Cogito et scio invicem . . .








Goethe the Scientist :   Translation and Commentary on Goethe's Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt 

                By Marilynn Stark   


 Page opened January 23, 2005


     If the highest science is metaphysics, and all other sciences are subsumed under the truth and method of that metaphysics, then to explore the science of Goethe should be a great undertaking.  While studying science with gifted scientists and a profound mentor at Columbia University, my perception of science was sharpened by mulling over the metaphysics of Goethe through the reading of Faust.  Upon seeing much more recently the list of scientific works by the same literary giant who had uplifted me through the mode of literary art, the fascination I held for Goethe  called me to see further what might be there.  I happened upon the work I wish to translate and present here, Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt, and immediately saw that same brilliance I knew of Goethe shine forth in his words and concepts, now, however, in the field of science.  With the allowance of some time I should like to present the work of this luminary here, and hope that others who read it and reflect upon it will learn from it.  In all honesty, I have still much to learn of Goethe, and will embark upon this page with a certain humility.  The thinking of Goethe had affected the thinking of mankind over two centuries ago, as he instructed regarding this kernel of truth: that development is critical in all considerations of things and the truths of things.  Having registered that fact of Goethe's contribution when I first became acquainted with him as a dramatist and poet, little did I know at the time the depth of his mind was that of a scientific thinker, as well.  I was therefore most grateful to have seen Der Versuch al Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt as I began to read further into his scientific discoveries and contribution.  The rest will speak for itself as the work unfolds for your perusal and careful apprising.       

     It must be observed for didactic purpose here, that the intellect of Goethe was of the sharpness requisite to the universalization of his perceptive abilities from one field of endeavor to another.  As his understanding of the individual was expressed in his literary accomplishments, so were his precepts of development enshrouding the world view he could so masterfully characterize in a given dramatic character, for example.  The unifying feature of perceiving reality as a one reality whose course for a living entity is to be considered as a balance between what is now and what is to be destiny, as derived from a belief or faith that in the creation there is a preserving principle; and this whether as applied in and through objective scientific observation, or as discerned by a living person in a subjective worldview. Further, perceiving the source of unifying truth in that reality as axiomatically universal itself: these metaphysical tenets of truth infused the thought ventures of Goethe in all of his undertakings with its concurring principle of development as common to all of such unification.  For example, the abstractly fine difference between considering plants in the pluralistic sense for their similarity to all other plants, and in considering instead the single plant for its individual organs in their abilities to metamorhpose, led Goethe to formulate a botanical philosophy based then again on his insight of an individual being living in a mode of development.  The essay Goethe wrote, Metamophose der Pflanzen, is the best known of his scientific endeavors, and is considered to be specially exemplary of Goethe's scientific method.  The exact translation by myself of this scientific work can be found at Starkliteraria on the page 'On Goethe'.  It should prove useful to translate and hence analyze the essay on scientific truth and method as embodied in Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt herein, while embarking on a deeper understanding of the growth of scientific theory and knowledge in the instance of the botanical insights and contributions of Goethe as a case in point through such a succinct translation of Metamorphose der PflanzenThe goal in combining these two essays of Goethe should be for deeper, precise consideration of his scientific work.   

Marilynn Stark   January 23, 2005   © 2005  All rights reserved.  Revised June 1, 2005.




Von Goethe

By Goethe

Translated and with Commentary by Marilynn Stark

New...recitation of Goethe in German is a new project for this Web page which is now underway.

     Preview of the recitation of this scientific writing is now available here.  The user must use QuickTime media player in order to listen.  The project at hand is to include all of the paragraphs in German first, and then also my English translation of each paragraph.  


 (1) Sobald der Mensch die Gegenstände um sich her gewahr wird, betrachtet er sie in bezug auf sich selbst, und mit Recht. Denn es hängt sein ganzes Schicksal davon ab, ob sie ihm gefallen oder mißfallen, ob sie ihn anziehen oder abstoßen, ob sie ihm nutzen oder schaden. Diese ganz natürliche Art, die Sachen anzusehen und zu beurteilen, scheint so leicht zu sein, als sie notwendig ist, und doch ist der Mensch dabei tausend Irrtümern ausgesetzt, die ihn oft beschämen und ihm das Leben verbittern. (1)   

    (1) When the human being becomes aware of the objects all around himself, he observes them with reference to himself, and rightly.  For thereon his destiny depends entirely, whether they please or displease him, whether they attract or repel him, whether they avail or derogate him.  This entirely natural mode seems to be so facile, the things must be regarded and evaluated as necessary, and nevertheless is the human being exposed thereby to a thousand errors, which often discountenance him and fill the life for him with bitterness.  (1)

(Date of Translation: January 24, 2005)  

 (1)  In the true art of persuasion does the profound poet, Goethe, introduce in the first passage of his essay on the metaphysics of objective science, Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt, the fundamental division of the universal as between object and subject, between that which is available for perception in the world about and the subjective observer of that world.  The power of observation of the subject, the observer, any observer, is given its reality; the frame of reference for the objective scientific query is immediately given over to the self.  Nor does this scientific giant Goethe in his characteristic drive for truth demur in drawing up the the results of how one perceives objective reality from the perspective of reference to the self; for he follows through with the statement of these two constituents of reality, the objective realm and the subjective self, and their relationship as per awareness of the self with the results as summated unto destiny for that self.  True and total is this result of destiny as drawn by the sheer power of the relationship of an individual with the world about that individual; so true it is, as Goethe advises, that his transcendence of vision is expressed as perspicaciously as the author would himself practice as a scientist: likes and dislikes do not matter in the face of ongoing reality.  One such reality is, and it is evaluated further as according to the relationship one holds with that objective reality of which one is aware, he warns; whereas, easy as it may seem, are things not specious in their disposition for such awareful review itself, whilst at the same time necessary?  Such errors which abound inevitably but for this verisimilitude of that which is evaluated with what it actually is for the one constrained yet unto destiny inexorably, as we all know, can indeed cause the crash of all perception into one total conclusion which correlates with hurt throughout all subsequent perceptions and observations in life together.  

Now this departure by Goethe into the realm of a possible human condition as formed of miscalculation upon matters regarding all things certainly illustrates the results of wrongly attaching the emotions to the nature of things, which can so evade proper observation while they seem so direct.  Moreover, this mode of observation and evaluation of things is a natural one, and one in which all must engage only through simple awareness.  As Goethe will henceforth in this essay derive the higher truths and their related truths, those that speak and teach of scientific exploration, duty and method, coupled with the nature of the communal scientific endeavor among scientists, the outcome of the condition of the one who receives the message of Goethe will be far from abject, and that is for certain.  Herein will one aspiring to be a scientist or a better scientist see the true gems of a giant who can take apart a wrongly thinking observer with the full compassion of one who understands how things can be misunderstood, and who can effortlessly instruct as to how to set up and interpret the proper inquiry after truth as according to the universal nature of truth, from whence all else is drawn.  Allow me to illustrate the most cogent point of all truth which is the overarching conceptual basis of the metaphysics from which Goethe draws his explication of scientific method at the outset of this commentary with this quote from the twenty-fifth passage of his essay:  

          Since everything in nature, however, especially the universal powers and elements, is in an everlasting effect and counter-effect, so one can say of every one phenomenon, that it stands with countless others in connection, as we from a free-floating, luminous point say that he sends out his rays towards all sides.  (25)

          Da alles in der Natur, besonders aber die allgemeinern Kräfte und Elemente, in einer ewigen Wirkung und Gegenwirkung sind, so kann man von einem jeden Phänomene sagen, daß es mit unzähligen andem in Verbindung stehe, wie wir von einem freischwebenden leuchtenden Punkte sagen, daß er seine Strahlen nach allen Seiten aussende.  (25)  

     One should be encouraged, and ultimately upon deeper reflections, yes, upon deeper contemplations, enlightened that the author Goethe as scientist would embrace the human condition first; from that common basis does Goethe present his evidence as to how the way one perceives the nature of things as universally evident in the life for an individual can be extrapolated then through a universal reach into the world of overall objective scientific enterprise for valid result.  Goethe in the words of this essay can veritably create a scientist in an individual with the propensity for science.  Goethe in this work more than works to fascinate with truth as if it were his own.  He ascends to a parlor of discussion of truth, though trenchant his opening threat, to an open parlor where softness imbues all subjective seekers and all putative objects by harmless and inviting light, and where none can lose even a glint or a ray, for such would tend to fill any nook, any shadow.  One can imagine that the scientific community of his own time had learned and prospered from contemplating the substance of Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt.  Goethe does ascend to that height of truth requisite to understanding the nature of science, still he does not seem as lofty; he knows how to achieve a concrete result persuasively, and yet from the transcendental knowledge of science which he avers, and humbly and honestly so.  

Mighty as is the stride of today's scientific and technological enterprise for all who live in its massive construct both conceptually at some level, and certainly physically throughout most of the world: can we not also learn of the ways of science from Goethe in a global community nowadays whose rudder has become science, and whose need for the scientific acumen to remain ever sharpened astonishes everyone widely?  Are we ready as a scientific community now of man to countenance the challenges of unraveling the very presence of nature on the planet, where originally scientific man had concerned himself with the basic questions of natural science in a more reverential way?  Perhaps the gift of Goethe's genius in the scientific realm can in this century offer us guidance in the very progression of the science we extrapolate now into everyday life, so that its surge of truth will not indeed blind as to destiny for all mankind.  In the life of an individual the most acute battle is that for one's own destiny.  Is mankind not the sum total of all individuals who are now grouped together within the intellectual force of the power of science to shape life's destiny for each individual way on up to the grand sum of all individuals in the world?  This grand sum of all, who are presently in the moment of science to direct the health and longevity of the planet, as well, might even still look back on the more ancient science and its pristine spirit for needed direction and assurance of preservation.  Goethe certainly bows unto some such universal spirit, for he says, " we from a free-floating, luminous point say that he sends out his rays towards all sides." (25)    (1)    


  (2) Ein weit schwereres Tagewerk übernehmen diejenigen, deren lebhafter Trieb nach Kenntnis die Gegenstände der Natur an sich selbst und in ihren Verhältnissen untereinander zu beobachten strebt: denn sie vermissen bald den Maßstab, der ihnen zu Hülfe kam, wenn sie als Menschen die Dinge in bezug auf sich betrachteten. Es fehlt ihnen der Maßstab des Gefallens und Mißfallens, des Anziehens und Abstoßens, des Nutzens und Schadens; diesem sollen sie ganz entsagen, sie sollen als gleichgültige und gleichsam göttliche Wesen suchen und untersuchen, was ist, und nicht, was behagt. So soll den echten Botaniker weder die Schönheit noch die Nutzbarkeit der Pflanzen rühren, er soll ihre Bildung, ihr Verhältnis zu dem übrigen Pflanzenreiche untersuchen; und wie sie alle von der Sonne hervorgelockt und beschienen werden, so soll er mit einem gleichen ruhigen Blicke sie alle ansehen und übersehen und den Maßstab zu dieser Erkenntnis die Data der Beurteilung nicht aus sich, sondern aus dem Kreise der Dinge nehmen, die er beobachtet.  (2)   

   (2) A more well-labored daily task do those undertake, whose spirited desire aspires to skills to observe the objects of nature by themselves and in their relationships among one another: for they soon miss the standard, which came to help them, if they regarded the things relating to themselves as people.  For them fails the standard of favor and of disfavor, of advance and of repulse, of avail and of adversity; they are supposed to fairly renounce this, they are supposed to seek and determine as neutral and at the same time godly beings what is, and not what suits.  Thus should neither the beauty nor the usability of the plants stir the true botanist, he should explore their creation, their relationship to the extant plant kingdom; and as they all are elicited and illuminated by the sun, thus he should with a like calm view regard and survey them all, and should take the standard for this knowledge, the data of evaluation, not from himself but from the sphere of things which he observes.  (2)

(Translated on: January 25 & 26, 2005; edited June 26, 2005) 

   (2) Goethe impresses herein further upon the reasoning mind that even though the things of nature are to be regarded with reference to the self, that self, the observer, must detach from the objects being observed.  Even as the observer had seen the way to the outcome of wrong evaluation of things in other individuals as the cause of their certain malaise, perhaps, and thus had learned that there must be a way on the other hand to regard and evaluate things of the world with an accuracy and useful objective; even as the destiny of the observer can be sought after through lessons of insight into the correctness of the relationship of others of close acquaintance to the world they thus define by their power of perception in regards to then again their own destinies; even as an astute observer can summon up these observations that there is a science to how the self pursues destiny in a context in the world which gains its meaning and mode through the reference point of the self in that world, both by inner reflections and conclusions drawn from knowing others, still, the objective realm of scientific endeavor must be held in its place for what it is.  The careful definition of how to approach empirical observation of the natural world is in this second passage liberated from the familiar tethers of social bonds, for Goethe rather steps outside the social frame of reference and sees into the world of objects; with agile wit does he declare what must be likely for a scientific mind to assume in his day of younger plant science, when ideas that objects might be objectified not purely to empirical scrutiny in the scientific endeavor, but perhaps instead to the confusion over them created by attachment to them by transposing onto them the human sentiments and inevitable jealousies of fellow empirical observers.  Objects are not people, Goethe reminds boldly.  Objects are to be regarded and observed in a process of evaluation which owes its acuity not to the self as an emotional being who lives by social wants and needs and sentiments.  To thus wrongly project a subjectively-born bias onto the objective realm of scientific pursuit of the nature of things will be a task poorly spent upon such realm.  Goethe perceives fundamentally that the objects of likely interest must be observed for what they are by themselves, and in how they relate to one another in order to establish of them any conclusive evidence, to which he refers as the standard for knowledge of them; only within the sphere of those things will such evidence for knowledge lie, and it cannot be derived by any but a detached observer who should emulate Goethe's image of the power of nature as taken from the sun.  The sun as the giver of life to the world of botany calmly views the plants as their lives are shone upon; similarly, Goethe so eloquently invites the botanist, the true botanist, to regard the plants with like dispassion and learn of their sphere, not of their sphere as yet a  projection of himself.  

