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Guide Goethes Worldview in His Verses in Prose: Works 16 of 16

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The Faustian Century Camden House. Bohn Camden House. Grimstad Camden House. The Novels of Thomas Bernhard J. Long Camden House. The Odin Field Camden House. The Poetics of Reading Camden House. The Undiscover'd Country Camden House. Themes and Structures Camden House. McDonald Camden House. Tragedy in Paradise Gail K. Hart Camden House. Guthke Camden House. Transatlantic German Studies Camden House. Ziegler Camden House. Sharman Camden House. Twenty Years On Camden House. Unwrapping Goethe's Weimar Camden House. Virtual Walls?

Camden House. Haymes Camden House. We Are the Machine Paul A. Youngman Camden House. Weimar Correspondence Camden House. What Will Become of the Children? Claire Bergmann Camden House. Rather, the relationship exists in the indicative. What is meant by science, then, and why would it be expressed in the form of a love poem? Fundamentally, like the modern scientific method, the natural science that Goethe practiced, and practices with this poem, is empirical, that is, it is based on careful observation of experience in the 1 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Metamorphosis of Plants, ed.

Gordon L. Miller, trans. The entire poem in translation may be found at the end of this document. The difference is that, for Goethe, science is a labor of love, an end in itself, and, as humans experience in their relationships of love, Goethean science changes the scientist.

Goethe, known as the German Shakespeare, and author of Faust, is much more famous for his poetry and his dramas than he is for his science. This frustrated him at the time, as he knew success, but not for that of which he was most proud, not for his truest love. His profound success in evolutionary biology, in identifying the connections between the upper jaw of humans and other mammals, would only be acknowledged posthumously.

An understanding of some of the push-back against Goethean science during his life time reveals insights into the development the modern scientific method, as well as limitations in its metaphysical foundation. Part I. Focusing on action verbs, one finds plants burgeoning, fruit bursting from seed, earth sending seeds to life, a seed foreshadowing and swelling, then soaring, a plant-child sending forth its rising shoots, each leaf elaborating, nature gently directing, and so forth. Thus, viewing nature as self-creating, he is working out of a German tradition of aesthetics, a philosophy of beauty in nature, and of art, through careful observation of sensory experience.

These ideas of beauty then connect the individual with the transcendent. Love sanctified, Strives for the highest fruit—to look at life In the same light, that lovers may together In harmony seek out the higher world! He argues that as Baumgarten originates it, aesthetics grows out of a dialogue which had nothing to do with art or beauty, that is, a dialogue concerning logic and the senses.

Goethe, Gedichte, Werke Vol. Beauty, then, may be seen as a naturally-occurring phenomenon, while aesthetics, a study of beauty as a study of sensate knowledge, is linked with empirical pursuits like natural science. Here Moritz distinguishes a modern concept of fine art from the ancient idea of techne, or from any object created by a human, thus disassociating fine art from usefulness. Art, he said, has no function outside of itself. By defining fine art this way and distinguishing it from all other human creations which one might consider beautiful, but which were made to fill some sort of need such as a watch or a sextant, Moritz pointed to the existence of something which is an end in itself, a final end, in a material object.

As Moritz found and defined purposiveness in fine art, he found it in an essentially human creation. The appreciation of art, as Moritz and others later defined it, required that humans admire art for no other reason than for itself, not because they wish to use it for something. As this idea of purposiveness comes out of early philosophy of aesthetics as a philosophy of sensate knowledge, it is reflected in contemporary theories of natural science.

Man is in the habit of valuing things according to how well they serve his purposes. It lies in the nature of the human condition that man must think of 6 Goethe, Scientific Studies, ed. Goethe, Werke Vol. Why, then, should he not also believe that he is its ultimate purpose?

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Why, then, should he not be allowed this small deception? Given his need for objects and his use for them, he draws the conclusion that they have been created to serve him.

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Instead, he argues for an ecological perspective seventy-five years before ecology is named as a science. The forms of the fish are working not only from without, i. Ultimately, we will see the whole world of animals as a great element in which one species is created, or at least sustained, by and through another. Describing the effect on the observer of the moment in which fine art is seen as an end in itself, Moritz writes, During a completely engaged observation of the Beautiful, the Beautiful hones our observation from us, and makes it so, that we seem to lose ourselves in the Beautiful; and exactly this loss, this forgetting of oneself, is the highest level of pure, purposeless pleasure, which bestows on us the Beautiful.

We sacrifice in the moment [in dem Augenblick] our individual, limited existence to a kind of higher existence. The observer becomes selfless, and the object of fine art, transcendent. Part II. Like Goethe, Kant works empirically. And like Goethe, for Kant, the organism is an end in itself. Observation of the natural world does not lead Kant to the conclusion that an organism has a purpose outside of itself, for if it were to, there would be no way to know what that might be.

