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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

2. The Science of Goethe According to the Method of Schiller

On-line since: 20th March, 2002

2. The Science of Goethe According to the Method of Schiller

With the foregoing we have determined the direction the following investigations will take. They are meant to develop what manifested in Goethe as a scientific sense and to interpret his way of looking at the world.

The objection could be made that this is not the way to present a view scientifically. Under no circumstances should a scientific view be based on an authority; it must always rest upon principles. Let us forestall this objection at once. We regard a view founded in the Goethean world conception as true, not because it can be traced back to this world conception, but because we believe that we can support the Goethean world view upon sound, basic principles and present it as one well founded in itself. The fact that we take Goethe as our starting point should not prevent us from being just as serious about establishing the views we present as are the proponents of any science supposedly free of all presuppositions. We are presenting the Goethean world view, but we will establish it in accordance with the demands of science.

Schiller has already indicated the direction of the path such investigations must take. No one perceived the greatness of Goethe's genius more clearly than he did. In his letters to Goethe, Schiller held up to him a mirror image of Goethe's being; in his letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man, he traces his ideal of the artist back to the way he recognized it in Goethe; and in his essay On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, he portrays the being of true art in the form in which he found it in Goethe's poetry. At the same time, this justifies the statement that our considerations are built on the foundation of Goethe's and Schiller's world view. We wish to look at Goethe's scientific thinking by that method for which Schiller provided the model. Goethe's gaze is directed upon nature and upon life, and his way of looking at things in doing so will be the object (the content) of our discussion; Schiller's gaze is directed upon Goethe's spirit, and his way of looking at things in doing so will be the ideal for our method.

In this way we believe Goethe's and Schiller's scientific strivings are made fruitful for the present day.

In accordance with current scientific terminology, our work must be considered to be epistemology. To be sure, the questions with which it deals will in many ways be of a different nature from those usually raised by this science. We have seen why this is the case. Wherever similar investigations arise today, they take their start almost entirely from Kant. In scientific circles the fact has been completely overlooked that in addition to the science of knowledge founded by the great thinker of Konigsberg, there is yet another direction, at least potentially, that is no less capable than the Kantian one of being deepened in an objective manner. In the early 1880's Otto Liebmann made the statement that we must go back to Kant if we wish to arrive at a world view free of contradiction. This is why today we have a literature on Kant almost too vast to encompass.

But this Kantian path will not help the science of philosophy. Philosophy will play a part in cultural life again only when, instead of going back to Kant, it immerses itself in the scientific conception of Goethe and Schiller.

And now let us approach the basic questions of a science of knowledge corresponding to these introductory remarks.




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