Interview with Frederick Amrine, author of Kicking Away the Ladder March 26 2019
We asked Fred Amrine, author of the newest release from Waldorf Publications, Kicking Away the Ladder, the Philosophical Roots of Waldorf Education, why he wrote his book and why its content is so important.
Fred Amrine: It’s very important for people to understand the roots of Waldorf education in German idealism. German idealism was, in fact, Steiner’s first choice as a vehicle and a language in which to put forth Anthroposophy. For a variety of reasons, this didn’t work out, mostly because of the strongly materialistic backlash that took place in the intervening years between the flowering of idealism and Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom. German idealism wasn’t yet enough of a living philosophical stream. I also thought it was valuable because, although these thinkers are well enough known in the German-speaking world, they’re sadly neglected in the English-speaking world.
Moreover, there was another interest that motivated me, one that isn’t really introductory at all. It comes out especially in the last essay, “Rudolf Steiner’s late philosophy.” It has to do with Steiner’s attempt ultimately to get beyond philosophy as such. I also wanted to say certain things that are very difficult about Steiner’s relationships to Kant and Nietzsche.
Finally, I imagine that large audiences for this book would be potential Waldorf teachers. As part of their training, they would want to have some exposure to Steiner’s own great philosophical work, The Philosophy of Freedom. One of the things that makes this book hard is its constant reference to Steiner’s contemporaries, especially to Eduard von Hartmann, who is no longer considered a major thinker, either in Germany or in the English-speaking world. Thus, I undertook an abridgment of The Philosophy of Freedom, throwing out what I took to be contingent, and keeping the gems of insight. I’m very happy with this abridgment and hope that many people will read it.
Frederick Amrine is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of German literature and Philosophy at the University of Michigan, holding advanced degrees from Cambridge University and Harvard. He is a lifelong researcher and translator of the work of Rudolf Steiner. His wife, Margot, is a retired Waldorf teacher from the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor.