1. Introduction
  2. Reihen as a Methodological Practice
  3. Morphological Series
  4. Reihen and Serial Narration
  5. Semantic Networks
  6. Historical Backgrounds
  7. Conclusion: Reception in the 19th and 20th Century
  8. Notes
  9. Works Cited and Further Reading


In Goethe’s oeuvre, a Reihe (series) can be classified as a figure of thought that is directed against rationalist and dogmatic philosophy, embodying instead a flexible and adjustable approach to nature, knowledge, and literature oriented primarily toward sense perception. While it is undecidable whether a series is a quality of nature, a method of observation, the structure of perception, or all these things at once, a series nonetheless informs Goethe’s unique approach to exploring nature. In his morphological writings, a series designates the neighborly ‘togetherness’ of living forms that are permanently moving and transforming, while the infinitesimal parts of the series are constantly appearing and vanishing, such that no fixed presentation of nature can ever be grasped. The same processual open-endedness appears in his Farbenlehre (1810; Theory of Colours), which establishes Reihenbilden (series construction) as a quasi-method, a so-called “Verfahrungsart” (FA 1.25: 36; method of procedure).1 In that work, he contrasts the construction of a series with a procedure akin to deductive reasoning, i.e., logically deducing each element from the previous one until a first ground is reached and a final answer can be given. In contrast, the Goethean Reihe is something very different. There is no “first” element, and the Reihe extends outward in an open-ended way: the parts are more loosely connected with each other, and there can be gaps or infinitesimal proximity between them. Even though there is no tendency toward a final answer, the series does allow for a certain scientific claim to emerge, indicating a very different dimension of scientific exploration than that of contemporary rationalism: series address the level of the material and its order in sense-based research. For Goethe, the crucial moment in the exploration of nature occurs when the observer defines, oversees, and arranges the collected material. In that moment, nature becomes visible and perceptible to the eye in all its facets and is not hidden in the abstraction of a category or a concept. In ancient rhetoric, this epistemic moment is called evidentia (evidence), an effect in which a subject matter is vividly brought before the eyes.

In short, seriality, because of its versatility and breadth, ought to be located at the intersection of aesthetics, natural philosophy, and scientific practices of observation in Goethe’s works. It functions as a counterweight to rationalist philosophy and shifts the focus to the requirements of a sensual, attentive, and supple relationship to nature grounded in intuition.

Reihen as a Methodological Practice

Goethe’s short text Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt (1792; The Experiment as Mediator between Object and Subject) is the most extensive reflection on serialization as a quasi-method, a so-called “Verfahrungsart” (FA 1.25: 36; method of procedure). The Farbenlehre also contains explicit references to the concept of the series, but there it appears rather as a specific practice, namely as a series of experiments. In any case, a series is not reducible to experimental arrangements; instead, it refers to experiences in the broadest possible sense: a series of bones, a series of experimental observations, a series of conceptual elements, or even a series of texts or literary genres. The version of a series in the Morphologische Hefte (1817–24; Morphological Notebooks) partly deviates from those of other texts, presumably because in his morphological notebooks seriality is embedded in an account of nature which brings the series in proximity to concepts such as the Urpflanze (primordial plant), Form (form), and Metamorphose (metamorphosis). Hence, the series must be regarded as just one concept in Goethe’s works that varies based on the specific contexts and different realms in which it is mobilized.

Goethe himself did not title Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt, and one should therefore be warned not to read it with the wrong set of expectations. Even if Goethe tangentially addresses epistemic questions of subject and object, the text is at its core about a method of experimental technology that rests substantially on serialization. Though the text is ostensibly about method, there are no clear definitions, rules, or proper descriptions of what a scientist should do to successfully complete an experiment or experiments. Instead, the text is marked by a rebellious energy directed toward what Goethe calls “Philosophie im eigentlichen Sinne” (FA 1. 24:442; philosophy in a proper sense). Generally speaking, Goethe uses Begriffe (concepts) to challenge logical structures in a coherent and systematic way.

In Versuch als Vermittler, serialization is developed in contradistinction to an ineffective procedure that Goethe associates with rhetoric, on the one hand, and serialization within mathematics, on the other. The ineffective procedure consists in a hasty correlation of experiments to experiences that leaps to conclusions too quickly. As a result, hypotheses, theories, and systems are legitimated that are in fact wrong and incoherent. To avoid these pitfalls at the “Übergang von der Erfahrung zum Urteil” (FA 1.25: 30; Bell, 943;2 transition from empirical evidence to judgement), Goethe deploys serialization as a shield against the

inneren Feinde [. . .] Einbildungskraft, Ungeduld, Vorschnelligkeit, Selbstzufriedenheit, Steifheit, Gedankenform vorgefaßte Meinung, Bequemlichkeit, Leichtsinn, Veränderlichkeit und wie die ganze Schar mit ihrem Gefolge heißen mag. (FA 1.25: 30)
inner enemies of men [. . .]: imagination, which sweeps him away in its wings before he knows his feet have left the ground; impatience; haste; self-satisfaction; rigidity; formalistic thought; prejudice; ease; frivolity; fickleness – this whole throng and its retinue. (Bell, 943)

