifically oriented tradition of medicine nor within
theory of science one has forgiven Planck and Einstein that they popped
up during the 20th century and confused the concepts).
understand the more theoretical part of the problem of knowledge, it is
possible to take the general concept of science as a starting point.
pursue scientific research with among other goals that of attaining
Knowledge can be characterized as "a summarizing description of
in a conceptual or mathematical form". But let us look at man(/woman)
understand the problem better.
human beings we have experiences. We make observations and form
ideas and judgments. At our disposal we have four senses, more bound to
organs localized in the head; sight, hearing,
smell and taste, and a
sense, more "spread out" over the whole body; touch.
AND "SECONDARY" QUALITIES
How do people make use of the
human senses within
the "physicalistic" and the "functionalistic" research traditions?
both traditions one distinguishes between what are termed "primary" and
"secondary" qualities (Marti 1974). With the term "primary qualities"
referred to the unchangeable qualities of reality as such. The term
qualities" referred to those qualities that man experiences via the
the changes of which could be understood as the result of changes in
relation between the unchangeable, "primary" qualities. On this point
finds agreement between the two traditions.
when asked what is "primary" and what is "secondary" the answers differ.
"the physicalists" it is the spatial qualities, passively
by sight, that one ascribes to the indivisible
building stones of matter,
atoms", that one experiences as most real. To them
("fullness"), form, size, position in space and the state of movement
rest. As "secondary" qualities one counted the other half of sight
color, as also the other sense impressions; sound, smells, tastes and
"functionalists" have an opposite orientation. They
take their starting
point, not in a part of the sight experience, but in the most opposite
sense; the touch sense and the active experience of
1971). Here they distinguish between degrees of two basic touch
warmth and humidity with the extremes hot-cold and warm-dry. These four
(two) basic qualities are however considered to be "secondary" in
to the four "primary" qualities "Fire", "Air", "Water" and "Earth"; "the
elements", approximately corresponding to the four
states of matter:
"plasma", "gas", "fluid" and "solid".
is interesting that one meant that each of the elements only could be
by a simultaneous experience from two directions; via two of the the
secondary qualities: simultaneous dryness and warmth for "Fire",
wetness and coldness for "Water", warmth and humidity for "Air" and
and dryness for "Earth".
division of the touch qualities into warm-cold and humid-dry can seem
confusing against the background of the richness of the different touch
experiences that one can have as an experiencing subject.
it is interesting, if you see it in relation to the fact that in the
touch-sense in the head; taste, one finds a differentiation into four
types of experiences; sweet, sour, bitter and salty, in spite of the
that the taste buds for the different tastes do not differ anatomically
from one another in any obvious or principal way.
In Chinese culture, a corresponding doctrine of the elements
at about the same time as it was developed in the Greek culture
the "idealistic" period of science one built the world picture on the
of the doctrine of the elements, just as one, during the following
period of science has put much energy into the work of building a
world picture, based on the idea of the atom.
TWO SIDES OF
REALITY, OR THREE?
the experience of reality of the physicalists had its roots in a
(no one probably meant that he had seen the atoms with his own eyes
the 5th-4th century BC), the reality-experience of the functionalists
its roots in an experience of the will, the touch. While the
look more at the possible static aspects of matter,
look more at the possible dynamic states
Northrop also characterizes a third basic theory of nature during the
of Greek science.
the physicalists the ultimate reality appears to be an infinite number
of indivisible bodies in space. The functionalists look upon the four
(or five, really, as one also counted with a "heavenly" element; the
as being the same ultimate reality.
two opinions now stream together in a third theory of nature,
by the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition.
one fuses the idea of the atom with the idea of the elements, by
to the five regular polyhedrons, the five "platonic" bodies,
as the real,
ideal Ur-atoms, each of which was understood as an exact, geometric
of one of the elements (Plato 1971, Lossee 1972) (picture coming soon).
