Download Goethe contra Newton: Polemics and the Project for a New by Dennis L. Sepper PDF

By Dennis L. Sepper

This publication explains the history and motive of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's infamous assault on Isaac Newton's vintage concept of white gentle and hues. although the advantages of Goethe's colour technology, as complicated in his sizeable Zur Farbenlehre, have frequently been stated, it's been virtually unanimously proclaimed invalid as physics. How may Goethe were so improper? In his ebook, Dennis Sepper exhibits that the condemnation of Goethe's assaults on Newton has been in response to faulty assumptions concerning the heritage of Newton's idea and the equipment and objectives of Goethe's colour technology. through illuminating the ancient history and the experimental, methodological, and philosophical elements of Goethe's paintings, the writer indicates that his colour concept is in a massive feel really actual and that, as concurrently poet, scientist, historian, and thinker, Goethe controlled to count on very important twentieth-century learn not just within the historical past and philosophy of technological know-how, yet even in colour technology itself.

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Extra info for Goethe contra Newton: Polemics and the Project for a New Science of Color

Example text

Yet we shall also see that the age in which he worked had narrowed the conception of what legitimate science was so that hostility, and often an inability to comprehend, were the principal responses toward someone who, in an often idiosyncratic way, tried to show the onesidedness of the theory of differential refrangibility according to color and the fatefulness of historical decisions that had been taken without proper reflection. In reading Goethe as scientist, as philosopher of science, and as historian of science, we shall occasionally find ways in which he anticipated later work.

Goethe's attention had been attracted first to color in art, then to color in nature. A theory of color relevant to art would have to account for such matters as color mixing, permanency, temperature, harmony, neutralization, and enhancement. A theory of color in nature would have to account for the colors of bodies, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral; of atmospheric phenomena, including the changing colors of the sun and sky during the day, halos around the sun and the moon, and rainbows; of colored shadows; and of any other kinds 36 THE FARBENLEHRE IN ITS ORIGIN of color phenomena that appear in nature.

This kind of error is not unprecedented, however. For example, the first edition of Gren's Grundriss der Naturlehre (1788) contains the same misinterpretation, as does a work from 1768 by one of Erxleben's THE GERMAN SCIENTIFIC COMPENDIA 35 predecessors at the University of Gottingen, Albrecht von Haller (Hargreave 1973, 493—94). Interestingly, the third and succeeding editions of Erxleben, prepared by the eminent physicist and scholar Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and an unnamed assistant, never corrected the error of the seven discrete circles, although many other additions and emendations were made.

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