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Goethe's Magical Philosophy And Possession Of Nature

1271 words - 5 pages

Goethe's Magical Philosophy and Possession of Nature

After hearing comments from the class, and especially Professor, about Goethe's appropriation of nature I began to wonder about the argument I had presented in our presentation. I decided to do further research and found some interesting arguments that both supported and detracted from my original statement.

Although I think Goethe's relationship to nature is undeniable, perhaps his "appropriation" of nature is less clear. I think the term "appropriation" is the cause of the problem in identifying his true relationship to nature. In our presentation we presented examples of the appropriation of nature through Romantic literature. The most direct example of this was in Anne's detailed description of English landscape gardening where nature was physically appropriated to create the picturesque. Here we can see the distinction between any concept of Goethe's appropriation of nature and the real and physical appropriation by English landscapers.

The term appropriation denotes and connotes possession on the part of the appropriator. The question of possession therefore becomes central to an idea of Goethe's appropriation of nature. Indeed, the landowners of England commissioned landscape architects to transform their grounds into models of the picturesque and this process was demonstrative of an actual possession over the land. However, I find it difficult to reduce Goethe to materialism and believe that he would take a more engaged and emotional approach to nature. It is obvious that Goethe never actually appropriated any of nature, especially when compared with the English landscapers, but I'm not sure if this satisfies an understanding of his relationship to nature.

From Bruce MacLennan's definitions found in his introduction to his seminar on Goethe, it seems that Goethe would most likely accept the magical philosophy rather than the mechanical philosophy. "[T]he magical philosophy also promised control over the material world, but it was restrained by its reverence for Nature. In common with the Aristotelian philosophers, they believed that knowledge of nature…would help to free humanity from misery and to ensure peace and plenty, in cooperation with nature, for all..." (MacLennan). From MacLennan's site, it is not entirely clear how the magical philosophy can be both cooperative and controlling over nature. But this dilemma seems to reflect greatly on the issue of appropriation of nature.

I believe this relates to Faust, in that the struggle seems to relate succinctly with Goethe own understanding of nature. "Faust, in typical Romantic fashion, conflates Neoplatonism, which opposes a transcendent mind to an immanent world, with Kantianism, which opposes an internal subject to an external object; thus, sometimes Faust has two souls, one of which longs for transcendence, the other for the world (the Neoplatonist version of the Romantic dialectic), and at other times he...

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