If one was to point to something as "primary" qualities to the
except the Creator and the two types of triangles
(right-angles with equal
or unequal legs) that he used to create the platonic bodies, it should
be the basic, natural numbers and the relations
between the natural numbers
that come to expression in the "harmonies of heaven". As "secondary"
the hearing experience stands out as the most basic.
original Pythagorean (Pythagoras above, right)
tradition, with its
more rational-mathematical form, had its base in
the school in Croton in
the south of Italy during the 6th-5th century BC Later, during the
century BC it was developed in a more artistic-poetic
direction by Plato
in his school in Academeia in Athens (picture above, left,
Academy by Raphael).
THE ELEMENTS AND THE SCIENTIFIC
If you look at the picture you
thereby come to,
you see that it opens the way to a possible understanding of not only
sense-organism as such, but also the "roots" of the basic ontological
strikes you is that the senses display the same relation to each other
as the elements with - when the four senses bound to organs in the head
are concerned - sight and taste as the basic polarity and the hearing
as two intermediate senses. The more "spread out" sense, touch - as a
totally encompassing (heavenly) sense - displays the same form of inner
relation to taste (as the touch sense in the head), as the
connection with half of the sight
experience, the purely spatial qualities, the atom idea is developed and the "physicalism", that constitutes one of
two pillars upon which modern "Natural science" rests.
connection with two willfully experienced
touch qualities, warmth and humidity the "element-idea" is developed and the Aristotelian functionalism, that
one of the two pillars upon which modern "Spiritual science" rests.
both traditions also rest on a second pillar each.
connection with the hearing experience the Pythagorean,
tradition is developed, that constitutes the second pillar, upon which modern
science" rests. Out of the Pythagorean inspiration this tradition
not only a musically based understanding of cosmos, but also the
of the five regular spatial "platonic" bodies as the pure mathematical
expressions of the elements and of the natural numbers as "Ur-wesen".
Steiner (1920) from a more Aristotelian perspective points to other
of the mathematical processes in man, that I will not discuss here).
a possible inner consequence of this picture you are confronted with
question of the smelling experience as the "basis" for the platonic
This may at first seem absurd, but appears in a new light when you see
that the olfactory ("smelling") part of the brain is that part from
the cerebrum, which constitutes the physical basis for higher thinking
in man, has developed.
platonic tradition constitutes the second pillar, upon which the
of "Spiritual science" rests.
"Natural scientific tradition" of today has, in its
developed in cooperation between the "atomists"
and the "Pythagoreans-mathematicians".
scientific tradition" has been developed on the basis
of the "idealistic tradition" in cooperation between the "Aristotelians"
and the "Platonists".
In this perspective you see
appear as mirrors of each other, that in two ordered ways reflect the
of the the four (or five) basic experiences of reality in wo/man.
also see that the opposition and conflict between the "natural
and the more "spiritual scientific" oriented medical traditions in
a deeper sense appears as an expression of the difference between the
you come to when you develop a thought-sight experience or a will-touch
experience in a too one-sided way.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MECHANISTIC WORLD PICTURE
Different scientists today
often and gladly refer
to the Aristotelian concept of matter as "speculative" (for example
1972) and the physicalistic concept of matter as more "scientific".
description shows how much more the functionalistic description of
corresponds to what you experience with the senses. It is also more
in the deeper sense of the word to use the term "speculative" to
the atomistic concept of matter during the whole period from the early
Greek, over the Alexandrine, the Arabic and the scholastic period of
all the way up to the 19th century, as it remained a purely theoretical
idea during the whole period, without the possibility of connecting it
more directly to a specific empirical phenomenon.
only became possible at the end of a long development, where
the structural, the mathematical and the mechanistic idea had to show
Important milestones on the way were the "De humani corporis fabrica,
septem", finished in 1543 by the then 28 year old Andreas Vesalius (left),
"New astronomy with commentaries on the movement of Mars" (1609) and
Astronomiae" (1618) by Kepler
and "Dialogo sopra i duo massima sisterni del mundo" (Dialogue
the two most important world systems) (1633) by Galilei.
