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Paper presented at the LLRA Coníerence in Gothenburg,


September 2008

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Bo Dahlin
Karlstad Uni·ersity
Sweden

Marek B. Majorek
Goetheanum
Switzerland

:;-$+(<$. 1his paper is a philosophical consideration oí how to understand thinking as a mental
acti·ity. It starts by noting that some teachers claim to obser·e the decrease oí thinking abilities
among young people today. Apart írom the questions oí how to establish this as a íact and the
possible empirical causes behind it, it is also important to consider the more basic question oí
what thinking really is. leidegger deals with this question in his later philosophy, another
important, ií generally less well known, thinker and researcher, who de·oted much attention to
this issue was Rudolí Steiner. lor leidegger, some pre-Socratic Greek philosophers exempliíy
genuine thinking, appreciating the meaning oí Being and transcending the subject-object dualism.
But this kind oí philosophy was soon replaced by the onto-theological approach, in which Being
is reducti·ely objectiíied, and the question oí the meaning oí Being is íorgotten. lence,
according to leidegger, we still ha·e to learn to think. Commentators on leidegger point to the
similarity between his approach to thinking and that oí ·arious mystical teachings, such as those
oí Meister Lckhart or Zen Buddhism. Like leidegger, Steiner also claimed that we do not know
what it means to really think. Steiner was howe·er more outspoken and penetrating in his
approach, insisting that only through meditati·e practice can we directly experience the nature oí
thinking as mental acti·ity. lowe·er, the present day materialistic explanations oí thinking as
originating in ,or being identical with, neurological brain processes oí a purely biochemical
nature, stand in clear opposition to these or any other spiritual conceptions oí thinking. Drawing
upon leidegger ,somewhat, and Steiner ,mostly, we argue against the materialistic understanding
oí thinking as misguided and jumping to unwarranted conclusions. \e also argue that the
materialistic understanding oí thinking widespread today may be one oí the reasons behind the
alleged decrease oí thinking abilities among young people. As is well known, Rudolí Steiner was
the íounder oí Steiner \aldorí education, which is based on a spiritual conception oí the human
being. 1he paper ends with describing some oí the elements oí Steiner \aldorí education which
are intended to promote the de·elopment oí li·ing, creati·e thinking.


I
1he question oí how to understand thinking is a classical theme oí philosophy.
1hinking is a mental acti·ity oí intrinsic and essential importance to philosophy,
one could hardly engage in philosophical acti·ity without thinking. 1hinking is also
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an important educational acti·ity. \hether as a student or as a teacher, all
education requires thinking oí some íorm or other ,purely cogniti·e, technical,
moral or aesthetic,. According to Jane lealy ,1990,, many teachers today seem
concerned about what is happening to thinking in schools, seeing signs oí decrease
in children`s thinking abilities. In her book ívaavgerea Miva. ,1990, lealy proposes
that although children`s basic intelligence is not less de·eloped nowadays than in
the past ,a point worth noting,, the íollowing obser·ations made by many teachers
indicate that their ability to acti·ely engage in thinking is se·erely reduced:

- declining listening skills: inability to maintain attention,
- decreased abilities to get íacts and ideas into coherent, orderly íorm in
speaking and writing,
- tendency to communicate with gestures along with, or instead oí, words,
- declining ·ocabulary knowledge abo·e íourth-grade le·el,
- proliíeration oí íillers` instead oí substanti·e words ,\ou know, like, the
thing.`,,
- diííiculty hearing diííerences between sounds in words and getting them in
order,
- íaltering comprehension oí more diííicult reading material,
- troubles understanding longer sentences, embedded clauses, more ad·anced
grammatical structures in upper grades,
- diííiculty switching írom colloquial language to written íorm. ,cí. ibid., p. 99,

lealy suggests that electronic media, hectic liíe styles, unstable íamily relations,
en·ironmental poisons as well as the instructional íorms employed by schools may
all iníluence not only the way children think but e·en the physical structure oí their
brains. 1here is probably some truth in this more or less common sense intuition
oí what íactors iníluence children`s thinking capacities, there may e·en be empirical
e·idence íor its support. lowe·er, our purpose with this paper is to pursue
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another, more philosophical intuition. \hat ií a ,possible, decline oí present day
thinking capacities is the result oí a lack oí understanding oí thinking as such·
\hat, in other words, i. thinking· 1hat is the basic question oí this paper.

II
In his essay 1be eva of pbito.opb, ava tbe ta./ of tbiv/ivg leidegger ,19¯¯a, claims that
|w[e still need an education in thinking`. Although it was written halí a century
ago we belie·e this need is most certainly still there. 1here still seems to be a lack oí
understanding e·en oí the sense in which leidegger asked this question about
thinking. Perhaps the recent progress oí brain research has made it e·en te..
possible to understand his question today. Brain research seems to increase the
tendency to turn thinking into a phenomenon concei·ed within objecti·ist ,or
instrumentalist, írames oí understanding, íorgetting the íact that it is I` or we`
that think ,and not the brain,. \e oursel·es are, in the strict sense oí the word,
put in question by the question |oí thinking[`, as leidegger says in another work
,19¯¯b, p. 362,, related to the same theme. In this work
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leidegger repeatedly
returns to the statement that the most thought-pro·oking thing in our thought-
pro·oking times is that re .titt ao vot tbiv/. lence, we must ,still, learn to think. A
strange claim, considering all the mental acti·ity and iníormation processing`
going on in modern societies, not least in education, academy and research. But
e·en though there may be a lot oí thinking going on in the sciences, science itselí
seems unable to íind thinking, as long as it objectiíies the human being and does
not heed the existential challenge oí the question: the catt oí,íor thinking. Unless
science transíorms itselí by accommodating radical phenomenology and turns to
the ivveaiate e·perievce oí thinking, science will ine·itably misunderstand and
misrepresent this call.
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An interesting example oí this kind oí misrepresentation can

1
1he German title oí the work is !a. bei..t Dev/ev, translated as either \hat calls íor thinking·`
,leidegger, 19¯¯b, or \hat is called thinking·` ,leidegger, 1968,.
2
By radical phenomenology we mean going to the roots oí all experience, including the
experience oí thinking. It is a phenomenology that is more empirical than empiricism or
positi·ism e·er was, because whate·er question it takes up ,epistemological, ontological, ethical,
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be íound in the transhumanist ·isions oí Ralph Kurzweils books ,e.g. Kurzweil,
2005,.
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One oí Kurzweil`s basic ideas is that human intelligence is just smart
enough to understand our own thinking - to acce.. ovr orv .ovrce coae, ií you will -
and then re·ise and expand it` ,ibid., p. 4, our italics,. Kurzweil describes himselí as
a patternist`, that is, someone who ·iews patterns oí iníormation as the
íundamental reality` ,p. 5,. 1hus, the source code oí human thinking is presumably
a particular pattern oí iníormation, which can be objectiíied, grasped and
manipulated - at least in principle but, so Kurzweil belie·es, in a not too distant
íuture also in actual liíe. lrom leidegger`s ,and our, point oí ·iew, what is
misrepresented in this ·ision is the íact that any objectiíication and manipulation
presupposes thinking, that the source code` must itselí be constituted by a
thinking which essentially trav.ceva. its constituted object.

leidegger has diííerent names íor this transcendence: íicbtvvg or ,in the later
works, .tetbeia, translated as openness or unconcealment`:

Unconcealment is, so to speak, the element in which Being and
thinking and their belonging together exist. ,leidegger, 19¯¯a, p. 388,

