The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe

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University of Chicago Press, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 587 pages
"All art should become science and all science art; poetry and philosophy should be made one." Friedrich Schlegel's words perfectly capture the project of the German Romantics, who believed that the aesthetic approaches of art and literature could reveal patterns and meaning in nature that couldn't be uncovered through rationalistic philosophy and science alone. In this wide-ranging work, Robert J. Richards shows how the Romantic conception of the world influenced (and was influenced by) both the lives of the people who held it and the development of nineteenth-century science.

Integrating Romantic literature, science, and philosophy with an intimate knowledge of the individuals involved—from Goethe and the brothers Schlegel to Humboldt and Friedrich and Caroline Schelling—Richards demonstrates how their tempestuous lives shaped their ideas as profoundly as their intellectual and cultural heritage. He focuses especially on how Romantic concepts of the self, as well as aesthetic and moral considerations—all tempered by personal relationships—altered scientific representations of nature. Although historians have long considered Romanticism at best a minor tributary to scientific thought, Richards moves it to the center of the main currents of nineteenth-century biology, culminating in the conception of nature that underlies Darwin's evolutionary theory.

Uniting the personal and poetic aspects of philosophy and science in a way that the German Romantics themselves would have honored, The Romantic Conception of Life alters how we look at Romanticism and nineteenth-century biology.

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A Most Happy Encounter I
UrTheilen des Knochen und Schalengerustes
The Early Romantic Movement
The Poetry of Nature
Farewell to Jena
The Meaning of Romanticism
Blumenbach and Kant
Kielmeyer and the Organic Powers of Nature
Mechanism Teleology and Evolution
Vital Force from Holler to Humboldt
Plate from Luigi Galvani De viribus ekctricitatis
The Erotic Authority of Nature
Goethes Scientific Revolution
The History of a Life in Art and Science
The Romantic Conception of Life

Johann Christian Reils Romantic Theories of Life and Mind
Schellings Dynamic Evolutionism

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Page 555 - It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an advancement in the standard of morality and an increase in the number of well-endowed men will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another.
Page 556 - There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.

About the author (2002)

Robert J. Richards is a professor of history, philosophy, and psychology and director of the Fishbein Center for the History of Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior and The Meaning of Evolution: The Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwin's Theory, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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