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The Riddles of Philosophy

Presented in an Outline of Its History (CW 18)

Rudolf Steiner Introduction by Fritz Koelln

508 pp.  
5 1/2" x 8 1/2"



Published:  August 2009


From the introduction by Fritz C. A. Koelln:

"Rudolf Steiner's Riddles of Philosophy: Presented in an Outline of Its History is not a history of philosophy in the usual sense of the word. It does not give a history of the philosophical systems, nor does it present a number of philosophical problems historically. Its real concern touches on something deeper than this, on riddles rather than problems. Philosophical concepts, systems and problems are, to be sure, to be dealt with in this book. But it is not their history that is to be described here. Where they are discussed they become symptoms rather than the objects of the search. The search itself wants to reveal a process that is overlooked in the usual history of philosophy. It is the mysterious process in which philosophical thinking appears in human history. Philosophical thinking as it is here meant is known only in Western civilization. Oriental philosophy has its origin in a different kind of consciousness, and it is not to be considered in this book.

"What is new here is the treatment of the history of philosophic thinking as a manifestation of the evolution of human consciousness. Such a treatment requires a fine sense of observation. Not merely the thoughts must be observed, but behind them the thinking in which they appear.

"To follow Steiner in his subtle description of the process of the metamorphosis of this thinking in the history of philosophy we should remember he sees the human consciousness in an evolution. It has not always been what it is now, and what it is now it will not be in the future. This is a fundamental conception of Anthroposophy."

  • “Whoever wants to view the history of human thought development from a fruitful point of view must be able to admire the greatness of an idea in one age, and yet be capable of producing the same enthusiasm in watching this idea as it reveals its shortcoming in a later period. He must also be able to accept the thought that the mode of thinking to which he himself adheres will be replaced in the future by an entirely different one. This thought must not divert him from recognizing fully the ‘truth’ of the view that he has conquered for himself. The disposition of mind that is inclined to believe that thoughts of an earlier time have been disposed of as imperfect by the ‘perfect’ ones of the present age, is of no help for understanding the philosophical evolution of mankind....

  • “It seems to me that it is only then possible to gain a tenable attitude toward the riddles of philosophy, fruitful for life at the present time, if one knows the forces that dominated the ages of the past. In the history of thought, more than in any other branch of historical reflection, it is necessary to let the present grow out of the past. For in the comprehension of those ideas that satisfy the demand of the present, we have the foundation for the insight that spreads the right light over the past. The thinker who is incapable of obtaining a philosophical viewpoint that is adequate to the dominating impulses of his own age will also be unable to discover the significance of the intellectual life of the past.” —Rudolf Steiner (“Preface to the 1918 Edition”)

The Chadwick Edition editor, Thomas O’Keefe, describes the book:

  • “The Riddles of Philosophy could be seen as a spiritual–scientific attempt to map the history of philosophy. In it, Rudolf Steiner approaches the various streams of thought not on the basis of an individual treatment of the canonical thinkers, but rather through the lens of the archetypal qualities of thought and feeling underlying the worldviews of these thinkers, which can be seen to fall under certain categories. Rudolf Steiner identifies four epochs of thought, whose differences are ‘as distinct as the differences between species in a kingdom of nature.’...

    “So here we have two fundamental elements of the great philosophical endeavor: On one hand, the history of philosophy is the revelation of ‘objective spiritual impulses’ holding sway ‘under the surface of external history’—that is, something objective coming to expression through individual human beings. On the other hand, it is the expression of ‘what the human personality can fashion out of itself by unfolding its own archetypal forces’—that is, something ‘subjective,’ so to speak, and fundamentally rooted in the essence of the human personality.”



  • Introduction by Prof. Fritz Koelln
  • Preface to the 1923 Edition
  • Preface to the 1918 Edition
  • Preface to the 1914 Edition
  • PART I
    1. Guiding Thoughts on the Method of Presentation
    2. The World Conception of the Greek Thinkers
    3. Thought Life from the Beginning of the Christian Era to John Scotus Erigena
    4. The World Conceptions of the Middle Ages
    5. The World Conceptions of the Modern Age of Thought Evolution
    6. The Age of Kant and Goethe
    7. The Classics of World and Life Conception
    8. Reactionary World Conceptions
    9. The Radical World Conceptions
    1. The Struggle Over the Spirit
    2. Darwinism and World Conception
    3. The World as Illusion
    4. Echoes of the Kantian Mode of Conception
    5. World Conceptions of Scientific Factuality
    6. Modern Idealistic World Conceptions
    7. Modern Man and His World Conception
    8. A Brief Outline of an Approach to Anthroposophy
  • Alphabetical Index

The Riddles of Philosophy
is a translation of Die Rätsel der Philosophie in ihrer Geschichte als Umriß dargestellt (CW 18).

Related Titles

  • The Redemption of Thinking : A Study in the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (CW 74)
  • Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts : Anthroposophy as a Path of Knowledge: The Michael Mystery (CW 26)
  • The Language of the Consciousness Soul : A Guide to Rudolf Steiner’s “Leading Thoughts”
  • The Riddles of Philosophy : Presented in an Outline of Its History (2 Volumes, CW 18)

    Related Titles by Subject:

    Anthroposophy: General and Esoteric: General