Goethe’s way of Science – first notes

“By the time they reached Schiller’s house, Goethe found himself expounding his observations of the metamorphoses of the plants, and to illustrate a point made a quick sketch on a piece of paper. “But”, Schiller retorted “this is not an empirical experience, it is an idea”, drawing upon Kant’s distinction between the faculties of sensation and reason. Goethe fought hard to suppress his rising anger, and politely remarked: “How splendid that I have ideas without knowing it, and can see them beforemy very eyes”. Thus Goethe drew Schiller’s attention to the unsolved problem in the kantian philosophy of the objective forces of conceptual knowledge. Then ensued a decade of close friendship and collaboration until Schiller’s death in 1805.” Andy Bluden, An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity

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.
“Goethe developed a method to encounter and understand the natural world more directly, intuitively, and intimately.”
An introduction
(ivo. The importance of philosophy and its articulacy as a base for understanding what actually is going one):
“Goethe’s contemporaries and several following generations, however, largely ignored his writings on nature. These works were seen either as subjective artistic descriptions written by a scientific dilettante or as a form of philosophical idealism that arbitrarily imposed intellectual constructs on the things of nature. Only in the twentieth century, with the philosophical articulation of phenomenology, do we have a conceptual language able to describe Goethe’s way of science accurately.”
Delicate empiricism
“One phrase that Goethe used to describe his method was  delicate empiricism (zarte Empirie) the effort to understand a thing’s meaning through prolonged empathetic looking and seeing grounded in direct experience.”
“Natural objects,” he wrote, “should be sought and investigated as they are and not to suit observers, but respectfully as if they were divine beings.”” Goethe
“One instance is often worth a thousand, bearing all within itself.” Goethe
“”How difficult it is . . . to refrain from replacing the thing with its sign, to keep the object alive before us instead of killing it with the word.” Goethe
“Nature speaks upward to the known senses of man,” he wrote, “downward to unknown senses of his.” Goethe
“Each phenomenon in nature, rightly observed, wakens in us a new organ of inner understanding.” Goethe
As one learns to see more clearly, he or she also learns to see more  deeply . One becomes more “at home” with the phenomenon, understanding it with greater empathy, concern, and respect.
“There may be a difference…between seeing and seeing. . . . The eyes of the spirit have to work in perpetual living connexion with those of the body, for one otherwise risks seeing yet seeing past a thing.”
The UR-Phenomenon
“Goethe argued that, in time, out of commitment, practice, and proper efforts, the student would discover the “ur-phenomenon” ( Urphänomen ), the essential pattern or process of a thing.  Ur-  bears the connotation of primordial, basic, elemental, archetypal; the ur-phenomenon may be thought of as the “deep-down phenomenon,” the essential core of a thing that makes it what it is and what it becomes.”
(ivo. Eros and agape?). “…in his botanical work, Goethe saw the ur-phenomenon of the plant as arising out of the interplay between two opposing forces: the “vertical tendency” and ”horizontal tendency.” 19  The former is the plant’s inescapable need to grow upward; the latter, the nourishing, expanding principle that gives solidity to the plant.”
“Goethe believed that the powers of human perception and understanding cannot penetrate beyond the ur-phenomenon. It is “an ultimate which can not itself be explained, which is in fact not in need of explanation, but from which all that we observe can be made intelligible.””
“Goethe saw no inherent conflict between experience and idea or between fact and conception. He believed that genuine understanding entailed a mutual interplay of both fact and theory. Their resolution is to be found in the ur-phenomenon, which marks out the things in the foreground and brings all other phenomena into relation with it.”
“The highest is to understand that all fact is really theory. The blue of the sky reveals to us the basic law of color. Search nothing beyond the phenomena, they themselves are the theory.” Goethe
Theory of Color
“darkness in the world instantaneously produces in the eye an inclination to light; light, an inclination to darkness.”
“Unlike Newton, who theorized that colors are entities that have merely arisen out of light (as, for example, through refraction in a prism), Goethe came to believe that colors are  new  formations that develop through the dialectical action between darkness and light.  Darkness is not a total, passive absence of light as Newton had suggested but, rather, an active presence, opposing itself to light and interacting with it.”
“For Goethe, tension and its reconciliation are prime forces in nature and can be discovered in countless ways. Light and darkness, colors and their complements, colored objects seen and the resulting after-images, seeing and thing seen, person and worldall point toward an instantaneous, living dialectic that joins the parts in a dynamic, interpenetrating whole. This relationship, says the philosopher Eric Heller, is a “a creative conservation between within and without, a kind of dialectical education through which the individual form becomes in actuality what from the very beginning it had been potentially. For what is within and what is without are . . . merely poles of one and the same thing.””
“As philosopher L. L. Whyte writes, Goethe’s central ambition “. . . was nothing less than to see all nature as one, to discover an objective principle of continuity running through the whole, from the geological rocks to the processes of aesthetic creation. Moreover, this discovery of the unity of nature implies the simultaneous self-discovery of man, since man could thereby come to understand himself better.””

Ivo_JB’s PAL – Ch5 – A World of Value

(Ivo: This poem is the whole that forms the chapter, worth quoting –  Wordsworth, Prelude III:)

To every natural form, rock, fruit or flower,
Even the loose stones that cover the highway,
I gave a moral life: I saw them feel
Or linked them to some feeling: the great mass
Lay bedded in some quickening soul, and all
That I beheld respired with inward meaning

(Ivo: This chapter constitutes for me a fundamental one for a development of a psychology based on process ontology…)
(Ivo: a cycle of process…)

Self and object are part of the being of the subject, value and feeling are the becoming of the subject…

This world is a realization of conceptual feeling, the object being the final phase in the objectification of a cycle of process. The intrapsychic portion of the objectification transports value from formative phases of desire to final ones of realness, interest and worth.

(Ivo: heavy weights…or a la Charles Taylor the hyper-goods… )

The object constitutes a greater or lesser portion of the subject’s existence… If a greater portion, as in a passionate embrace, space collapses in the object and the subject’s very existence seems to depend on it.

Similarly the self fulfills a greater or lesser portion of the subject’s existence. If a lesser portion as in routine or habit, or activity dedicated to objects, the objective portion is magnified and the self is lost in activity. If a greater portion, as in introspection or states of intense inward feeling, objects recede in awareness and the self rises to prominence. Ordinarily, the self is the most valued of objects, though ideas and loved objects can be perceived as still more valuable….the self is a valued locus in a human subject, as an object of interest is a valued locus in perceptual space…(both) are polar foci of feeling in a single wave of process extending from the unconscious to the object world.

(Ivo: adaptation as a dialogue of competing possibilities…)

The evolution and increasing complexity of the brain accentuate the intrapsychic pole of this conflict, shifting the resolution inward and creating the conditions, e.g., dialectic, choice, for actions that eventually involve moral concepts…Evolutionary theory and conduct-based ethics interpret actions (conduct) as contacts with the environment (society). This interface is the axis of moral concern. From the microgenetic perspective, a self\other contrast is resolved at each point in the phase transition. The contrast of inner and outer, self and other, is a dialogue of competing possibilities at sequential phases in a journey from belief to fact.

The actual occurrence of a word or an act is the final adaptation, but adaptation takes place at each phase in the actualization…Dickinson wrote that in the process of seeking we affirm what we find to be good, but since good must exist in some sense before we seek it, perhaps “it is the law of our seeking, the creative and urging principle of the world, striving through us to realize itself, and recognized by us in that effort and strain”.

(Ivo: Concepts objectifies as an adaptive outcome…)

Concepts (p. 215). Concepts are not affect-free assemblages of words but categories of ideas and feelings. Every concept has a feeling, minimally in its incentive, conviction and value, while the concept establishes what the object of the desire will be….Concepts are fluid and changing, spontaneous in relation to the situation, culture and means to which they are put….a concept objectifies as an adaptive outcome…according to process theory, belief, concept and fact are successive phases. The belief is the context behind the proposition, which actualizes a portion of the context from which it is derived.

If the contextual background of a linguistic or perceptual act is engaged in the interpretation of the act, the process through which the act is realized will be a vital part of the act itself.

…concepts actualize as categories. The category of good acts, like that of patriotism or freedom, is an example of a subjective category that objectifies as an external standard. Because the category is time-independent, it is interpreted as an external object.

Ivo_JB’s PAL – Ch3 – Affect and Idea

(Ivo – Leontiev following Vygotsky said something like when a need finds its object it becomes a motivation. Following that line of reasoning we have JB saying that…)

In humans drive begins as an appetite that individuates to a desire for a specific category, then to a particular item. When the object is perceived, the desire passes into it as worth (value), or object-value. The individual feels desire as internal, but perceives its aim as external. The object has the intrinsic value of satisfying the drive or desire.

…feeling develops with the object, first as the affective-tonality of a drive-representation, then to the ideationally-complex affects of conceptual-feeling (affect-ideas), finally externalizing with the object as worth or value. Initial drive-like feeling has for a category the configural pattern of the act- or object-to-be. (see fig.3.1 da p. 123).

(ivo. Object individuation and conceptual feeling…)

An object individuates in the courses of self-realization from intrapersonal phase of dispositions, value and implicit beliefs through one of experiential memory, object-concepts and imagery, to a thing in the world. Coincident with this development, an emotion individuates from unconscious drive through many possible realizations of conceptual-feeling, where we sense the indivisibility of feeling and concept, to a final quota of value in extrapersonal objects.

Feeling (ivo: conceptual feeling…) marks a development within the realization of the object of a dynamic that was not previously noted. This development is attributed to knowledge or experience, which is another way of saying there is a deeper exploration of the infrastructure of the perception, of an inner layer of memory and subjective feeling just beneath the outer rim of objects…There is a potential in drive for many possible objects, and there is a potential in objects for many possible feelings. These potentialities depends on the emergence of conceptual feeling within the object formation.