In .tetbeia, Being and thinking belong together`. 1his is leidegger`s interpretation
oí the íamous sentence oí Parmenides, that Being and thinking are the Same`. In
another text, also a meditation on the same sentence, leidegger ,1969, illuminates
the notion oí belonging together` by distinguishing between betovgivg together and

social or natural, it reíuses to lea·e the íield oí experience íor abstract theory. It could e·en be
said to be more scientiíic than science itselí, since one oí the hallmarks oí the selí-understanding
oí science is that it ne·er accepts an idea without empirical, i.e. e·perievtiat, e·idence. It was this
characteristic oí science that made Steiner gi·e his main philosophical work, Der Pbito.opbie aer
íreibeit ,according to Steiner himselí best translated as 1be pbito.opb, of .piritvat actirit,,, the subtitle
Soul obser·ations according to natural scientiíic method` ,not translated in the Lnglish edition
,19¯9,,. Steiner`s approach in this work is basically phenomenological and largely íocused on the
experience oí thinking.
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1he whole íield oí transhumanist ·isions oí the human being and its íuture deser·e to be the
subject oí another philosophical critique, see Rado·an ,200¯, íor a more elaborate critique oí
Kurzweil`s ·ersion.
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belonging togetber ,in German Zusammen-gebörev ·ersus Zv.avvev-gehoren,. Saying
that two things, A and B, belong togetber is íor leidegger an expression oí
reductionism: A and B are then identical, reduced to ove and the same thing. 1his
notion is a common trait oí the philosophical paradigm oí metaphysics` and
representational thinking, in which Being is seen as the uni·ersal cav.e oí things. In
contrast, ií A and B betovg together, they preser·e their identities and yet exist only
through each other. It is in this sense that Being and thinking belong together. 1he
belonging oí thinking to Being is a longing íor Being by thinking - and the longing
oí Being íor thinking to unco·er it, to appropriate` it. In German, this poetising`
would oí course be expressed diííerently. 1he gehoren` in Zusammengehoren`
is related to the ·erb horen`, which means to hear`, that is to listen, and hence to
attend to. Being and thinking attend to each other and teva towards each other.
1hereíore, íollowing the idea that the essence oí man`, that is, oí the human
being ,or oí being human,, is thinking, leidegger notes:

A belonging to Being pre·ails within man, a belonging which listens to
Being because it is appropriated to Being. |.[ Man and Being are
appropriated to each other. ,1969, p. 31,

By saying that thinking and Being betovg together, leidegger ontologizes`
thinking. 1hinking is not a merely ·olatile and shadowy by-product oí
neurophysiologic processes. leidegger`s ontologizing` oí thinking turns thinking
into an allowing to be`, that is, a necessary precondition oí any being` or
,thought, thing`. As a precondition oí e·ery being` and e·ery thing` it
necessarily precedes both the subject` and the object` ,as these are also things`
in a general sense,. lence, thinking precedes all epistemological and ontological
distinctions. lor the same reason it can hardly be an object oí technological
re·ision. lowe·er, it can be, and it ba. been, forgottev by human thinking, and more
so precisely through the modern technological world conception.

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\e need perhaps to ,re-,disco·er leidegger`s mode oí thinking Being`. 1hinking
Being does not mean to think about` Being. Nor does it mean that the human
being is a being that thinks`. 1hinking Being means that thinking and Being betovg
together.

1his is the education oí thinking that we ,still, lack. In contrast to the calculati·e
thinking oí modern instrumental reason, it is a meditati·e thinking which,
according to leidegger, was there in the beginning oí philosophy but was ·ery
soon íorgotten. Reíerring to another íragment oí Parmenides, talking about the
untrembling heart oí unconcealment`, leidegger comments:

1he meditati·e man is to experience the untrembling heart oí
unconcealment. \hat does the phrase oí the untrembling heart oí
unconcealment mean· It means unconcealment itselí in what is most its
own, it means the ptace of .tittve.. which gathers in itselí what grants
unconcealment to begin with. ,leidegger, 19¯¯a, p. 38¯, our italics,

\hat is it that is gathered in this stillness· \hat is it that grants unconcealment·
1he Being oí all beings.· And why is there an untrembling heart` connected to
this· Presumably only the direct experience oí meditati·e thinking can gi·e
satisíying answers to such questions. leidegger`s reported enthusiasm o·er the Zen
Buddhist approach to such questions suggests that he belie·ed in a path or a
meditati·e practice leading to such experiences ,cí. Caputo, 1986, p. 204íí, Kim,
2004, p. XVII,. Such a path or practice is, howe·er, not to be understood as a kind
oí mental technology - this would assimilate it to the hegemony oí modern
instrumental reason and miss the point completely. As Sallis remarks:

1he path oí thinking is not íirst constructed as a path by thinking but is
rather a way which already lies beíore thinking as that which calls upon us
to think. ,19¯0, p. 2,

¯
As Caputo ,1986, explains leidegger`s ·iew, we ha·e to íind our way with the
question,s, oí Being and thinking, and their belonging together, by ceasing to seek
íor metaphysical grounds`. \e ha·e to make a leap oí thought` by which we
arri·e at groundedness in Being itselí. According to Caputo, leidegger`s
suggestions íor how to achie·e this leap is comparable to what Meister Lckhart
called Ceta..evbeit, or detachment`. 1he leap itselí seems also similar to what is
called .atori, or enlightenment`, in Zen Buddhism. In Buddhism, enlightenment
means gaining a new perspecti·e on the ego. Similarly, in an essay on leraclitus
leidegger suggests that in genuine thinking the ·oice oí the ego becomes merely
another appearance within the clearing |íicbtvvg[`, as Zimmerman ,1983, p. 91,
expresses it.

leidegger ,1969, also describes a leap` oí thinking that mo·es írom traditional,
representational metaphysics to thinking that entails the mutual appropriation oí
man and Being`:

\hat a curious leap, presumably yielding us the insight that we do not
reside suííiciently as yet where in reality we already are. \here are we· In
what constellation oí Being and man· ,1969, p. 33,

1he constellation oí Being and man` in which we are, is according to leidegger
that oí the Ce.tett. 1he Ce.tett is perhaps translatable as the íramework oí
technological rationality` ,in the Lnglish translation it is called simply the
íramework`,. 1his is a particular mode oí appropriating Being by the human being,
the culmination as it were oí the paradigm oí metaphysics`, causality and
representational thinking. At the same time, the Ce.tett is a challenge to humankind
to appropriate Being in a new way, beyond metaphysics`, because within the
íramework oí technological rationality the human being is alienated írom Being and
thereíore írom herselí. \et this alienation has now gone so íar as to pass almost íor
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the normal state oí things, as natural`, as the way things are.
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And so ·isionaries
like Kurzweil can publish best-selling books on the íuture transcendence` oí
human biology through technology. 1he Ce.tett is establishing itselí as totatite.

III
Against leidegger`s search íor the reality oí thinking and the reality oí our being it
can be claimed that his musings ,or, íor an uníriendly mind, metaphysical
speculations`, ha·e been rendered obsolete by the latest ad·ances oí neurobiology.
lor - so the argument - there can be no doubt that these ad·ances ha·e dealt a
decisi·e blow to the long cherished hope or illusion that the spirit ,and also oí
course thought and thinking, can exist independently oí matter and in particular oí
the brain ,see íor inst. lorgan, 1999, \arner & Szuba, 1994, Schouten & Looren
de Jong, 200¯,. It is claimed that it has now been empirically demonstrated that all
mental processes are nothing but products oí brain acti·ity. 1his supposed
empirical demonstration` is usually ad·anced in three steps: íirstly, it has been
repeatedly demonstrated that injuries to or lesions oí the brain lead to impairment
or total loss oí certain mental íunctions, secondly, it has been repeatedly
demonstrated that artiíicial stimulation oí ·arious kinds ,chemical, electrical, or
magnetic, gi·es rise to certain mental phenomena, typical oí the area oí the brain
which has been thus stimulated, or e·en to consciousness itselí, thirdly, it has been
repeatedly demonstrated that neurophysiological acti·ity oí the brain preceae. the
emergence oí consciousness and,or thought.

1hese obser·ations oí the dependence oí the mental on the physical are doubtlessly
impressi·e, but they actually íail to íirmly establish the thesis that the brain with its

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1here seems to be a certain pessimism in leidegger`s ·iew on the possibilities íor humankind
,in the \est, at least, to grow out oí the Ce.tett as the constellation oí Being and man` in our
time. 1his shows íor instance in his statement that only a god can sa·e us now` ,leidegger,
19¯6,. Perhaps this reílects his tendency to see thinking as more dependent on Being, than the
other way around. In contrast, íor Rudolí Steiner ,see below,, thinking is the ·ery condition oí
human íreedom.
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processes is the proavcer oí consciousness and its mental íunctions. 1o take the
brain íor the cav.a iv.trvvevtati. oí the mental on the basis oí the íirst oí the three
kinds oí empirical data mentioned abo·e is to coníuse the necessary with the
suííicient condition oí an e·ent. Let us illustrate this point by means oí a íamiliar
example. A pianist certainly needs his piano to play a piano sonata. Ií the piano is
intact, his períormance will be as good as he can make it. lowe·er, ií some
elements oí the piano ,strings, keys, mechanism translating the mo·ement oí the
keys into the mo·ement oí the hammers and so on, are damaged, the períormance
will be impeded. And ií the piano is totally destroyed there will be no concert at all.
But the piano is certainly not the cause oí the concert. It is merely one oí its
necessary conditions. 1hus it is clear that loss oí a mental íunction as a result oí
brain damage is períectly reconcilable with the claim that thinking is not a product
oí matter, or more speciíically oí brain processes. 1hese may be necessary to the
emergence oí the mental, but are not by that ·irtue alone its suííicient cause.
Moreo·er, one should bear in mind two íurther complications. lirst oí all, it is well
known that ·ery oíten aíter some brain damage and the consequent loss oí some
mental íunction this íunction is later restored because either new neurons are
generated, or some intact part oí the brain begins to ser·e as the basis íor the
íunction in question.

1hus it seems that whereas there is some general dependence oí the mental on the
physical, no speciíic part oí the brain is necessary in the absolute sense to the
execution oí any speciíic mental íunction. Secondly, as a kind oí coníirmation and
extension oí this general principle, research shows at least two cases oí children
who underwent hemispherectomy ,the remo·al oí the cortex oí one oí the
hemispheres oí the brain, at the age oí three and in time were able to reco·er
practically all mental íunctions lost immediately aíter the operation ,Battro, 2000,
Borgenstein & Grootendorst, 2002,. 1he brain pro·es to be not as necessary íor
mental liíe as it may initially seem. 1hirdly, e·er since the pioneering works oí
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Raymond Moody in the 19¯0`s ,Moody, 19¯5, 19¯¯, we ha·e been increasingly
aware oí the so-called near-death experiences oí seemingly brain-dead people. One
can try to explain them in terms oí some sort oí physiological acti·ity, but it cannot
be denied that such experiences do seem to indicate that the brain is not as
necessary íor mental liíe as it may seem.

It is a bit more diííicult to dispel the illusionary persuasi·e íorce oí the second type
oí empirical e·idence` ad·anced íor the claim in question, namely the
unquestionable íact that one can produce mental phenomena by means oí an
appropriate íorm oí artiíicially applied stimulation. In this case one is easily led to
conclude that the eííicacy oí such stimulation is a prooí oí it being the .vfficievt
condition oí the mental phenomena e·oked by it. \et e·en this claim is premature.
lirst oí all one has to bear in mind that we are certainly not in a position to
produce av, desired mental phenomenon aa tib. Among the things that ha·e been
achie·ed to date are the íollowing:

1. e·ocation oí some íorm oí inner ·isions or generalised moods by means
application oí chemical substances ,drugs,, yet what exactly these ·isions or
these moods in speciíic people will be, is not predictable in ad·ance,
2. e·ocation oí ·arious reminiscences and states oí consciousness including
some íorms oí out oí body experiences by means oí extra cranial magnetic
stimulation, but again what exactly a speciíic person will experience as a
result oí a speciíic íorm oí stimulation remains unpredictable, and
3. e·ocation oí some para-sensory sensations by means oí electrical stimulation
oí parts oí sensory cortex, as well as some mo·ements oí the limbs by
means oí electrical stimulation oí parts oí motor cortex, but the subjects oí
these experiments usually report that the sensations they experience are not
identical to normal` sensations, but rather ha·e a general, parasthesic
character ,tingling, electric shock, ílashes oí light rather than speciíic objects,
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cí. Libet, 19¯3, p. 101-106,, and that the mo·ements executed are not
their` mo·ements. 1ypically one gets reports oí the kind: It was not me
who raised my hand. \ou did it to me` ,cí. Peníield, 19¯5, p. ¯6í,.

\hat has vot been achie·ed, howe·er, is e.g. an e·ocation oí a speciíic ·isual
sensation by means oí stimulation oí the ·isual cortex, or more to the point, an
e·ocation oí a speciíic sequence oí rational thoughts by means oí stimulation oí,
say, the preírontal cortex.

L·en ií we were in the position to claim that we cav reliably produce a speciíic
mental phenomenon by means oí a speciíied artiíicial stimulation, we would not be
entitled to the claim that such stimulation is a suííicient cause to the e·ocation oí
the phenomenon in questions. \hy not· Another simple example can demonstrate
that e·en such as yet only hypothetical technical mastery o·er the mind would not
exclude the possibility that we are not aware oí all the conditions necessary íor its
success. Consider this simple question: what is necessary to light a match· \ou
ha·e to strike it against a side oí a matchbox, oí course. \ou ha·e done it
thousands oí times and you are pretty sure that this is all there is to it. But a simple
reílection will show that this conclusion is íaulty. Pump out the air, or e·en only
the oxygen, írom the room in which you are trying to light a match and you will see
that nothing will come oí your eííorts. Oxygen is a necessary condition íor the
match igniting at all, and thereíore must correctly be regarded as part oí the causes
leading to the igniting oí the match. 1his íact is easily disregarded íor under normal
circumstances we ne·er e·en try to light a match in an oxygen-íree en·ironment
and on top oí this we do not percei·e oxygen by means oí any oí our senses, so we
do not ha·e any direct experience oí this íactor, still less oí the role it plays in the
process. But the obser·ation that certain íactors which usually escape our attention
may be ·ital to the occurrence oí certain obser·able phenomena, or more broadly
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to our understanding oí the world,
5
can and must be taken into account in the
context oí the problem oí the relationship between the brain on the one hand, and
consciousness and mental phenomena on the other. It cannot be excluded as a
possibility that under normal circumstances there is something present in and
around the brain which is a necessary condition íor the emergence oí mental
processes and in particular oí conscious thought e·en though this something has
not been taken into account in the discussion oí the problem so íar, íor a, it is
always there when the consciousness is there, b, it is not normally perceptible.

1hese methodological considerations enable us to ·iew certain aspects oí brain
research in a diííerent light. It is only too ob·ious that experiments aimed at
ascertaining the eííects oí artiíicial stimulation oí the brain are conducted on
subjects that are awake. Aíter all one wants to hear the reports oí what they
experience when stimulated, and you cannot expect a sleeping person to be able to
pro·ide such a report. So wakeíulness is an ob·ious necessary condition oí
experiencing any eííects oí any stimulation at all. It means that a person has to be
consciously present - but that was what we wanted to explain írom the start. \e
do not yet íully understand what is,are necessary and suííicient condition,s íor
maintaining a person`s consciousness. So concluding on the basis oí successíul
eliciting oí some mental experiences by means oí artiíicial stimulation oí the brain
that it is the brain that under normal conditions proavce. such experiences is in íact
unwarranted.

\et there is still the third line oí deíence oí the supporters oí reducti·e materialism.
1hey can reíer to the seminal experiments oí Benjamin Libet conducted in the
1980`s
6
and a number oí newer íollow-up experiments oí the same kind which

5
Recent striking example oí this selecti·e awareness oí what is important is the recent disco·ery
oí the existence oí the so-called dark energy` which is supposed to constitute up to ¯4° oí the
uni·erse, and which was unheard oí only 15 years ago ,see e.g. Brumíiel, 200¯,.
6
1he paradigmatic oí these experiments was described in Libet, \right Jr, & Gleason ,1982,. A
good collection oí Libets papers can be íound in Libet ,1993,.
13
seem to demonstrate beyond all doubt that it is the neurophysiological processes in
the brain that are the causes oí mental phenomena ,and not the other way round,
íor the simple and ob·ious reason that such processes cove fir.t, and are fottorea by
conscious experiences.
¯

It seems ob·ious that the temporarily later e·ent cannot be the cause oí an e·ent
which preceded it. But is what comes beíore something else atra,. the cause oí this
something· Actually not. 1ake the íamiliar case oí the dawn and the sunrise. 1he
sky in·ariably gets lighter before the sun rises, not the other way round. And yet it
would be absurd to claim that the dawn causes the sunrise. Can it not be that we
are dealing with a similar phenomenon in the case oí the temporal relationship
between the onset oí mental phenomena and the onset oí the neurophysiological
processes associated with it· Can it not be that just as the sun prepares, as it were,
its appearance abo·e the horizon by producing the wonderíul play oí colours at
dawn, so human thinking prepares` its conscious appearance by producing certain
neurophysiological processes in the brain· Seen in this light the neurophysiological
processes obser·ed in the brain prior to the emergence oí thoughts or other mental
phenomena are not the causes oí these phenomena, but simply a kind oí colour
play e·oked by the sun oí the rising thought on the clouds oí the brain in
preparation íor the proper sunrise oí its conscious maniíestation.