The German word der Gegenstand can mean both subject and object, subject-matter and topic, and also matter and purpose.  The English words subject and object are also interchangeable in similar respects, whereas subject as the one whose consciousness defines the perceiver of objects or matters is usually connoted in the vocabulary of metaphysics.  Goethe  at the outset of the essay sets forth the concepts in words of what must be intended as the division between subject and object for his subsequent metaphysical disquisition: "Sobald der Mensch die Gegenstände um sich her gewahr wird..." defines the intended concept of sheer object as the translational counterpart of Goethe's use of the word der Gegenstand.  This word usage simplifies the conceptual undertaking for the one who wishes to receive the message of the essay under consideration.  Since the English words for subject and object are interchangeable anyway, to argue the usage would be almost frivolous.  The conceptual outcome for this translator and commentator will be the ultimate test of how best to translate the important word der Gegenstand herein.  Moreover, the German word der Gegenstand when it does linearize into English as subject only means subject as a matter which is an object for study or as an item, anyway.  The word gegen as a German preposition intends the meaning against, while -stand derives from the verb stehen, to stand, most prominently, and also to become.  The ubiquity of the verbal root sta- is listed here: in Latin stare, to stand , in English to stand, now in German as stehen, and back further in time to Sanskrit, stha as a verbal root or dhatu meaning to stand, also.  The implication of the verb to stand in the sense of to inhere in matter, to exist, to comprise, or to constitute is quite typical in many languages where it appears in some form.  To stand against, the literal German derivation, does not so much express contrariety per se, as it would mean in the way as a sheer placement, perhaps towards.  The German word for self as subject with the full 'I-ness' intended is indeed Ich or Selbst, whereas Goethe chooses to write from the third person, der Mensch, when referring to the empiricist, the subjective persona.  To envision that self as juxtaposed to the world, the objective realm about the self, that which stands to be regarded by the self in a sense stands against the self positionally at least; this same etymological idea is found in the Latin roots of the English word object.  Ob in Latin can mean in the way, and the other root is the verb iacere, to throw.  These words are discussed in some detail here so as to persuade in the choice of object as the correct translation of the word der Gegenstand.  This should build an important precept of the act of translation: accuracy of intent or identity of match, even through the two languages in question.  Goethe himself has carefully delineated three levels of translations.  Briefly here, the third level of translation, or epoch, as he names it, seeks an identical match to the original.  Incidentally, this had been my goal at the very outset of my work in translating Goethe's scientific writings.  This standard of exact correlation of one language as it is translated into another lends an interlinear approach to the translating, which is desirable in that it crosses the language line with the greatest level of meaning remaining intact.  Please may I refer you to the following link for a translation of the passage in Noten und Abhandlungen zu besseren Verständnis des West-östlichen Divans by Goethe in which he discusses the three types of translations he sees:  (2)   



  (3) Sobald wir einen Gegenstand in Beziehung auf sich selbst und in Verhältnis mit andern betrachten und denselben nicht unmittelbar entweder begehren oder verabscheuen, so werden wir mit einer ruhigen Aufmerksamkeit uns bald von ihm, seinen Teilen, seinen Verhältnissen einen ziemlich deutlichen Begriff machen können. Je weiter wir diese Betrachtungen fortsetzen, je mehr wir Gegenstände untereinander verknüpfen, desto mehr üben wir die Beobachtungsgabe, die in uns ist. Wissen wir in Handlungen diese Erkenntnisse auf uns zu beziehen, so verdienen wir klug genannt zu werden. Für einen jeden wohl organisierten Menschen, der entweder von Natur mäßig ist oder durch die Umstände mäßig eingeschränkt wird, ist die Klugheit keine schwere Sache: denn das Leben weist uns bei jedem Schritte zurecht. Allein wenn der Beobachter eben diese scharfe Urteilskraft zur Prüfung geheimer Naturverhältnisse anwenden, wenn er in einer Welt, in der er gleichsam allein ist, auf seine eigenen Tritte und Schritte acht geben, sich vor jeder Übereilung hüten, seinen Zweck stets in Augen haben soll, ohne doch selbst auf dem Wege irgendeinen nützlichen oder schädlichen Umstand unbemerkt vorbei zu lassen; wenn er auch da, wo er von niemand so leicht kontrolliert werden kann, sein eigner strengster Beobachter sein und bei seinen eifrigsten Bemühungen immer gegen sich selbst mißtrauisch sein soll: so sieht wohl jeder, wie streng diese Forderungen sind und wie wenig man hoffen kann, sie ganz erfüllt zu sehen, man mag sie nun an andere oder an sich machen. Doch müssen uns diese Schwierigkeiten, ja man darf wohl sagen diese hypothetische Unmöglichkeit, nicht abhalten, das möglichste zu tun, und wir werden wenigstens am weitsten kommen, wenn wir uns die Mittel im allgemeinen zu vergegenwärtigen suchen, wodurch vorzügliche Menschen die Wissenschaften zu erweitern gewußt haben; wenn wir die Abwege genau bezeichnen, auf welchen sie sich verirrt und auf welchen ihnen manchmal Jahrhunderte eine große Anzahl von Schülern folgten, bis spätere Erfahrungen erst wieder den Beobachter auf den rechten Weg einleiteten.  (3)   


   (3) As soon as we observe an object with respect to itself and in relationship with others, and neither desire nor misprize the same directly, thus will we soon be able to confect with a calm attention to ourselves by it, its details, its relationships, a quite clear concept.   The further we carry forth these considerations, the more we associate objects among one another, the more we practice the power of observation which is in us.  If we know how to reference unto ourselves these perceptions in actions, thus are we worthy of being called intelligent.  For anyone who is a well-organized person, who either is moderate by nature or is restricted through moderate circumstances, is the intelligence no weighty matter: since the life reprehends us at each step.  If the observer applies also this trenchant power of judgment for inquiry alone of the secret relationships of nature, if he attends to his own step and stride in a world in which he is alone, as it were, he is on guard against any precipitancy, should have ever his intended purpose in vision, however, without himself allowing someone to pass unnoticed on the way, either in useful or detrimental circumstance; when there, he also is his own most strict observer,  where he can  be examined by no one so easily, and with his most assiduous efforts he always should be mistrustful towards himself: thus everybody probably sees how strict these demands are and how little one can hope to see them totally fulfilled; one may render them now for others or for himself.  These difficulties still must not deter us, yea, one ought to state this hypothetical impossibility arguably the most possible one to do; and we will arrive at least most far, if we seek to envision for ourselves the means in general through which the most excellent persons have known how to upgrade the sciences, when we properly call the wrong ways in which they have lost the way and upon which (way) for them a great number of scholars followed sometimes for centuries, until later researches again first initiated the observer upon the right way.  (3)

(Translated on: Jamuary 26, 30 & 31 2005)

  (3) In this passage Goethe leaps now into an in-depth description of what realm lies beyond for the one who successfully endeavors to enter into the practice of scientific research.  First, this astute scientist Goethe has stated how to tap intelligence for its empirical capabilities through detaching from personal sentiments regarding the work at hand; he has now further depicted the conceptual correlate to the nature of all things as that power of association in the mind of the researcher.  This power of association matches all things which are by their nature interconnected and in a state of flux in regards to one another in what he terms effect and counter-effect.  In order to be able to find how things associate with one another and thus unlock the truth of nature, Goethe advises, the cogent requirement that the researcher reference himself properly unto the objects at hand is once again recited, and although he does not outline scientific method as we list it, he calls further for taking actions which are in keeping with such proper referencing of the self with the perceptions at hand; this is the sine qua non of all scientific experiment.  Once the prescriptive measures for practicing good science are set thus forth metaphysically, Goethe treats the questions of possible competitive awareness within the field of science, so that comparative minds of like endeavor in the scientific arena will not deter the engaged scientist.  It is upon this theme of the self, the individual inquirer against the collective of scientists past and present, that Goethe elaborates and renders the prescriptive measure for the dedicated scientific mind to find its own in research to the extent that a given development of scientific knowledge may be recovered even from wrong conclusion, and even if that wrong conclusion had persisted in time down through centuries.  His outstanding contribution of his given level of insight based upon the truth of science shines forth in this paragraph, as Goethe is able to summon prospectively the full potential of the human intellect to its more ultimate actuation in scientific research; if truly able to remain virtually solipsistic when regarding the relationships of objects of inquiry to one another, yet mindful also of fellow scientists along the way, and those of the past connected to that same inquiry, Goethe ably gives the power of solution to even long-standing false perception in science to the lone empiricist.  One can only imagine how these words might have stirred Goethe's contemporaries and those scientists who followed him.  (3)  

 (November 21, 2005)


  (4) Daß die Erfahrung, wie in allem, was der Mensch nimmt, so auch in der Naturlehre, von der ich gegenwärtig vorzüglich spreche, den größten Einfluß habe und haben solle, wird niemand leugnen, so wenig als man den Seelenkräften, in welchen diese Erfahrungen aufgefaßt, zusammengenommen, geordnet und ausgebildet werden, ihre hohe und gleichsam schöpferisch unabhängige Kraft absprechen wird. Allein wie diese Erfahrungen zu machen und wie sie zu nutzen, wie unsere Kräfte auszubilden und zu brauchen, das kann weder so allgemein bekannt noch anerkannt sein.  (4)   

 (4) No one will deny that experience, as in all which the human being takes, has and should have the greatest impact; thus also in the apprenticeship of nature of which presently I speak excellently, so little as one is denied for the spiritual powers their high, and, as it were, creatively unhinged agency in which these researchings are understood, braced up, ordered and developed.  How by yourself to create these researchings and how to make use of them, how to develop and to require our powers, which can neither be so universally known nor recognized.  (4)

(February 1, 2005; revised November 21, 2005)

(4) Goethe places the natural scientist in the juxtaposition between the power of empirical observation and the universal power of nature which inheres in all things.  He universalizes the meaning of all research unto the spiritual power which, but for its immanence, need only reveal its creative contribution in the apprenticeship to nature when its causal aspect is undone and thus understood.  However, in Goethe there exists a surrender to the less powerful ability of the human inquirer to tap so much with repletion the omnipotence of nature as to her causal basis due to the limitation of the ignorance of man's powers, which he states cannot lend themselves to such full awareness.  Goethe again invites the contemplative mind to liken the place of experience in life to the place of the mind of the scientist to observe and conclude with validity upon the questions of objective science.  If one such natural scientist can absorb  through the subjective side of  experience in everyday life that which makes the greatest impression upon him, then also might that scientist transcend unto the powers of nature accordingly.  Even if the attainment of that goal of transcendence necessarily falls short of full actuation unto the universal level, which Goethe states that it will fall short of it, still, the greatest impression will be made when the spiritual presence in nature is sought out at any level for its result.  This passage places in the mind of the student of the science of Goethe his essential reverence for the spirit as expressed in all of nature.  Nor does Goethe covet the fact that the universal power of nature is the key to valid scientific undertakings; rather does he characteristically convey the key of such truth with an humble sense that it must be stated.  (4) 

 (November 22, 2005; edited December 27, 2005)


  (5) Sobald Menschen von scharfen frischen Sinnen auf Gegenstände aufmerksam gemacht werden, findet man sie zu Beobachtungen so geneigt als geschickt. Ich habe dieses oft bemerken können, seitdem ich die Lehre des Lichts und der Farben mit Eifer behandle und, wie es zu geschehen pflegt, mich auch mit Personen, denen solche Betrachtungen sonst fremd sind, von dem, was mich soeben sehr interessiert, unterhalte. Sobald ihre Aufmerksamkeit nur rege war, bemerkten sie Phänomene, die ich teils nicht gekannt, teils übersehen hatte, und berichtigten dadurch gar oft eine voreilig gefasste Idee, ja gaben mir Anlass, schnellere Schritte zu tun und aus der Einschränkung herauszutreten, in welcher uns eine mühsame Untersuchung oft gefangen hält.  (5)   

   (5) Once men are called to attention of objects from keen, recent reflections, they are found as well-disposed towards observations as clever.  I have been able to observe this often, since I examine the lesson of light and of colors with assiduousness; and, as it tends to happen, converse also with people of that which just now interests me greatly, and  to whom such contemplations otherwise are strange.  Only as soon as their attention was alive did they notice phenomena which I partly had not known, partly had overlooked, and thereby often corrected an even prematurely collected idea, yea, which gave me reason to make more haste in steps and to step out of the constraint in which a laborious trial often detains us.  (5)

(June 6 & 8, 2005; revised November 22, 2005))

   (5) The profound humility of Goethe provides a vantage point from which a developing scientist can learn.  How typical is the way of science to give the one who remains open to the observations of others in a non-jealous fashion even greater ideas of the meaning of empirical results, so that the progression of experiments can be focused ever more sharply towards those of the most central and giving truth.  Here Goethe points out that even though others were unfamiliar with his contemplations on light and colors, did they still teach him more of what he had missed, and refresh his patience to keep a careful vigilance as to the succession of steps in his work.  The community of interested scientists may always benefit from reviewing the importance of sharing and working together towards success, so that the concept of credit in findings may find its own as also from the collective venture which is the scientific endeavor.  In return for that attitude towards fair distribution of interest and towards the shared collective in scientific research can the scientist receive a renewal in patience towards facing the tedium which may accompany the work which a new frontier, a new venture of research presents, if only there can be an openness in the ongoing work born of the sheer love of truth together among scientists.  Other minds are bound to refresh the outlook of one belabored with the difficulties of proving a new point, or even redirecting the conceptual progression in the growth of a given sector of knowledge.  (5)

(November 22, 2005)


  (6) Es gilt also auch hier, was bei so vielen andern menschlichen Unternehmungen gilt, dass nur das Interesse mehrerer auf einen Punkt gerichtet etwas Vorzügliches hervorzubringen imstande sei. Hier wird es offenbar, dass der Neid, welcher andere so gern von der Ehre einer Entdeckung ausschließen möchte, dass die unmäßige Begierde, etwas Entdecktes nur nach seiner Art zu behandeln und auszuarbeiten, dem Forscher selbst das größte Hindernis sei.  (6)  

   (6) It is essential also here, what weighs with so many other human undertakings, that only the interest of several directed towards a point would be able to produce something exemplary.  Here it becomes manifest that the envy,  that the inordinate ambition, which would so fancy to exclude others from the honor of a discovery, of something discovered only according to its kind to examine and to work out, would be to the researcher himself the greatest hindrance.  (6)

(June 9, 2005)

   (6) Indeed, Goethe amplifies the ultimate meaning and inhibitory power of disincluding others in any discovery which by its own nature scientific research will be bound to give.  Such exclusion itself can become the greatest hindrance to the work of a researcher, since the collective interest is bound to give the most exemplary results of all in these words of Goethe.  (6)

(November 22, 2005)


