Idealism is Nothing but Genuine Empiricism: Novalis, Goethe and the Ideal of Romantic Science

Goethe Yearbook 18 (1) (2011)

Authors
Dalia Nassar
University of Sydney
Abstract
This article appeared in a special issue of the Goethe Yearbook, on Goethe and German Idealism. In it, I consider Novalis' unparalleled admiration for Goethe's scientific writings in contrast to his rather lukewarm reception of Goethe's poetry. I argue that Novalis' ideal of a “romantic encyclopedia” in which all the arts and sciences are understood in their relations to one another (as opposed to in isolation, like Diderot and D'Alemberts' project) is inspired by Goethe's practice as a scientist. I develop Novalis' idea of an “empiricism that is nothing but genuine idealism,” illustrate its parallels with Goethe's “gentle empiricism,” and argue that Novalis’ conception of romantic science and his understanding of idealism as empiricism is directly inspired by Goethe’s practices as a poet and scientist. I consider the implications of this for our understanding of the meaning of “romantic” science.
Keywords Philosophical Romanticism  Romantic Science  Novalis  Goethe  German Idealism
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