From AnthroWiki

Realism (from the Latinres "thing, object") is one of the 12 basic worldviews spoken of by Rudolf Steiner and represents the epistemological position that there is a reality that exists independently and outside of human consciousness. In direct contrast to this is the epistemological position of idealism. In the zodiac, according to Rudolf Steiner, realism corresponds to the constellation Libra - the only sign of the zodiac that is a purely mechanical instrument.

„There can be people who say: Yes, whether there is only matter or only spirit in the world of truth, I cannot know anything special about that; the human faculty of knowledge cannot relate to that at all. The only thing that is clear is that there is a world around us that is expanding. Whether it is based on what the chemists, the physicists, when they become materialists, call the atoms of matter, I do not know. But I recognise the world that is spread out around me; I see it, I can think about it. Whether there is still a spirit underlying it or not, I have no particular reason to assume anything about it. I stick to what is spread out around me. - Such people can be called realists, with a slightly different meaning of the word than I used before, and their world view can be called realism.“ (Lit.:GA 151, p. 36)

Scientific realism

Scientific realism also assumes that there is a reality that exists independently of human thought and that the confirmation of a scientific theory allows the reasonable assumption that this reality also exists objectively in the form described by the theory.

An opposing position to this is instrumentalism, which sees in scientific theories only tools that represent reality as a model in order to be able to deal with it rationally.

Universals realism

In philosophy, realism as universals realism was also one of the positions advocated in the medieval universals controversy, which culminated in scholasticism. The realists, such as Thomas Aquinas, assumed that general concepts or universals were based on a concrete objective spiritual reality. Plato had already taken this standpoint in his theory of ideas. Thomas distinguished between

  • Universals, which are formed in divine reason and exist before individual things (universalia ante rem),
  • universals that exist as generalities in the individual things themselves (universalia in re),
  • universals that exist as concepts in the mind of man, that is, after things (universalia post rem).

The opposite position was held by the nominalists, according to whom the universal concepts are only subjective mental constructs of man.


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.