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
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
Johann Christian Reils Romantic Theories of Life and Mind
Schellings Dynamic Evolutionism
Mechanism Teleology and Evolution
The Erotic Authority of Nature
Goethes Scientific Revolution
The History of a Life in Art and Science
The Romantic Conception of Life

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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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