  (7) Ich habe mich bisher bei der Methode, mit mehreren zu arbeiten, zu wohl befunden, als daß ich nicht solche fortsetzen sollte. Ich weiß genau, wem ich dieses und jenes auf meinem Wege schuldig geworden, und es soll mir eine Freude sein, es künftig öffentlich bekannt zu machen.  (7)  

 (7) I have been provided too well with the method so far in working with several, than that I should not pursue such.  I know exactly to whom I have become due for this and that upon my way, and it should be a joy for me to make it known officially henceforth.  (7)  

(June 2 & 5; revised November 22,  2005)

   (7) In this seventh passage Goethe reveals that he has taken the lessons in science rendered him through any collective undertaking.  By openly confessing that fact and now broadly declaring the truth of these conclusions which he must have drawn regarding the superiority of method in working with several fellow scientists equitably,  does Goethe hope to win others over to the revelation of truth he undoubtedly had found in the value of the collective endeavor in science.  Nor does he forget to whom he owes credit upon specific points along the way of his works.  (7)

(November 22, 2005)  


  (8) Sind uns nun bloß natürliche, aufmerksame Menschen so viel zu nützen imstande, wie allgemeiner muß der Nutzen sein, wenn unterrichtete Menschen einander in die Hände arbeiten! Schon ist eine Wissenschaft an und für sich selbst eine so große Masse, daß sie viele Menschen trägt, wenn sie gleich kein Mensch tragen kann. Es läßt sich bemerken, daß die Kenntnisse, gleichsam wie ein eingeschlossenes aber lebendiges Wasser, sich nach und nach zu einem gewissen Niveau erheben, daß die schönsten Entdeckungen nicht sowohl durch Menschen als durch die Zeit gemacht worden; wie denn eben sehr wichtige Dinge zu gleicher Zeit von zweien oder wohl gar mehreren geübten Denkern gemacht worden. Wenn also wir in jenem ersten Fall der Gesellschaft und den Freunden so vieles schuldig sind, so werden wir in diesem der Welt und dem Jahrhundert noch mehr schuldig, und wir können in beiden Fällen nicht genug anerkennen, wie nötig Mitteilung, Beihülfe, Erinnerung und Widerspruch sei, um uns auf dem rechten Wege zu erhalten und vorwärts zu bringen.  (8)  

 (8) Now attentive, natural people are simply able to be of use to us as much as more general the avail must be, if knowledgeable people are engaging each other in the hands!  A science in and for itself is already so great a host, that it sustains many men, whether it can carry no one in a short while.  It can be observed that knowledge, like a quasi-enclosed but vital water, rises bit-by-bit to a certain level, and that the most superb discoveries have been made not through men as through time; for how it is that very important things have even been done at the same time by two or several well-conversant thinkers.  So if we owe so much in that first case to society and friends, thus we will still owe more in this to the world and to the century, and we cannot accredit in both cases enough, as it must take communication, abetment, retrospection and variance in order to achieve for ourselves in the right way and in order to advance.  (8)

(June 10,  11 & 14; revised November 22, 2005)

   (8) Goethe embraces the wider quest of science to serve towards propriety and advancement, citing the inconspicuous aspect of those in science who have discovered truths not so much through individual quest and accomplishment, as through the timing itself of a growing body of knowledge to which they are connected.  Notice that Goethe likens the knowledge which is gained in science to a body of water, whose poetic image connotes purifying; as the minds of individuals who conduct research must join a collective, so will they all see the rarefying of truths which contribute if only slightly to the growing understanding of the nature of things, an understanding that they help create.  This might point out to many who aspire in scientific research to learn how to swallow their individual false egos and surrender to the more universal purpose at hand.  Since science, Goethe says, is so generous in its accommodation of those who seek its corridor, the case actually is made against the all-important ego of one versus the natural formation of the many in its assemblage of engaged researchers; where one might not succeed alone, the hands of many knowledgeable people working together might be able to attain to a higher level of use and awareness for success instead of failure.  The remarkable accomplishments of the scientific genius of Goethe might be better comprehended in light of his tutelage herein on the nature of scientific enterprise, since he must be recounting from experience as to his great success.  Moreover, science has not changed in this respect across the centuries since Goethe lived and practiced it.  It would behoove all those interested in the well-being of our contemporaneous, highly sophisticated science-oriented day to know the nature of how science works as a social entity as much as it works as according to the effect which one individual practitioner might have on its progression.  We hear of founders, of giants the likes of Goethe, and imagine that all of mankind can be swayed by the awesome intellect of one individual scientist; true, but the guardian power of the fellowship of the many involved in the far-reaching questions which lead in any day of science can only be consoling and encouraging to the one who has no especial propensity for deeper scientific understanding and formulation of conceptual awareness in science.  

Perhaps it was the fundamental reverence Goethe held for the scientific pursuit which gave him the success he enjoyed, since others were not as put off by his prowess therefore.  If a researcher today, for example, ventures more closely into the depths of knowledge of a molecule of possible detrimental power, would not his or her fellow scientists be less prepared to join in the research, knowing that the potentially destructive power of the molecule must not be actuated?  That guard against irreverence for the social contract which is philosophically and implicitly written into the purpose and goal of science, that others would naturally be in the know of a particular avenue of research of questionably good use, should shore up the beneficial uses of science as occupying the first and highest priority as it grows and gains stature in our current civilization.  It is noteworthy that one of Goethe's unusual intellectual level would speak so lucidly here as to how the outcome of scientific inquiry is as much collectively carried as it is the result of one towering genius, for Goethe was certainly one such towering genius.  That Goethe left for posterity the wisdom of this insight into the broad social venue that is the real practice of science, besides its demands as placed upon the individual to withstand the law of mass action of like minds who might have erred in perception of scientific truth at a given time, will tell its effects upon mankind as much as his wisdom is read and realized, if not offered remedially for some erring instances.  (8)

(November 22, 2005)


    (9) Man hat daher in wissenschaftlichen Dingen gerade das Gegenteil von dem zu tun, was der Künstler rätlich findet: denn er tut wohl, sein Kunstwerk nicht öffentlich sehen zu lassen, bis es vollendet ist, weil ihm nicht leicht jemand raten noch Beistand leisten kann; ist es hingegen vollendet, so hat er alsdann den Tadel oder das Lob zu überlegen und zu beherzigen, solches mit seiner Erfahrung zu vereinigen und sich dadurch zu einem neuem Werke auszubilden und vorzubereiten. In wissenschaftlichen Dingen hingegen ist es schon nützlich, jede einzelne Erfahrung, ja Vermutung öffentlich mitzuteilen; und es ist höchst rätlich, ein wissenschaftliches Gebäude nicht eher aufzuführen, bis der Plan dazu und die Materialien allgemein bekannt, beurteilt ausgewählt sind.  (9)   

 (9) Therefore, one has to do precisely the opposite in scientific things of that what the artist finds advisable: because he does well not to allow his artwork to be seen publicly until it is completed, since anyone cannot advise him lightly, yet render support; whereas, if it is completed, he has thereupon to thus consider and heed the reproof or the commendation, to unite such with his operating experience, and cultivate and prepare himself thereby for a new work.  Whereas, in scientific things is it yet expedient to impart openly each individual research, yes, supposition; and it is greatly advisable not to first stage a scientific edifice until the concept for this purpose and the materials generally are known, evaluated, and selected.  (9)

(June 14 & 18 & July 15, 2005)

   (9) Goethe herein warns that science and art differ fundamentally in one important aspect: the scientific research endeavor by its nature lends itself to a communal aspect for its progress, inviting the support of needed hands and intellects in its own time; time, indeed, is as much the sayer of the growth of a body of scientific knowledge, so that the referencing of the self by the individual practitioner of science in full surrender to the nature of truth being sought after from the more universal aspect of the truth of all things will also obscure the place of one who accomplishes in science to that of a mere role-player set up under the auspices of time, of sheer timing in experimental venture.  Art, on the other hand, does not lend itself to such a communal involvement as it is being actively created necessarily.  The artist makes a statement which is born rather out of subjective moorings, and which should not be perturbed by the sentiments of others until it is completed.  Upon the airing of an artistic work in its completed form can the artist respond to the reactions of others to that work, and from there receive a similar, public guidance in the message of the reaction, applying it only retrospectively to the operating process of artistic creation.  The reaction of others to an artist's work once completed will help cultivate the artist, in that future work will be responsive to that response of others, the promise of art being thus rendered.  Thereby is the artist's work cultivated still within the framework of the society-at-large, yet the method allows for a derivation of the work from a more individualistic viewpoint as per expression.  The artist's job is to imitate reality, whereas the scientist's job is to find reality with a clear relationship with the objective reality therefore.  This difference is commonly referred to as poetic license, and anyone who has either embarked upon deeper artistic involvements creatively or interacted with one who is so embarked can readily understand how important the insular aspect of the creative artistic mode to the artist.  As one reads and understands the guidance which Goethe offers in this passage, it is important to recognize that Goethe was also a superb artist in the literary field.  He wrote the most popular version of the story of Faust in the dramatic literature.  Goethe was a prolific and commanding poet and novelist.  Goethe stands as one of the greatest and most versatile intellectual giants in all time of the Western civilization.  That Goethe could advise as to how to regard the scientific endeavor and compare it to the artistic endeavor as cogently as he does herein is itself a testimony unto his own sheer operating knowledge in both realms of work.  (9) 

(November 28 & 30, 2005)

(10)Wenn wir die Erfahrungen, welche vor uns gemacht worden, die wir selbst oder andere zu gleicher Zeit mit uns machen, vorsätzlich wiederholen und die Phänomene, die teils zufällig, teils künstlich entstanden sind, wieder darstellen, so nennen wir dieses einen Versuch.  (10)   

 (10) If we intentionally repeat the researchings which have been done before us, which we ourselves or others do at the same time with us, and the phenomena which have arisen partly by chance, partly by imitation, present again: thus we call this an experiment.  (10)  

(June 9, 2005; revised November 30, 2005)

   (10) Having unfolded the fundamental differences between the artist's method and relationship to the society as compared to that of the scientist, Goethe now proposes the idea that scientific work will not be validated as an experiment until it has indeed been sanctioned by the wider collective of minds involved in what has become a hopeful tenet of scientific truth in his day(10)

(November 30, 2005)

(11) Der Wert eines Versuchs besteht vorzüglich darin, daß er, er sei nun einfach oder zusammengesetzt, unter gewissen Bedingungen mit einem bekannten Apparat und mit erforderlicher Geschicklichkeit jederzeit wieder hervorgebracht werden könne, so oft sich die bedingten Umstände vereinigen lassen. Wir bewundern mit Recht den menschlichen Verstand, wenn wir auch nur obenhin die Kombinationen ansehen, die er zu diesem Endzwecke gemacht hat, und die Maschinen betrachten, die dazu erfunden worden sind und man darf wohl sagen täglich erfunden werden.  (11)   

 (11) The value of an experiment consists as excellent therein, that it under certain conditions now simple or complex with an established apparatus and with essential skill could be produced again every time -- that way the conditional cases can often be collated.  We admire rightfully the human intellect if we but understand superficially the combinations also, which it has confected towards the final causes, and which considers machines, which for this purpose have been invented, and it should be said will daily have been invented.  (11)

(July 7 & 11, 2005; revised November 30, 2005)

   (11) Herein does Goethe express how science can reach its optimum level of truth assay when an experiment shows consistency through its successful production every time.  Note that the terms we consider traditional in discussing scientific research are not present in the conceptual vocabulary of Goethe, terms such as materials and methods, results, conclusions; rather, he speaks in more rarefied concepts which illustrate that he does follow the clear objective a contemporary scientist of today would expect.  In expressing his observation of the scientific acumen Goethe reveals his status as a person who was engrossed in scientific exploration when science was much younger and less developed than it is now; the conditional aspects of empirical interest were of course most critical to the keen power of observation Goethe would expect of his contemporary, and one can imagine that he must also have been motivated to write this treatise so as to clarify his understanding of valid scientific thinking in order to establish such more solidly in his time.  (11)

(November 30, 2005)

(12) So schätzbar aber auch ein jeder Versuch einzeln betrachtet sein mag, so erhält er doch nur seinen Wert durch Vereinigung und Verbindung mit andern. Aber eben zwei Versuche, die miteinander einige Ähnlichkeit haben, zu vereinigen und zu verbinden, gehört mehr Strenge und Aufmerksamkeit, als selbst scharfe Beobachter oft von sich gefordert haben. Es können zwei Phänomene miteinander verwandt sein, aber doch noch lange nicht so nah, als wir glauben. Zwei Versuche können scheinen auseinander zu folgen, wenn zwischen ihnen noch eine große Reihe stehen müßte, um sie in eine recht natürliche Verbindung zu bringen.  (12)  

 (12) Though every experiment may also be respectively contemplated as appreciable, still, it only thus gains its worthiness through consortium  and alliance with others.  Now, however, two experiments which have some similarity with each other have to unite and coalesce, appertaining to more precision and thoughtfulness than keen observers often have demanded of themselves.  Two phenomena, however, can be related to each other, yet not for a long time as closely as we believe.  Two experiments can seem to succeed apart, when still a great alignment must stand between them, relating them quite naturally.  (12)

(July 13 & 18, 2005; edited December 23, 2005)  

  (12) Herein Goethe discusses how the empirical mind must surrender to contingencies in scientific experiments in order to accurately prove a causal basis of true worth.  Such contingencies are constituted of other experiments of a similar kind which are observed to display a relationship one to the other.  He points out that a discrete experiment may be in and of itself proven insofar as its measured worth, but that in order for that result to give greater meaning it must be related then again to other similar experiments in order for the scientist to glean any valid conclusions.  Goethe cautions that some observers do not take into proper cognizance the full range of possibilities for results, since precision and deeper thought may be lacking.  In studying phenomena through empirical observation the factor of time must be allowed to express fully before a final conclusion is drawn, since the results of two experiments working in concert to unravel a point of causality may seem to be disattached, when in actuality across greater time there does exist a relationship between them. (12)

(December 23, 2005)

(13) Man kann sich daher nicht genug in acht nehmen, aus Versuchen nicht zu geschwind zu folgern: denn beim Übergang von der Erfahrung zum Urteil, von der Erkenntnis zur Anwendung ist es, wo dem Menschen gleichsam wie an einem Passe alle seine inneren Feinde auflauern, Einbildungskraft, Ungeduld, Vorschnelligkeit, Selbstzufriedenheit, Steifheit, Gedankenform, vorgefaßte Meinung, Bequemlichkeit, Leichtsinn, Veränderlichkeit und wie die ganze Schar mit ihrem Gefolge heißen mag, alle liegen hier im Hinterhalte und überwältigen unversehens sowohl den handelnden Weltmann als auch den stillen, vor allen Leidenschaften gesichert scheinenden Beobachter.  (13)   

