Goethe on Science

An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings

Selected and Introduced by Jeremy Naydler
Foreword by Henri Bortoft
Floris Books, 1996
ISBN: 0863152376
128 pages; paperback; $25


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ranks on a level with Shakespeare as a European man of letters, playwright, and poet. Goethe, however, considered his scientific work to be far more important than all his other achievements.

In the twentieth century, his ideas have been given special attention by scientists such as Adolf Portmann and Werner Heisenberg. In this anthology, Jeremy Naydler provides the first systematic arrangement of extracts from Goethe’s major scientific works.

It provides a clear picture of Goethe’s fundamentally unique approach to scientific study of the natural world.

According to Goethe, the deepest knowledge of phenomena can arise only from a contemplative relationship with nature —one in which our feelings of awe and wonder are intrinsic.

Science, as conceived by Goethe, is as much a path of inner development as it is a way of accumulating knowledge. It thus involves a rigorous training of our faculties for observation and thinking. From a Goethean perspective, our modern ecological crisis is a crisis of relationship to nature.

Goethe shows us a path of sensitive science that has the potential for healing both nature and ourselves.


Preface by Henri Bortoft
1. The Human Being is the Most Exact Instrument
2. Observation of Nature is Limitless
3. Setting Forth a Morphology
4. Quality and Quantity: Two Poles of Material Existence
5. Delicate Empiricism
6. The Contemplation of Nature Suggests Ideas
7. The Archetypal Phenomenon
8. God in Nature, Nature in God
9. Seeing and Seeing
10. The Horizon Boundless
Sources and Bibliography