1here is a yet another diííiculty - this time oí philosophical nature - surrounding
the claim that brain processes are necessary and suííicient conditions oí mental
phenomena and thus their causes. Generally when talking about causes it is crucial
to demonstrate that a speciíic e·ent constitutes a necessary ava suííicient condition
oí a certain eííect in order to be able to describe it as its cause. 1hus a speciíic bolt

¯
1his is sometimes taken as prooí` that human beings ha·e no íree will, that our actions are
predetermined by our brain processes. lowe·er, this was not the conclusion that Libet himselí
made, and there are some unreílected presumptions behind such a conclusion, íor instance about
the nature oí will. In psychology, will is sometimes understood as conscious decision`, but it is
íar írom selí-e·ident that this is a proper deíinition.

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oí lightning can be regarded as the cause oí a certain íire in a certain house which
we are trying to explain because there would not ha·e been this particular íire
without the lightning, and the energy oí lightning in general and oí that speciíic
lightning in particular was such that it was suííicient to cause the íire. 1he problem
with the brain processes as potential causes oí the mental is, at this point, that one
is describing ov tbe ove bava certain brain e·ents which seem to be necessary ,but
·ery oíten turn out not to be, íor certain mental phenomena, and ov tbe otber bava
certain manipulations which seem to be suííicient ,yet looked at more careíully turn
out not to be, to produce certain mental states, howe·er, no one has e·er been able
to demonstrate that a certain brain e·ent is botb necessary ava suííicient íor a
speciíic mental state, and in particular íor a speciíic thought. In íact there are good
reasons to claim that it will ne·er be possible to demonstrate this. 1he reason íor
such pessimism has to do with the essential qualities oí the mental phenomena on
the one hand, and oí the brain processes on the other. Mental processes, in
particular thought processes, are replicable. \our thought triangle` is e..evtiatt, the
same today as yesterday, and will be essentially the same tomorrow again. \et the
speciíic neurophysiological processes underlying this conceptual constancy are
diííerent in each speciíic case, e·en ií the same area oí the brain is in·ol·ed.
8
In
íact it can be saíely claimed that no state oí the brain can e·er be identically
repeated again. In the brain no one state is replicable, something changes írom
moment to moment, pavta rei. It is precisely this íeature oí brain processes that led
some iníluential contemporary philosophers to claim that it is not possible in
principle to map thought processes onto brain processes, or, in the philosophical
jargon, that the propositional contents oí mental states can ne·er be indi·iduated in
spatiotemporal neural structures. 1his point has recently been made on both sides
oí the Atlantic by such prominent thinkers as Richard Rorty ,2004,, and Jürgen
labermas ,2004,.
9


8
Cí. Shidara et al. ,2005,, liser et al. ,2004,, Azouz and Gray ,1999,, Vogels et al. ,1989,.
9
1here is oí course no contradiction in principle between brain research and a spiritualistic
understanding oí the human being, or oí mental processes. See íor instance Austin`s ,1998,
15

1he upshot oí these considerations is clear: despite the appearance to the contrary
there is in íact no suííicient empirical or theoretical justiíication íor the oíten made
claim that the brain is the íather oí thought. Any belieí in such external
explanations can be called Positi·ism, in the sense that it seeks the cause oí
thinking, and thereíore also the ground oí knowledge, in something positi·ely
gi·en` before thinking. It can also be seen as a sign oí what Bernstein ,1983, calls
Cartesian anxiety`: the íear oí loosing a íirm ground` íor our knowledge. In a
similar way, the search íor the ground oí Being outside Being - which, according to
leidegger, started already among the ancient Greeks - led to \estern metaphysics,
onto-theology and the íorgetíulness oí the Being oí beings.

IV
But ií thoughts are not products oí the brain, what are they· 1he best answer to
this question known to us has been oííered by a thinker who is surprisingly little
known and little appreciated in contemporary academic circles: Rudolí Steiner
,1861 - 1925,. Steiner has been called the best kept secret oí the twentieth century
,Schickler, 2005,. Generally percei·ed and disregarded as an occultist` or
metaphysical mystic, íew academic researchers bother to study his works. It is
thereíore little known that not only did he hold a doctorate in philosophy and
wrote and published many texts highly rele·ant and signiíicant íor the
philosophical discussions at the end oí the 19
th
and beginning oí the 20
th
century,
but as a merely 21-year-old student oí natural sciences he was appointed editor oí
Goethe`s scientiíic writings íor the then standard German edition oí Goethe`s
works. Later on he was widely respected and regarded as an intellectual íorce in the
German-speaking world beíore he disgraced himselí` academically by becoming a
part oí the 1heosophical mo·ement. 1hat the way he dealt with scientiíic and

impressi·e study oí the neurophysiologic aspects oí Zen meditation. lowe·er, there seems to be
a need to unco·er and de·elop other paradigms oí brain research than that oí scientiíic
materialism.

16
philosophical questions is still rele·ant today has recently been pointed out by
\elburn ,2004,.

In the íirst oí íour lectures gi·en in Berlin in 1914, Steiner ,1991a, characterizes
human thinking in a way which has some points in common with leidegger. One
oí the íirst things he states is that in general human beings seldom really think.
Instead, we are oíten content with rora.. lurthermore, the situation is such that in
order to realize that we do not really think, we must - think. It is e·ident that
thinking íor Steiner is diííerent írom the mental talk` oí our e·eryday liíe, the
major part oí which, ií we are honest, consists oí associations oí words and
memories.

1he capacity íor real thinking` has not always been there in human beings.
According to Steiner it arose around 600 BCL. \e know that at this time the
Presocratic philosophers in ancient Greece took the íirst steps írom v,tbo. to
togo.`. Steiner characterizes the older thinking as a pictoriat thinking, which
corresponds to mythical and imaginati·e conceptions oí the world, whereas the
new thinking was covceptvat or ideational in nature. lowe·er, the e·olutionary
emergence oí a new human ability does not necessarily mean that it is taken up,
used and de·eloped by e·eryone. \hat pre·ents us írom genuine thinking today,
according to Steiner, is that we are stuck in a vovivati.tic ·iew oí thoughts - a
natural consequence oí coníusing thinking with an inner stream oí words, words
being names` oí things.

Most oí philosophy, today as well as at Steiner`s time, is nominalistic in character ,ií
not in name,, belie·ing íirmly in strict analyses and static deíinitions oí
words,concepts. Post-structural and deconstructi·e approaches are relati·ely
recent exceptions in that they aim instead at a destabilization oí meaning and oí
rigid deíinitions. 1here is actually an interesting possibility oí interaction and

dialogue between Steiner`s approach to thinking and the deconstructi·ists, in that
both may be seen as trying to bring tife into thinking. Reíerring to leidegger and
the deconstructi·ist radicalisation oí his later thought, Pattison ,2005, points out
that philosophy always relies on something beyond itselí, something more`
beyond ,ordinary, thought and cognition. lor instance, íor Le·inas the
unknowability oí the Other` íorms the basis oí all ethics ,and hence all
philosophy, since ethics íor Le·inas is the íirst philosophy`,. 1his is in agreement
with Steiner`s ·iew so íar as it recognises something basic but ne·ertheless beyond
oraivar, cognition. 1he diííerence is that íor Steiner this transcendent dimension is
not ab.otvtet, beyond the capacities oí human cognition: human beings ha·e innate
potentials to de·elop their cogniti·e power beyond what is common today. 1hus,
as Pattison remarks,

|t[here is at least a con·ersation to be had between those who see the
transcendence oí philosophy as leading to acts oí unknowing beyond the
limits oí all possible cognition and discourse, and those, like Steiner, who,
at the point where others íind the beginning oí unknowing, claim the
stirrings oí new cogniti·e capacities. ,2005, p. x·,

In our ·iew, the problem with most deconstructi·ist philosophy is that it goes too
íar in the direction oí unknowability and destabilisation oí meaning, tending to
lea·e e·erything in chaotic ambiguity. lor Steiner, real thinking is atire, it is an
intense mental acti·ity. It uses concepts and ideas not in static íorms, but as li·ing
mo·ements. Ne·ertheless, it is also ctear ava preci.e. Lach concept is deíined not by
a íixed structure but as a particular potentiality oí thought mo·ements. As a simple
example Steiner takes the concept oí the triangle. 1his concept encompasses all
triangles in whate·er shape. In thinking the covcept triangle, and not oí a particvtar
triangle, we ha·e to think oí the sides oí the triangle as in constant mo·ement in
relation to each other. 1his is what e·ery mathematician or geometrician must do
intuiti·ely ,consciously or unconsciously, ií she wants her reasoning to be general
and not just about one particular triangle. \et this original intuiti·e experience
18
seems not be accommodated within external philosophy`, as Steiner calls most
academic philosophical systems. Proíessional philosophers ha·e been too intent on
íixing the deíinition oí words into static linguistic structures ,Nominalism,.
Concepts are rarely understood as tirivg e..evce. ,Realism,.