(Ivo: expansion within or expanding without…)

One line of expansion leads to a growth in object- and lexical concepts. These develop to objects and propositions that are relatively free of affect. The other line of expansion leads to a growth in experiential memory, which is relatively independent of lexical- and object-concepts. The former is governed by regularities of rational thought, the latter by feeling and metaphoric thinking.

Ivo_JB’s PAL – Ch2. Self, Subject and Subjectivity

Hegel noted that while the subjective is subjective-objective, the objective is not, so that subject and object are not on an equal footing.

(Ivo: the first cut is deepest …baby I know…(Cat Stevens)…)

the objectivity of a world “outside” the mind, and the objects within the mind, result from a process of adaptation in which subjectivity is coerced by sensation to an increasing multiplicity of forms. The partition of original wholeness leaves its marks in a life-long tension of autonomy with community, independence with need, individuation with immersion. In the moral domain, the conflict of egoism and responsibility traces to this primal separation, what Schelling called the “original divorce”.

(Ivo: and then a self is born…)

A subject is the whole of the subjective pole, whereas a self is in relation to the internal objects it generates. The distribution of the self into objects is the basis of individuality, of personality as well as agency….the self needs inner objects for the experience of agency…the self is bounded by internal objects that are felt to be a source (belief), a constraint (value) or an aim (concept) of thought….The objects of perception that grow out of the self are sculpted to the conditions of the material world. Objects are limits on self-expression.

(Ivo: Mediation a la Vygotsky…JB opens the first space for a cultural psychological approach…)

An intention that is directed to an external object is mediated by the concept of the object, thus it is guided by an internal object in advance of the external one.

Ivo_JB’s PAL – Intro or a Whole waiting to actualize…

Process and the Authentic Life: Towards a Psychology of Value


(Ivo: the inescapable human value discrimination…)

What we perceive in the visual field, what we choose to look at, to notice, even unconsciously, is interest, thus valuation. what we think about or imagine is an implicit choice that occurs against a background of thoughts not selected. Every act leaves every other possible act unborn…

…there are no value-free facts. The old quandary that a value judgment (ought) cannot be derived from a fact (is) finds a new resolution when we realized that facts are derived from values.

(Ivo: what is the Good? A meta-valuation)

…the designation of an act as good or bad involves a more or less impersonal determination of the moral quality of a personal valuation. The judgement is an approval or disapproval of the value expressed in the act, and is extrinsic to the act of valuing itself. But the judgement is also a value, a value placed on a value, in principle, a more objective, i.e., impersonal evaluation of a subjective value….The impersonal judgement of the personal valuation as good or bad is then a meta-valuation.

(Ivo: introducing Time…)

Time is a critical dimension in moral decision and judgement. This appears in the opposition between automatic or impulsive action and action that is reasoned and deliberate. One occurs in the immediate present, the other involves future considerations. The more immediate is an action  the more it is judged a sign of character….To appeal to contingency is to mitigate the force of any one reason, and to incorporate a mix of possible options and outcomes in the making of a decision….That is why we consider the good person to be someone who acts in a good way instinctively, while we consider a good leader or a state to be one that acts with caution and deliberation.

Ivo_JB in SME Chapter 3. Preliminary concepts: growth and change

I don’t want to write in a regular way at this point…I’m in a phase of some inarticulacy…novelty is entering in my proces a t a fast rate, disturbing somehow the past memory arrangements. I guess it’s an event in Brown’s words…it is good to feel that my life process don’t feel like an object. I want to say that I sense this is the kind of “events” that will lead growth to novelty that in turn will lead to creation of never-ending new objects…

Key zones of exploration in the chapter: Growth, Novelty and Creativity; Process and Structure. Object development. Evolution, Ontogeny, Microgeny.


“When a house burns down, the burning down is an event. But if a house burns slowly, for 100 years, there is no event, just an object, a warm house.”

Post 8 JB. The idea of structure

Process is not the output of structure. Process neither drive structure neither is instantiated through structure, as for example a computer program drives or is realized through the hardware. In organic systems, structure is stasis imposed in the dynamic of process.

Process differs from function. One can say that function constrains growth and outlines process but is not an intrinsic part of structure….it is the relationship between components, not the arrangement of parts that determine what the structure is.

Structure, therefore, is the illusion of stability in a system in continuous transformation. For any mind/brain state there is a temporal context, a before and an after, within which that state is embedded. The state is configured by the context and cannot be extracted as an independent event. There is no brain state that corresponds to a word or a concept. Nor is there a psychological state that correspond with a word or a percept.

With process there is an opposite problem: we are lost in a sea of continuous change. Flow as to be punctuated into resting points from which we get a bearing.

The structure of the brain, like that of mind and world is not a rigid framework but a fluid arrangement of dynamic processes. The fact that mind/brain partitions flow into stable configurations does not mean this configurations are constitutive elements.