Chapter

The Erotic Authority of Nature

Robert J. Richards

in The Moral Authority of Nature

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780226136806
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226136820 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226136820.003.0006
The Erotic Authority of Nature

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Goethe had been confirmed in his defense of the rights of nature during his travels to Italy in 1786–88. After his return to Germany, he set out to develop a science that would recognize nature's autonomy and authority. In this reconfiguration, though, nature would come to exhibit features distinctively altered from those of her earlier incarnation. Goethean morphology would not reinstate nature as emissary of an aloof, divine power. Nature would no longer stand apart from human beings, designed for their instruction, but would encompass the authority of both divinity and humanity: fecund, creative nature would replace God; and man would find himself an intrinsic part of nature and able to exercise, in the role of the artist, her same creative power. This transition in the conception of nature would ultimately lead to the kind of evolutionary theory that Goethe himself would introduce and Darwin would later cultivate. The hinge of this great transition was, for Goethe, the experience of his southern travels, when so much depended on an Italian girl.

Keywords: rights of nature; Goethean morphology; divinity; humanity; creative nature; southern travels

Chapter.  11354 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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