Nothing is accomplished by definitions

Nothing is accomplished by definitions, though their insufficiency is generally not observed. Many definitions, especially those which are considered scientific, appear very clever; but they all have a hitch somewhere — which recalls that definition once given in ancient Greece to the question, What is man? “Man is a two-legged creature without feathers.” Whereupon the next day a pupil brought a plucked fowl and said: “This is a man, for it is a two-legged creature without feathers.” Things are not so simple that they can be treated thus with the ordinary intellectual tools.

Source: GA 194 – The Mysteries of Light, of Space, and of the Earth: Lecture III – Dornach, December 14, 1919

Translated by Frances E. Dawson

Previously posted on March 10, 2018

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     Franziska Steiner-Blie, mother of Rudolf

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Genus and Individuality  

It is impossible to understand a human being completely if one takes the concept of genus as the basis of one’s judgment. The tendency to judge according to the genus is at its most stubborn where we are concerned with differences of sex. Almost invariably man sees in woman, and woman in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little of what is individual. 

In practical life this does less harm to men than to women. The social position of women is for the most part such an unworthy one because in so many respects it is determined not as it should be by the particular characteristics of the individual woman, but by the general picture one has of woman’s natural tasks and needs. A man’s activity in life is governed by his individual capacities and inclinations, whereas a woman’s is supposed to be determined solely by the mere fact that she is a woman. She is supposed to be a slave to what is generic, to womanhood in general. As long as men continue to debate whether a woman is suited to this or that profession “according to her natural disposition”, the so-called woman’s question cannot advance beyond its most elementary stage. What a woman, within her natural limitations, wants to become had better be left to the woman herself to decide. 

If it is true that women are suited only to that profession which is theirs at present, then they will hardly have it in them to attain any other. But they must be allowed to decide for themselves what is in accordance with their nature. To all who fear an upheaval of our social structure through accepting women as individuals and not as females, we must reply that a social structure in which the status of one half of humanity is unworthy of a human being is itself in great need of improvement. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 4 – The Philosophy of Freedom – Chapter 14: Individuality and Genus

Translated by Michael Wilson

Previously posted on December 16, 2015  

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The Value of Life

If a man strives for sublimely great ideals, it is because they are the content of his own being, and their realization will bring him a joy compared to which the pleasure that a limited outlook gets from the gratification of commonplace desires is a mere triviality. Idealists revel, spiritually, in the translation of their ideals into reality.

Anyone who would eradicate the pleasure brought by the fulfillment of human desires will first have to make man a slave who acts not because he wants to but only because he must. For the achievement of what one wanted to do gives pleasure. What we call good is not what a man must do but what he will want to do if he develops the true nature of man to the full. Anyone who does not acknowledge this must first drive out of man all that man himself wants to do, and then, from outside, prescribe the content he is to give to his will.

Man values the fulfillment of a desire because the desire springs from his own being. What is achieved has its value because it has been wanted. If we deny any value to what man himself wants, then aims that do have value will have to be found in something that man does not want.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 4 – The Philosophy of Freedom – Chapter 13: The Value of Life

Translated by Michael Wilson

Previously posted on December 10, 2015

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Why should we consider philosophy at all?

Why should we consider philosophy at all, because after all it only deals with the futile efforts of mankind? Well that is not the case, it really isn’t. What we achieve when we delve deeply into these viewpoints and futile struggles, is something irreplaceable  and infinitely meaningful. For to come to true knowledge of the immortal soul, for knowledge of the spiritual world and the Divine Beings,  philosophy will certainly always be barren, but she will not remain infertile regarding the development of certain other human faculties, for the development of certain human abilities.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 156 – Okkultes Lesen und okkultes Hören – Dornach 19 december 1914 (page 155-156)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on February 26, 2018

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AUGUSTE RODIN – THE THINKER

Cleverer than Plato

Unlike others, we spiritual scientists do not talk of the marvellous progress we have made. Just listen to a modern physician, one who is very much taking the present-day point of view, or to a modern philosopher and so on. They say: ‘We need not go far back to find people who amounted to nothing at all. Someone like Paracelsus really was an idiot, and a grammar school teacher today is cleverer than Plato every was.’ 

Plato’s philosophy was thoroughly picked to pieces by Hebbel. The latter put down in his diary, as an idea for a play, that a grammar school teacher had a reincarnated Plato in his class. He intended to make a dramatic figure of him, showing the schoolmaster to be dealing with his reincarnated Plato who was quite incapable of grasping anything his teacher was saying about Plato. Hebbel intended to make a play of this. It really is a pity he did not do so, for it really is a very good idea.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157 – Destinies of Individuals and Nations – Lecture 13 – The Prophetic Nature of Dreams: Moon, Sun and Saturn Man – Berlin, June 22, 1915

Fritz-Hebbel

Friedrich Hebbel (March 18, 1813 – December 13, 1863)