it is only, for the first time with the help of the 42 year old John
that the idea of the atom comes all the way down to earth, with his
"A New System of Chemical Philosophy", published in 1808, where he
the idea with the fact that chemical substances join with each other in
of whole numbers, and to the fact that different gases expand to the
extent when heated.
development within biology takes a parallel course to that within
and physics, with the opinion of the cell as the "atom of life"
more general during the first part of the 19th century, with the 29 year
Theodor Schwann being the first person to give an adequate description
of the theory of cells (1839).
research into the atomic aspect of matter and the life processes then
fast during the 19th century. The kinetic theory of gases, the spectral
analysis of light and the invention of the "mercury-ray-pump" make it
to investigate the phenomenon of electrical discharge in highly diluted
gases between 1856 and 1859, in a way that leads to a more consciously
formulated theoretical atomism (Martin 1961).
At about the same time the 36 year old Rudolf Virchow (right,
older) formulates his cellular pathology in the field of
Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische Gewebslehre")
(1858), the theory that all diseases have their roots in pathological
in individual cells of the diseased organism.
(Later, the focus has moved some levels down to the genes as more
"primary" "causes" of pathological processes and diseses.)
an "idealistic" science, had reached a certain height during the time
scholasticism. Now, during the 19th century, a mechanistic world
reaches its high point.
with the turn of the century and the first three decades of the 20th
the situation changes in a dramatic way.
OF MATTER TODAY
The discovery of radioactivity
by Becquerel in
1896, the quantum theory, formulated by Planck in 1901 and the
of the general theory of relativity, formulated by Einstein in 1916 led
to radical reformulations of the theory of atoms and classical physics.
Among other things one had to give up the ideas of
The atom as the smallest, indivisible unity of matter
The unchangeable material identity of atoms and
The principle that it should be possible (in theory at least) to
and predict exactly the behavior of single atoms.
their place came, among other things, the principle of complementarity,
mathematically formulated by de Broglie in 1925, that says that matter
in some cases can appear as a "ring" that streams through the room
while in other cases it is better to describe it from the aspect of a
of matter, and that the way it "chooses" to appear depends upon the
conditions, the experimental limitations, you give it for its
principle is the uncertainty-principle of Heisenberg, that specifies
limit for how exactly you can describe certain pairs of aspects of
third important discovery has been that the principle of
of matter and energy is valid only as a statistical mean in
processes, and that it is sometimes possible for "elementary particles"
to "borrow" together more energy than there is really available at the
moment, to "use" it for some not energy-consuming purpose, and then let
the energy coming from "nowhere" disappear into "nowhere" again.
is left of the original idea of material atoms, as the smallest
stones of matter has become "a mathematical scheme for the calculation
of the probability of observing particle-like phenomena" (Unger 1952).
"That has not changed with regard also to what are pictured as
thereby remains of the materially conceived atoms of the mechanistic
picture is, once again, "only" mathematical structures, even though in
a more developed form (than that described by Plato).
OF KNOWLEDGE IN A NEW LIGHT
The investigation of matter
has thereby led to
a dissolving of the concept of matter in a way that has shown the
of founding the description of reality on an ultimate, unchangeable,
and "material" reality. With the principle of complementary and the
relation of Heisenberg the investigating subject has taken its place,
one who formulates the questions and sets the limits for the form of
answers, as the center of the research process.
the perspective of the theory of knowledge one also from the
1970s finds a severe criticism of the thesis of the subjectivity of the
qualities in relation to the "primary" qualities, as described by the
tradition, (Hegge 1957, 1975, Naess 1974).
"physicalistic" way of separating spatial-"material" qualities as more
"primary" in relation to the other sense qualities has thereby been
to be untenable as an argument for the restriction of the concept of
that was described in the beginning of the article, a restriction that
still continues to govern the greater part of all research activities,
just as if nothing had really happened.
to modern physics we have once more again become free to take a start
and use our own experiences, our own senses and our own thinking
to understand reality. The human being has, once again, become free,
in an epistemological sense, to try to understand the inner
in the different sense worlds and how they relate to each other.
are once more completely free to form concepts out of the reality in
we live as human beings and to try to develop our ability to attain
without having, in the last instance, once more to "reduce" and
"found" our observations and our concepts in the seemingly
of a lowest level of spatial, material "parts" of matter.
