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Goethe's Notion of an Intuitive Power of Judgment

from Special Section on Goethe and Idealism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2013

Daniel Purdy
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

Introduction

IN THIS PAPER, I explore the meaning of Goethe's notion of an intuitive power of judgment (anschauende Urteilskraft) and investigate its philosophical function. In order to do so, I situate it within the development of post-Kantian thinking. My goal, however, is not antiquarian but critical. I argue that Goethe's notion is grounded in a critique of conceptual thinking, which can be rationally reconstructed, and that it offers a possible answer to some of the shortcomings of propositional knowledge. I thus want to articulate its own systematic legitimacy.

Conceptual Thinking

The world according to Kant is conceptually constituted. The crux of his argument can be reconstructed in the following way.

Given the supposition that individuals have to be re-identifiable, and that such identification is done by an identifying subject, it follows that individuals have to be possible objects of these subjects. Now, being the possible object of a subject means that the subject can refer to the individual being its object. And in order to be able to refer to an individual, the subject has to stand in a definite relation to it. What is this relation like? It is characterized by two reciprocal directions. One direction leads from the individual to the subject. It bestows the subject with information about its point of reference. The other direction leads from the subject to the individual. Using the information with which it is bestowed, the subject can determine the identity of the individual.

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Goethe Yearbook 18 , pp. 51 - 66
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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