Introduction to Goethean Enquiry with Louise Livingstone

Sunday July 4th 2021 – 3:00pm-5:00pm (UK time) via Zoom

“The model we choose to understand something determines what we find….Our first leap determines where we land” (McGilchrist, 2012, p.97)

Arising out of Enlightenment thinking, Western science progressed for centuries on the understanding that it is only possible to gather reliable knowledge about the world through rational thought and objective methodologies. Known as the empirical method, this way of doing science and gathering knowledge about the world has transformed all parts of our daily lives, yet it has also been recognised as contributing to numerous problems generated by our increasingly unsustainable lifestyles – from climate change and ecological degradation, to crises in education and the breakdown of community (McGilchrist, 2012).

In contrast to the empirical method, the 18th century German poet and scientist, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832) offers us a more relational approach to phenomena; using subjective and objective ways of knowing. Although primarily known as a literary figure, Goethe developed a philosophy of science based on research he carried out into morphology, anatomy and optics. Goethe’s morphological method was a combination of careful empirical observation and deep intuition into what guides the pattern of changes over time in an organism as it interacts with its environment. Goethe practiced his scientific research by firstly looking actively at what he was studying in order to see it clearly and deeply (exact sensorial perception), free from the blinkers of established theories, classifications and mental models of the reductionist worldview. Then he deepened his understanding by reliving his sensory experience over and over in his imagination (exact sensorial imagination) seeking to comprehend its unity without analytical or abstract thought; endeavouring to understand the whole through the parts. 

In this seminar we will learn more about Goethe and his imaginal method of enquiry, exploring why his method is so important for the world we are living in today.  

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