 (13) Therefore, one cannot be careful enough not to deduce too swiftly from experiments: since it is at the transition of the research to the finding, it is from the knowledge to the application, where for the man, how in a yoke, as it were, all (his) inner foes ambuscade imagination, eagerness, haste, complacency, rigidity, thought-form, preconception, ease, levity and mutability; as she may with her retinue be called an unmitigated host, all lie here in the ambuscade and overpower unawares both the acting sophisticate and the reticent, assured, gleaming observer before all fervors.  (13)   

(July 19 & 20, 2005)

   (13) The poetic majesty of Goethe in this passage gives apt warning to the aspiring   empiricist who pretends to draw conclusions from his observations and results before he allows for the mercurial nature of an unpracticed scientific mind to take its toll upon truth which might be otherwise available from observing nature  through experiment.  Goethe refers to nature as 'die Natur', a feminine noun, and so addresses nature as in the feminine person in his writings.  Neither the confidence of one whose naïveté in scientific explorations has expired, nor the one whose power to observe is of the utmost level, is spared the complexity and steepness of the challenge in attaining to perfection of truth in natural science according to the scientist Goethe. (13)

(December 25, 2005; edited April 8, 2006)

(14) Ich möchte zur Warnung dieser Gefahr, welche größer und näher ist, als man denkt, hier eine Art von Paradoxon aufstellen, um eine lebhaftere Aufmerksamkeit zu erregen. Ich wage nämlich zu behaupten: daß ein Versuch, ja mehrere Versuche in Verbindung nichts beweisen, ja daß nichts gefährlicher sei, als irgendeinen Satz unmittelbar durch Versuche bestätigen zu wollen, und daß die größten Irrtümer eben dadurch entstanden sind, daß man die Gefahr und die Unzulänglichkeit dieser Methode nicht eingesehen. Ich muß mich deutlicher erklären, um nicht in den Verdacht zu geraten, als wollte ich nur etwas Sonderbares sagen.  (14)   

 (14) I would like to establish here a kind of paradox in admonition of this hazard, which is greater and nearer than it is thought, in order to stir a more vibrant attention.  Namely, I venture to maintain: that an experiment, verily, several experiments prove nothing in association; yes, that nothing is more hazardous, than to want to confirm some proposition directly through experiments, and that the greatest errors have arisen even thereby, that the hazard and the insufficiency of this method are not understood.  I must assert myself more explicitly, in order not to get into the suspicion, as I intended only to say something odd.  (14)

(July 26 & 27, 2005; edited December 25 & 26, 2005) 

  (14)  Any person aspiring to the work of science in the day of Goethe might have  gained invaluable instruction from this and the preceding paragraph in Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt.  Contemporary scientists who are learning the method of scientific research might also gain vital insight by contemplating the meaning of these words of Goethe, although we might pride ourselves in being more advanced fundamentally in our abilities as a scientific culture in this modern day than to have to take direction or correction from this scientific giant of the eighteenth century, and falsely so.  Goethe's guiding light stands and remains as true: to approach scientific work with a predetermined mind as to hypothesis will lead to errors, and this is an error of method whose insufficiency he points out even though it might seem to be odd, and he deems it a paradox accordingly.  Of course, any scientist will harbor an idea of how things being explored scientifically must work; there is a certain foundation of knowledge which has been already proven, and from which a scientist builds as he forms an experiment, except as in the case of a total pioneer.  However, the key is to let the data correlate to the objective reality being uncovered, so that even beyond the mind given over to a supposition of truth, in that same mind there exists the capability to transcend the subjective attachment to a given working hypothesis, and so to open the empirical window even more totally to what actually is.  By negating the inter-association of experiments at the outset of this important and key lesson in science Goethe strikes at the leverage of valid method, wherein to search experiments with a mind already believing in a given outcome will only obstruct the truth and likely introduce error.  Rather, the subjective side of the empirical quest must find as its ulterior goal the fusion of the two, objective reality with subjective empirical power, so that neither the objective nor the subjective predominates in a sense.  If the objective reality predominates, then it can remain a mystery, or remain in the realm of moot speculation; if the subjective mind predominates, then the results of observation may show no real counterpart in the objective correlate, so that results cannot be repeated with consistency.  In order for an hypothesis to be proven and over greater time elevated to theory, from whence sound theoretical postulates may even be proven to be laws together of natural science, the subjective eye of observation must work in a framework of well thought-out possibilities in a detached manner, so that such subjective mind can fuse with the objective reality being explored for its actual nature.1  Entire misconceptions can thus be brought down in given sectors of science, as well.  The scientific mind will tend to assume a truth while it is unaware that the assumption is even there, and this is typically so when the field of exploration is more newly founded.  Those who go against such hidden and implicit assumptions in scientific venture can be met with profound refutation by others, and that even before the work is truly allowed to blossom forth.  Here below is an illustration of this level of scientific venture, and it relates to modern concepts of growth, but also to the ancient work on growth which Goethe had himself promulgated in plants in his most prominent scientific work, Der Versuch die Metamorphose der Pflanzen zu Erklären, in which he describes in depth his theory of transmutation of the leaf in explaining the morphogenesis of plants.    

An example of the kind of constraint which is likely to be imposed upon a sector of biological understanding occurs in the idea of growth as has been ferreted out as according to genetic determination coupled with chemical mediation.  D.E. Ingber and others have since proven that growth transcends drastically the confines of strict intracellular mechanisms and how they relate also to cell surface molecular events.  The inconsistencies of fate of cells lying in the same chemical microenvironment, which may have destinies as disparate as death and differentiation, for example, are now within the reach of better understanding according to Ingber, who cites an overall architecture of the tissue comprised of cells as responsible for such phenomena in cells as growth, development, differentiation, apoptosis, and quiescence.  Ingber has contributed to the theory of mechanotransduction as the key to the regulation of tissue morphogenesis; mechanotransduction is the mechanically induced regulation of cell structure and function as mediated at the molecular level by chemical signals and chemical reactions, while these are determined by the presence of the genome.  Ingber takes a different look at the same molecular reality of the cell and tissue when questioning the nature of growth, and maintains that there exists an inherent tension in the skeletal architecture of tissue, wherein the cytoskeleton (CTK) places such as its inherent tension on the ECM (extracellular matrix) in general.  A specialized ECM, the basement membrane (BM), as it reacts to mechanical changes, say, a suture, and flexes with it, causes a change in the shapes of the cells local to that BM compliance, as an example.  This cell distortion is actually the cause of growth, and it is a mechanical cause, so that a mechanochemical control hypothesis in cell growth and function is now replacing the genetically-determined idea of the destiny of cells in their disposition to grow and to function.  Moreover, the entire cytoskeleton of a tissue is drawn up as capable of distortion, and also of transmitting mechanical forces due to the essential tension in the overall structure of cells and tissues, which is called prestress (isometric tension) by Ingber.2 Such mechanical forces can target distant cells, and which targetting holds the potential biologically to cause some cells to grow and others to behave differently even within the same microchemical environment, as stated earlier.  Therefore, such events as fractal growth, or growth varying in its geometric facets, can occur, as well as the more direct patterned growth of tissue.  Now, all of cell biology must surrender the theory of the cell membrane as the structure which is the ultimate mediator of cell function as a unit most discrete unto itself as it would react to mechanical impingement, and thus show a biochemical response according to the event of any direct deformation of the cell membrane itself.  Rather, there is an ultimate capacity present in cells to behave with the imposition of mechanical events which is more like a network due to the function of the cytoskeleton to array responses to mechanical events from a superstructural point of view, and that especially as it relates to the cell itself; such capacity further is one which transcends the presence of the cell membrane as the first-order, unitary determinant of its interior biochemical responses.  The actual dynamics of the cytoskeleton, and that as the cytoskeleton relates to points of adhesion between cell surface and the ECM, are shedding a new light on the specificity of cell structure in the context of its unitary nature.  These new discoveries pertaining to mechanical or physical features of the substance of living tissues for its innate tension, which tension is based upon an analysis of rigidity of matter as per the subtlety of tensile strength as opposed to only the grosser points of compression throughout any structure which that matter comprises, termed tensegrity, are elaborating the place of the cell membrane to most directly lend the medium of exchange, the barrier of communicatory events, across which life finds its way through growth, differentiation, development, motility and dying.  Consider accordingly this direct quote from the article by Ingber et alia cited below3 regarding the cell:

            "Internal Cell Deformation Depends on Molecular Connectivity. Established engineering  and biological    models of cell mechanics assume that the dense cortical microfilament network that lies directly beneath the cell membrane is the primary load-bearing element in the cell. In contrast, the cellular tensegrity model predicts that mechanical loads are borne by discrete molecular networks composed of interconnected actin microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments that extend through the cytoplasm and link to adhesion receptors, such as integrins, that span the cell surface."

Indeed, Ingber says that such adhesion receptors can even be considered as functional organelles.4

However, this kind of growth in a body of knowledge known as a particular science, and in the preceding and most interesting case that of cell biology, cannot even begin to expand into a new facet or realm of objective reality if the empirical findings are not solid in the founding work of research in that branch of science.   Such growth as this is made possible through the valid nature of certain elemental experiments, and it may continue as it will until many descriptive truths result.  Imagine how far-reaching the expanse, when even despite the replete nature of such a descriptive body of knowledge, a new thinker arrives and sets out on a totally new course of experimentation which considers that same reality, as painstakingly as it had been ferreted out correctly, and sends such reality into a new margin of supposition, and which margin proceeds to grow and reform the knowledge which had once been considered to be most critical.  Such was the work of Professor Fung in contributing to a theoretical basis of support for mechanotransduction in the question of cell growth.  In the case explicated in depth above of the work on mechanotransduction the interposition of its relevance to the former superior reign of knowledge of molecular genetics and biochemistry in understanding the nature of disease is thought to be critical for future work in medical diagnostic approaches and treatments.  Since many conditions result from the reactions of cells and tissues to mechanical stress, medical science cannot continue to ignore the physical basis of disease and concentrate primarily on altering the physico-chemistry through the use of drugs.  Much as surgery proves its superior place in medicine since it works in the manner of direct structural intervention which in turn alleviates functional dysfunction, so can mechanotransduction prove the physical basis of disease to be ultimately treated at the dynamic level of structural intervention if the mechanisms of cell and tissue growth are further unravelled and better understood through those principles of mechanotransduction while in the heat of rooting out the etiology of disease for its physico-mechanical attributes.  

In conclusion, therefore, how experiments relate to one another can be refuted, certainly, as Goethe says.  In this way, he hopes to gain 'a more vibrant attention' in the acumen of the scientist he would teach.  If one were to expand this same premise of refutation of several experiments as ever relating to one another into the realm of an entire sector of a branch of science, then an entirely new window of discovery will have been created.  In this way of thinking one can apply the sense and logic of Goethe's admonitions to do valid science with the greatest attention possible, yet in a creative way, and not take so much to heart that one can be wrong, as much as one can be not only correct, but also pioneering, if even in a range more narrow than an actual founder such as Newton.  Furthermore, it must with due respect be recognized that Goethe turned out to be the founder of a branch of plant science known as plant morphology, and which also seeks to understand the morphogenesis of plants as a result of determining factors which lie beyond sheer genetics. (14)

1The words which match the concepts of the development of scientific work from prediction to hypothesis to theory can be intermixed at times, since the lines between these stages of scientific understanding and progress are often blurry, as well, until a validation of scientific truth is achieved.  An hypothesis attempts to encompass both the purported nature of what is in a research question, and why it is so.  These two aspects of the research question support one another, giving more likelihood of truth to the what of an idea as the why of it sustains a favorable probability of being correct and accurate.  Now when the research has progressed to the point of understanding wherein a clear explanation of why something is so has been achieved, an actual theory has evolved.  The theory had to arise, however, from the basis of the nature of the substance, the event, the behavior, or the particular property in question, summed up as 'what is,' and usually this is determined as that nature undergoes its own changes.  Once the essential attribute, characteristic or property of the object for study at hand is more completely understood and described as it changes, then the knowledge so conferred will enable a theory to explain why the change does occur as it does.  If the theory stands the test of truth and bears up in several ways and instances, then that theory may be elevated to the more general use of a law.  A law will be used to delineate often mathematically what the theory explains and purports as why, so that the law which matches a theory will be specific as to the practical instance of a theory; a law will illustrate the theory with measurement and correlative changes of such measurement.  One can read the general equation of a law, understand its parameters and how they correlate with one another, if one also can derive that scientific law from the theoretical basis of the law.  Since a scientific law evolves conceptually from the origin of an hypothesis, wherein the what and why of a question are projected one upon the other so as to consider possible contingencies, then when conceptually discussing a law of natural science it is also a tendency to mix the theoretical tenets which had led to the formulation of the law, and of what is categorically true, to that law in the sense of causality.  This does not mean that a theory becomes a law, indeed, even though the theory and the law are inseparable; the theory proves the law.  A scientific law allows a description which is as unfailingly accurate and as likely as can be, so that significant determinations can be accomplished as to 'what is' from a categorical basis, since the causality is so well-known and proven.  We tend to deem a well-known cause to be a law; Newton's Law of Gravitation says that objects fall at a certain rate of acceleration, but does it say why?  When working with such mathematical formulations as are found in the application of a scientific law, it is best to know why such formulations are so and correct; this does not mean that the theory behind the observation of 'what is' as according to a law has actually become that law, rather, the theory is the causal aspect of the existential nature of that which it explores and explains.  To say that the cause is the same as the description makes no sense, although in ferreting out the nature of 'what is' the cause becomes the all of the endeavor to discover exactly 'what is.'  This traces the tendency to equate theory and law terminologically at times.

In discussing the nature of the distinction between scientific theory and scientific law the development of the broader theoretical import which is associated with a law also carries oftentimes hypothetical instances and contingencies at the borders, at the limits of given parameters in the law, where such a law becomes less true in specific instances.  Once again, the hypothetical regard for the question of 'what is' will be invoked in the face of a law which no longer works to match the empirical solution to descriptive accuracy in a domain which may lie beyond the domain wherein the law had once been derived and/or discovered.  Such progression back to the theoretical treatment of the same reality which had once been embraced by a given law, but which no longer holds in all considerations or limits, marks the progression of scientific understanding.  This is how a body of knowledge grows scientifically.  It is as if the reality being explored and described as to 'what is' is met repeatedly by perception of deeper layers of the same reality when the causal aspect, the theory which explains the new limits of the same law, sets new precedent.  Consider, therefore, the exact power of a law of science.  A law of science is as a light tower which holds its own up to the time that certain values which are derived from its general equation are found to vary so much from the able prediction of the law, that a new theory must explain why the law fails, why the light of that law no longer reaches into what was thought to be its domain.  At such time as a new layer of reality has been disposed for consideration, is it not true that a deeper understanding of the law now becomes possible from a theoretical viewpoint?  This deeper understanding of an existing law may also lead to the statement of a new law, and one which may allow a more elaborate description of the matters at hand.  

On the other hand,  a law may incorporate a stipulation of behavior which is simplified unto certain parameters by excluding the real nature of matter, for instance, since that real nature may not show significant effect in a certain practical range; the Ideal Gas Law is such an example, and which ignores the attractive forces of molecules one to the other in its consideration of the behavior of gases under varying conditions as according to temperature, pressure and volume.  

(May, 2006)  

2DE Ingber.  The mechanochemical basis of cell and tissue regulation.  MCB, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 53-68

"Mechanical stress-induced alterations in cell shape and structure are critical for control of many cell functions, including growth, motility, contraction, and mechanotransduction. These functional alterations are mediated through changes in the internal cytoskeleton (CSK), which is composed of an interconnected network of microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments that links the nucleus to surface adhesion receptors."

3Ning Wang*, Keiji Narusedagger , Dimitrije Stamenovic'Dagger , Jeffrey J. Fredberg*, Srboljub M. Mijailovich*, Iva Marija Tolic'-Nørrelykke*, Thomas Polte§, Robert Mannix§, and Donald E. Ingber.  Mechanical behavior in living cells consistent with the tensegrity model.  PNAS | July 3, 2001 | vol. 98 | no. 14 | 7765-7770.  See: Archives of PNAS at:

4G E Plopper, H P McNamee, L E Dike, K Bojanowski, and D E Ingber.  Convergence of integrin and growth factor receptor signaling pathways within the focal adhesion complex.  Mol Biol Cell. 1995 October; 6(10): 1349–1365. [Pub Med]

(December 25, 2005)

(15) Eine jede Erfahrung, die wir machen, ein jeder Versuch, durch den wir sie wiederholen, ist eigentlich ein isolierter Teil unserer Erkenntnis; durch öftere Wiederholung bringen wir diese isolierte Kenntnis zur Gewißheit. Es können uns zwei Erfahrungen in demselben Fache bekannt werden, sie können nahe verwandt sein, aber noch näher verwandt scheinen, und gewöhnlich sind wir geneigt, sie für näher verwandt zu halten, als sie sind. Es ist dieses der Natur des Menschen gemäß, die Geschichte des menschlichen Verstandes zeigt uns tausend Beispiele, und ich habe an mir selbst bemerkt, daß ich diesen Fehler oft begehe.  (15)

 (15) Every record which we render, every experiment by means of which we repeat it, is actually an isolated part of our cognition; through repeat more often we bring this isolated knowledge unto certainty.  There can be two researches well-known to us in the same subject, they can be related closely, however, seem yet more closely related, and we are usually well-disposed to hold them as more related than they are.  This is according to the nature of man; the history of the human intellect reveals for us a thousand examples, and I have noticed in me myself, that I commit this mistake often. (15)

(July 28 & 29 & August 1, 2005; edited December 25, 2005)


  (15)  A research finding can of itself be valid, yet, until it is developed within the framework  of a bigger picture, the exact significance of such a finding will not even be well understood.  In this fifteenth passage Goethe explicates the meaning of the interrelationship of different findings on the same subject which may seem to be more closely related amongst one another than they actually are.  In fact, since an original experiment may produce valid results, and nonetheless remain, as Goethe puts it, " isolated part of our cognition," if the mere possibility of a close relationship to another's experiment presents itself, the tendency in some loss of objectivity due to the desire to end an isolated context of one's work may be to magnify the putative proximity of relationship of the two researchings beyond their true connection, their actual conditional connectedness.  Indeed, Goethe himself admits that he even often commits such a mistake.  The nature of scientific work is collective and communal. Entire bodies of knowledge depend on the work of others for their furtherance, since logically the necessity to build a more holistic framework for understanding and knowledge is present, and is part of the drive of scientific curiosity and discovery.  The example in the preceding paragraph of the  newer theory of mechanotransduction as a way to explain how morphology can seem to transcend direct genetic regulation is astounding; it stands out as a shining example of how a given realm of function in a biological consideration can be finally brought into question even despite the vast extent of the knowledge gained and reasserted through elaborate research, and as in genetics, an actual genomic breakthrough.  Now the determinant status of genetics which mediates the biochemical events of living cells, tissues, organs, systems and organisms, having been elaborately researched and held in a position of supremacy for its contribution to the understanding of the way living things work, is under scrutiny through the understanding of how a living cell or tissue may react to mechanical force.  Currently, there is a theory abroad, the theory of mechanotransduction, which maintains that cells grow when their shapes are changed in an event of deformation, as has been explicated in the previous passage; however, this entire field of research into the nature of mechanical impetus in directing the inner machinery of the cells, including the genetic determining power over the biochemical mediations which eventually mediate the new growth, will be developed in an inter-relational sense with the existing bodies of knowledge of genetics and biochemistry.  Anyone who is at this time embarking upon scientific research, and who seeks to more fully understand how certain results can interrelate to others, as Goethe states in this fifteenth passage, should follow the progress of results in the theory of mechanotransduction for how those results will expand the knowledge of cell biology.

Goethe took on the question of the nature of the growth of plants as a scientist.  From his work, Der Versuch die Metamorphose der Pflanzen zu Erklären of 1790 an entire branch of plant science, that of plant morphology, has been formed.  In this work Goethe describes the transmutation of the leaf into several different plant parts culminating in his concept, "Alles ist Blatt," or 'everything is (from the) leaf.' After translating that work so as to countenance this thinker in his own language for the purpose of accuracy of his intended meaning, I was confronted with the hypothesis that somehow plant morphology would comprise a science whose particular level in the hierarchy of biological organization was baffling as to its connection to the undeniable force of the causal basis of genetic determination.  However, a most useful article on the essence and history of plant morphology by Donald R. Kaplan clarified for me how to view the plant sciences for their levels of organization first.4

Indeed, the principles of plant morphology concern themselves with how form at the whole plant and organ levels displays convergences in a phylogenetic sense, so that the genetic systematics are inverted in relation to the study of form.  Plant morphology gives weight to the power of evolution in form, however, not from homologies phylogenetically, as in systematics.  Rather, the study of analogous types of form and how they are connected evolutionarily are presented, so that even predictive truth can be had by the astute plant morphologist.

Nevertheless, in understanding the basic tenets of plant morphology my own familiarity with the genetics of organisms, and that at the molecular and cellular levels, caused me to enter into a quandary when I read the following statement by Kaplan in the article heretofore cited: 

"It has been demonstrated that the plant's morphology is an emergent property relative to its anatomy; i.e., the two levels of organization can be relatively independent and the anatomical level does not determine the morphological level." 

In translating Goethe's treatise on plant metamorphosis I saw that his observations and descriptions certainly support such an emergent basis for the morphogenesis of growing plants, and he gives in-depth descriptions of drastic transmutations.  Before relating the scientific material present in Der Versuch die Metamorphose der Pflanzen zu Erklären into the contemporary era I contemplated how it could be that anatomical parts could be surrendered in their primacy to form itself.  How could morphogenesis be so critical to the plant as a whole that it would be capable of transforming anatomy, and that it would be capable of directing anatomical formations?  The name morphology itself implies that form is to be considered in its more universal categorical status, yet, is that universal category not still to be subsumed under the dire necessity of function as coupled with structure, when the unit of structure to be considered should correlate exactly with an anatomical part?  If one reads the plant science of Goethe, one will become absorbed in a viewpoint directly opposite to the idea that anatomy is so deeply encoded in the genetic fingerprint of a plant, that the plant can only grow as according to such as an anatomically-determined blueprint, granted.  I could not simply surrender my knowledge of the molecular and genetic biochemistry and its importance; both of those sectors also connect to my knowledge of the cell, even though I am aware that Goethe's work holds great and brilliant validity.  I realize that a leading characteristic of animal life is action, or motive will.  Through the ability to translocate using the anatomical parts provided for that translocation animals survive and thrive.  In contrast, the leading characteristic of plants is that they are static to their surround as entities, that they remain in one place while they perform life's mechanisms more internally; then I saw that such internal mechanisms of the plants are the counterpart of the external characteristics of animal entities as they perform life's mechanical features towards survival, but in a willful and task-ridden mode of actions which relies upon unchanging anatomical functions with the structures kept in tact, e.g., limbs.  This observation of the differences in how plants survive versus how animals survive gave me insight as to how it is that a plant can change its shape to match its needs, and even insofar as to transcend anatomical delimitations; the survival of a plant depends not upon a mobility fundamentally, a mobility through space, as for an animal.  Therefore, how a plant grows is its form of liberation unto action to meet its particular needs for survival.  For example, a plant will provide for the destiny of its species through its sexual organs, its flowers.  Once that aspect of completing life's tasks is completed, that of procreation, the plant will simply expire.  It does not have to live on in order to feed and fend for its progeny, as, say, a mother lioness would do so.  Once a plant's life cycle is over and its seed has been given back to nature potentially so that germination of new plants can occur, the rest is to be determined once again from a more internally staid lifestyle, not a mobile one, as for animal beings.  The plant may change its anatomy in choosing its immediate destiny biologically speaking, yet, its anatomy does not need the same constant feature and function as the limbs and mammary functions of a lioness.  However, this premise of the differences between plant and animal life in the Darwinian sense of survival of the fittest, and which differentiates between plants and animals in the question of the differing levels of biological organization as regards anatomy versus morphology, still does not answer to the entire sector of the science of genetics in a direct manner.  How can form direct the genome, if the genome predicts the entire being, and which being has evolved and remains relatively stable over long periods of time as a species or a subspecies?  Certainly, spontaneous needs arise in the life of an organism, plant or animal.  Still the quandary remains, giving a graphic illustration of the meaning to be found in inter-associating empirical insights between experiments, as Goethe warns, and which logical necessities for proper conclusions is yet retained also between experiments in varying disciplines of science.

(December 26 - 29, 2005)

(to be process)   

4Donald R. Kaplan.  The science of plant morphology: definition, history, and role in modern biology.  American Journal of Botany. 2001;88:1711-1741. Link:


(16) Es ist dieser Fehler mit einem andern nahe verwandt, aus dem er auch meistenteils entspringt. Der Mensch erfreut sich nämlich mehr an der Vorstellung als an der Sache, oder wir müssen vielmehr sagen: der Mensch erfreut sich nur einer Sache, insofern er sich dieselbe vorstellt; sie muß in seine Sinnesart passen, und er mag seine Vorstellungsart noch so hoch über die gemeine heben, noch so sehr reinigen, so bleibt sie doch gewöhnlich nur ein Versuch, viele Gegenstände in ein gewisses faßliches Verhältnis zu bringen, das sie, streng genommen, untereinander nicht haben; daher die Neigung zu Hypothesen, zu Theorien, Terminologien und Systemen, die wir nicht mißbilligen können, weil sie aus der Organisation unsers Wesens notwendig entspringen.  (16)

  (16) It is this mistake closely related with another from which he for the most part has as his source, as well.  That is to say, man rejoices in the imagination more than in the thing, or we must say in fact: man only rejoices in a thing insofar as he imagines the same; it must be suitable to his disposition, and he may lift his ideational nature yet so high above the common, so still to scour so greatly; however, it remains only common for an experiment thus to bring many objects into a certain comprehensible relationship, that they, taken rigorously, do not have among one another; from there the propensity is towards hypotheses, towards theories, terminologies and schemes, which we cannot deplore because they arise inevitably from the organization of our being.  (16)

(August 1 - 3, 2005; edited April 9, 2006)  


(16) Goethe in this passage continues the discussion of the preceding passage wherein an isolated fact has contributed to knowledge.  Such an isolated fact may have been validated through repetitive experiments, and this fact gains an unusually close association with facts derived from a similar determination.  The similarity of subject of two experiments may be used to ally relatedness between those two experiments which is not warranted.  In this sixteenth passage Goethe finds the selfsame fallacy to be part of the make-up of the thinking scientist, whose imagination tends to meld into a relationship with the thing which is under observation more closely than that which is actually substantiated.  Therefore, the source of err in building scientific knowledge consists of perceiving a closer contingency between things than what is valid, and this comes to the scientist from within and from without: the imagination is more convincing than the actual thing, while the objects of experiments tend to be seen as more closely related than is true.  The twist which Goethe uses is playful; first, he portrays the experimenter as one who will lift above the common, yet with such assiduity will he do so; then, the experimenter will land inevitably back at the common, only because, “. . . it remains only common for an experiment thus to bring many objects into a certain relationship that they, taken rigorously, do not have among one another.”

(August 1 - 3, 2005; edited April 9, 2006)  

  (17) Wenn von einer Seite eine jede Erfahrung, ein jeder Versuch ihrer Natur nach als isoliert anzusehen sind und von der andern Seite die Kraft des menschlichen Geistes alles, was außer ihr ist und was ihr bekannt wird, mit einer ungeheuren Gewalt zu verbinden strebt: so sieht man die Gefahr leicht ein, welche man läuft, wenn man mit einer gefaßten Idee eine einzelne Erfahrung verbinden oder irgendein Verhältnis, das nicht ganz sinnlich ist, das aber die bildende Kraft des Geistes schon ausgesprochen hat, durch einzelne Versuche beweisen will.  (17)

 (17) If all researches, all experiments are to be regarded unilaterally as segregated according to their nature, and from the other side the power of the human intellect strives to associate everything which is outside her (nature) and what is known to her (nature) with a prodigious grip: so easily understood is the risk which is run, when a discrete research is associated with a collected idea or some relationship, which is not completely sense-born, however, which the forming tether of the intellect has already enunciated, intending to be evidence of which through constituent experiments.  (17)

(August 2 & 3, 2005)

  (18) Es entstehen durch eine solche Bemühung meistenteils Theorien und Systeme, die dem Scharfsinn der Verfasser Ehre machen, die aber, wenn sie mehr als billig ist Beifall finden, wenn sie sich länger als recht ist erhalten, dem Fortschritte des menschlichen Geistes, den sie in gewissem Sinne befördern, sogleich wieder hemmend und schädlich werden.  (18)

 (18) Theories and systems originate from such an effort for the most part which are a credit to the reasoning power of the authors, who, however, whensoever they are met with approval on the behalf of the advance of the human intellect in excess of what is fair, if they themselves are supported overly well for whom they convey certain acceptance,  they become outright repressive and corruptive.  (18)

(November 7 & 8, 2005)

  (18) Goethe, whose life spanned from 1749-1842, lived in a time when science as we know and practice science was yet in a formational stage which might be better described as highly constructional.  Beginning with the publishing of a work by Copernicus in 1584, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI or Six Books Regarding the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs, the scientific revolution had formally begun; with the publication of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 the scientific revolution may be periodized as to its formal end. By the time of Goethe there had been formed a more well-established way for scientific discoveries to be disseminated, as Newton had effectively perhaps freed the intellect of man to work from an empirical basis in scientific endeavors which had been spawned also through the conceptual cradle of the natural philosophers.  Gutenberg's invention of the printing press had come about in the middle of the 15th century, so that scholastic publications were present in the 1700s more than they had been in the Middle Ages.  

Copernicus had slated with his De revolutionibus a kind of free scientific thinking in a category of science most precious to his contemporary theologians, God's creation, and with which the Roman Catholic Church was to later take issue through the supporter of Copernicus, Galileo.  (Galileo published his telescopic observations, Sidereal Messenger, in 1610.)  Copernicus stated the heliocentric theory of the cosmos, that the sun was the center of the cosmos; indeed, besides refuting the church dogma of the geocentric theory, that the earth was the center of the cosmos, he also refuted the geostatic theory, that the earth did not move, as well.  With the science of Copernicus the philosophical side of arguments was now to be rendered more passive to an actual power of observation; mathematics was to be used to probe and prove such observation.  Thereby, scientific tradition had undergone major steps towards the more ultimate perfection of truth, and a certain tradition of establishing discoveries had been necessitated, as well, in order to deal with the plethora of information being conveyed from the results of the scientific revolution upon the activities of man.  

In the early 1600s Italians were establishing scientific societies, and even as far back as 1518 The London College of Physicians was given its Royal Charter so as to form a learned society; the French in 1530 founded the College Royal in Paris for the betterment of science.  In 1662 the Royal Society of London was formed with its publication, Philosophical Transactions.  The French in 1666 had founded the Academie des Sciences, whose publication was entitled, Memoires.  Indeed, these latter two societies hailed the apex of the scientific revolution, and which embraced a new concept of reproducibility of findings by natural philosophers, as early scientists were so deemed.  Such scientific societies were founded so as to support the relatively newly derived requirement of confirmation of any new discoveries.  With the publication of Philosophical Transactions it might be said that the first scientific journal had come about, and this would explain how Goethe could speak in this 17th paragraph of his essay of the works of other scientists so critically as he does.

Imagine, therefore, the context of the growing tradition of science in the time of Goethe to hold results of empirical findings as accountable to others; science as a growing body of knowledge was yet in its nascent form.  Goethe's criticism of those scientists whose intellects would be backed by an unfair acceptance no matter what they produced in the light of favoritism and closed association most likely had a weighty effect upon the standards of science in his time.    

(June 20, 2006)

  (19) Man wird bemerken können, daß ein guter Kopf nur desto mehr Kunst anwendet, je weniger Data vor ihm liegen; dass er, gleichsam seine Herrschaft zu zeigen, selbst aus den vorliegenden Datis nur wenige Günstlinge herauswählt, die ihm schmeicheln; dass er die übrigen so zu ordnen versteht, wie sie ihm nicht geradezu widersprechen, und dass er die feindseligen zuletzt so zu verwickeln, zu umspinnen und beiseite zu bringen weiß, dass wirklich nunmehr das Ganze nicht mehr einer freiwirkenden Republik, sondern einem despotischen Hofe ähnlich wird.  (19)

 (19) One will be able to note only that the more art a good heading applies, the fewer the data which lie ahead of it; that he himself as Datis, to demonstrate his authority, as it were, selects out only sparse favorites from those existing which flatter him; that he so realizes to put in order the remaining, as to virtually not contradict him, and so that he knows in the long run to entangle those hostile, to braid and to take apart, that actually henceforth the ensemble is no more a free-air republic, but becomes similar to a despotic court.  (19)  

(November 8 & 14, 2005)

  (20) Einem Manne, der so viel Verdienst hat, kann es an Verehrern und Schülern nicht fehlen, die ein solches Gewebe historisch kennen lernen und bewundern und, insofern es möglich ist, sich die Vorstellungsart ihres Meisters eigen machen. Oft gewinnt eine solche Lehre dergestalt die Überhand, daß man für frech und verwegen gehalten würde, wenn man an ihr zu zweifeln sich erkühnte. Nur spätere Jahrhunderte würden sich an ein solches Heiligtum wagen, den Gegenstand einer Betrachtung dem gemeinen Menschensinne wieder vindizieren, die Sache etwas leichter nehmen und von dem Stifter einer Sekte das wiederholen, was ein witziger Kopf von einem großen Naturlehrer sagt. er wäre ein großer Mann gewesen, wenn er weniger erfunden hätte.  (20)

 (20) It cannot be lacking in admirers and students, who can come to know and admire historically such a fiber in a man who has so much merit, and, insofar as it is possible, make themselves into the ideational kind of their own champion.  Often such an apprenticeship wins in such a way the upper hand, that one would be held for bold and reckless, if one were to venture to doubt about it.  Only later centuries would venture upon such a sanctum, to claim ownership again of the subject matter for the common human mind, take the thing somewhat lighter and reenact from the founder of a sect that, what a witty heading of a great physical scientist says; he had been a great man, had he invented less.  (20)

(November 15, 2005)

  (21) Es möchte aber nicht genug sein, die Gefahr anzuzeigen und vor derselben zu warnen. Es ist billig, daß man wenigstens seine Meinung eröffne und zu erkennen gebe, wie man selbst einen solchen Abweg zu vermeiden glaubt, oder ob man gefunden, wie ihn ein anderer vor uns vermieden habe.  (21)

 (21) However, it would not like to be adequate to advise the risk and to admonish previous to the same.  It is fair that one in the very least would disclose his opinion, and would give to identify how one himself believes in evading such an error, or whether it is located, as one another before us has evaded it.  (21)

(November 15 & 16, 2005)

(22) Ich habe vorhin gesagt, daß ich die unmittelbare Anwendung eines Versuchs zum Beweis irgendeiner Hypothese für schädlich halte, und habe dadurch zu erkennen gegeben, daß ich eine mittelbare Anwendung derselben für nützlich ansehe, und da auf diesen Punkt alles ankommt, so ist es nötig, sich deutlich zu erklären.  (22)

 (22) I have just now said that I hold the direct application of an experiment to the evidence of any hypothesis for non-constructive, and have given thereby to recognize that I inspect for valuable a direct application of the same; and since everything depends on this point, so is it necessary to avow manifestly.  (22)

(November 15 & 16, 2005)

(23) In der lebendigen Natur geschieht nichts, was nicht in einer Verbindung mit dem Ganzen stehe, und wenn uns die Erfahrungen nur isoliert erscheinen, wenn wir die Versuche nur als isolierte Fakta anzusehen haben, so wird dadurch nicht gesagt, daß sie isoliert seien, es ist nur die Frage: wie finden wir die Verbindung dieser Phänomene, dieser Begebenheiten?  (23)

  (23) In living nature nothing happens whatsoever that does not stand in a connection with the whole, and when the researches for us seem singly isolated, if we have regarded the experiments only as isolated facts, thereby it will not be said that way, that they are isolated; it is but the question: how do we find the connection of these phenomena, these events?  (23) 

(November 15, 2005; edited May 24, 2006)

  (23) Throughout the work of Goethe in the scientific field there are references to the whole, the unity of nature.  It is one thing to see the natural science objective as one which is innately unified, so that the vast possibilities of interconnecting factors and influences under study should mirror that perfection unto unity.  However, when considering the description of a particular empirical observation in a mathematically derived way, the challenge is to find the logical contingencies as they connect discretely with one another.  Goethe had found the guiding principle which allows the perceptive mind to reason yet in reference to the unified nature of things, while treating a given problem or question in its unique and particulate framework.  This is the mark of the great scientist. (23)

(May 24, 2006)

(24) Wir haben oben gesehen, daß diejenigen am ersten dem Irrtume unterworfen waren, welche ein isoliertes Faktum mit ihrer Denk- und Urteilskraft unmittelbar zu verbinden suchten. Dagegen werden wir finden, daß diejenigen am meisten geleistet haben, welche nicht ablassen, alle Seiten und Modifikationen einer einzigen Erfahrung, eines einzigen Versuches, nach aller Möglichkeit durchzuforschen und durchzuarbeiten.  (24)

 (24) We have seen above that those were subjected at first to the error, who sought to connect an isolated fact with their mental strength and power of judgment.  In contrast, will we find that those in the majority have achieved who do not desist from searching and working through all sides and modifications of one unique research, one single experiment, according to all contingency.  (24) 

(November 15, 2005; edited May 24, 2006)

  (24) A powerful point in this twenty-fourth paragraph of Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt is offered, one which should give good caution to the scientist who is employed, in charge, authoritatively validated and well-informed of the subject matter which has become the given quest for determination in a research venue.  Herein we review Goethe's entire fundamental point of this treatise: it is the experiment itself which can work between the subjective mind and the objective aspects of reality in a research endeavor; it is the experiment indeed which becomes as a reflection of the objective reality being explored and fathomed if the experiment is indeed only allowed to be as the go-between, the true mediator, for the empirically astute observer.  The empirical observation gained cannot be accurate or real to the truth if what is seen is instead a reflection of the forced mind of the scientist.  Such a mind which will force a viewpoint in the defense of conviction of truth which is ego-born, yet formed perhaps of judgment, as Goethe puts it, misses the entire crux of scientific method.  This conceptual achievement of proper and necessary detachment from results in scientific research amounts to the difference between knowledge and methodology -- a solid grounding of knowledge must be applied in a method which adheres to finding an objective correlative of truth which must be formed of accurate and logical, dispassioned thinking.  In essence, there is knowledge and then there is the how-to of knowledge in the scientific arena of research. (24)

(Μay 24, 2006)

(25) Da alles in der Natur, besonders aber die allgemeinern Kräfte und Elemente, in einer ewigen Wirkung und Gegenwirkung sind, so kann man von einem jeden Phänomene sagen, daß es mit unzähligen andem in Verbindung stehe, wie wir von einem freischwebenden leuchtenden Punkte sagen, daß er seine Strahlen nach allen Seiten aussende. Haben wir also einen solchen Versuch gefaßt, eine solche Erfahrung gemacht, so können wir nicht sorgfältig genug untersuchen, was unmittelbar an ihn grenzt? was zunächst auf ihn folgt? Dieses ist's, worauf wir mehr zu sehen haben, als auf das, was sich auf ihn bezieht. Die Vermannigfaltigung eines jeden einzelnen Versuches ist also die eigentliche Pflicht eines Naturforschers. Er hat gerade die umgekehrte Pflicht eines Schriftstellers, der unterhalten will. Dieser wird Langeweile erregen, wenn er nichts zu denken übrig läßt, jener muß rastlos arbeiten, als wenn er seinen Nachfolgern nichts zu tun übrig lassen wollte, wenn ihn gleich die Disproportion unseres Verstandes zu der Natur der Dinge zeitig genug erinnert, daß kein Mensch Fähigkeiten genug habe, in irgendeiner Sache abzuschließen. (25)


           Picture  ©2005-2006 by Marilynn Stark All Rights Reserved

 (25) Since everything in nature, however, especially the universal powers and elements, is in an everlasting effect and counter-effect, so one can say of every one phenomenon, that it stands with countless others in connection; how we from a free-floating, luminous point say that he sends out his rays towards all sides.  Have we thus such an experiment conceived, such research confected, so we cannot accurately enough prove what directly borders on him, upon what in the first instance follows from him?  It is this, whereupon we have to see more than in that, whatsoever bears upon him.  The diversification  of each one single experiment is thus the intrinsic obligation of a natural scientist.  He has precisely the reverse duty of an author, who wants to entertain.  This one will actuate boredom if he allows nothing remaining for thinking that must work disquietingly, as if he would want to allow nothing left over to do for his subsequent operation, when forthwith the disproportion of our understanding towards the nature of the things early enough reminds him, that no man has enough capabilities to seclude any causes.  (25)

(November 15 & 17, 2005; edited May 25 & 26, 2006)

   (25) The theological precept of Goethe is herein expostulated as the founding or ruling    basis of his conceptual grasp of all things in nature, which he says are in an unending dynamic disposition one to the other of equilibrating 'effect and counter-effect.'  Goethe specifically points up the 'universal powers and elements' as especially recognizable for this universal attribute of 'effect and counter-effect'.  The reference to divinity is made with the personal pronoun 'he,' whom Goethe describes using the metaphor of light.  In this poetic imagery of light as the divine instrument or divine principal of nature's creation Goethe astutely depicts the presence of God, as, " . . . he sends out his rays towards all sides."  Moreover, Goethe also posits the observer as one who is in like position so as to receive that light perceptively or conceptually, as,  " . . . from a free-floating, luminous point." (25)    


Photo © 2006 by Marilynn Stark All Rights Reserved  

(May 26, 2006)

 (26) Ich habe in den zwei ersten Stücken meiner optischen Beiträge eine solche Reihe von Versuchen aufzustellen gesucht, die zunächst aneinander grenzen und sich unmittelbar berühren, ja, wenn man sie alle genau kennt und übersieht, gleichsam nur einen Versuch ausmachen, nur eine Erfahrung unter den mannigfaltigsten Ansichten darstellen.  (26)

 (26) I have sought to advance in the first two parts of my articles on optics one such a series of experiments, which adjoins at first and alludes to (an experiment) intuitively, when they are all well-known and overlooked, only to put out an experiment, as it were, only to pose a researching among the most diversified views.  (26)

(November 17, 2005; edited April 3, 2006)

