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In Context #1 (Spring, 1999, p. 4); copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute

Goethean Science?
Stephen L. Talbott

One problem facing anyone who diverges from the vast body of conventional scientific work has to do with naming oneself. "If you're not at home in the mainstream, then where are you at home?" Sometimes there just is no simple answer. We've found ourselves appealing at one time or another to many different characterizations of our "home," including these:
  • Holistic science
  • Goethean science
  • Phenomena-centered science
  • Qualitative science
  • Participative science
  • Contextual science
Only "holistic science" is a widely used term—and its meaning, so much compromised in various ways, remains vague to the general public, if not to the practitioners themselves. As to what may be the most unfamiliar term in the list, Rudolf Steiner, who edited Goethe's collected scientific works and elaborated Goethe's methodology, once wrote:
To speak with Goethe: whoever thrusts forth a concept to delimit the richness of life has no sense for the fact that life shapes itself in relations.... It is, of course, easier to let a schematic concept take the place of a view of full life.... Through such a process, however, we live in empty abstractions....But [living] concepts are much more like images or pictures that we take of a thing from different sides. The thing itself is one; the images are many. What leads to a perceptive understanding ["inner beholding"] of the thing is not the focus on one image, but the viewing of many images together. (from Goethe's World View, Mercury Press, 1992)
As for us, we will probably continue to jump from one term to another, depending on context. And we will continue searching for the "inspired" terminology that conveys to the public imagination something of the vision we are pursuing. Meanwhile, we invite you to read through this newsletter—especially the feature article by Craig on "Genes and Life: The Need for Qualitative Understanding"—and form your own idea of this new science. The conscious exercise of one's own activity in grasping the world is in any case central to what we are talking about.

Original source: In Context (Spring, 1999, p. 4); copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute

Steve Talbott :: Goethean Science?

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