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Paper presentation at the International Steiner Symposium 2021. The Actuality of Rudolf Steiner: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Steiner in the 21st Century.

Understanding what thinking is or can be is pertinent as technologies of virtual reality and artificial intelligence dissolve our boundaries of both sense perception and thoughts. Developing an attention to thinking gains relevance as we are bombarded from all sides by an exponential expansion of information due to technological innovation.

Phenomenology as a branch of philosophy concerned with the study of experience that has developed in a Western context from the early 20th century offers compelling insights and methods for understanding thinking. While not being fully recognized within this academic field, I suggest that Rudolf Steiner’s treatment of thinking as explicated in Philosophy of Freedom can help the value of phenomenology to be realized as a compelling way of beholding ourselves in the world; as opposed to more technical and theoretical “philosophical” conceptualizations.

In the paper, I compare Rudolf Steiner’s work with that of Edmund Husserl, academically acclaimed as a founder of phenomenology, by paying attention to Husserl’s method of the “phenomenological reduction” which is a technique of moving beyond preconceptions of the experienced. Steiner’s work shares key insights with Husserl and furthers others, by creating a different kind of agency within the thinking practitioner compared with Husserl. In the grasping of and development with one’s own unique method of thinking as part of what Steiner defines as freedom, I contend that the sense of agency can grow into a self-identification that creates a new form of subjectivity, one that can claim a personal objectivity. In recognizing our position as mediators between the object of our attention and the concepts we apply to it, we can gain freedom through the realization of our position as a co-creator of our reality. Ultimately, the development of this kind of awareness is better represented as an artistic activity rather than an exclusively logical one, which marks an important difference in the approach of Steiner and Husserl, which might also explain why Steiner has not been properly brought into discussion on phenomenology up to now.

Shaunaq Puri:

Combining interests in political science and feminism, Shaunaq’s Bachelor of Arts was completed in integral education at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Before that, he studied poetry and storytelling at Emerson college in the UK, where he was introduced to the work of Rudolf Steiner. Shaunaq’s Masters Degree in Phenomenology and Philosophy of the Mind was completed at the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen. His research interests are in meditation and phenomenology as well as imagination and its expression.