Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, probably the greatest of Germany's poets, was also an avid amateur scientist and displayed through his careful observations and his keen, what might now be called phenomenological, mind an ability to discern the depth of the phenomenon in question, in this case the origin of colours. In direct contradiction to Newton whose theory of colour formation, based on his earlier prism experiments and their interpretation, was the accepted theory of the time in all scientific circles and laymen alike, with one exception, that of painting and artistic use of colour.Goethe, being fascinated by the colours generated from the prism conducted his own investigations and found to his great surprise that Newton's theory was, if not incorrect, but rather mechanical in nature and based on an "interpretation" of the phenomenon rather than the truth as it stands. Goethe through his investigations into natural phenomena gave rise to the idea of the archetypal phenomenon or Ur-phenomenon, in this case meaning the movement or active form present in the phenomenon which gives it its character rather than some static image such as a Darwinian ancestor. Goethe noted that it is possible to actually experience the fullness of the phenomenon ie the coming into being of the colours themselves and that the human being can not only theorise in the conventional sense of Kant but can in fact truly know the phenomenon as it is. Contemporary science as it also was then does not acknowledge such a possibility. The book is basically a written account of experiments done by Goethe on the generation of colour in natural events and his own experiments to bring to the fore the ground of all colour generation.Read more ›
Ideas like Goethe's are the wellspring of new fashions in thought, whether they are 'right' or not.
Maybe Newton was supported by better evidence in his analysis of light and colour, but Goethe's views are a study in how the inquisitive human mind speculates on fascinating topics and comes up with answers that demand consideration and respect - whether they are 'right' in reality or just useful as ideas in themselves.
This book will provide insights into how we think, not just how we explain phenomenon.
Very solid, explicative (often clearer than the original text) translation of the "Didactical Part" of the "Theory of Colours". Although, the complete "Theory of Colours" also includes a "Historical Part" and a "Polemical Part"...
First a note. Goethe's optical theory is well known to be incorrect. Whatever he applies in terms of optical theory, one can disregard.
This book is a fascinating look at the world of colors in which we live with the eye for detail of a scientist and the meditative appreciation of a philosopher. The attention to detail is very good. The experiments are reproducible. It's really nicely done.
The basic theory that Goethe seems to be striving for is a set of patterns which explain our perception of color in the world around us. His theories are thus almost more artistic than scientific. He looks a patterns in color change, including those in optical illusions relating solely to the eye. In these patterns he finds meaning.
I very much enjoyed this book. It helped me step back and enjoy the world a little more.
Goethe's writings were, and still are, a source of inspiration for me. His "Theory of Colors", however, always puzzled me. Like going over a cliff. Why was he so insistent on Newton's spectral theory of color being wrong? Literally jumping up and down with his vehement rejection of it. So I ordered "Theory of Colors", not knowing what to expect. First on the level of scientific observation, it is a gem. For its times, it's up there with Newton's Principia. Secondly, patiently reading and re-reading the Dover edition of the text with its beautifully rendered color plates, flipping back and forth from text to plates, then back to the text, it finally clicked. A Eureka moment. Goethe was right, Newton is wrong. Visit my website http://bluelogic.us/, go to my quantum theory page and download, "Quantum signaling with prisms" for a discussion of my surprising discovery and vindication of Goethe. Thank you Dover. Thank you Amazon. -- The Blue Logician