Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To whatever direction a man may be determined by inclination or accident, whatever class of phenomena especially strike him, excite his interest, fix his attention, and occupy him, the result will still be for the advantage of science: for every new relation that comes to light, every new mode of investigation, even the imperfect attempt, even error itself is available; it may stimulate other observers and is never without its use as influencing future inquiry.
With this feeling the author himself may look back without regret on his endeavours. From this consideration he can derive some encouragement for the prosecution of the remainder of his task ; and although not satisfied with the result of his efforts, yet re-assured by the sincerity of his intentions, he ventures to recommend his past and future labours to the interest of his contemporaries and posterity.

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3 Responses to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  1. shinichi says:

    Goethe’s Theory of Colours

    by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS.

    In reviewing this labour, which has occupied me long, and which at last I give but as a sketch, I am reminded of a wish once expressed by a careful writer, who observed that he would gladly see his works printed at once as he conceived them, in order then to go to the task with a fresh eye ; since everything defective presents itself to us more obviously in print than even in the cleanest manuscript. This feeling may be imagined to be stronger in my case, since I had not even an opportunity of going through a fair transcript of my work before its publication, these pages having been put together at a time when a quiet, collected state of mind was out of the question.

    Some of the explanations I was desirous of giving are to be found in the introduction, but in the portion of my work to be devoted to the history of the doctrine of colours, I hope to give a more detailed account of my investigations and the vicissitudes they underwent. One inquiry, however, may not be out of place here ; the consideration, namely, of the question, what can a man accomplish who cannot devote his whole life to scientific pursuits? what can he perform as a temporary guest on an estate not his own, for the advantage of the proprietor?

    When we consider art in its higher character, we might wish that masters only had to do with it, that scholars should be trained by the severest study, that amateurs might feel themselves happy in reverentially approaching its precincts. For a work of art should be the effusion of genius, the artist should evoke its substance and form from his inmost being, treat his materials with sovereign command, and make use of external influences only to accomplish his powers.

    But if the professor in this case has many reasons for respecting the dilettante, the man of science has every motive to be still more indulgent, since the amateur here is capable of contributing what may be satisfactory and useful. The sciences depend much more on experiment than art, and for mere experiment many a votary is qualified. Scientific results are arrived at by many means, and cannot dispense with many hands, many heads. Science may be communicated, the treasure may be inherited,and what is acquired by one may be appropriated by many. Hence no one perhaps ought to be reluctant to offer his contributions. How much da we not owe to accident, to mere practice, to momentary observation. All who are endowed only with habits of attention, women, children, are capable of communicating striking and true remarks.

    In science it cannot therefore be required, that he who endeavours to furnish something in its aid should devote his whole life to it, should survey and investigate it in all its extent ; for this, in most cases, would be a severe condition even for the initiated. But if we look through the history of science in general, especially the history of physics, we shall find that many important acquisitions have been made by single inquirers, in single departments, and very often by unprofessional observers.

    To whatever direction a man may be determined by inclination or accident, whatever class of phenomena especially strike him, excite his interest, fix his attention, and occupy him, the result will still be for the advantage of science: for every new relation that comes to light, every new mode of investigation, even the imperfect attempt, even error itself is available; it may stimulate other observers and is never without its use as influencing future inquiry.

    With this feeling the author himself may look back without regret on his endeavours. From this consideration he can derive some encouragement for the prosecution of the remainder of his task ; and although not satisfied with the result of his efforts, yet re-assured by the sincerity of his intentions, he ventures to recommend his past and future labours to the interest of his contemporaries and posterity.

  2. shinichi says:

    興味・偶然あるいは機会に導かれて人間がたとえどの分野に進もうとも、いかなる現象が特に彼の注意を引き、彼の関心を呼びさまし、彼を研究に専念させようとも、それは科学に裨益するであろう。なぜなら、明るみにだされたいかなる新しい関係も、いかなる新しい研究方法も、不充分なものも、誤謬でさえも役に立つか刺激となり、将来のためにむだにはならないからである。

    この意味で著者は多少とも心を安んじて自分の仕事を振り返ってみたいと思う。このような考察をすることによって著者は、しのこしたことに対する勇気をふるい起こし、自分自身に満足していないにしても心の中で自信をもって、これまでの成果とこれからなすべきことを、現在および後世の同じ関心を有するすべての人々に推賞することができるのである。

  3. shinichi says:

    Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia.

    Many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater.

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