true and false

I’m reading some things by Rudolf Steiner.

‘The forces inherent in education are metamorphoses of therapeutic forces: they are therapeutic forces transformed. The goal of all our educational thinking must be to transform this thinking so as to rise fruitfully from the level of physical thinking to spiritual thinking. In physical thinking we have two categories that, in our academic age, give rise to a barren enthusiasm that has such a terrible influence. We have only two concepts: right-wrong, true-false. To discover whether something is “true” or “false” is the highest ideal of those whose entire lives are given up to the world of academia. In the concepts “true” and “false,” however, there is so little reality. They are something formal, established by mere logic, which actually does nothing but combine and separate. The concepts “true” and “false” are dreadfully barren, prosaic, and formal. The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world we can no longer speak of “true” and “false,” for in the spiritual world that would be as nonsensical as saying that to drink such and such a quantity of wine every day is “false.” The expression “false” is out of place here. One says something real regarding this only by saying that such a thing gives rise to illness. Correct or incorrect are outer, formal concepts, even regarding the physical. Pertaining to the spiritual world, the concepts of “true” and “false” should be discarded altogether. As soon as we reach the spiritual world we must substitute “healthy” and “ill” for “true” and “false.” If someone said about a lecture such as the one I gave here yesterday evening that it was “right,” it would mean nothing at all. In the physical world things can be “right”; in the spiritual world nothing is “wrong” or “right.” There, things are reality. After all, is a hunchback “true” or “false”? In such a case we cannot speak of right or wrong. A drawing may be false or correct, but not a plant; a plant, however, can be healthy or diseased. In the spiritual world things are either healthy or ill, fruitful or unfruitful. In what one does there must be reality. If someone considers that a lecture such as I gave yesterday is healthy or health-bringing, that is to the point. If they simply consider it “right,” they merely show that they cannot rise to the level where reality lies. It is a question of health or illness when we are dealing with spiritual truths, and it is precisely this that we must learn in connection with education. We must learn to regard things in their educational application as either healthy or unhealthy, injurious to health. This is of particular significance if one wishes to engender a true consciousness of oneself as a teacher. It may be said that engendering this consciousness begins with passing from the “true” and “false” of logic to the reality of “healthy” or “ill.” Then we come quite close to understanding the principle of healing. This can be developed in concrete detail, but we must also let ourselves be stimulated by a comprehensive knowledge of the human being, a knowledge of human beings in relation to the world around them.’ [Steiner, R. Balance in teaching (GA302a), p 88-89.]

This could, I guess, be applied to Steiner’s entire worldview. True and false have lost their meanings. The ‘reality’ is a different one from the one that appears real on the physical level. Of course, in the ethereal kiosk, it would indeed be wrong to say that ‘such and such quantity of wine’ is a ‘false’ quantity of wine. It somehow seems, though, that it would be equally silly to talk about ‘healthy’ and ‘ill’ quantities… Anyway — do the words ‘healthy’ and ‘ill’ make any more sense than ‘true’ and ‘false’ in the spiritual realm? I ask you, boldly, hoping for an answer. But please help yourselves to a glass of champagne first, in order to somewhat suspend your sense of earthly reality and lose your attachment to perfectly logical thinking.

4 thoughts on “true and false

  1. Sorry. Reading on, I realize there’s more relevant stuff in this lecture. Have a glass of sparkling water too!

    ‘The bubbling effervescence in sparkling water is a picture of what, in a fine and delicate way, plays upward toward the human head. … In the head, something must continually be stimulated by a delicate, intimate sparkling-water activity; otherwise, the human being becomes stupid or dull. If we neglect to bring this effervescence of sparkling water to a person’s head, then the carbon within him or her suddenly shows an inclination for hydrogen instead of oxygen. This rises up to the brain and produces “marsh gas,” such as is found in subterranean vaults, and then the human being becomes dull, drowsy, musty.’ [Ibid. p 91.]

  2. In any kind of rational discourse the terms true and false cannot be abandoned, otherwise, like Humpty Dumpty people can use words to mean whatever they feel like using them to mean.
    Steiner says, ‘This is healthy!’ But one can still ask, ‘Is that true?’ It may be false, the thing he is talking about may be unhealthy.
    This looks like the same sort of serious error in logic that Prof. John Gray Makes in ‘Straw Dogs’.
    Gray says, “…if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true… [t]he human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth…..”. He substitutes ‘serving evolutionary’ success for ‘healthy’.
    I believe Gray thinks Darwin’s theory is true. The discussion takes place in the context of whether human beings are different from other animals.
    Gray states that it is a delusion to believe that through science human-kind can know the truth.
    If this latter statement is true then we cannot know whether Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true. The best we can hope for is that the theory ‘serves evolutionary success’. But how would we know if something is ‘serving evolutionary success’ without bringing in notions of truth and falsity?
    Round and round we go. It’s like a version of the liar paradox.
    Presumably Gray thinks Darwin’s theory is true. Or would it still serve ‘evolutionary success if it were false? And how would we decide if it was true that it served evolutionary success (even if it were false)? I guess he might say, we would know if it served evolutionary success by it’s ability to explain phenomena. But that still brings in notions of truth. Either it is true that it is able to explain phenomena or it is not true.
    The truth is we can’t have rational discourse without notions of truth and falsity!
    And neither can Rudi. Either his claim that something is healthy is true or it is false

    So Rudi seems to have lost the plot here.

  3. Success and truth must certainly be two different things. Just as healthy and true.

    I can’t find anything to object to. Of course, I do think poor Rudi lost the plot occasionally…!

    Healthy and ill is one thing, but whether something has been healed can either be true or false. Or else, he’s just substituting the word healthy for true. I’m not sure what would be the point of that. Although I may be confused.

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