  (26) Goethe cites briefly his own specific work in optics, wherein he was researching the source of color.  Since the facets of the objective realm are so many and varied, he points out here in the more general sense that even when a series of experiments is thought to be well understood, such that their consequences are taken for granted for a time, upon re-thinking the series an actual experiment may arise from the midst of many differing viewpoints. (26)  

(April 3, 2006)

(27) Eine solche Erfahrung, die aus mehreren andern besteht, ist offenbar von einer höhern Art. Sie stellt die Formel vor, unter welcher unzählige einzelne Rechnungsexempel ausgedrückt werden. Auf solche Erfahrungen der höhern Art loszuarbeiten, halt ich für höchste Pflicht des Naturforschers, und dahin weist uns das Exempel der vorzüglichsten Männer, die in diesem Fache gearbeitet haben.  (27)

 (27) One such a researching which consists of several others is evidently of a higher kind.  It introduces the formula under which countless single computational examples are evidenced.  Upon such researchings of the higher kind I halt in order to unravel on the behalf of the supreme point of the natural scientist, and there the example knows for us of the excellent men who have worked in this case.  (27)

(November 17, 2005; edited March 20 & 21, 2006) 

Picture ©2006 by Marilynn Stark

   (27) The nuance of meaning here of the verb bestehen is helpful in understanding how verification of scientific research is accomplished when the research is informative enough to lend results as a collective of composite experiments, as opposed to building sequentially in experiments in order to determine an underlying cause or principle.  No longer a point-to-point quest, the research of which Goethe speaks here is rather laterally disposed, as such a broad principle has been proven that it would be the supreme point of all for the natural scientist; underneath its categorical level would there be several subsidiary points which have already been made and would be true by inference or application of the more fundamental knowledge now gained.  That is, if the range of  truth being found in experimental results is very expansive, then experiments which are subsidiary to that proven truth will validate once again, as opposed to delving in deeper to a given question or supposition through logically connected experiments.  The verb bestehen by itself can mean to confirm, whereas, when it is used in conjunction with the preposition aus and some object, then it is to be translated more succinctly as to consist of.  The meaning lent this translation thereby, as according to the precise definition of bestehen + aus as 'to consist of' as opposed to 'to confirm,' is vital to Goethe's point of guidance in understanding how the more astute research, that of a higher kind, distinguishes itself and can be discerned.  The supreme point of such researching of this caliber becomes the gift of the passages which follow here, and from which we all can learn and ponder in order to sharpen our understanding of the pinnacle of research design and analysis in the most general sense.  Indeed, Goethe refers to 'an example' when in the last sentence of this   paragraph he discusses such a case where an all-inclusive formula can be repeatedly proven in each and every instance.   Consider the third and last sentence of this paragraph: "Upon such researchings of the higher kind I halt in order to unravel on the behalf of the supreme point of the natural scientist, and there the example knows for us of the excellent men who have worked in this case."  Notice how the leading point of this essay is implied in the wording of  this sentence: that the experiment itself properly mediates for the scientist between object and subject, where the objective material or the experimental results thereof are the object, and where the scientist is the subject or the subjective agent of the work.  Goethe instructs when he states that 'the example knows' in the case of the 'researchings of the higher kind.'  If the example itself is seen as the knower in this chosen verbiage, then the subjective doer, the researcher, the one deemed to be a natural scientist, has effectively fused with the objective reality to the point where the experimental results are so keenly perceived that it is as if they are fully revealed in their own entity such that the knower and the known become as if non-different.  This kind of revelatory scientific work is the actual level at which the superior work, that which gives a working mathematical formula or formulae, will tend to actuate in its quest; perhaps if Goethe had herein described this kind of knowledge and how to search for it, then scientists of his day would have been enabled to design better experiments in their endeavors to unlock the budding secrets of natural science.  I know from experience that to find equations which describe even the possible objective reality in a research question is a finding which knows its own glory. 

(March 20 - 22, 2006)

(28) Diese Bedächtlichkeit, nur das Nächste ans Nächste zu reihen oder vielmehr das Nächste aus dem Nächsten zu folgern, haben wir von den Mathematikern zu lernen, und selbst da, wo wir uns keiner Rechnung bedienen, müssen wir immer so zu Werke gehen, als wenn wir dem strengsten Geometer Rechenschaft zu geben schuldig wären.  (28)


(28) We have to learn from mathematics this deliberation: only to arrange the next one from the next or rather infer the next from the next; and thus even so we must go always to work where we avail ourselves of no computation, even though we must owe the most rigorous geometrician accountability.  (28) 

(January 24, 2006; revised February 6 & May 24, 2006)

    (28) Poetically, Goethe describes in this paragraph the nature of the conceptual process through which the intellect of the scientist works.  The scientist maps out a way to perturb, measure and quantify the objective sector in view, and then will be able to sort out the results of the empirically culled data through mathematical reasoning.  How one describes the variables mathematically will be as according to how they interrelate with one another.  If one variable can be taken as an independent variable and another relates to it necessarily, then the one of logical necessity is said to be a dependent variable.  However, as Goethe states in this paragraph, determining which variable or variables might be dependent or not in what is discerned as a functional mapping of certain given parameters one to the other, '...the next one from the next...," is a determination which is at least once removed  from cognizance in the case where such an insight must be inferred before it can be arrayed, or as he puts it, 'arranged'; the more direct case may present where the placement of variables in their logical relationships is obvious or more proven.  Then there are instances of scientific search where such a computational level of what is being studied has not yet been reached, when the work at hand is original and there are no preceding experiments from which to build in a direct manner.  Or, it could even be pioneering in the broadest sense of original, and which in its extreme we may call today a 'black box' approach.  A pioneering level in scientific work might begin indeed with a black box conceptual grounding, as Goethe says herein, "...where we avail ourselves of no computation."  Nevertheless, Goethe playfully reminds us that ultimately such work from the dark will have to be accounted for.  He depicts the puzzle that is so typical of scientific research as one which must fit with the reckoning of a 'geometrician,' thereby visually portraying the logic of mathematics as akin to the form of geometry in its nature as a puzzle.  Goethe has skillfully painted in this twenty-eighth paragraph the challenge of science, wherein the unknown is removed from such as mathematical review until enough is empirically perceived so as to allow precise deliberation and then conclusions.  Mathematics is seen here as the rudder of science, as it teaches the way, according to the remarkable scientist Goethe, who in his time paved the way as a pioneering thinker and doer in science in more than one field of endeavor.  Indeed, Goethe founded the branch of plant science known as plant morphology. (28)

(February 6, 2006)


(29) Denn eigentlich ist es die mathematische Methode, welche wegen ihrer Bedächtlichkeit und Reinheit gleich jeden Sprung in der Assertion offenbart, und ihre Beweise sind eigentlich nur umständliche Ausführungen, daß dasjenige, was in Verbindung vorgebracht wird, schon in seinen einfachen Teilen und in seiner ganzen Folge da gewesen, in seinem ganzen Umfange übersehen und unter allen Bedingungen richtig und unumstößlich erfunden worden. Und so sind ihre Demonstrationen immer mehr Darlegungen, Rekapitulationen, als Argumente. Da ich diesen Unterschied hier mache, so sei es mir erlaubt, einen Rückblick zu tun.  (29)


 (29) Since actually it is the mathematical method which because of its deliberation and clarity immediately reveals each leap in the assertion, and its proofs are in actual fact only formal implementations, that that which will have brought forth into association, already having been there in its unit parts and in its entire sequence, has been surveyed in its entire complexity and under all conditions has been accurately and irrefutably invented.  And thus are their demonstrations more and more analyses, recapitulations, than criteria.  Since I here create this difference, thus would I take the liberty to accomplish a retrospection. (29)

(January 25 & 26, 2006)

    (29)  This statement of Goethe reveals his mathematical acuity and therein its prospective level of application in his perception of science.  Anyone who admires and uses mathematics so as to build in the understanding of scientific results and those results analyzed by others will see that much of what Goethe has been saying in Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt finds its source in the first sentence of this twenty-ninth paragraph.  Goethe has explicated previously that the ability to find associations between results in different experiments will lead to greater validation of any conclusions drawn from those experiments.  Similarly, in understanding the results of a single empirical work there will be the necessity to make an assertion of what is.  The tool of mathematics follows a method, Goethe asseverates, which by its nature deliberates and clarifies; the poetic idea that this method will accomplish its clarification in leaps also depicts the awesome revelatory power of mathematics to render the proof, and what is proved is none other than an association or associations.  However, it is noteworthy that the objective reality being derived in the language of mathematics is stated as, ". . . already having been there in its unit parts and in its entire sequence . . . ."  Herein Goethe reveals himself as an astute mathematical thinker, as he grasps the idea of the unit part, firstly, and also, as that from which is formed a sequence.  This objective reality most importantly must be grasped by the empiricist as existing in its own right, only to be described through mathematical precepts; this constitutes the division between subject and object which is the hallmark of any scientific thinker who must use the tool, the language of mathematics, to take into the subjective awareness the results of his or her work, and remain true to the actual reality of the objective realm which has just been uncovered empirically by utilizing the mathematical method in describing that objective factual result field.  It is not unheard of that scientific workers attempt to describe results of research in mathematical terms and simply fail at the task.  Having witnessed this happening in active scientific employ, I am that much more appreciative of Goethe to have explicated the abstract ideas of how to reason through and thus prove one's results in the language that is mathematics.  Perhaps Goethe uses the word erfinden, to invent, so as to describe the depth of realization to which one aspires as a mathematical truth is derived empirically, discerned for its unitary principle, traced through its sequential logic, used to prove the association which is the crux of the truth or hypothesis at hand, and then finally expressed as mathematically proven.  The depth of such work is so great that it would seem to be an invention as much as it is a dry, correlative picture of what is.  The idea of inventing in such an instance of mathematical telling credits properly the subjective power which is pitted keenly against the challenge of finding out the evidence for factual truth, so that from there a scientific understanding can be constructed.  How the subjective mind can correlate its empirical perception to the actual objective reality being studied is ultimately the essence of science; saying what has been seen in the language of mathematics has the unique power to prove the validity of the observation, and also, to communicate that proof adequately so that others can institute further research in answer to that which has been so clarified and accurately expressed.  The logic of mathematics itself is the rare component of validating evidence gleaned on the behalf of scientific truth.  Goethe takes care to review that even so, mathematical  assertions  as  ". . . formal implementations, that that which will have brought forth into association . . ."  must  also have  been  scrutinized  closely in  all  variables, or ". . . in  its  entire complexity. . ." and " . . . under all conditions. . . ."  Valid logic within a mathematical assertion is not itself proof that the mathematics being posited relates accurately to what actually obtains in the real objective world sector which has been studied by the scientist, since complexity can simply rule out narrow thinking in some instances.  Goethe, although subtle his point, makes it clear that once the objective reality is discerned and thoroughly grasped in its most elaborate conditional sense, including as it might prevail as according to varying conditions, there is no argument, there is indeed definitive scientific result: "Und so sind ihre Demonstrationen immer mehr Darlegungen, Rekapitulationen, als Argumente," which translates again, "And thus are their demonstrations more and more analyses, recapitulations, than arguments (criteria)."  The entire purpose of the essay by Goethe, Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt, is to establish the conceptual difference between objective findings in scientific research and the subjective perception which is capable of discerning the findings.  In the second sentence in this twenty-ninth paragraph just cited, "And thus are their demonstrations more and more analyses, recapitulations, than criteria," Goethe calls upon the exact division between the subjective observer and the objective reality which that observer empiricizes to be as total and as perfect as is possible.  Herein lies the key, the undeniable crux, of excellence in scientific research: that which is in the realm of the objective reality must be analyzed in its more ultimate form as data gained through scientific experiment but only in its most rarefied status; by rarefied status is meant that no pre-judgment should be placed upon the results which will skew the data report.  It is vital to the truth of the scientific undertaking at hand in experiments that the data will be allowed to shine forth its objective attributes as separate from any subjective bias on the part of the researcher who is given to the proper analysis of that data.  If the data is viewed rather as prefabricated unto subjectively disposed determining features, Argumente, or criteria, as Goethe explicates, then it has already been processed once over before it can be grouped properly and objectively mathematically for analysis.  This is the point of departure wherein mathematical deliberations can no longer serve to point up the actual truth in describing the objective sector, and unfortunately, there are many researchers who cannot discern such a subtle distinction between cogent truth where the data is properly processed, and an expression of truth which becomes blurred by the failure to let the data speak for itself, rather than to interpret it before it has been mathematically processed for such interpretation.  This distinction between scientific results in the form of raw data and preset conclusions regarding that raw data, and which conclusions or criteria subtly process the raw data before applying a statistical or pure math analysis to it, is never grasped by some researchers.  Yet, this distinction between the objective and the subjective is the actual juncture at which  objective scientific truth can be separated out and viewed as the full truth potentially if proper metaphysical principles of the division between objective and subjective realities is applied to any mathematical analysis.  The fact that this profound juncture is never seen by some scientific researchers is not so startling, although it is unfortunate and trying on those who perceive such error in their colleagues.  The juncture whereupon an empiricist must detach from supposition and reasoning by superimposing a putative reality upon a set of data, and which set of data might also correlate most perfectly with what actually obtains, is also paradoxical; in the most ultimate sense of absolute truth the subject and object are non-different.  However, the paradox resolves when this metaphysical truth lends its most ultimate leverage to the scientific exposition of truth in the objective realm, wherein knowledge of that non-difference will allow the greatest degree of freedom to think outside the bias intended by a mind subconsciously and subjectively concluded before the fact of strict and detached mathematical proofing.  Furthermore, the challenge of science continues unabated for even the enlightened scientists who are so capable of supreme detachment of ego towards their predictive abilities in researching a question or even a field of scientific ponder; the design of the experiment must be just so for the proper gleaning of data which will tell the most in unraveling the empirical truth.  The idea in designing an experiment so as to solve a question is to perturb the object of inquiry such that proper associations come out of that perturbation, and which associations can then be discerned.  If a hidden component lends its effect upon a purported association, then this hidden component might be masked over in the thinking of the one who interprets the data; and the masking over will be exactly the predetermined mind of the thinker who explores the question empirically, and then prefabricates the results unintentionally by applying a concluded mind, not an open and non-biased mind, to the processing of the data mathematically.  Another researcher might see the evasive loophole, redesign the experimental approach, and solve the puzzle accordingly.  Therefore, in order for the metaphysics of objective science to speak into the success of empirical endeavor that metaphysics must also be written into the design of the experiment, so that the data culled will have the potential to fully unravel the truth of objective reality being sought; only then will Goethe's majestic scientific quest for the experiment to become the true mediator between object and subject be fully realized. (29)

