Integrative Biophilosophy

Knowledge/(Re-)cognition as ‘Living Togetherness’– Goethe's Morphology as Epistemological Paradigm for Ernst Cassirer and Kurt Goldstein

PhD student: Victoria-Katharina Martinelli

E-mail address: v.k.martinelli[at]uni-kassel[dot]de

Supervision:  Prof. Dr. Dr. Kristian Köchy 

Funding: Promotionsstipendium des Otto-Braun-Fonds (since April 2021)


Project Description:

The dissertation project focuses on the reception of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) by cultural philosopher Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) and neurologist Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965). In addition to their familial bond, the scholars developed their epistemological approaches within the scope of a vivid interchange of ideas. Notably, they are deeply connected by their reference to Goethe.

While the project intends to reconstruct the reception and its dimensions, it also assumes that a distinct guiding idea from Goethe's morphological writings has had a paradigmatic influence on both epistemologies. In particular, Goethe's notion, every living thing is not only an individual but also a multitude, by which he characterizes organic individuals as ‘living togetherness’ (‘lebendige Versammlung’). Even though primarily referring to the relation of part and whole in living beings, Goethe’s concept of ‘living togetherness’ is transferable to the relationship among human beings and the world as well. Hence, his conception presents an epistemological dimension, which is worthwhile to be explored.

The investigation aims to clarify the following six questions: (1) What are the central axioms, premises, and theses of Cassirer's and Goldstein's epistemologies? (2) In which argumentative contexts do they refer to Goethe? (3) How does Cassirer's and Goldstein's specific fields of research affect their reception of Goethe's writings? (4) What are the objective reasons for their interest in Goethe, and how they influence their research method? (5) In what manner is the poetic-pictorial dimension of Goethe's perception of nature considered? (6) To what extent does the intellectual exchange about Goethe explain similarities and differences in Cassirer's and Goldstein's epistemological models? To clarify these questions, the study combines hermeneutic textual analysis with science historical and pictorial hermeneutic approaches to discuss, based on the two selected case studies (Cassirer-Goldstein), under which aspects Goethe's notion of a 'living togetherness' can be attributed the function of an epistemological paradigm.

Selected Contributions:

  • Victoria-Katharina Martinelli (2021) Auf das Innere der Natur einen Blick erhaschen – Rezension zu Alfred Schmidts »Goethes herrlich leuchtende Natur. Philosophische Studie zur deutschen Spätaufklärung«. (see here)

  • Victoria-Katharina Martinelli u. Salvatore Martinelli (2020) Gerontology and the Humanities – Perspectives for Historical Ageing Studies and Approaches to Gerontological Medievistics (04.11. - 06.11.2019). Tagungsbericht für das Deutsche Historische Institut in Rom. (see here)

  • Antje Thon (2015) Studentin Victoria-Katharina Martinelli erforschte jüngsten Grimm-Bruder (see here)