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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rudolf Steiner’s Theory of Cognition: A Key to His Spiritual-Scientific Weltanschauung
by Tazer-Myers, Edward E., Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2019, 391; 27738764
Abstract (Summary)

Ever since the Enlightenment, the educated classes of Western civilization have experienced an increasingly unbridgeable gulf between faith in a transcendent spiritual reality and faith in natural science. The source of the divide appears to spring from our internal experience as knowing subjects influencing, or being influenced by, external objects and events. Various metaphysical solutions to this dualistic dilemma have been promulgated over the past two centuries from hard-nosed positivism to Romantic Idealism, all of which have been deemed unsatisfactory for one reason or another. Rudolf Steiner’s response was to develop a Weltanschauung (worldview or world conception) that harmonized the findings of natural science with the reality of the spiritual worlds. This dissertation applies a multidisciplinary approach to understanding Steiner’s spiritual-scientific Weltanschauung. It begins with a study of Steiner’s biography in context, using his theory of psychological and spiritual development as a framework. Steiner was a theosopher and a philosopher trained in the natural sciences—a unique combination in fin de siecle Europe. His mysticism was driven by lifelong clairvoyant perceptions of the dead and other spiritual beings. Were these experiences fictive or factual? Like Swedenborg’s clairvoyant perception of a Stockholm fire 247 miles away, Steiner empirically validated his perceptions and then tried to construct a philosophical proof of supersensible cognition.

The foundation of Steiner’s Weltanschauung is his three-stage theory of ordinary cognition, which is an objective idealist revision of Kant’s epistemology. Steiner’s initial goal was to convince the elites of his day that intuitive thinking is at the heart of ordinary cognition. If true, then supersensible cognition, which is also founded on intuition, must be possible. However, to achieve the three higher stages of knowledge, esoteric initiation is required.

The study concludes with an assessment of the Hermetic sources and motivations of Steiner’s anthroposophical Weltanschauung, as well as an assessment of the success of his project to save Western civilization from the most pernicious effects of materialistic modernity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mahaffey, Patrick
Commitee: White, Dana C., Versluis, Arthur
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Spirituality
Keywords: Anthroposophy, Cognition, Esoterocism, Steiner, Rudolf, Worldviews
Publication Number: 27738764
ISBN: 9781392427040
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