(January 25 & 26; February 7 & 8, 2006)  

(30) Man sieht den großen Unterschied zwischen einer mathematischen Demonstration, welche die ersten Elemente durch so viele Verbindungen durchführt, und zwischen dem Beweise, den ein kluger Redner aus Argumenten führen könnte. Argumente können ganz isolierte Verhältnisse enthalten und dennoch durch Witz und Einbildungskraft auf einen Punkt zusammengeführt und der Schein eines Rechts oder Unrechts, eines Wahren oder Falschen überraschend genug hervorgebracht werden. Ebenso kann man, zugunsten einer Hypothese oder Theorie, die einzelnen Versuche gleich Argumenten zusammen stellen und einen Beweis führen, der mehr oder weniger blendet.  (30)


 (30) The great difference between a mathematical demonstration is seen which carries the first elements through so many relationships, and between the proof which a knowledgeable discourser can induce from criteria.  Criteria are capable of including entirely isolated relationships, and nevertheless through wit and imagination will have merged upon a point and will have put forth surprisingly enough of the appearance of an authorization or of a wrong of a truth or falsity.  The constituent experiments in favor of an hypothesis or theory can also be arranged like criteria and a proof can be induced which more or less bedazzles. (30)

 (February 7 & 8, 2006) 

   (30) Goethe has promised in the preceding paragraph twenty-nine to derive retrospectively how a strict mathematical analysis had led to empirically valid conclusions in scientific reasoning of the most excellent kind.  In this thirtieth paragraph he verbalizes thereto the place of first fundamentals in an inquiry under consideration to give the greatest validity and convincing evidence of scientific truth.  Such as what Goethe deems 'first elements' are referred to as those elements whose fundamental attributes are held fast and true and effective in all of the relationships being considered among the data of a scientific researching.  In contrast to the more general level of such first elements there is the ability of some researchers to draw up criteria so as to analyze data by groupings; these groupings by superimposed criteria are  in place of the preferred higher level which is characteristic of a first fundamental, a first element.  Since these groupings may link together even isolated relationships, there is ultimately no single underlying mathematically correct truth which actually inheres in their constituents necessarily.  They may appear to be correctly analyzed even so, yet which authorization is not strictly valid.  Criteria operate upon data to make general the specific by superimposition, and then to order any analysis of the specificity of the constituent parts under consideration again, but falsely, to the general level when conclusions are met by induction.  The inverse of this incorrect mathematical method which may be applied in analyzing scientific research, wherein deficient attributes, criteria, are taken incorrectly as factors in mathematical sequential logic across wider relationships, also holds as proof of the necessity of strict mathematical rectitude in order to achieve the level requisite to proving an hypothesis or a theory: even, as Goethe states, "The constituent experiments in favor of an hypothesis or theory can . . .  be arranged like criteria and a proof can be induced which more or less bedazzles."  Essentially, in such an inverted case would criteria predetermine the results of experiments in what need not be processed with the implication of such criteria but for the status of those experiments whose caliber would prove an hypothesis or theory if the strictest method were to be applied instead.  Therefore, the resultant proof would still 'bedazzle' according to Goethe. (30)

(March 7, 2006)

(31) Wem es dagegen zu tun ist, mit sich selbst und andern redlich zu Werke zu gehen, der wird auf das sorgfältigste die einzelnen Versuche durcharbeiten und so die Erfahrungen der höheren Art auszubilden suchen. Diese lassen sich durch kurze und faßliche Sätze aussprechen, nebeneinander stellen, und wie sie nach und nach ausgebildet worden, können sie geordnet und in ein solches Verhältnis gebracht werden, daß sie so gut als mathematische Sätze entweder einzeln oder zusammengenommen unerschütterlich stehen.  (31)


  (31) He who will work through the individual experiments to the most thorough one, who disapproves what is accomplished, is heading for works with himself and with others honestly and thus will he seek to design the researchings of the superior kind.  These can be enunciated by short and comprehensible sentences, put next to one another, and as they have been formed bit by bit they can be ordered and brought into such a relationship that they are as good as mathematical propositions either individually or taken together steadfastly. (31)

(February 8 & 17, 2006)

   (31) Goethe outlines how the scientist drives to formation of the design of research will give the most refined and informative results, results which may well stand above the efforts of others or the past efforts accomplished by the one who is designing the best experimental outlay or plan.  In order to succeed at such 'researchings of the superior kind,' as Goethe calls them, certain pre-existing ideas based upon previously found results might very well be excluded in the logical progression towards the new research design.  The researcher who has the insight and discriminatory abilities to accomplish such an in-depth analysis of existing experiments must then formulate the new ideas so gleaned in cogent statements of truth, which can be taken mathematically so as to demonstrate their relationship both individually and as a collective.  If we of today take this scientific reasoning for granted, that is one matter; however, in the time of Goethe science was not as widely practiced.  Scientific method as expostulated here by Goethe must have been of such a depth of vision for many in his time and in subsequent times, that the essay Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt undoubtedly made an impact upon the intelligentsia.  (31)

(March 17, 2006)

(32) Die Elemente dieser Erfahrungen der höheren Art, welches viele einzelne Versuche sind, können alsdann von jedem untersucht und geprüft werden, und es ist nicht schwer zu beurteilen, ob die vielen einzelnen Teile durch einen allgemeinen Satz ausgesprochen werden können; denn hier findet keine Willkür statt.  (32)

 (32) The elements of these researchings of the higher kind -- of which (element) are many constituent experiments --  can be studied and proven thereupon, and it is not difficult to evaluate whether the many constituent parts can be enunciated through a universal leap; for here no arbitrariness takes place.  (32)

(November 15, 2005; edited March 14, 2006)


   (32) Goethe describes the level of science which may concern itself with pioneering discoveries when he reviews the universal nature of 'elements of the higher kind.'  He points out that such elements are easily discerned and lend themselves to a characteristic 'universal leap' which is beyond any question due to chance or a subjectively based bias from a wrongly set mind.  Indeed, this is the shining moment of scientific glory, wherein such as 'researchings of the higher kind' become recognized for their universal reach; instead of seeking conclusions from individual experiments in series, and whose ultimate impact will be realized as a progressive collective of knowledge, the greatest scientists will in actuality turn the tables of discovery and conduct experiments which point up the veracity of 'elements of the higher kind' as those experiments become subsumed properly as constituents, as illustrations of what had been perceived in the universal leap to first fundamentals.  (32)

(March 14, 2006)

(33) Bei der andern Methode aber, wo wir irgend etwas, das wir behaupten, durch isolierte Versuche gleichsam als durch Argumente beweisen wollen, wird das Urteil öfters nur erschlichen, wenn es nicht gar in Zweifel stehen bleibt. Hat man aber eine Reihe Erfahrungen der höheren Art zusammengebracht, so übe sich alsdann der Verstand, die Einbildungskraft, der Witz an denselben wie sie nur mögen, es wird nicht schädlich, ja es wird nützlich sein. jene erste Arbeit kann nicht sorgfältig, emsig, streng, ja pedantisch genug vorgenommen werden; denn sie wird für Welt und Nachwelt unternommen. Aber diese Materialien müssen in Reihen geordnet und niedergelegt sein, nicht auf eine hypothetische Weise zusammengestellt, nicht zu einer systematischen Form verwendet. Es steht alsdann einem jeden frei, sie nach seiner Art zu verbinden und ein Ganzes daraus zu bilden, das der menschlichen Vorstellungsart überhaupt mehr oder weniger bequem und angenehm sei. Auf diese Weise wird unterschieden, was zu unterscheiden ist, und man kann die Sammlung von Erfahrungen viel schneller und reiner vermehren, als wenn man die späteren Versuche wie Steine, die nach einem geendigten Bau herbeigeschafft werden, unbenutzt beiseite legen muß.  (33)


 (33) However, with the other method where we want to prove something which we maintain through isolated experiments rather than through criteria the finding frequently will have been obtained by fraud if it stays underdone and in doubt.  If one has brought together, however, a row of researchings of the higher kind -- thereupon exercise oneself thusly, as the intellect, the imagination, the wit may but like them in the same; it will not be detrimental, verily, it will be of avail.  That first work cannot be conducted carefully, diligently, strictly, pedantically enough, since it is undertaken for the world and for ensuing ages.  These materials, though, must be ordered and put down in rows, not lumped together in a hypothetical way, not put towards a systematic form.  Thereupon it becomes unrestricted for each one, according to his disposition to associate them and to make a totality from this, that the human imagination in general is more or less suitable and agreeable.  Thus what must be differentiated is differentiated, and the collection of researchings can much more quickly and more purely be added to, as if one must put aside unused the later experiments like stones which have been brought to a concluded construction. (33)

(March 1, 3, 5 & 7, 2006) 


   (33) In this passage of Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt Goethe warns that when a scientist analyzes the data of experiments that data must be properly arranged in a manner which will allow on sight an intuitive understanding of the associations which exist in isolated experiments.  This arrangement might be in rows for easier visualization.  If data which is of the superior caliber speaks so convincingly to the one who had culled it and uncovered the truth in so doing, yet that experimenter leaves it unattended, then it is left vulnerable to another's analysis which might dilute its own truest worth.  In such a case, there could be data which are replete with attributes of more universal elements which are observed in every isolated experiment, and if this is left open to the application of criteria by others who analyze it, then the resultant finding would be the equivalent of fraudulent.  The place of proper tabulation of data is therefore pivotal to the meaning to be rendered, since such tabulation allows the mathematical conclusions to be made more obvious and the data less susceptible to wrong analysis.  Indeed, this caliber of work, wherein the first and founding work or works lend a first fundamental to all questions in research to follow on a topic, must be meticulously performed and recognized as most critical for its meaning for all the world and for posterity.  Any scientist who can see the profound implication of such scientific research in its disposition more widely to posterity for its all-inclusive nature is gifted with a vision which matches the level of work being undertaken; and this is indeed the kind of scientist who enunciates these truths, this is indeed Goethe. (33)

(March 14, 2006)

(34) Die Meinung der vorzüglichsten Männer und ihr Beispiel läßt mich hoffen, daß ich auf dem rechten Wege sei, und ich wünsche, daß mit dieser Erklärung meine Freunde zufrieden sein mögen, die mich manchmal fragen. was denn eigentlich bei meinen optischen Bemühungen meine Absicht sei? Meine Absicht ist. alle Erfahrungen in diesem Fache zu sammeln, alle Versuche selbst anzustellen und sie durch ihre größte Mannigfaltigkeit durchzuführen, wodurch sie denn auch leicht nachzumachen und nicht aus dem Gesichtskreise so vieler Menschen hinausgerückt sind. Sodann die Sätze, in welchen sich die Erfahrungen von der höheren Gattung aussprechen lassen, aufzustellen und abzuwarten, inwiefern sich auch diese unter ein höheres Prinzip rangieren. Sollte indes die Einbildungskraft und der Witz ungeduldig manchmal vorauseilen, so gibt die Verfahrungsart selbst die Richtung des Punktes an, wohin sie wieder zurückzukehren haben.  (34)

 (34) The opinion of the most superior men and their example may allow me to hope that I am on the suitable path, and I would wish that with this explanation my friends may be contented who sometimes ask me: what then actually is my mind with my optical efforts?  My mind is: to collect all researchings in this subject, to employ all experiments independently and to carry them out through their greatest diversity, whereby they then  also are easy to recreate and are not ousted from the ken of so many men.  Thereafter, in order to compile and bide the propositions in which the researchings of the higher kind are enunciated, these rank themselves as well to whatever extent under a higher principle.  Should the imagination and the wit meanwhile anticipate sometimes impatiently, such that the kind of procedure itself states the sense of question, whither they have again to return. (34)

(March 7, 8 & 14, 2006; edited March 15, 2006)


  (34) In the final paragraph of this enlightening essay Goethe describes his method to his colleagues in a more practical forum regarding how to conduct researchings of the 'higher kind,' and which experiments are known from the annals of history as his work in theory of how light lends colors.  Notice that in the most dynamic sense does Goethe describe how he conducts his thinking theoretically and also link it to scientific experiments; the German word abwarten means 'to wait and see' or 'to bide.'  Certain propositions of 'what is,' the object, are put forth; the researchings are posed so as to seek out the truth of such propositions.  As the results of the research are compiled, they can be reprocessed as to their meaning in terms of conclusions after more is determined in an ongoing empirical sense, and so they will naturally take their place by rank under such higher principle which is discerned.   The last sentence, "Should the imagination and the wit meanwhile anticipate sometimes impatiently, such that the kind of procedure itself states the sense of question, whither they have again to return," is a rhetorical question which poetically expresses the never-ending curiosity, the boundless horizon of experimental endeavor, whereby great scientific discoveries are made.  If the procedure in conducting the research unto the findings is most useful in narrowing in on the question or questions at hand, then the imagination and cerebral efforts bide the sense of the results for their meaning as evidence of a given objective reality; such subjectively born facilities and qualities of intellect will inevitable surrender once again to the quest, the goal in the objective realm to empirically cull findings, in a seemingly endless effort to satiate the curiosity of 'what is.'  This description of pioneering scientific research, such as that which Goethe had conducted himself in the field of optics, is a case where the quest of the research at hand gives dynamic force to the empirical method and results; therein, calling forth the subjective ponder no matter how impatient, Goethe summarizes the entire premise of how the experiment indeed is the true mediator between or of object and subject. Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt, The Experiment as Mediator of Object and Subject, has been exhaustively also heretofore explicated by a great master of science, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who had the acumen to let the experiment itself balance between subjective realization and objective output in such a way that he could pose scientific questions in fields of inquiry which were in his time vastly unknown, and gain answers.  It would behoove any scientist of the modern day to rarefy despite time across centuries from the time of the giant Goethe the selfsame concepts which Goethe enunciates in this essay.  These are Goethe's own guiding concepts in proper scientific reasoning and mathematical demonstration, and they pertain still today to the most sophisticated work which might be underway, or better, which might still  be in the stage of formulation for engaging, even pioneering prospectus.

(March 15, 2006)   Marilynn Stark 

Translation completed on March 14, 2006   MLS

(This work is in the process of being completed as to commentary.)

N.B.:  This essay was published in 1792.      


  Marilynn Stark       Photos © 2006 by M. Stark All Rights Reserved





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