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Anthroposophy and Science

An Introduction

Peter Heusser

This book is the first thorough introduction into the scientific basis of anthroposophy and anthroposophical medicine in the context of academic science. On a sound epistemological basis and in the context of current debates it analyses basic concepts of physics, chemistry, genetics, morphogenesis, biology, neurobiology, psychology, and philosophy of mind, with an emphasis on the problems of life, mind-body interactions, and free will. The result is a non-reductionistic anthropology acknowledging the emergent properties of body, life, soul, and spirit as equally real entities. This concurs with the basic concepts of anthroposophy and anthroposophical medicine, the justification of which is discussed in relation to the history and methodology of science as well as evidence based medicine.
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3 Science and ontological idealism in physics and chemistry

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3  Science and ontological idealism in physics and chemistry

3.1  Empirical ontological idealism instead of reductionism

For the purpose of scientific explanation, the physical and chemical view of scientific subjects adopted since the middle of the 19th century has led to the reduction of the actually observed chemical, biological and psychological phenomena to their underlying smallest physical elements which are no longer perceptible. This is what is known as the reductionist method of modern science which Emil Du Bois-Reymond formulated in his famous lecture “Über die Grenzen des Naturerkennens” (On the limits of our understanding of nature) in the following words: “Understanding nature […] means to attribute the changes in the physical world to movements of atoms which are caused by nuclear forces independent of time, or to break down the processes of nature into the mechanics of atoms”. He follows this with a psychological reason for this process: “It is a well-known psychological fact that, where such a separation is successful, our need for an explanation feels satisfied for the time being. The theorems of mechanics can be described mathematically and contain the same apodictic certainty as the theorems of mathematics” (Du Bois-Reymond, 1882, 10). A similar description of the task of science is given by Helmholtz in his essay “Über Goethes naturwissenschaftliche Arbeiten” (On Goethe’s Scientific Researches) published in 1853 (von Helmholtz, 1995, 12–13):

For a natural phenomenon is not considered in physical science to be fully explained...

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