Co-Conveners: Clark Muenzer (University of Pittsburgh), Karin Schutjer (University of Oklahoma), John H. Smith (University of California, Irvine)
This seminar will explore Goethe’s unique contribution to philosophical discourse. During the 2018 GSA, four panels were dedicated to “Goethe’s Philosophical Concepts.” They launched a multi-year project, a Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts, that will provide an ongoing online and print-on-demand collection of entries highlighting the novelty of Goethe’s thought. The project is inspired in part by Gilles Deleuze’s understanding of philosophy as the “creation of concepts,” and in part by Goethe himself, who wrote: “Kein Wort steht still sondern es rückt durch den Gebrauch von seinem anfänglichen Platz eher hinab als hinauf, eher ins Schlechtere als ins Bessere, ins Engere als ins Weitere, und an der Wandelbarkeit des Worts läßt sich die Wandelbarkeit der Begriffe erkennen” (Max. und Reflex. 983). The success of the panels encourages us to gather Goethezeit scholars of all ranks to discuss Goethe as heterodox thinker against the background of philosophical doxa.
Each convener provides a short reading by Goethe or from the philosophical tradition, plus a brief explanation of the selection. Each participant writes a short position paper on one of the readings, distributed in advance. Each day of the seminar, one convener is responsible for moderating the discussion.
The goal of this seminar is to gather potential participants in a new project entitled the Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts. The lexicon will present a digital, interactive exploration of the unique contributions that Goethe made to philosophy, i.e., how Goethe put his signature spin on both traditional philosophical concepts and those arising in the heady decades around 1800. One goal of the seminar is to develop an initial list of concepts that could be included in the lexicon. Beyond building upon the four panels on “Goethe’s Philosophical Concepts” offered during the 2018 GSA conference, the conveners plan a two-day workshop at the University of Pittsburgh in May of 2019 where, undoubtedly, some of the seminar participants will also be present. That is, we will be fostering an ever-expanding community of scholars across all academic ranks who will be able to contribute to this collective enterprise. Following the model of the 2015 GSA seminar on “Science, Nature, and Art: From the Age of Goethe to the Present,” the conveners will serve as discussion facilitators. There will not be formal presentations by the participants. Rather, there will be a genuine seminar format with common readings and shared Thesenpapiere.