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The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

On-line since: 30th November, 2012


The Function of This Branch of Science

(See Exposition on Brief, Chapter 3)

W ITH REGARD to all knowledge, that holds true which Goethe expressed so aptly in the words: “Theory is of no use in and of itself save as it causes us to believe in the interrelationship of phenomena.” By means of science, we are always bringing separate facts of experience into relationship. We perceive in inorganic Nature causes and effects separated, and we seek for their connection in the appropriate sciences. In the organic world we become aware of species and genera of organisms, and we endeavor to establish the reciprocal relationships among them. Single cultural epochs of humanity appear before us in history, and we endeavor to learn the inner dependence of one evolutionary stage upon another. Thus every branch of science has to work in some definite field of phenomena in the sense conveyed by the statement quoted above from Goethe.

Each branch of science has its sphere in which it seeks for the interrelationship among phenomena. But there yet remains a great antithesis in our scientific endeavors: on one side, the ideal world [die ideele Welt — the world of ideas] gained by the sciences, and, on the other, the objects upon which that world is based. There must be a branch of science which here also clarifies the interrelationships. The ideal and the real world, the antithesis between idea and reality, — these constitute the problem of such a science. These contrasting elements also must be understood in their reciprocal relationships.

It is the purpose of the following discussion to seek for these relationships. The facts of science on the one hand and Nature and history on the other are to be brought into relationship. What is the significance of the reflection of the external world in human consciousness? What relationship exists between our thinking about the objects of reality and these objects themselves?

Last Modified: 16-Aug-2017
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