For Kant, nature cannot be understood in terms of purely mechanical laws, and the organism cannot be said to be part of a simple cause and effect relationship. Kant develops his philosophy of nature fully in his Third Critique, Critique of Judgment , which is divided into two parts. The second part is much less well known, and for those who expect the entire text to be focused only on aesthetics as a philosophy of beauty, it may also be mystifying.

In the first part of his Third Critique, Kant adds to his categories of reason established in his first two Critiques an a priori, pre-experiential, reflective judgment, a judgment which does not constitute experience, but which regulates it, and allows humans an understanding of nature as if it were teleological, as if it had a greater purpose unto itself. Then, in the second part, Kant uses the principles developed in the first to outline a philosophy of teleological judgments with respect to mathematics, the organism, and nature, and argues that metaphysical principles, and teleological judgment, are necessary for natural science.

While using highly technical language, Kant worked quite diligently on his style, and purposely eschewed poetic language from his work. His model for science was Newtonian physics, which established repeatable laws. Working consciously to expel bias, and to maintain objectivity, his effort in this regard is reflected in his language. Paul Guyer, Trans. Nor did he and Goethe have similar ideas about imagination, quite the contrary.

Furthermore, one might find parallels between Spinoza and Kant in their use language as logic to reach universal truth. When contemporary efforts in biology led toward theories of evolution, Kant used metaphysical principles to back up categorical separation, espousing what was essentially a biblical view that humans were placed in the world in the image of God. Kant was a creationist. Kant was prepared to believe it operated within fixed structures in the biological world. But he never acknowledged the ontological commitment that epigenesis carried with it.

The very idea of emergence or evolution on our sense frightened him. Nothing was more important to him, metaphysically or methodologically, than to police the boundaries between the organic and the inorganic, and, again between man and animal [italics his].

The scientist then plays, uses his faculties, and enjoys the beautiful forms. Both Goethe and Kant see organisms as ends in themselves. Neither proposes a purely empirical, materialistic approach to science. For him, beauty appears to be universal, any person with taste will have an immediate experience of beauty when they see it. But while apparently universal, it is also empirically occasioned in a moment, and without concepts or intermediate discussion. Judgments of the beautiful, then, gesture toward universality, are immediate, and are occasioned by empirical experience.

For Kant, then, beauty is reflective, of the subject, and not objective, not in the object. So, while beauty is an experience which combines the immediate with the transcendent, the divide between the empirical object and the rational world remains unbridged.

Kant then follows his discussion of the beautiful, and of the sublime in his Third Critique, with a discussion of the use of teleological principles in nature—the beginning of which is quoted above. The necessary assumption of a teleological order to nature assures that, rationally, the natural scientist must work from metaphysical principles to discover the rules to which all objects in nature do conform.

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Thus, natural science, according to Kant, cannot be a purely empirical endeavor. Kant first developed his concept of teleology in nature using the idea of purposiveness in his third essay on skin-color-based race theory, On the Use of Teleological Principles in Nature He then followed that discussion with a full elaboration of his idea of the possibility of a teleological order to nature in the second half of the Third Critique. Katherine M.

Faull Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, , Julie K. Ward and Tommy L. Lott Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, , Kant, on the other hand, wanted to make Linnaean categories more permanent. He argued that while Linnaean categories were useful in a study of nature, they were not necessary, and failed to rise to the standard of apodictic science. By this logic, a horse and a donkey are not the same species, for they can mate, but the resulting mule is infertile.


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In , Kant viewed humans as all one species, but proposed that there are four basic races defined by four skin colors. These natural laws then join the principles with experience. Kant then developed the concept of purposiveness more fully in his Third Critique. The advantage of Goethean science is that he does not objectify the organism.

Goethe advocates for selflessness, elevates love over reason, emphasizes connectivity between all organisms, and demonstrates what could be argued to be a moral perspective toward the environment. He describes the switch from using metaphysical principles to using a modern, empirical, deductive scientific method. He warns modern scholars not to assign the modern conception of race to earlier times, including the Enlightenment. While Kant also thought that there were at least possible connections between the greater order of nature and the human mind, he assumed the dominion of reason, which separated humans from animals.

This metaphysical presupposition is not based on empirical science, rather, it originates from scripture; the perspective of human dominion over nature is prominent in the three great monotheistic traditions. Although he was raised in a devout Lutheran household, Goethe still finds this idea to be hubris. From a Goethean perspective, this misconception of the place of humans in the world leads to false sense of objectivity, which becomes both binding and blinding.

Before discussing how this may play out with the modern empirical method, it is useful to revisit Spinoza, discuss his idea of intuition and its influence on Goethe. Miller, Introduction, The Metamorphosis of Plants, xviii. Intuition versus Objectification To begin his essay on Spinoza, Goethe writes, The concepts of being and totality are one and the same; when pursuing the concept as far as possible, we say we are conceiving of the infinite. But we cannot think of the infinite, or of total existence.

We can conceive only of things which are finite or made finite by our mind; i. The infinite cannot be said to have parts.