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The Wholeness of Nature

Goethe’s Way toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature

Henri Bortoft

424 pp.  

Lindisfarne Books


Published:  October 1996


Whereas most readers are familiar with Goethe as a poet and dramatist, few are familiar with his scientific work. In this brilliant book, Henri Bortoft (who began his studies of Goethean science with J. G. Bennett and David Bohm) introduces the fascinating scientific theories of Goethe. He succeeds in showing that Goethe’s way of doing science was not a poet’s folly but a genuine alternative to the dominant scientific paradigm.

Bortoft shows that a different, "gentler" kind of empiricism is possible than that demanded by the dualizing mind of modern technological science and demonstrates that Goethe’s participatory phenomenology of a new way of seeing—while far from being a historical curiosity—in fact proposes a practical solution to the dilemmas of contemporary, postmodern science.

If you read only one book on Goethan science, this should be the one!

"If I were asked to recommend one book on Goethe’s contributions to natural science and philosophy, it would be this book." —Evan Thompson, coauthor, The Embodied Mind

"This is a gem of a book. Bortoft has made Goethe’s thinking available in a particularly clear way. He has brought Goethe up-to-date, showing how relevant his thinking is for a post-quantum world. Goethe’s method, in fact, could well point toward a new direction in science—to the science of the 21st century." —David Peat, author, Synchronicity:The Bridge between Matter and Mind

"Henri Bortoft offers us, here, a precise and much-needed guide to Goethe’s scientific imagination." —David Abram, author, Spell of the Sensuous

"Bortoft shows how the contemporary impulse for a participatory science can be realized. What’s more, the book is beautifully written." —Brian Goodwin, author of How the Leopard Changed Its Spots


  • Preface

  1. Authentic and Counterfeit Wholes
    Two Examples of Wholeness: Holograms and the Universe of Light and Matter
    The Hermeneutic Circle
    The Whole and the Parts
    Encountering the Whole: the Active Absence
    Wholeness in Science
    Goethe’s Way of Science
    The Ur-Phenomenon

  2. Goethe’s Scientific Consciousness
    Making the Phenomenon Visible
    Newton’s Experiments
    The Primal Phenomenon of Color
    Goethe’s Scientific Consciousness
    Knowing the World
    Unity without Unification
    Modes of Consciousness
    The Depth of the Phenomenon
    Goethe’s Organic Vision
    The Unity of the Plant
    The One and the Many
    The Unity of Animal Organization
    The Necessary Connection
    The Scientist’s Knowledge

  3. Understanding Goethe’s Way of Science
    The Organizing Idea in Cognitive Perception
    The Organizing Idea in Scientific Knowledge
    The Organizing Idea in Observational Discoveries
    The Organizing Idea in Theories of Science
    Copernicus and the Moving Earth
    Galileo and the Moving Earth
    The Idea of Inertial Motion
    The Organizing Idea of Modern Science
    The Quantitative Way of Seeing
    The Metaphysical Separation
    Understanding the Science of Color
    Newton and the Mathematical Physics of Color
    The Physics of Goethean Style
    The Goethean One
    Modes of Unity
    Seeing the Dynamical Unity of the Plant
    The Unity of the Plant Kingdom
    The Unity of the Organism
    Seeing Comprehensively
    The Twofold
    The Possibility of a New Science of Nature

  • Notes
  • Bibliography

Related Titles

  • Nature's Open Secret : Introductions to Goethe's Scientific Writings (CW 1)
  • Why the World around You Isn’t as It Appears : A Study of Owen Barfield
  • Taking Appearance Seriously : The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought

    Related Titles by Subject:

    Science & Nature and Science & Nature: Goethean Studies