Goethe said that, although a „natural system is a contradictory expression”, provided that the distinction (in this system) is really substantial, its items will compare themselves.

Does anybody here know a science, a theory or a classification where this vision Goethe’s has been fulfilled ? _______________________________________________________________________

Further details (in answer to the query below by Dennis):

In “Allgemeine Pflanzenkunde und Recensionen”; “Problem und Erwiderung” (General Botanics and Recensions; Problem and Response), he says: “Natural system, a contradictory expression. // Nature has no system (…)” He speaks about Linné. Quelle: Goethes Werke (Sophienausgabe) Weimar, 1893, Abt. II, Bd 11, Theil 1, Zur Naturwissenschaft, p. 75, p. 79 (Linné). It seems to be a Mr. Meyer who wrote these quotes from Goethe down, but how this occurred, is not really explained. – When looking up Google, I found the following online-text, which has the same content as the cited book. Accidentally it is anthroposophic (but the Sophienausgabe was anyway edited by Rudolf Steiner): https://anthrowiki.at/Bibliothek:Goethe/Naturwissenschaft/Problem_und_Erwiderung

But in the Leopoldina-Ausgabe, erste Abteilung, Bd 11: Aufsätze, Fragment, Studien zur Naturwissenschaft im allg., Weimar, 1970, p. 27 (Naturlehre), Goethe writes: “Discernment is more difficult, more tedious, than to find similarities, and if one has discerned fairly good, the objects will thereupon compare themselves (…).”

By “class members” I just mean that some trunk (as highest class) has branches, twigs and leafs. All these are somehow members of this highest class (and of course of all the ajacend higher classes), as depicted here.

I used the tag structuralism, though I do not think like structuralists (Stegmüller, Essler, Suppes, Moulines, Sneeds). I feel that their thought of an algebraic/logic modelling of the world, which is, for instance, also the view of the physical explanation of the world by algebraic quantum mechanics (for instance this), somehow ridicule. But the nativity of these structuralists is simultaneously somehow touching, because it is easier to see in their approach, that the merely imitating approach of today’s science is inappropriate, which is comparatively not so easy to articulate if the method is completely abstract.

I ask this question not because I am a scholar philosopher, but because I am an “amateur researcher” quite in the sense of Ivor Benson, p. 70, who wrote about historians, but it may be extended to philosophers etc.: “… there is some need for such “amateur historians”, willing to undertake the dangerous and thankless task of establishing new bridgeheads (…) which the professionals can later occupy with safety”.

I am sorry if the tag "structuralism" mislead you. If so, feel free to suggest an edit to delete it. The term structure means to me, in an entirely naive way, this systematizing/system mentioned in the title, which should institute an intrinsic analogy that includes, and puts in a coherence, all the classes and elements/members of the system; hence all members of the system would amazingly compare themselves.

I suppose that it must be a system, which uses concepts that are not circular (what I mean by this, has been explained here, eventually supplemented by this explanation, which you will, perhaps, reject in advance). – From these two examples you see that, strangely, I came to the conclusion that this natural system must necessarily be based on acid-base-salt theory. – But perhaps there exist alternative solutions to achieve such a system?

I think that every of these self-comparing elements of the system would be pars pro toto the pure phenomen or "Urphänomen". These self-comparing elements would, by their mere presence, speak the language of nature, or the language of appearances. But physicists and philosphers think that the language of nature is mathematics ..., "(...) and so it remains usually only an attempt to bring many objects in a certain conceivable relation, which they, properly speaking, do not have between each other." (Objekt und Subjekt, p. 29 of the Sophienausgabe mentioned quite above.)

  • 1
    Could you perhaps add more context? What does Goethe mean by "natural system" and does he say more about what it would mean for them to "compare themselves"? Also, your title mentions "class members" which sounds like you have in mind something like set/class theory? Is that right or is it some kind of social class you're discussing? Additionally, "structuralism" sometimes refers to a view in the philosophy of mathematics, and sometimes a school of thought in the continental tradition. I assume you're interested in the latter?
    – Dennis
    May 29, 2017 at 20:48
  • @Dennis: According to your request, I have added further details, within the answer.
    – user26880
    May 30, 2017 at 3:05
  • I'm not sure how Goethe's position is different from belief in natural kinds---if a distinction is natural, the objects distinguished by it are sort of ready-made in their differences. Here we would take "compare themselves" as metaphorical. So are you asking, "Do we have a complete theory carving up everything into their ready-made categories?"
    – Canyon
    May 31, 2017 at 17:06
  • @Canyon: But isn’t “ready-made” a robotic expression? − You suggest that maybe Goethe just commented by the way a bit about existing biological or other scientific classifications. I do not think so, but even if, why not take him literally? − If someone wants to define two new classes, he may do it on the one hand robotic, i.e. intending to some convenience; or on the other hand in a way to give them really movement (by touching their intensions), then one class will readily compare with the other, it will by itself explain the other class (because they convey each other).
    – user26880
    Jun 1, 2017 at 1:39
  • No. Ready-made happens to be useful, because knowledge of the way things really are are useful; similarly it sounds a lot like science, because science is trying to explain the world, i.e., work with natural kinds.
    – Canyon
    Jun 2, 2017 at 1:07


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