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The Gestation of German BiologyPhilosophy and Physiology from Stahl to Schelling$
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John H. Zammito

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226520797

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226520827.001.0001

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Polarität und Steigerung: The Self-Organization of Nature and the Actualization of Life

Polarität und Steigerung: The Self-Organization of Nature and the Actualization of Life

(p.286) Chapter Ten Polarität und Steigerung: The Self-Organization of Nature and the Actualization of Life
The Gestation of German Biology

John H. Zammito

University of Chicago Press

To establish life science on a systematic basis required an integrating principle for the specific conception of organic form and its integration further into a general system of nature. The key ideas found their fullest articulation respectively in Goethe’s conception of developmental morphology as the principle of a science of life forms and in Schelling’s conception of Naturphilosophie, that is, nature as a whole conceived as a developmental, living organism. Both Goethe and Schelling self-consciously embarked on the “daring adventure of reason” against which Kant had warned. This chapter explores their respective theoretical constructions in terms of the intellectual development of their progenitors. Goethe conceived his ideas of developmental morphology in the mid-1790s. His encounter and collaboration with Schelling in 1798 brought about a dramatic fusion of their two trajectories in a conception of Polarität [polarity] and Steigerung [intensification] constituting the self-organization of nature. That energized the synthesis of life science under the new rubric of “biology” in the first years of the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schelling, Friedrich Schiller, Polarität, Steigerung, developmental morphology, Naturphilosophie, Kant, Lucretius, self-organization of nature

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