David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
In 1853, two decades after Goethe’s death, Hermann von Helmholtz, who had just become professor of anatomy at Königsberg, delivered an evaluation of the poet=s contributions to science.1 The young Helmholtz lamented Goethe=s stubborn rejection of Newton=s prism experiments. Goethe=s theory of light and color simply broke on the rocks of his poetic genius. The tragedy, though, was not repeated in biological science. In Helmholtz=s estimation, Goethe had advanced in this area two singular and “uncommonly fruitful” ideas.2 The poet recognized, first, that the anatomical structures of various kinds of animals revealed a unity type underlying the superficial differences arising from variability of food, habit, and locality. His second lasting achievement was the related theory of the metamorphosis of organisms: the thesis that the various articulations within an organism developed out of a more basic kind of structure—that, for instance, the different parts of plants were metamorphosed leaves or that the various bones of the animal skull were but transformed vertebrae. These two general morphological conceptions, according to Helmholtz, grounded the biology flourishing at 1 mid-century. Goethe came to these ideas, Helmholtz shrewdly maintained, as the result of a poetically intuitive conception (anschauliche Begriffe).3 He described, for instance, Goethe=s immediate recognition, while playfully tossing around a sheep=s skull on the Lido in Venice, that the fused bones of the battered cranium consisted of transmuted vertebrae. This experience resulted in the poet=s vertebral theory of the skull, which became a standard conception in later morphology.4 Poetic intuition thus liberated an idea initially embedded in matter and made it available to the analytic understanding of the scientist. Forty years later, in 1892, at the meeting of the Goethe Society in Weimar, Helmholtz returned to reexamine the poet=s scientific accomplishments, and, it would seem, implicitly his own; for by the end of his career, Helmholtz himself had achieved a position in German culture only a few steps below that of Goethe.5 His evaluation of Goethe=s achievements in physical science was now more complex than his earlier assessment had been..
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library||
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Dani Hallet (2010). On the Subject of Goethe: Hermann von Helmholtz on Goethe and Scientific Objectivity. Spontaneous Generations 3 (1):178-194.
Dalia Nassar (2010). From a Philosophy of Self to a Philosophy of Nature: Goethe and the Development of Schelling's Naturphilosophie. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 92 (3):304-321.
Hjalmar Hegge (1972). Theory of Science in the Light of Goethe's Science of Nature. Inquiry 15 (1-4):363 – 386.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1996). Goethe on Science: A Selection of Goethe's Writings. Floris Books.
Myles W. Jackson (2008). Putting the Subject Back Into Color: Accessibility in Goethe's Zur Farbenlehre. Perspectives on Science 16 (4):pp. 378-391.
James Marcum, Newton's Experimentum Crucis Vs. Goethe's Series of Experiments: Implications for the Underdetermination Thesis.
Nicolae Râmbu (2012). The Demonism of Creation in Goethe's Philosophy. Trans/Form/Ação 35 (3):67-80.
Ute Deichmann (2013). Crystals, Colloids, or Molecules?: Early Controversies About the Origin of Life and Synthetic Life. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):521-542.
John F. Cornell (1990). Faustian Phenomena: Teleology in Goethe's Interpretation of Plants and Animals. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 15 (5):481-492.
Jonathan Westphal (1982). Is Wittgenstein's Goethe Stock's Goethe? Mind 91 (363):430-431.
Jennifer Mensch (2011). Intuition and Nature in Kant and Goethe. European Journal of Philosophy 19 (3):431-453.
Veit Pittioni (1991). The Significance of Goethe for the Natural Sciences. Hermann von Helmholtz, Ernst Haeckel, Werner Heisenberg, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. Philosophy and History 24 (1/2):36-37.
Robert J. Richards, The Erotic Authority of Nature: Science, Art, and the Female During Goethe=s Italian Journey.
Joan Steigerwald (2002). Goethe's Morphology: Urphänomene and Aesthetic Appraisal. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Biology 35 (2):291 - 328.
Joan Steigerwald (2003). Robert J. Richards,The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002; Astrida Orle Tantillo,The Will to Create: Goethe's Philosophy of Nature. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002. [REVIEW] Metascience 12 (3):305-311.
Added to index2010-12-22
Total downloads12 ( #145,111 of 1,410,448 )
Recent downloads (6 months)2 ( #107,949 of 1,410,448 )
How can I increase my downloads?