Goethe’s Way of Science:

A Phenomenology of Nature

David Seamon and  Arthur Zajonc – Editors

SUNY series in Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology, 1998
324 pages; paperback;  ISBN: 0-7914-3681-0;   $26.95



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.


"I especially like the fact that a major portion of this book is devoted to presenting the results of Goethean Science research. This sets the book apart from all others that have appeared in English. These few books have been heavy on theory and light on results. The integration of theory with practice makes this an important contribution." -- Bruce K. Kirchoff, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

"Goethe's Way of Scienceis a readable, highly original contribution to the study of environment. While challenging common paradigms of positivist, scientific methodology, the book does so unpretentiously, carefully and with much rigor. The range of examples provided by the authors is particularly illumining of the Goethean phenomenology of nature. I recommend this book to ecologists, scientists, philosophers, and students of nature as a thoughtful exploration of alternative ways of seeing the world and its living forms." -- Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

"This collection is a dazzling display of what can be done with Goethe's science when applied by competent scholars and researchers. The interplay of approaches (from the philosophical to the poetic, from the biological to the artistic) demonstrates how modern science can find a way out of the Gordian knot it has gotten itself into." -- Douglas E. Miller, Department of Foreign Languages, University of Michigan, Flint


David Seamonis 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 Zajoncis 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 Mindand coauthor, with George Greenstein, of The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics




Goethe, Nature, and Phenomenology: An Introduction
David Seamon

  1. Goethe and the Science of His Time: An Historical Introduction
    Arthur Zajonc


  1. The Metamorphosis of the Scientist
    Frederick Amrine
  2. Goethean Science
    Walter Heitler
  3. Goethe, Science, and Sensory Experience
    Herbert Hensel
  4. The Idea in Nature: Rereading Goethe's Organics
    Ronald H. Brady


  1. Transformations in the Foliage Leaves of the Higher Plants
    Jochen Bockemühl
  2. The Unity of Science and Art: Goethean Phenomenology as a New Ecological Discipline
    Nigel Hoffmann
  3. Horns, Hooves, Spots, and Stripes: Form and Pattern in Mammals
    Mark Riegner
  4. Seeing the Animal Whole: The Example of the Horse and Lion
    Craig Holdrege
  5. Flowforms and the Language of Water
    Mark Riegner and John Wilkes


  1. The Resurrection of Thinking and the Redemption of Faust: Goethe's New Scientific Attitude
    Alan P. Cottrell
  2. Counterfeit and Authentic Wholes: Finding a Means for Dwelling in Nature
    Henri Bortoft
  3. Light and Cognition: Goethean Studies as a Science of the Future
    Arthur Zajonc