Now, compare this argument to leidegger`s claim that we coníuse beings with
ßeivg and íorget the latter. \e realise that the concept oí Being has to be a li·ing
whole, since it must encompass e·erything that is`, that is erer, tbivg, but not as a
kind oí common denominator` - íor instance as the property to exist` - but as
that which li·ingly and graciously gi·es` existence: as .tetbeia. leidegger`s .tetbeia
as the allowing-to-be` oí e·ery being or thing has a íurther parallel in Steiner`s
·iew on thinking as an acti·ity preceding the subject-object distinction ,Steiner,
1998,. 1be .vb;ect-ob;ect ai.tivctiov cav be ai.corerea ava cov.titvtea ovt, iv ava b, tbiv/ivg.
10


lowe·er, Steiner takes a ·ital step beyond leidegger: he emphasizes the íact that
in our e·eryday state oí consciousness we are ne·er aware oí our thinking actirit,,
we are only aware oí its results, that is, the tbovgbt. that it produces.
11
\e know rbat
we think ,more or less,, but not bor. In e·eryday liíe, we are not conscious oí the
mental acti·ity as such, which gi·es rise to the thoughts we ha·e. Ií you obser·e
your thought processes careíully, you can easily realize this. Consider the exercise
oí thinking diííerent íorms oí the triangle which we brieíly described abo·e. It does
not seem diííicult at all to think these diííerent íorms in a succession, it might be a
bit more diííicult to think them in a quick succession, and it is more diííicult still to
hold all oí them in your consciousness at the same time. But now try to capture the

10
See Grauer ,200¯, íor an interesting comparison between this insight oí Steiner and the
constructi·ist epistemology oí Niklas Luhmann.
11
It may be argued that the parallels pointed out between leidegger and mystical or
contemplati·e traditions, as noted abo·e, implies that he also realized that we ha·e to go beyond
our e·eryday state oí mind to come to real thinking. lowe·er, leidegger did not explicitly
emphasize this in his philosophical texts, it is otber. who ha·e pointed to the similarities. \hereas
íor Steiner the idea oí higher or deeper states oí consciousness is central to all his philosophical
work, íor leidegger it seems to ha·e a more peripheral and contingent signiíicance.
19
thought process that leads írom one concrete íorm oí the triangle to the next. \e
hope you will agree that this task is a pretty much impossible one: the transition
írom one íinished íorm to the other remains in the darkness. \et it is precisely this
transition that is accomplished by means oí thinking as an actirit,. A concrete íorm
oí the triangle is nothing more than a írozen íinished product oí this acti·ity, no
longer an acti·e tbiv/ivg, but only a íixed tbovgbt.
12


1hus it seems impossible to reach the acti·e thinking process within our ordinary
írame oí mind. lowe·er, Steiner claims it i. possible to attain le·els oí intensiíied
awareness, in which the thinking acti·ity itselí becomes the object oí attention.
13

Steiner calls this state oí consciousness an .v.vabve¸v.tava, an exceptional state`.
1his state can be described as an experience oí tbiv/ivg obser·ing itselí coming into
beivg. low can this state be achie·ed· 1he answer to this question is relati·ely
straightíorward: the precondition to achie·ing the consciousness oí the process oí
thinking is a íorm oí meditation exercise. Let us quote here the tocv. cta..icv. oí
Steiner`s ·iew on the subject:

In the ordinary consciousness it is not the thinking itselí which is
experienced, but through the thinking, that which is thought. Now there is
an inner work oí the soul ,German: ´eetevarbeit, which gradually leads one to

12
In his phenomenological reílections on the element oí íinal truth` in the cogito oí Descartes,
i.e., on the experience oí being as related to thinking, Merleau-Ponty ,1992, p. 369íí, claims that
thought must be understood in terms oí that strange power which it possesses oí beivg abeaa of
it.etf, oí launching itselí and being at home e·erywhere, in a word, in terms oí its avtovov,` ,ibid.,
p. 3¯1, our italics,. \e can reíormulate this insight by saying that the hidden-írom-·iew tbiv/ivg
actirit, is that aspect oí human mentation which is always ahead` oí tbovgbt, i.e., the consciously
held idea, notion or representation. lence Merleau-Ponty can somewhat paradoxically maintain
that thought itselí |.[ put|s[ into things what it subsequently íinds in them` ,ibid., p. 3¯1,.
lurthermore, Merleau-Ponty brings out the relation between thinking and being when
he says: \hat I disco·er and recognize through the cogito |.[ is the deep-seated momentum oí
transcendence which is my ·ery being, the simultaneous contact with my own being and with the
world`s being` ,ibid., p 3¯¯,.
13
One might ask: ií this was not possible, how did Merleau-Ponty arri·e at his insights ,cí.
íootnote 12 abo·e,· lor a kind oí answer to this question, see íootnote 15 below. An indication
in the same direction is gi·en by Brown, Ryan & Creswell ,200¯,, who concerning the Buddhist
practice oí mindíulness meditation note that the disentanglement oí consciousness írom
cogniti·e content may allow thought to be used with greater eííecti·eness and precision` ,p. 213,.
20
li·e not in the objects oí thought, but in the acti·ity oí thinking itselí.
,Steiner, 1916,1984, p. 161, our translation,.

\hen one says this today, one is oí course immediately relegated to the esoteric`
bandwagon. It is thereíore important to stress that íor Steiner meditation had
nothing to do with attempting to achie·e some kind oí inner bliss, or the melting
oí the selí in Nir·ana. 1hey were meant to culti·ate certain íorces oí the soul with
a degree oí precision and discipline akin to the precision and discipline oí
mathematical reasoning, in such a way as to be able to strengthen them to the point
where the conscious experience becomes independent oí its physical instrument,
i.e., the brain.

\e discussed earlier certain íacts indicating a high degree oí dependence oí our
mental processes on brain acti·ity. Steiner ne·er denied the existence oí such
dependence. lowe·er, he interpreted it radically diííerently írom modern reducti·e
materialism. le oíten resorted to the metaphor oí the mirror to illustrate the nature
oí this dependence. As it is necessary íor each one oí us to ha·e a mirror in íront
oí us in order to be able to percei·e our íace, so it is necessary íor the human spirit
to ha·e the mirroring apparatus` oí the brain in order to become aware oí itselí
,cí. Steiner, 1984, p. 156í,. \here such a mirror` is lacking, or when it is damaged,
consciousness cannot arise or arises only in a deíicient way. 1his interpretation is
easy to harmonize with the known empirical íacts pointing to the loss oí mental
íunction as a result oí brain injury. \hile reducti·e materialists imagine seeing in
such empirical íacts a coníirmation oí the thesis that the brain produces
consciousness, Steiner sees in them e·idence oí the íact that the brain acts as a kind
oí a mirror íor the spirit oí man. lowe·er, this mirror is not a íixed one, but is
li·ing and changing, and Steiner emphasizes that each act oí consciousness requires
a speciíic preparation oí a speciíic area oí the brain to become the mirroring
apparatus oí this act, hence the known dependence oí conscious acti·ity on
neurophysiological processes in speciíic centres oí the brain, and hence the
21
temporal delay between the onset oí these processes and the onset oí conscious
experience. Neuronal processes are a kind oí colour play e·oked by the sun oí the
rising thought on the clouds oí the brain in preparation íor the proper sunrise oí its
conscious maniíestation: their appearance signals that the mirror oí thought is
being íorged in the brain by the spirit.
14


luman thinking appears to the ordinary experience only in and through the
[human body and soul] organisation. [lowe·er, this organisation] does not
iníluence the essence oí thinking, but it .tep. bac/ when the acti·ity oí
thinking eníolds itselí, it suspends its own acti·ity, it makes the space íree,
and in this íree space there enters the acti·ity oí thinking. It is incumbent
upon the essential element which works in thinking to achie·e two
objecti·es: íirstly, to pv.b bac/ tbe actirit, of tbe bvvav orgavi.atiov, and secondly
to set itselí in its place. ,Steiner, 1998, p. 14¯, our translation and italics,

