Chronicles

CHRONICLE 1, December 3th 2018

Philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy

by Oliver Lee

In September I received a one-year scholarship from Axel Margaret Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse for a philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy.
In the past century, anthroposophy has been one of the most well-known and influential alternative spiritual movements. There are worldwide over one thousand Waldorf schools, nearly two thousand kindergartens, and some six hundred social therapy facilities working in accordance with ideas from the anthroposophical worldview. Furthermore, ideas from anthroposophy have influenced and inspired ecological farming, alternative medicine, religion, the arts and architecture leading for example to the method of biodynamic farming or the foundation of Christengemeinschaft.

Anthroposophy does not regard itself as a religion or religious world-view. Steiner often emphasizes that the claims made in his world-view are based on a method close to the methods of natural science. This claim is for example reflected in the subtitle Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science of his foundational book The Philosophy of Freedom. Nevertheless, many features such as the distinction between the physical body, an etherical body, an astral body, and the "I", the use of the concepts of reincarnation and karma, meditation practices, implicit recommendations related to the way of living, or Steiner's esoteric teachings prompt associations of a supernaturalistic or a religious world-view. Given the clear and massive impact of anthroposophy on modern societies mainly in the Western hemisphere, but also elsewhere, a philosophical analysis including a constructive dialogue of the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of anthroposophy is well motivated. In recent years it has also been suggested to widen the scope of philosophy of religion which often has been restricted to the Christian tradition.

The aim of this project is to identify major epistemological and metaphysical claims within anthroposophy, to identify how Steiner originally argued for and justified these claims, to analyze and critically asses them, and also to attempt to engage in a constructive dialogue between contemporary academic philosophy of religion and anthroposophy.
At present, an article, which identifies and analyses ideas about reincarnation and karma within anthroposophy has been submitted for peer-review. Studying the epistemological approach in the early philosophical works by Steiner and the credibility, plausibility, and epistemological status of the results of Steiner's esoteric path of knowledge will be the next step in this philosophical analysis.