The Universals Debate in Biology and Medicine
By: Helmut Kiene, M.D.
(Original title: Der Universalienstreit in Biologie und Medizin. Lecture given at the Methoden der Anschauung - Wege zur Heilpflanze Conference at the Hofgut Fischermuehle in Rosen-feld on 1-5 June 1995. To be published in Methoden der Anschauung - Wege zur Heilpflanze. Stuttgart: Freies Geistesleben 1995. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA)
Three great dogmas in conventional science
The theme of our conference is: finding our way to the medicinal plant. What does this signify? This may sound provocative in the ears of well-informed contemporaries at the pinnacle of scientific erudition. It has to be admitted that the title goes against the three great dogmas in modem science. These are not openly proclaimed and, indeed, generally not even perceived, but they govern the whole of modem science, providing its basis and orientation and setting its boundaries. They are:
1 There is no creator principle in nature
This dogma states that there are no forces that create forms holistically; all forms in nature are built up "from below", i.e. through interaction of their parts (molecules, atoms, subatomic particles). This is the "dogma of particularism".
In terms of this dogma, it is pointless to look for the essential nature of a medicinal plant as a whole. Instead, efforts should be made to identify, isolate and reproduce effective single phytopharmacologic principles.
2 There is no spirit in nature
This dogma states that there are no laws governing form-giving principles (according to the first dogma these do not even exist) or, in other words, there is no overall natural order. The natural world has arisen due to random mutations, changes that had no particular orientation. This is the Darwinian dogma in its widest sense.
In terms of this second dogma, it is pointless to look for the essential nature of a medicinal plant as a whole for according to this dogma there can be no laws governing the relationships between plants and human diseases that could be put to clinical use.
3 There is no human spirit truly capable of cognition
This dogma states that an individual person is unable to perceive causality in the individual case; experimental findings capable of statistical analysis are essential in establishing causes. This is the "dogma of statistics".
In terms of this dogma, it is pointless to imagine there can be ways, methods of direct perception, that will enable an individual person to perceive the medicinal principle of a plant (which is what the title of our conference proposes). It is also impossible, according to this dogma, for an individual person to assess the activity of an herbal preparation reliably in the case of an individual patient.
So we have three dogmas:
• the dogma of particularism, i.e. there is no creative principle in nature;
• the dogma of Darwinism in its widest sense, i.e. there is no overall natural order, no spirit, in nature;
• the dogma of statistics, i.e. there is no human mind and spirit truly capable of cognition.
These three dogmas form a whole and are the dogmatic opposites, at least in the context that applies to science, of the Christian principles known as Father, Spirit and Son. They dominate modem science, and the theme of our conference is more or less obviously going against them.
A new universals debate
If, in spite of these dogmas, an individual biologist, pharmacologist or physician looks for ways to find the essential nature of the medicinal plant, scientists and the whole present generation, which is governed by science, will not be able to follow him - because of these dogmas. Ways must therefore inevitably be sought by individuals. From the point of view of modem science they'll have to be and remain clearly nonsensical, leading people astray, unless it proves possible to develop a way that can be used by the whole of humanity - a way of finding the essential nature of the medicinal plant.
It is clear this cannot be achieved unless we enter into scientific dispute concerning the three great dogmas: particularism, Darwinism and statistics. To do so does, however, mean a new universals debate.
What does it mean when we say "universals debate"? The original debate occurred between nominalists and realists in the 12th and 13th centuries.(1) The general view is that the point at issue was the following: are general conditions - meaning "universals" - such as the concept "horse" merely general names for individual objects (the way the term "horse" is the general name for all individual horses)? Or is there a horse as such, i.e. the idea "horse" as something that truly exists and is therefore real? The point at issue was whether universals are nominal or real.
Those who considered ideas to have reality thought universals existed in three forms: ante rem, in re and post rem? Ante rem meant as a causal principle prior to the things themselves, as the creative thought of God; in re meant within things, as the cause generating their form; and post rem meant after the things, in the individual human being's comprehension.
