There is a lovely anecdote about how the different peoples study natural history, say, for example, studying a kangaroo, or maybe some animal from Africa.
The Englishman makes a trip to Africa – as Darwin once did, to acquire scientific knowledge, travels around the world and considers the animal in the environment where it really lives. Then he can see how it lives, what his natural circumstances are.
The Frenchman brings the animal from the wilderness into the zoo. He studies it at the zoo; He does not consider the animal in its natural environment, but in the zoo.
And what does the German do? He does not interfere with the animal at all, what it looks like, but he sits in his study and begins to think. The thing in itself does not interest him – in line with the Kantian philosophy, as I have told you recently – but he is only interested in what is in his head. There he thinks about it. And after he has thought about it long enough, he says something. But what he has to say is not in accord with reality.
Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 353 – Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker – Dornach, May 20, 1924 (page 273)
Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger