Goethe Contra Newton: Polemics and the Project for a New Science of Color

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 13, 2003 - Gardening - 240 pages
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This book explains the background and rationale of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's notorious attack on Isaac Newton's classic theory of white light and colors. Though the merits of Goethe's color science, as advanced in his massive Zur Farbenlehre, have often been acknowledged, it has been almost unanimously proclaimed invalid as physics. How could Goethe have been so mistaken? In his book, Dennis Sepper shows that the condemnation of Goethe's attacks on Newton has been based on erroneous assumptions about the history of Newton's theory and the methods and goals of Goethe's color science. By illuminating the historical background and the experimental, methodological, and philosophical aspects of Goethe's work, the author shows that his color theory is in an important sense genuinely physical and that, as simultaneously poet, scientist, historian, and philosopher, Goethe managed to anticipate important twentieth-century research not only in the history and philosophy of science, but even in color science itself.
  

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really good book on the history of colour — examines and challenges the history of the newtonian theory, and what we can learn about colour, and the perception of colour from a modern standpoint. highly recommended!

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Contents

Defining the questions of the Farbenlehre
1
Color theory color phenomena
9
An overview of the argument
16
The Farbenlehre in its origin
22
the beginnings
23
The German scientific compendia and their problems
27
Goethe and method
38
The Beitrage zur Optik
45
context and intent
130
The experimentum crucis as refutation
134
Goethes critique of the experimental argument
142
Factuality certainty and the organization of science
158
Certainty in science
164
The organization of science
170
Goethe and the ethos of science
174
The manifold project of Zur Farbenlehre
179

the experiments
46
the way to a context for science
57
The methodological background in Der Versuch als Vermittler
65
The positive and negative doctrines of the Beitrage
79
Toward Zur Farbenlehre
88
The problematics of Newtons theory of white light and colors
100
Newtons Letter on the theory of white light and colors
105
Aperqus language and the problematics of truth
184
Appendix
196
Notes
201
References
211
Index
218
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Dennis L. Sepper, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas, is author most recently of "Newton's Optical Writings: A Guided Study

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