1he point oí meditation exercises described by Steiner ,1992a, 1989, in great detail
is, as mentioned abo·e, to strengthen the soul íorces in such a way that one
becomes able to maintain consciousness independently oí the mirroring
apparatus` oí the brain. As soon as one is able to do that, one gains not only direct
insight into the reality oí thinking as a li·ing acti·ity, but also into the reality oí the
spiritual world in which we are immersed at e·ery moment oí our li·es, and which
remains imperceptible to our ordinary sensory organs, just as the air is
imperceptible to our eyes.
15



14
1his is also in complete agreement with Merleau-Ponty`s description oí thought as `being
ahead oí itselí` ,abo·e, íootnote 12,.
15
In one lecture Steiner describes the experience reached as a result oí successíul meditations
thus: One`s experience gets wide, one íeels quite concretely: inside oí me there is a point which
goes into the whole world, which is oí the same substance as the whole world. One íeels oneselí
in unity with the whole world |.[. In the moment when one has this experience oí thinking one
íeels no longer bound on the earth, but one íeels oneselí connected to the widths oí the hea·enly
sphere` ,Steiner, 198¯, p. 1¯í, our translation, many similar descriptions could be quoted here,.
Merleau-Ponty`s experience oí the unity oí one`s own being with the being oí the world quoted
abo·e ,íootnote 12,, seems to be a ·ague intuition oí the kind oí experience described by Steiner
in detail in a lecture gi·en some twenty years earlier ,the íirst lrench edition oí Pbevovevotog, of
perceptiov was published 1945,.
22
In order to come to a more immediate experience oí what we are trying to con·ey,
the reader is encouraged to meditate silently on the íollowing sentence íor a íew
minutes: 1biv/ivg cavvot be e·ptaivea b, av,tbivg e·tervat to it.etf becav.e it i. atra,.
tbiv/ivg tbat aoe. tbe e·ptaivivg.

1his sentence is designed so that its thought content points towards the thinking
which produces it. ,1he statement is also in agreement with Steiner`s philosophy oí
knowledge., 1hrough meditation on such a sentence one may come to experience
the diííerence between tbovgbt as the meaning content oí any thinking process, and
tbiv/ivg as the mental acti·ity which produces`, constitutes` or constructs` this
meaning content.

Now tbovgbt may be explained by external íactors, since the meaning content
almost always is about something external to thinking itselí, and this aboutness`,
that thinking always has an object external to itselí, must somehow reílect itselí in
the thought. lowe·er, the sentence is about how tbiv/ivg cannot be explained by
external íactors. 1he thinking acti·ity can only be explained by itselí, that is, by
thinking. Meditation, an inner work oí the soul, is needed in order to e·perievce
thinking ,not thought,. Ií on the basis oí experience írom such inner work we ask
what it means to explain thinking, we will .ee that thinking cannot be explained by
something external to itselí. A non-thinking object or process - íor instance oí a
biochemical or neurophysiologic nature - cannot be the cav.e oí thinking,
something írom which or out oí which thinking acti·ity would arise or emerge as
an effect ,or with which it would be identical, as in reducti·e materialism,. On the
contrary, such an explanation is the re.vtt oí thinking acti·ity, not the cause oí it.

V
So íar our considerations ha·e been íocused on the indi·idual human being as the
locus where genuine thinking takes place. 1his may seem contrary to the social
23
constructi·ist,-ionist perspecti·es on education and learning so pre·alent today,
but it does not mean that our point oí ·iew lacks social signiíicance. Our stance can
be illuminated by that oí Soeííner ,2003,, who clearly points to the signiíicance oí
the indi·idual íor social liíe. 1he indi·idual, according to Soeííner, is
simultaneously the tivit as well as the fovvaatiov oí society. In contrast to abstract
entities like `group`, `society`, `state` etc the indi·idual is the only concrete and
empirically delimited element oí the social. 1he indi·idual is both a part and an
oppo.ite oí society. By being in opposition to the social ava at the same time
participating in it, the indi·idual has the possibility to put her own experiences and
con·ictions against collecti·e norms and conceptions. 1he indi·idual is a ´tör.tette, a
place oí disturbance`, through which society gets a structural correcti·e íor testing
out common, abstract constructions. In the end, and somewhat paradoxically, it is
this potential a-sociality oí the indi·idual that is the basis íor a humane society. All
democratic societies li·e oí this tension between the potential a-sociality oí the
indi·idual and the sociality oí society. \ith reíerence to lannah Arendt, Soeííner
notes that the íew who in Nazi-Germany acted against the regime had nothing to
trust but their own judgment - that is, their own thinking. According to Soeííner,
the indi·idual as the ´tör.tette oí all more or less rational societies is probably the
only utopia that has as much potential reality that it is worth working íor. Such
work is in line with the strong tendency towards indi·idualisation in modern
societies. 1hereíore, Soeííner maintains, subjecti·e-idealistic` discourses seem
particularly realistic in modern, democratic societies. Our argument in this paper is
probably taken as a ·ariety oí such subjecti·e idealism`, íocusing on indi·idual
consciousness as the arena on which genuine thinking takes place. lowe·er, the
subjecti·ity in question is neither egotistic nor narcissistic, and the idealism is not a
monism denying the reality oí the body and material things ,we need the
body,brain to become conscious oí our thoughts,.

VI
24
At the outset oí this paper we reíerred to concerns oí some educationists about
decreasing thinking abilities among today`s children and youth. Ií the obser·ations
oí lealy ,1990, and her teacher colleagues are true, that is, ií children today are
showing decreasing abilities to think, we may need to consider how this can be
remedied by pedagogical means. But e·en ií lealy`s obser·ations are not true, ií
things are not worse in this respect today than in earlier times, it is still important to
consider possibilities oí impro·ing the de·elopment oí thinking capacities in our
schools.

It may be argued that many oí the deíiciencies in thinking that lealy points to are
to do with instrumental thinking ,lack oí words, íaltering comprehension, lack oí
coherence, lack oí ability to express oneselí in written íorm etc, and vot the kind oí
thinking we ha·e discussed in this paper - that is, meditati·e thinking, listening to
the word oí Being`. lowe·er, lealy also points to the diííiculties students ha·e
with listening and paying attention. 1he íaltering comprehension oí longer and
more complex texts may also ha·e to do with not being able to read between the
lines` or get an intuiti·e understanding oí the whole, abilities which are closely
related to listening` and meditati·e thinking.

In this context it is interesting to note that both leidegger and Steiner understood
thinking to be an acti·ity expressing itselí in many íorms, not only in the kind oí
sublime meditations described in the pre·ious sections. lere it is worth quoting
leidegger at length:

\e are trying to learn thinking. Perhaps thinking, too, is just something like
building a cabinet. At any rate, it is a craít, a handicraít`, and thereíore has
a special relation to the hand. |.[
But the craít oí the hand is richer than we commonly imagine. 1he
hand does not only grasp and catch, or push and pull. 1he hand reaches
and extends, recei·es and welcomes - and not just things: the hand extends
itselí and recei·es its own welcome in the hands oí others. 1he hand holds.
1he hand carries. 1he hand designs and signs, presumably because man is a
25
sign. 1wo hands íold into one, a gesture meant to carry man into the great
oneness. 1he hand is all this, and this is the true handicraít. |.[ írer,
votiov of tbe bava iv erer, ove of it. ror/. carrie. it.etf tbrovgb tbe etevevt of tbiv/ivg,
e·ery bearing oí the hand bears itselí in that element. .tt tbe ror/ of tbe bava
i. rootea iv tbiv/ivg. ,19¯¯b, p. 356-35¯, our italics,

1he actions oí the hand described in this quote extend írom the practical work oí
pushing and pulling, to the social gesture oí greeting and welcoming, to the spiritual
gesture oí prayer. And thinking is the common element in all these actions.
16
In a
similar ·ein, Steiner pointed out that although the human soul liíe can be roughly
diííerentiated into thinking, íeeling and willing, these three íunctions always work
together, they are not separate mental compartments but intertwined processes.
1here is willing in thinking, thinking in willing, and íeeling in-between both. ,\ill
íor Steiner is that which actually makes the hand mo·e, whereas thinking is guiding
the mo·ement, making it more or less intentional,. lrom this it can be concluded
that when we talk oí thinking in the sense oí leidegger and Steiner, we do not only
reíer to esoteric acti·ities like meditation or listening to the word oí Being`. 1hese
acti·ities are more like especially intensiíied culti·ations oí that element oí
thinking` which is present in almost all human actions.

