, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 537-554
Date: 28 Jul 2009

On the Path Towards Thinking: Learning from Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Steiner

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Abstract

This paper is a philosophical study of the nature of thinking based on the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Steiner. For Heidegger, the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers exemplified genuine thinking, appreciating the meaning of Being. But this kind of philosophy was soon replaced by the onto-theological approach, in which Being was reductively objectified, and the question of the meaning of Being was forgotten. Hence, according to Heidegger, we still have to learn to think. Commentators on Heidegger point to the similarities between his approach to thinking and that of various mystical teachings, such as those of Meister Eckhart or Zen Buddhism. Another less well known philosopher who devoted himself to this question was Rudolf Steiner. Like Heidegger, Steiner claims that we do not know what it means to really think. Steiner was however more outspoken in insisting that only through a kind of meditative practice can we directly experience the nature of thinking. Present day materialistic explanations of thinking as caused by the brain stand in clear opposition to his spiritual conception of thinking. Drawing upon Heidegger (somewhat) and Steiner (mostly) I argue against the materialistic understanding of thinking as jumping to unwarranted conclusions. The paper ends with describing some of the elements of Steiner Waldorf education which are intended to promote the development of living, creative thinking.