Page 4 - The Philosophy of Freedom By Rudolf Steiner
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Introduction



Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 and died in 1925. In his autobiography, The Course of My Life (see 

fn 1), he makes quite clear that the problems dealt with in The Philosophy of Freedom played a 

leading part in his life.




His childhood was spent in the Austrian countryside, where his father was a stationmaster. At the age 

of eight Steiner was already aware of things and beings that are not seen as well as those that are. 

Writing about his experiences at this age, he said, ". . . the reality of the spiritual world was as certain 

to me as that of the physical. I felt the need, however, for a sort of justification for this assumption."



Recognizing the boy's ability, his father sent him to the Realschule at Wiener Neustadt, and later to the 

Technical University in Vienna. Here Steiner had to support himself, by means of scholarships and 

tutoring. Studying and mastering many more subjects than were in his curriculum, he always came 

back to the problem of knowledge itself. He was very much aware: that in the experience of oneself as 

an ego, one is in the world of the spirit. Although he took part in all the social activities going on 

around him -- in the arts, the sciences, even in politics -- he wrote that "much more vital at that time 

was the need to find an answer to the question: How far is it possible to prove that in human thinking 

real spirit is the agent?"



He made a deep study of philosophy, particularly the writings of Kant, but nowhere did he find a way 

of thinking that could be carried as far as a perception of the spiritual world. Thus Steiner was led to 

develop a theory of knowledge out of his own striving after truth, one which took its start from a direct 

experience of the spiritual nature of thinking.



As a student, Steiner's scientific ability was acknowledged when he was asked to edit Goethe's 

writings on nature. In Goethe he recognized one who had been able to perceive the spiritual in nature, 

even though he had not carried this as far as a direct perception of the spirit. Steiner was able to bring 

a new understanding to Goethe's scientific work through this insight into his perception of nature. 

Since no existing philosophical theory could take this kind of vision into account, and since Goethe 

had never stated explicitly what his philosophy of life was, Steiner filled this need by publishing, in 

1886, an introductory book called The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception. 

His introductions to the several volumes and sections of Goethe's scientific writings (1883-97) have 

been collected into the book Goethe the Scientist. These are valuable contributions to the philosophy 

of science.



During this time his thoughts about his own philosophy were gradually coming to maturity. In the year 

1888 he met Eduard von Hartmann, with whom he had already had a long correspondence. He 

describes the chilling effect on him of the way this philosopher of pessimism denied that thinking 

could ever reach reality, but must forever deal with illusions. Steiner was already clear in his mind 

how such obstacles were to be overcome. He did not stop at the problem of knowledge, but carried his 

ideas from this realm into the field of ethics, to help him deal with the problem of human freedom. He 

wanted to show that morality could be given a sure foundation without basing it upon imposed rules of 

conduct.








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