1urning now to more practical consequences oí the ·iews presented in this paper,
it is interesting to note that some present educational thinkers ha·e already put
íorward ideas and measures in line with what we are aíter. One example is that oí
Caranía ,2006,, who suggests that the problem oí education is that it íails to teach
the signiíicance oí silence and oí listening. According to Caranía, the present one-
sided íocus on discourse` and critical thinking` is contra-producti·e, because
silent listening is the ·ery source oí discourse and genuine ,critical, thinking:


16
leidegger`s philosophical poetics about the hand has recently been ,at least partly, illustrated
empirically, see Broaders, \agner Cook, Mitchell, & Goldin-Meadow ,200¯, who report a study
showing that encouraging children to make hand gestures while sol·ing mathematical problems
brings out their implicit knowledge and íacilitates new learning. See also Goldin-Meadow ,2005,.
26
Our íailure to teach that there is more` to knowledge than what we can
tell` is perhaps our greatest shortcoming as educators. 1he problem oí
education is a direct result oí our íailure to listen, to teach silence. 1o be
alone and to listen should ha·e priority o·er discourse and critical thinking.
,Caranía, 2006, p. 98,

lor leidegger genuine thinking arises as an echo` to the silent speech oí Being,
heard and harkened to in the Ceta..evbeit oí meditation. Silence and listening is
necessary in order íor us to hear this speech. 1hey are essential aspects oí any
meditati·e practice, and they are not incompatible with e·eryday school work. A
practical illustration is gi·en by lisher ,2006,, who tells the story oí how he used to
start his lessons with a íew minutes exercise in silent listening. 1his simple action
seemed to ha·e a positi·e eííect on an otherwise unruly class oí youngsters. 1he
ability to `listen with the spirit` is also oí use to adults, íor instance in team work,
as discussed by Moss and Barnes ,2008, and Le·ine ,1994,. Le·ine, íurthermore,
reíers to both leidegger and Steiner.

It may also be necessary to culti·ate a certain ability to be alone with oneselí. Being
alone is a íirst step towards being all one`. It opens up a space in which thinking
can deepen and the echo oí Being`s word can be heard. Nietzsche at one point
complained:

I ha·e gradually seen the light as to the most uni·ersal deíiciency in our
kind oí culti·ation and education: no one learns, no one stri·es aíter, no
one teaches - tbe evavravce of .otitvae. ,199¯, p. 188,

Being a highly creati·e thinker, Nietzsche had probably some personal experience
oí the importance oí being alone with oneselí.

lowe·er, ií Steiner`s interpretation oí the nature oí thinking as a .piritvat acti·ity in
the most concrete and radical sense oí this word is true, the weakening oí the
thinking powers seemingly obser·ed among contemporary children and young

people may ha·e deeper roots than the ones listed by lealy ,electronic media,
hectic liíe styles, unstable íamily relations, en·ironmental poisons as well as the
instructional íorms employed by schools,. It may ·ery well be that the dissipation
oí these powers has something to do with the proíoundly materialistic spirit oí
contemporary cultural liíe and consequently oí much oí contemporary educational
institutions. Ií we educate in a írame oí mind which reduces the thinking acti·ity oí
human beings to a product oí their brains, we may in íact be undermining the
possibility oí íulíilling our wish to impro·e the thinking abilities oí our children.
1hus the question oí appropriate culti·ation oí such abilities ceases to be merely a
question oí the appropriate methods, it becomes a question oí the epistemological
and ontological írameworks íor education. 1his question - ií one wants to make a
serious account oí it - goes ·ery deep. \e li·e in a culture in which many religious
people are coníronted with the necessity oí squaring their personal con·ictions
with the current scientiíic opinion`, which oíten contradicts and sometimes is
e·en hostile to any conceptions oí a real spiritual world, see íor instance Dawkins
,2006,. It seems ob·ious that science wields an unprecedented power in
contemporary ,\estern, culture, comparable to that oí the church in medie·al
times ,cí. \ilson, 1994,.

1hus, researchers and scholars who preser·e
conceptions oí a spiritual reality are oíten put into to a kind oí inner schizophrenia:
on the one hand they want to culti·ate their spiritual point oí ·iew, on the other
hand they íeel compelled to accept an essentially materialistic world ontology, on
pain oí being decreed creationists` or worse. \et the heated conílicts between
Darwin and the Bible ha·e perhaps been merely a prelude: as Goldston ,2008,


Dawkins ,2006, certainly seems to hold the opposite ·iew, citing many contemporary examples
where religious belieís are, according to him, gi·en undue respect. And in some cases we agree, as
when US police oííicers threaten a man ií he demonstrates against the ·isit oí a Christian
healer` in his home town ,pro·ided the story is true - Dawkins` source, a book called .tbei.t
|virer.e, seems not exactly a source oí neutral íacts,. lowe·er, Dawkins` criticism is directed
towards all conceptions oí the supernatural`, he does not consider the new de·elopments oí
spirituality and more open íorms oí religiosity that ha·e taken place in latter decades ,see íor
instance Lynch, 200¯,. 1he new spirituality is much less dogmatic and sometimes e·en secular`
in character. As an example, the Dalai Lama talks about a secular spirituality, i.e. a spirituality
that is simultaneously committed to experience ,including meditati·e experience, and reason,
while being embedded in what he terms secular ethics`` ,Zajonc, 2006a, p. 241,.
28
notes, the two íields oí genetics and neuroscience are presently `·erging on
drawing the ultimate materialist picture oí human nature - humans as nothing
more than proteins and electrical impulses` ,p. 1¯,.

1o our best knowledge, oí all the alternati·e` conceptions to materialistic
scientism it is only in the spiritual science or anthroposophy oí Rudolí Steiner that
one íinds an interpretation oí the world which in its research methods íulíils the
requirements oí the stringency oí science ,cí. Majorek, 2002,, and yet persistently
rejects the materialistic interpretation oí the results oí modern scientiíic research
and instead unashamedly - so to say - paints a basically spiritual picture oí the
uni·erse.

It is well known that Rudolí Steiner íounded an educational system` known today
under the label Steiner \aldorí` or Steiner` schools.
18
In his educational ideas he
paid much attention to the question oí the right de·elopment oí the thinking
powers oí children. Steiner`s non-materialistic, spiritual íramework is oí course one
oí the cornerstones oí his pedagogical ideas. 1hus in Rudolí Steiner schools pupils
are not in their chemistry, physics, and particularly biology lessons exposed to
question-begging ,because ultimately grounded in metaphysical preconceptions, not
scientiíic íacts, claims, images and metaphors, such as that the uni·erse is at
bottom composed oí atoms ,or other smallest` subatomic particles,elements,,
and oí purely physical íorces, or that thoughts and generally all so-called mental
phenomena are ,nothing but, products oí brain acti·ity, that the brain is ,nothing
but, a complicated computer, that man is ,nothing but, a higher animal and a
product oí blind e·olutionary íorces, one oí the most potent oí which is the
struggle íor sur·i·al. As pointed out abo·e, such claims may yet turn out to be not
only biased, but e·en poisons íor a growing mind in its struggle to de·elop deeper
thinking powers. It also undermines the de·elopment oí trust and coníidence in

18
Steiner himselí did not like to use the term `system` about his educational ideas, probably
because it has a dead and static character. lis ideas are rather like a li·ing, organic whole.
29
one`s own thinking power, that it can actually understand the reality oí the world
,cí. Schieren, 2008,.

But apart írom a general atmosphere conduci·e to the culti·ation oí spiritual liíe
Rudolí Steiner also introduced a number oí speciíic educational procedures which
can íacilitate the de·elopment oí thinking skills. L·en though the conscious
culti·ation oí the inner meditati·e acti·ity described abo·e, leading to the insight
into the reality oí the li·ing thinking process, properly belongs to adult liíe it was
Steiner`s con·iction that it can and e·en needs to be prepared íor in childhood
through proper education ,cí. Oberski, 2006,. Let us illustrate this point by means
oí some concrete examples.

In lower classes oí the Rudolí Steiner School pupils are taught the so-called lorm
Drawing which consists in drawing sometimes ·ery complex colouríul patterns
which are íirst drawn on the blackboard by the teacher. In the painting lessons oí
the lower classes the medium used are water-colours with the emphasis on the íree
play oí colour rather than íixed íorm. Both oí these íorms oí aesthetic acti·ities
seem to be conduci·e to íreeing the growing child írom excessi·e dependence on
íixed patterns and íorms, preparing it instead íor dealing with the ílowing and
extremely complex reality characteristic oí all li·ing beings. 1hey stand in sharp
contrast to the colouring in oí prearranged patterns or line drawings, which are not
uncommon occupations in lower classes oí some state schools - at least in
Switzerland.

