Goethe and the study of life

a comparison with Husserl and Simmel

Elke Weik

pp. 335-357

In the paper at hand I introduce Goethe's ontology and methodology for the study of life as an alternative to current theories. "Life,' in its individual, social and/or pan-natural form, has been a recurring topic in the social sciences for the last two centuries and may currently experience a renaissance, if we are to believe Scott Lash. Goethe's approach is of particular interest because he formulated it as one of the first critical responses to the nascent discipline of biology. It can be characterised broadly as phenomenology with a strong dose of life philosophy. For this reason, and to draw its contours more clearly, I compare his approach to the respective thoughts in Husserl's and Simmel's work. The comparison focuses on the two central concepts phenomenon and life but also discusses broader epistemological and methodological issues, such as the relationship between observer and observed, the relationship between culture (cultural sciences) and nature (natural sciences), the nature of causality as well as preferred methods of study.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-016-9387-z

Full citation:

Weik, E. (2017). Goethe and the study of life: a comparison with Husserl and Simmel. Continental Philosophy Review 50 (3), pp. 335-357.

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