Steel studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at the City University of Amsterdam , and continued his studies in Indian philosophy and Sanskrit at Madras (promotion) and Benares . Steel was professor of General and Comparative Philosophy in Amsterdam from 1962 to 1967 .
In that year he published his controversial article "Meaningful and meaningless philosophy" in the journal of the Guide . He suggested herein that only verifiable statements provide meaningful philosophy. Statements like "Das Nichts nichtet" ( Heidegger ) to examine in any way or to verify and therefore meaningless. Are expressed in the article views on Heidegger and other continental (German and French) philosophers made him violently collide with non-analytically minded philosophers and led to an escalating argument with his colleague J. Aler .
In 1968, Steel became professor of Philosophy and South Asian Languages at the University of California - Berkeley . He was visiting professor at MIT and the universities of Bangkok , Kyoto , Paris , Peradeniya, Stanford , Sussex , Tokyo, Washington DC and Leiden ( 2003 ). He took emeritus status in 1991.
Steel specialized in studies of Vedic rituals and mantras 's. He conducted field studies on rituals and mysticism . He was also involved with Greek and Indian logic and philosophy, and the grammar of Sanskrit.
In 1975 a group of scientists, led by steel, documented a twelve-day implementation of the Vedic Agnicayana ( fire sacrifice ) ritual in Kerala . This research was published in two voluminous books and was also included as a film (Altar of fire). His best-known books are Exploring Mysticism (1975), Universals:. Studies in Indian Logic and Linguistics (1988) and Rules Without Meaning (1993)
More recent research, he occupied himself with the Greek and Vedic geometry .
Methodologically Steel was convinced that the whole universe is open to rational inquiry: "Studying something 'irrationally' is refusing to study it." A recurring theme is that areas such as mysticism and ritual as open to rational, scientific research as any other aspect of the universe. According Steel prevented artificial distinctions between "East" and "West" or the natural sciences and humanities fruitful investigations of human life. His study of Panini 's Sanskrit grammar undermined the superiority of the classical Greeks previously adopted in the field of scientific analysis. logic , linguistics and other sciences are not properties of individual civilizations, but are universal characteristics of humanity.