1he general emphasis gi·en to the arts, and especially to music, in Steiner \aldorí
schools seems also to enhance the ability to listen to the world`, rather than
impose oneselí onto it, which is - as pointed out abo·e - a necessary prerequisite
oí de·eloping the thinking ability in the deeper sense discussed in this paper. A
speciíically Steiner school art íorm is the art oí mo·ement called Lurythmy,
30
inaugurated by Steiner in 1913 as a períorming art, and later adapted íor school use
,Steiner & Usher, 200¯,. Lurythmy combines a ·ery precise ·ocabulary` or
alphabet` oí gestures íor speciíic sounds as well as tones and inter·als, with a
practically unlimited scope íor indi·idual creati·ity and expression in interpreting
speciíic poems or music pieces, thus laying íoundations íor a kind oí instincti·e,
sensori-motoric understanding oí regularity and lawíulness in the ílow oí liíe.
19


Another aspect oí Steiner education which seems to be conduci·e to strengthening
the thought íorces is Steiner`s repeated insistence on the need íor cbaracteri.atiov
rather than deíinition when introducing new concepts and on maintaining concepts
pliable in the course oí educating the child, so that they can grow with it`. Ií a
deíinition is gi·en at the start oí the learning process, thinking is in a way already
íixed and limited by the deíinition. Steiner compares it to putting ice-glo·es` on
the hands oí the child ,as ií íreezing the íorces oí thinking, ,Steiner, 1991b,. Steiner
described this need íor characterisation and li·ing concepts` in his íirst course íor
the íuture teachers oí the íirst Steiner \aldorí school in Stuttgart in August 1919
,cí. Steiner 1992b, p. 133-145, especially p. 139í,. le stressed that one comes to an
adequate understanding oí phenomena not through íixing one`s ideas about it early
in the cogniti·e process by means oí a deíinition, but by considering ·arious
aspects oí a phenomenon írom as many as possible points oí ·iew, and coming to
a riper grasp oí it only at the end oí such process. In doing this Steiner applied in
practice the theoretical ad·ice gi·en some 150 years earlier by Kant, who in his
Critiqve of Pvre Rea.ov stated that:

In philosophy a deíinition |.[ should close rather than begin the work.
|Because[ the concept oí a thing, in the way it is initially gi·en, can contain
many dark ideas which we omit in the explication oí that concept e·en
though we take account oí them in the e·eryday usage oí it. 1hereíore the
thoroughness oí my analysis oí a concept is always dubious, and can be
made probably certain, but ne·er absolutely certain, only through

19
Cí. íootnote 16 abo·e.
31
appropriate examples. In place oí the expression deíinition` I would
rather use that oí exposition, which is more cautious |.[. ,Kant, 1995,
B¯5¯-¯59, our translation,

linally, one íurther element oí Steiner \aldorí education which should be
mentioned in the present context is the methodical principle used in teaching
natural sciences at Steiner \aldorí schools. 1his consists in starting the teaching oí
any natural phenomenon with pure ob.erratiov., e.g. oí a plant, or oí an experiment,
e.g. the reíraction oí light in passing a prism, consciously holding back any
theorizing about it. 1his is íollowed by as careíul as possible recov.trvctivg or
recottectivg the obser·ed phenomena without them being physically present, íollowed
by - on the íollowing day - the covceptvati¸atiov oí that which was obser·ed ,cí.
Steiner, 1986, p. 46-48,. Attenti·e dwelling on the obser·ations oí the senses
enhances the potential oí immediate experience to break through the armour oí
preíormed conceptions, i.e. oí ready-made thoughts. 1he recollection oí the
obser·ations made earlier stimulates penetration oí what was experienced by acti·e
thinking ,Schieren, 2008,. 1his approach is a ·ery good exercise in the discipline oí
allowing phenomena to speak íor themsel·es, rather than imposing a network oí
pre-established concepts on them ,cí. Dahlin, 2001,. It allows the children`s
judgement to mature without jumping to conclusions`. It teaches open-
mindedness, ílexibility, truthíulness, and exactitude in dealing with phenomena oí
nature. It also takes ad·antage oí the beneíicial iníluence oí sleep on the learning
process, an iníluence which was repeatedly stressed by Steiner as early as 1919
,1980, p. 95-152, passim, and which has recently been coníirmed by
neurobiologists in a number oí studies ,lairston & Knight, 2004, luber, Ghilardi,
Massimini & 1ononi, 2004, \oo, lu, Gujar, Jolesz, & \alker, 200¯,.

Visitors to Steiner \aldorí schools and obser·ers oí Steiner \aldorí teaching are
oíten struck by the seemingly authoritarian way the teachers guide the children`s
acti·ities and decide the content oí lessons. 1hey wonder how such pedagogical
32
methods can de·elop íreedom and autonomy oí thinking, which are the espoused
goals oí Steiner \aldorí education. lere one must íirst distinguish between being
authoritarian and being an authority, which is not the same thing. In Steiner
\aldorí schools teachers are considered authorities in the lower grades, but they
are not expected to be authoritarian. Secondly, it must be noted that e·en though
there is a strong guidance as to what to ao, there is actually íreedom íor the children
to use their ivagivatiov and to reftect on what they experience, íor instance while
hearing the teacher tell a story, copying something írom the blackboard, or
obser·ing a plant. In mathematics, children`s imaginati·e thinking is stimulated by
problems such as 10 ~ ·`, which gi·es the possibility oí an iníinite ·ariety oí
correct answers, as opposed to more con·entional problems like 6 - 4 ~ ·`,
which has only one answer and gi·es no space íor imagination. In writing, a task
like low is a person that is like an oak·` can be gi·en, again prompting the child`s
creati·e imagination. 1asks like these gi·e children íreedom to use their own
thinking in relation to a gi·en topic, instead oí limiting their mental eííorts to
íinding the one and only correct answer ,cí. Garrido Mendoza, 2008,. Oí course,
the kind oí thinking intended here íor the children is not on the same le·el as that
oí the meditati·e thinking described by leidegger, or by Steiner himselí in other
parts oí his work, reíerred to abo·e. But it is a preparation íor this kind oí thinking
in that it tries to de·elop the ability to be both ali·e and clear in one`s thinking
acti·ity.

1hus, e·en though the learning acti·ities are to a large extent guided by the
teachers, Steiner \aldorí pupils are oíten gi·en íreedom in their thought-liíe and
many possibilities to use their imagination. 1he teaching in the lower grades directs
itselí primarily to the will ,bodily acti·ity, and the íeeling,imagination, and only
indirectly to abstract cognition, the latter is, so to say, leít at peace. 1his kind oí
pedagogy has a certain aííinity with the íindings oí recent brain research: in order
33
íor learning experiences to maniíest as new structures in the brain, pb,.icat actirit,
and evotiov are essential, mere abstract cognition is not enough ,lüther, 2006,.

VII
\hether it is true or not that the thinking abilities oí young people today are
decreasing, the question oí what is thinking` is oí basic signiíicance to education
as well as to philosophy. In this paper we ha·e argued íor a spiritualistic
understanding oí thinking, drawing upon Steiner and leidegger. \e ha·e also
pointed to some consequences that such an understanding oí thinking could ha·e
íor pedagogy and education. 1he íirst step, howe·er, must be íor v., teachers and
researchers, to realise the necessity oí learning to think ovr.etre.. In this connection
it is worthwhile noting a growing interest, at least in the USA, to apply
contemplati·e practices in education, íor teachers as well as íor students.
20
In 2006,
1eacber. Cottege Recora e·en de·oted a whole issue to the theme oí contemplation in
education. In one oí the papers Zajonc ,2006b, p. 1¯56, points out that the
academy has nothing to íear írom contemplati·e inquiry` because such inquiry is
in some measure already part oí a co·ert curriculum that educates íor disco·ery,
creati·ity, and social conscience`. ,lowe·er, the measure oí this co·ert
curriculum` probably ·aries a lot between subjects and disciplines.,

Contemplati·e practice is a way to learn to think, i.e., to learn to tire cov.ciov.t, in the
actirit, oí thinking, not only in thoughts. 1his leads to openness to Being,
o·ercoming the íorgetíulness oí Being that leidegger lamented. On a more
proíane le·el, it probably also leads to more clear and exact thoughts ,but not
necessarily more cle·er ones,. \e are happy ií this paper has contributed
something in this direction.


20
Cí. http:,,www.mindíuleducation.org,
34
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