A first attempt to develop
such a type of research
in modern times was made by Goethe (1749-1832), when he developed his
of colour" (published in Sweden in 1976 in a translation commented by
and when he in 1790 made an outline of a description of the
of plants (Sw transl. 1959). That MIT Press published an American
of Goethe's "Theory of Color" about 1976 gives a hint that the insights
of the consequences of modern physics for the theory of knowledge is
A pioneering contribution to develop the attempt, begun by Goethe,
was later made by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), at first in a number of
dealing with the theory of knowledge (1886/1979, 1892/1980, 1894/1987),
and later in a number of other fields of science and practical life.
results, in the form of the possibilities to deepen the process of
knowledge that he demonstrated (1904-5/1982, 1905-8/1979, 1910/1989,
and later the extent of the research results that came out of it, can
an overwhelming (on pure "physicalists" for different reasons often
impression, when you start to dig into them. Beside the publication of
28 books, he held about 6 000 lectures, of which now about 3 000 have
published, most of them during the last 20 years of his life.
During the second part of that period he also, among other things lay
foundation to and started to build up a "Free School of Spiritual
with the beginnings of among other a medical section, a
section, a mathematical-astronomical section, a pedagogical section, a
section for "spoken and musical arts", a section for the spiritual
of youth, and later a social-scientific section, near Basel in
Goetheanum, the name that he gave to the school, and in other places a
number of people have later continued working to deepen and develop
the many suggestions and new ideas with which he contributed to the
of different sciences and other fields of practical life as a result of
OF A KNOWLEDGE OF MAN - AN ANTHROPOSOPHY
During the 85 years that have
passed (in 2010)
since his death, it has still only been possible to start scratching on
of the body of research results, ideas and practical suggestions that
left behind. It will probably take a long time before it becomes
to survey the extent of the contribution that he left behind.
core of "anthroposophy", the name that he gave to his contribution, is
its picture of wo/man. With the development of our consciousness as a
point he describes history. Out of our relation as human beings to the
world of minerals, of plants, of animals and out of that which is
human in us, he describes the common development of wo/man, nature and
the earth, as it appears to a meditatively developed research process
1910/89 and other works).
all fields of "anthroposophy", wo/man - the development and
process that we have gone through - runs as a red thread, a process
has now made it possible for us to start standing on our own legs in
to our origin, and thereby also start taking over the responsibility
our own development, both as humanity and as individual
Today we have the possibility
as emerging free
beings to look back at history without prejudice to see what we have
in the form of an understanding of the reality surrounding us and of
a long period of "idealistically" oriented research into reality, we
now for a number of centuries gone through a fascinating and
period of research into reality from a "materialistically" oriented
The former period has made it possible to understand more consciously
general, deep laws of nature and of wo/man. The latter has, among other
things, in a decisive way contributed to the possibility for wo/man to
develop a clear and independent thinking. But this second period has
also come to a form of an end.
we have the possibility to look through the one-sided way of working
both these periods. "Anthroposophy" is the beginning of an attempt to
an understanding of reality once more starting from a clear, wake,
consciousness of that which is observable with the senses and
the thoughts that arise out of what you observe.
results is a renewed orientation in a "functionalistic" direction, but
now against the background of the extensive fruits of a long and
period of "physicalistically" oriented research.
gigantic amount of work now remains to be done, to not only survive the
maturity-crisis that we now pass through and must pass through as
during the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the next, but
let the insights that have come out of the "matter-scientific" research
of the last centuries fertilize and be fertilized by the insights that
have and can come out of a "spiritual-scientifically" oriented research.
as a first attempt towards a possible synthesis of the two traditions,
has taken its first stuttering steps. An "anthroposophic" art of
as a first step towards a future, widened, more factually human art of
healing, is also beginning to take form. To that art of healing this
has wanted to be a contribution.
The article was first published
in The Nordic Journal for Anthroposophic Medicine nr 1, 1980
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