The final victory in medieval times went not to the realists but to the nominalists, who considered universals to be mere names.
Looking back, we have to be aware that the universals debate reflected an age where thinking was primarily religious, with rational or "scientific" views only of secondary importance. Today, the opposite is the case, with thinking essentially scientific, and the search for wider views secondary to this. We therefore have to use the opposite approach today, beginning not with God but with the human being. The issues, then, are as follows:
1 does the human being have the — even merely potential - ability for causal perception where the individual object is concerned? This must be the case if there are to be post rem universals, i.e. universals in human comprehension;
2 is it possible (and if so, how?) to use this ability to perceive a form-generating cause? This must be the case (in the widest sense) if modern, mainly scientifically-oriented human beings are to be justified in speaking of in re universals;
3 is it possible to perceive connections between such form-generating principles that follow specific laws? This must be the case if modem human beings are to be able to see that the natural world reflects a spiritual order and that ante rem universals therefore exist.
To take up the universals debate today, therefore, means facing up to the three unspoken dogmas on which modem science is based. They are the modem denials, the modem opposition to the three classes of universals in medieval realism of ideas.
Both debates, the medieval one and the one which now at the end of the 20th Century is becoming both possible and necessary, basically are an attempt to use rational thinking to establish whether the reality of the natural world and of the human being bases on the principle of Christian trinity or not.
What form should the new debate take?
It has to be realized that modem philosophy is not able to deal with such a debate or, to put it more crudely, if it were to be held merely between philosophers and scientific theorists, with no influence on methods and contents of specialist scientific research, it would be just empty words - a nominalist debate - and it would immediately be obvious who the winner would be - the modem successor of nominalism.
The debate must, therefore, be taken into the specialist fields and conducted there, mainly in two areas:
• in biology, because modem science and its technology are generally recognized to be a threat to life on earth;
• in medicine, because this is the most detailed application of biology and affects human beings most deeply.
We therefore need to open up an avenue for the debate to take place in biology and in medicine. What might it look like? How can it be planned? What are the preconditions today? What specific questions need to be considered? What research projects will be needed to answer those questions? How can the research projects enhance one another, and how can they be linked? Is there a way of getting quick intermediate results, perhaps in just a few years? Are there people who would like to take part in such a scientific debate? What is the historical situation of conventional science with reference to such a debate? What is the historical situation of Anthroposophy in this respect? This last question is important to us. I shall attempt to present answers to these questions in this lecture.
Initially, let us consider what powers of perception a modern scientist may be said to have, powers that are historically determined. This will be followed by a discussion of the historical situation of Anthroposophy, and finally a kind of outline strategy for the new scientific debate that has now become possible.
Secondly, the historical situation of conventional science (parts of this section come from a manuscript for publication: Kiene H. Essential Science, c. 250 pp).
Beginning with Plato and Aristotle
The historical situation of conventional science presents a set of problems originating in a dispute between Plato and Aristotle.(3) Plato held that every individual member of a species (e.g. every individual horse) had its own ideal counterpart, which was its essence and could be perceived by the mind's eye in the world of ideas. Aristotle held that the idea of an individual thing did not exist separately from it in a world of mind and spirit but lay in the sense-perceptible thing itself, i.e. that the idea of the horse is the essence to be found in the individual horse itself. 1500 years later this original conflict in occidental science was got rid of when the universals debate ended in favor of nominalism. Nominalists saw things like this: looking at the real world around us we do not see the idea of the horse but only individual horses. Reflecting on our own thoughts, we again do not find anything like the general idea "horse" but only thoughts of individual horses and apart from this the general name "horse".
When medieval scholasticism came to an end, therefore, the general idea, the essence of the thing, was found neither by directing the senses to the outside world nor by turning the mind to one's own thoughts. The claim made by both Plato and Aristotle, that scientific cognition of the essence was possible, was thus blocked by scholastic nominalism.
Despite that outcome, mathematics, a science based on human thinking, developed further both before and after the debate. In the human mind and spirit, where medieval nominalists saw nothing but the names of things, sufficient certainty was gained to develop mathematics. This science of purely ideal concepts developed in the mind fell heir to the old Platonic impulse. The original Aristotelian impulse for observation based on the senses became part of modern science. The Platonic view thus survives in modem mathematics and the Aristotelian view in modem science, though the original claim of perceiving the essence has been abandoned.
Collapse of Aristotelian impulse
In the modern scientific age, the two axes of cognition, Platonic and Aristotelian, underwent further pruning. This happened, first of all, to the Aristotelian impulse to base perception on the senses. John Locke(4) was the first to wield the knife. He maintained (as did Rene Descartes(5) and Galileo Galilei(6)) that the individual horse perceived was not the real, objective horse. Only the quantifiable part of it was objective reality, i.e. its configuration in space, extent and movement. The colors, sounds, odors, warmth, taste, etc. perceived in the horse, he said, were not objective reality. These sense-data were subjective elements produced by the human observer, products of his sense organs and brain, and according to Locke due to small particles coming from the spatial form of the horse.
Locke considered the (spatial) properties of things to be objective reality, calling them "primary qualities"; other properties such as color, sound, odor, etc. he called "secondary qualities". In his view, therefore, human beings neither find the objective, universal ideas postulated by Aristotle in the physical world, nor do they perceive the individual object as a whole, only its primary qualities!
Immanuel Kant made the second cut at the end of the 18th Century. He drew the radical, ultimate conclusion from Locke's approach. In his view, we know that not only secondary qualities but, in fact, everything we know about an object (including its primary qualities) is mediated by the sense organs and nerves. This would mean that all human knowledge of an object is merely subjective idea in the brain. The reality of the individual object - the "thing it itself" - cannot be known by human beings, according to Kant.(8)
With Kant, then, all certainty of being able to know the reality of the outside world had come to an end. Validity and value was given only to the rational mind and to inner mathematical (a priori) knowledge.
Collapse of the Platonic impulse
A few years later, the basis of the other, originally Platonic, axis, that of science based on pure thought, also broke down. This started with the great mathematician, Friedrich Gauss,(9) and the break was completed by Johann Bolyai,(10) Nikolai Lobachevski," and Berhard Riemann,(12) founders of the non-Euclidean geometries. Euclid's axiom of parallels helped them to see that the truth of traditional mathematical views and axioms was doubtful and that new axioms could take the place of the old.
The conviction grew that human powers of perception were doubly incapable. It was felt they could neither get at the reality of physical objects in the outside world nor arrive at guaranteeable truths in the inner world of thought.
There still, it seemed, was a residue of certainty in perception based on thought, and that was the world of epistemology, the philosophical theory of knowledge, of reflection on the problems outlined above. Epistemology proved to have little power, however; it had not been able to guide human perception to reality or truth, but quite the contrary. So epistemology, too, had to fall silent. Ludwig Wittgenstein realized this in the early 20th Century: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."(13) Occidental science had, thus, reached absolute zero by the beginning of the 20th Century. Technology based on it was developing at a tremendous pace, but its inner certainty, validity and truth had died out completely.
Three ways forward
After Wittgenstein, three ways of taking things further could be seen. The first possibility was to let scientific thinking go whichever way it would according to Paul Feyerabend's happy-go-lucky "anything goes, civic initiatives instead of epistemology".(14)
The second possibility was to tie science firmly into machine-type thinking, cognition techniques for which computers may be used, cognition technology making no claim for truth, programmed, recorded, monitored, randomized techniques, i.e. developing a global science machine.
The third possibility was that the two original Aristotelian and Platonic impulses be taken beyond the zero points they reached with Kant and Wittgenstein so that they finally come together within the human being and are applied one to the other. On one hand, this means that the mathematical Platonic method of thinking is explored using the empirical Aristotelian approach, that is, thinking itself becomes the object of empirical study. On the other hand, it means that the empirical Aristotelian method of sensory observation is penetrated with the mathematical Platonic method; observation is filled with thought in full awareness.
If we considered the dynamic of conscious awareness development in the history of science, this would be the logical next step. It would also be the right method for entering again into the universals debate.
In short, Platonism and Aristotelianism must interpenetrate at the methodological level. Encounter and collaboration between Platonism and Aristotelianism are very much our concern in Anthroposophy, though at another level and in a different sense.
Historical situation in Anthroposophy
Platonists meeting Aristotelians
In his karma lectures, Rudolf Steiner put great emphasis on two karmic streams - Platonic and Aristotelian. He said that representatives of the two streams would incarnate on earth before the end of the century and work together to achieve maximum spread of anthroposophy at a particular point in time. Their mission was to nurture spirituality in a civilization that would otherwise go into decline and perish.
Steiner went on to say that it was important to discover to which of the two groups each of us belongs. Characterizing the groups he referred to ''being tired of paganism" on one hand and of Christianity on the other. It is not easy, however, to work with this today for it refers to earlier forms of incarnation. Indeed, what do we mean by "Christianity" and "paganism"? Isn't it true that what we call Christianity is sometimes paganism and vice versa?
It is my personal belief (in spite of and, indeed, in consequence of careful study of the records made of the lectures) that those lectures do not provide useful criteria for the identification of Platonists and Aristotelians, though people are always trying to do so. I am therefore going to try and develop another means of identification. This may be daring, not being based on Steiner's lectures, and there can be no guarantee that this characterization will exactly agree with Steiner's view. The attempt shall nevertheless be made, for I am convinced that it may prove fruitful.
Note, this does relate to the universals debate in biology and medicine and very definitely to humanity finding the way to the medicinal plant.
Attempt to characterize Platonists and Aristotelians
We may ask who was the original Platonist? Plato himself, of course. We may also ask who was the original Aristotelian? The obvious answer is Aristotle himself. We may go on to ask how the two differ from one another. To discover this, we can read their books.
The works of Plato and Aristotle show important differences. Plato's Socrates said he knew that he knew nothing. Aristotle presented masses of knowledge. He wrote about heaven and earth, the parts of animals, the soul, ethics, physics, logic, and so on.
Another difference is that Plato carefully substantiated everything; he actually made Socrates speak of the midwifery method needed for this, demonstrating with the example of a completely uneducated slave who with the aid of Socrates was able to establish proof of a geometric principle out of his own resources. Aristotle hardly ever substantiated but offered imcom-parably greater conceptual riches. Yet no reasons are given why he chose those particular ten categories or those specific opposites, etc. Aristotle never went into reasons; he merely presented. He had the thoughtful mind, he had conceptuality, he had the form of logic and introduced these into the world of science.
It is generally thought that Aristotle was considering the sense-perceptible world. This is true; but he was only able to do so because he had made the mental and spiritual, e.g. knowledge of categories, of types of causes, his own. Plato was very different. He described his starting point in the passage that is most characteristic of him — the cave analogy. His starting point was the fetters in the cave which he cast off to work his way up into the world of the Sun and of ideas.
A commonplace view is that Plato sat in the heaven of ideas, Aristotle among the objects of the physical world. This is not the case. Plato was always endeavouring to find earthly explanations that individual people might understand and, from this basis, turn to the world of ideas. Aristotle's scientific work, on the other hand, had its foundation in the realm of the spirit (though in abstract, conceptual form), and with a mind thus equipped he turned to the world of individual objects. Plato was working towards the realm of the spirit, Aristotle out of that realm.
Plato, Aristotle and the School of Athens
The two central figures in Raphael's School of Athens are often said to be Peter and Paul. I base myself on the painting itself, however, where one of the figures holds a book with the title Timaios and the other a book with the title Ethikon. I therefore see them as Plato and Aristotle, making the truth of the work of art my basis for distinguishing Plato and Aristotle.
You see the two figures come from a dtrecton where the sky, the cosmic principle, can be seen through the arch. The sky is blue. And which of the two is wearing a blue cloak? Aristotle. He is shown as the bearer of the cosmic principle. Plato is wearing a red cloak. And it is surely reasonable to take red as the color of the blood, of the individual, earthly human principle. (The Virgin Mary is often painted with a red inner and a blue outer garment.) Plato is shown as the bearer of the earthly individual principle.
The gestures of the two figures are also strikingly different. Aristotle's five fingers are spread apart and pointing down, as if he wanted to imprint something on the earth world, using the whole hand. Plato is pointing upwards, using only his index finger which is singled out, individualized, as it were.
The painting thus tells us exactly the same. Aristotle, bearer of the cosmic principle, imprints it into the earthly sphere. Plato, bearer of the earthly, human principle, points to the cosmos. Taken as a whole, Aristotle's gesture speaks of coming out of the sphere of the spirit. That of Plato speaks of moving towards that sphere.
Platonists, Aristotelians and Anthroposophy
I would now ask you to transfer these two archetypes to the anthroposophical movement and the Anthroposophical Society. There you see the same typology, with some working "out of Anthroposophy" and others working "towards Anthroposophy".
The first have Anthroposophy behind them, as it were, working out of its fullness to make all kinds of different spheres of human life fruitful. They are working out of Anthroposophy.
The others have Anthroposophy not behind them but as something that gives direction and orientation to their work. In their public activities, they depend entirely on what they are able to substantiate and feel they can answer for out of their own, individual powers, in sovereign fashion, and they seek to change the outside world in the direction they perceive as the essence of Anthroposophy. In this sense they are working towards Anthroposophy.
In the discussion that followed the lecture, it was pointed out that there are Aristotelians who initially have the Platonic orientation and vice versa. This results in "Aristonics" and "Platelians". The two types of people tend to misunderstand each other thoroughly. Those working towards Anthroposophy often consider the others to be dogmatic (consisting of body, soul and collected works of Rudolf Steiner, is the derisory way of putting it). Those working out of Anthroposophy often consider the others to be unanthroposophical. Aristotelians, as defined above, feel it is dishonorable not to be representative of Anthroposophy in every respect; Platonists, as defined above, feel it is wrong to present anthroposophical contents unless they are independent views.
Influence of Anthroposophy on the present civilization
So far, the Aristotelian element - that is, people "working out of Anthroposophy" - has been most effective. Waldorf education, the Demeter movement, eurythmy, pharmaceutical production, treatment of patients, etc. have so far been essentially based on Anthroposophy and, thus, proved fruitful.
The question is, where has Anthroposophy had practically no influence in the outside world? In science. This is remarkable if one considers that anthroposophical scientists distinctly claim to be scientific. The reason is simple. Science cannot be changed out of anthroposophy. That would be asking the impossible, for many positions held in Anthroposophy go against current sciencific views.
For example, the four principles solid, fluid, gaseous and heat are a basis of the anthroposophical view of the world and the human being. Science has only the three states of aggregation solid, fluid and gas, whereas heat is seen as a form of energy unrelated to these. Another example is the anthroposophical trinity of spirit, soul and body, or neurosensory system, rhythmic system, and system of metabolism and limbs. Science, on the other hand, works entirely with Cartesian dualisms. Also, the search for causes forces conventional scientists to use statistical analysis (with randomized double-blind trials an extreme case); Anthroposophy, on the other hand, claims perception is capable of individual development.
Opposite views of this kind are tolerable in other spheres of life (education, medicine, art, etc.) and are seen as open-minded pluralism. It is in the nature of science, however, that contradictions are not acceptable. It is always against pluralism. Scientists are always seeking to overcome contradictions or eliminate them. Followers of modem science must therefore inevitably reject anthroposophy, where contradictory views are held. "Working out of Anthroposophy" is therefore doomed to fail where modem science is concerned.
A scientific revolution, with individual specialist fields taking new forms, will only be possible when a new approach is used in Anthroposophy, and that is "working towards Anthroposophy" (in my view a Platonic element). Then at last we shall have a new universals debate in biology and medicine in relation to Anthroposophy, and it will be possible for humanity as a whole to find the true way that leads to the medicinal plant.
Scientific debate at the end of the 20th Century
Having taken a look at the karmic encounter between Platonists and Aristotelians, something which according to Steiner is or should be characteristic of the present situation in Anthroposophy, I'd now like to go back to the methodological fusion of Platonism and Aristotelianism.
One contribution to the historical evolution of philosophy, which I omitted when discussing the evolution from Plato to Wittgenstein, definitely merits attention. Wittgenstein's end point was also the call for a new beginning, and such a beginning had been made a few years before Wittgenstein when Rudolf Steiner published his books on the principles of knowledge.
It is not possible to go into detail here, and I assume that these works are essentially known. Let me briefly refer to the following important aspects in Steiner's efforts to find a new approach:
• Steiner aimed for an unconditional approach to the theory of knowledge and to science. He found it in what he called the "purely given", i.e. sensory perceptions not penetrated by thought or put in a particular order;(15)
• considering the "purely given", we discover the vast extent to which everyday observations (even more so scientific findings) are based on thinking.(16)
With these two aspects, Steiner rehabilitated the rank of sensory percepts and restored reality to the thought element which had become obscured in the universals debate. The central statement in his theory of knowledge is: "The act of cognition is the synthesis of percept and concept; percept and concept together represent the object as a whole."(17)
At this point, a vital question arises, at least in the present context. Is Steiner's approach sufficiently stable to stand up to a new universals debate? The answer has to be: not entirely. Steiner himself no doubt clearly realized this for in later lectures on the point of origin of modem science in world history he made the interesting statement-In earlier times, human beings experienced "what they brought to mind in cognition in communion with the world. Thus, there was no uncertainty in their essential nature as to how they should apply their concepts and ideas to the world. This uncertainty has only come with recent civilization, and we see it penetrate slowly into the whole of modem thinking, with modem science evolving in that uncertainty. This fact must be clearly understood."(18)
It means that the synthesis of percept and concept, which Steiner made the core element in his theory of knowledge, is far from easy.
The following example will help to make this clear. Take the simple concept of a straight line and consider how scientists see it. The theory of relativity states that there are curved spaces, hence also crooked straight lines. In non-Euclidean geometries you find that there may be less or more than one straight line running parallel to a straight line and passing through a point outside that line. We see, thus, that considerable uncertainty exists even with a simple concept such as a straight line.
How can we gain certainty? Or, to use Steiner's own words: "Is there a possibility to reach the initial state of essential nature?"19 He answered this himself: "You have to go back to the human being and now consider the human being, who previously experienced himself from inside, from the outside in his physical organism."(19) What does this mean?
In the case of the straight line, it means that we must not stop at the abstract concept but must take it to the physical human organism from outside. In practical terms, it would need a relatively complex procedure to check if a straight line really is straight (the whole procedure cannot be given here). The simpler part of it is as follows: you look at a nearer and a further away point on the line, and if the further away point and all points between it and the nearer point are covered by the nearer one, the line is a line of sight (i.e. not yet a straight line, but at least a line of sight).
Such a line of sight is a case where Steiner's demand is met and physical reality is brought to the physical organism from outside. What is more, in such a line, simple as it may seem, Platonism and Aristotelianism can meet. Conventionally speaking, the line of sight is in an intermediate sphere scientifically, in a scientific no-man's-land. It does not exist as pure inner thought separated from the outer physical world (the objects studied in conventional mathematics are pure thought structures, separate from the outer physical world). A line of sight extends to the outer physical world and therefore does not belong to the field of mathematics. It is too physical, involved in the world of objects. On the other hand, a line of sight exists not only in the outer physical world, separated from the scientists' inner mind and spirit (this applies to the objects studied in conventional natural sciences as physical structures separated from the inner mind and spirit). A line of sight always starts with an individual scientist, a human subject who has inwardness of mind and spirit, and therefore does not come into the area of competence of conventional natural sciences, having too much inwardness and subjectivity attached to it.
That this sphere - the line of sight - may serve as its representative does, indeed, establish a secure link between percept and concept. It is an area where concepts can be developed in certainty, providing a basis for precise observation of conceptualization, i.e. of thinking and, conversely, penetrating sensory perceptions fully with our thoughts. This is a method of bringing Platonism and Aristotelianism together.
How does this fusion help us develop a new approach to science? Rudolf Steiner himself added that the methodology should first be used to develop a new science of physics and then of chemistry, a new pneumatology and then psychology. With anthroposophical physics and chemistry established, it would then be possible to develop anthroposophical medicine: "We shall then not have physicized Anthroposophy, chemicized Anthroposophy, but truly establish anthroposophical chemistry and anthroposophical physics. Nor shall we have a new medicine which is a slightly amended form of the old, but true anthroposophical medicine."(20)
At this point, I have to digress into a personal matter. I have been working on the development of such a science of physics for many years, quite independently of the above statements made by Rudolf Steiner. A whole book has resulted, though the birth pangs have been tremendous.(19) When I agreed last year to give this lecture today I thought the book would be finished and published, but sadly that is not the case. You therefore have to bear with me if I am unable to give all the proper references. The main aspects of such an anthroposophical science of physics are the following:
1 in conventional physics, the aim is to see nature objectively, leaving aside the subject-object relationship. In this anthroposophical science of physics, the subject-object relationship - which is that intermediate region, the scientific no-man's-land - is considered with great care and made the methodological basis;
2 in conventional physics, concepts are always "finite", as it were; in anthroposophical physics, investigation is made, above all, of the way concepts develop on the basis of subject-object relationships;
3 in conventional physics, the ultimate content and basis is movement against inertia; in anthroposophical physics, the content and basis is a polar pair of movements - movement due to gravity (up and down, to the center) and movement due to light (one-sided, to the periphery);
4 in conventional physics, quantitative laws of nature such as the law of gravity ultimately have to be found by measurement; in anthroposophical physics, these laws can be logically derived the same way as geometric laws can. (The specific conceptualization technique makes this possible.) Anthroposophical physics is therefore superior to conventional physics;
5 in conventional physics, one speaks of three states of aggregation (solid, liquid, gas) and various types of energy; in anthroposophical physics, a polar, symmetrical system is used with five substances: solid, liquid, gas, heat and light. The axis of symmetry goes through the gaseous state, with solid and light and liquid and heat as pairs of polar opposites. (In the case of light and, to some extent, heat it is evident from their properties that the boundary between the purely physical and the "etheric", as we may call it, has been crossed.)
It is my personal opinion that we urgently need such a science of physics so that we may build on it. We also need it so that we may show the conventional physical world that the three great dogmas cannot be maintained:
1 the gas law can be logically derived from conceptualization, leaving aside the particle model of kinetic theory. This means it is possible to develop a science that goes against the pardcularist dogma;
2 the polar symmetry of substances is a comprehensive natural order established entirely in the mind. This means it is possible to develop a science that goes against the dogma that there is no overall natural order, i.e. the Darwinian dogma;
3 going beyond geometry and making physics a purely ideal or "mathematical" (super-mathematical, "essential") science, it is possible to demonstrate the principles of non-statistical, purely ideal causal relations. This means it is possible to develop a science that goes against the dogma of statistical proof.
Program for the debate
This science of physics can be developed further; the two-directional changes of matter can be conceived in ideas, and it will be possible to arrive at concepts of a positive and a negative "salt process" and a positive and a negative "sulfur process". On the basis of their polarity, rhythmic processes (waves, oscillations) can be understood as resulting from the interaction of polar processes.
All this is only a first breach made in the wall. For a successful universals debate we need a wide-ranging research program. The following projects are essential in my view:
Relating to the dogma of particularism
Determine what is the existential status of molecules, atoms and elementary particles? Are they echo effects of specific methods of experimental investigation? Do they have a primary mode of existence, based on the sphere of physical reality, or a secondary one that is the outcome? This question should certainly be soluble if the right effort is put into it.
Establish a critique of the gene concept. Peter Heusser has already started work on this,(21) but even more systematic, detailed research is needed.
Reproducible demonstration of the activity of high potencies above the 25x when, according to Lohschmidt's numbers, no molecule of the original active principle remains. Clinical and experimental proofs are available, but none has been reproduced. We need a reproducible experimental model. This would have a maximum de-dogmatizing effect on particularism. A number of approaches can be envisaged and should prove successful.
Relating to an overall natural order and to Darwinism
A critique of Darwinism. It would not be difficult and needs to be done. The best thing would be a well-written, easy-going pamphlet, perhaps even a bit sensationalist, with a title such as: Darwinism - error of the century.
Demonstrate overall natural orders. A first such order is the polar and symmetrical order of substance shown above. A second one, also from the anthroposophical point of view, is the polarity of man and plant. Everything written and said on the subject needs to be collected and developed further. Not an easy project, but urgently necessary.
Steiner referred to Goethe as the "Copernicus and Kepler of the organic world". We need to find an analog to Newton's achievement, i.e. the basic law of mechanics which covered not only movement as such, as in the case of Copernicus and Kepler, but the relationship between movements and forces. Finding an analog in the organic sphere would be the most important but probably most difficult piece of scientific work for the immediate future.
Relating to the dogma of statistics, or the human being's ability to see the truth 7th project
This is an area where our small group has been able to do relatively good publicity work. In the medical field, critical papers have been published on placebo effects, double blind trials, randomization, statistics, the causality concept, ethics, pluralism, single-case studies, etc.
The moment we reach a new level of science (as in physics, see above), where ideas have reality and insights are gained in natural sciences that bear the stamp of truth — so that the truth dilemma of conventional science is overcome - we can begin to develop a psychology based on theory of knowledge, that is a psychology of insight, psychology evolved in mind and spirit. (This is probably what Rudolf Steiner called "pneumatology" in his lectures.(19)) The psychology of needs and drives known from the Freudian tradition may give way to a psychology of human insight and freedom.
Further prospects open up with the following projects:
• what is rhythm? How do rhythmic processes evolve? What do they do?
• what is a "rhythmic system"?
• human threefoldness based on neurosensory system/metabolism and limbs/rhythmic system. This has been used in Anthroposophy but not yet substantiated.
• what is a "sense organ in the wrong place" (with reference to understanding carcinogenesis)?
These projects must be completed before we can develop an understanding of and treatment of cancer that is entirely founded in Anthroposophy. This should be our goal.
Principles of the scientific debate
Many individual projects could still be listed, but that would be of little use. What is important is that anyone undertaking such a project sees its position and rank within the whole dispute. Projects entered into just because someone else, e.g. Rudolf Steiner, considers them possible or important would not contribute to the debate. It would be helpful, however, to know the general strategic aspects of this much-needed scientific debate:
• medicine will have to be the battlefield. (Sorry about the martial expressions - they are intentional, though no external aggression is implied.);
• the strategy will have to be a pincer movement: going on one hand for the scientific basis of medicine that leads to clinical treatment, i.e. physics, chemistry, biology, etc. and, on the other, for the methods of judging the efficacy of such treatment, i.e. methods that do not relate to the subject and are mechanical;
• the weapons we must use need to be forged in the theory of knowledge, in reflective perception, i.e. in a methodology to be taken in its widest sense;
• every attack must be directed to the point where the sciences are today. This is where we must meet them, first criticizing and then truly transforming them;
• the basis of this new universals debate will be the fusion of the Aristotelian and Platonic impulses which must be achieved by the Platonists.
In conclusion, let me say that Aristotelians conducted the medieval universals debate. The new one will have to be largely fought out by the Platonists. The Aristotelians in our ranks will need to prepare the individual routes to individual medicinal plants. The Platonists will need to show the one and only route to the medicinal plant, that is the route for science and humanity. We have to see that this succeeds in the next few years.
Helmut Kiene, MD
D-79112 Freiburg i. Br., Germany
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