Goethe's Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature

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Though best known for his superlative poetry and plays, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) also produced a sizable body of scientific work that focused on such diverse topics as plants, color, clouds, weather, and geology. Goethe’s way of science is highly unusual because it seeks to draw together the intuitive awareness of art with the rigorous observation and thinking of science. Written by major scholars and practitioners of Goethean science today, this book considers the philosophical foundations of Goethe’s approach and applies the method to the real world of nature, including studies of plants, animals, and the movement of water.

Part I discusses the philosophical foundations of the approach and clarifies its epistemology and methodology; Part II applies the method to the real world of nature; and Part III examines the future of Goethean science and emphasizes its great value for better understanding and caring for the natural environment.
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About the author

David Seamon is Professor of Architecture at Kansas State University. He is the editor of several books, including most recently Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing (SUNY Press) and Dwelling, Place, and Environment, and is the author of A Geography of the Lifeworld. Arthur Zajonc is Professor of Physics at Amherst College and has lectured widely on quantum physics. He is the author of Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind and coauthor, with George Greenstein, of The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
324
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ISBN
9781438419305
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book argues that we can only understand transformations of nature studies in the Scientific Revolution if we take seriously the interaction between practitioners (those who know by doing) and scholars (those who know by thinking). These are not in opposition, however. Theory and practice are end points on a continuum, with some participants interested only in the practical, others only in the theoretical, and most in the murky intellectual and material world in between. It is this borderland where influence, appropriation, and collaboration have the potential to lead to new methods, new subjects of enquiry, and new social structures of natural philosophy and science.

The case for connection between theory and practice can be most persuasively drawn in the area of mathematics, which is the focus of this book. Practical mathematics was a growing field in early modern Europe and these essays are organised into three parts which contribute to the debate about the role of mathematical practice in the Scientific Revolution. First, they demonstrate the variability of the identity of practical mathematicians, and of the practices involved in their activities in early modern Europe. Second, readers are invited to consider what practical mathematics looked like and that although practical mathematical knowledge was transmitted and circulated in a wide variety of ways, participants were able to recognize them all as practical mathematics. Third, the authors show how differences and nuances in practical mathematics typically depended on the different contexts in which it was practiced: social, cultural, political, and economic particularities matter. Historians of science, especially those interested in the Scientific Revolution period and the history of mathematics will find this book and its ground-breaking approach of particular interest.



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