Therefore, serialization does not anticipate a whole, but rather delays its reach. In contrast to morphological considerations, serialization in Versuch als Vermittler does not require a focus on points of transition (das Übergängliche). Rather, it focuses on establishing a proximity between serial elements such that they almost touch each other. According to Goethe, this can be achieved through the collective contribution of other scientists, through a cultivation of practice, self-education, and self-regulation. The whole Goethe seeks can never be grasped because the serial parts are always slipping away. Nevertheless, the parts that slip away are not just possible sources of error. Instead, the elements that elude premature synthesis have a positive function insofar as they enable new perspectives and possibilities for knowing. These key epistemic assumptions indicate the influence of the Spinozist tradition on Goethe’s method.

However, in Versuch als Vermittler it remains unclear whether the process of serialization ends with a connection between the elements or not; Goethe speaks for instance of a “mittelbare” (FA 1.25:33; Bell, 944; indirect)—in contrast to an “unmittelbare” (FA 1.25:33; Bell, 944; direct)—appearance of connections. It almost seems as if the connections between the serial parts are supposed to emerge at some specific, albeit unknown, point that cannot be actively ascertained by an experimenter or observer. When understood within the broader epistemic context of Goethe’s work, we might suspect that Goethe presumably wants to place this decision beyond the observer’s control. We can never be sure if what we claim to be evident is also the final point at which knowledge has been conclusively gained.

Seen as a practice of proper observation, serialization recalls figures from the Christian contemplative tradition, whereby practice, repetition, and self-control are highly valued. Furthermore, it resembles Goethe’s description of the contemplative figure of anatheorismos: “Αναθεωρισμòς, das Wiederbeschauen, das Betrachten der Gegenstände, der fraglichen Erscheinungen von allen Seiten” (Αναθεωρισμòς, the reconsideration, the contemplation of things, of the matters in question from all sides).3 Goethe repeatedly emphasizes that patience is needed when generating series, which resonates with his own experimental practices: for example, Goethe did not just repeat Newton’s optical experiments once; instead, he repeated them over and over again, up to several hundred times.4 When repeating these experiments, he manipulated small parameters with each new try, hoping to reveal the premises that led him to the achieved result by using a specific technique. The point, then, was not to increase the probability of the correct results, but to discover how the results were produced, and in this respect he draws on Kant’s theory of knowledge.5 Even if serialization does not aim to create fully accurate, tightly interconnected series, but rather relations that are as close-knit and bundled as possible, Goethe nonetheless names a specific goal of his serializing practice: so-called “Erfahrungen der höhren Art” (FA 1.25:35; Bell, 946; evidence of the higher sort), which are supposed to emerge in the process of arranging and reconfiguring the serial elements.

Morphological Series

In Goethe’s morphological writings, the concept of the series is introduced as a model that represents the organization of nature and mediates its experience. More so than in Versuch als Vermittler, here the series represents how “Formen lebendig sich aneinander reihen” (LA 9:305; forms follow one another in a lively sequence), as Goethe’s correspondent Ernst Meyer puts it. Goethe’s highly differentiated concept of Form (form) imagines forms as living, moving, and transforming. To access these forms, he concludes, an observation must have the same properties which the forms themselves possess: the perception needs to be just as flexible and lively as the phenomena, which can only be accomplished by intuition and not directly by reason. For this reason, Goethe calls on a tradition of intuitive understanding that traces back to Spinoza, one that seeks to derive its concepts without recourse to abstraction or reflection.6 For Spinoza, a geometrical object, for example, is revealed through the knowledge of its productive forces, not its attributes. Beyond the context of morphology, the series becomes a kind of playing field for productive forces that demand an inner temporality among the serial elements, but which itself can never be fully grasped. This paradox is typical for physical and geometrical concepts ever since Newton’s and Leibniz’s infinitesimal mathematics, which concentrate on a compressed description of such moments. In Goethe’s time, it was also a widely discussed issue; F.W.J. Schelling (1775–1854), for instance, presupposed two antagonistic forces which govern the underlying dynamics of natural forces. But contrary to his contemporaries’ positions, Goethe does not take up the concept of Kraft (force) to attenuate the complexity of natural phenomena by reducing them to simpler terms; instead, he uses the concept of force to bring the complexity of seemingly simple phenomena into full view.

Furthermore, in contrast to the account of seriality in Versuch als Vermittler, transitional moments between serial elements now stand together with the elements themselves in the foreground. The “zarten Übergänge, wie Gestalt in Gestalt sich wandelt” (FA 1.24:461; delicate transitions, how one shape transforms into another) are now explicitly named, which shifts the view from a spatial to a more temporal way of imagining the series. In fact, Goethe thinks both elements and the transitions between them as inextricably entangled with each other: the series ought to represent both the simultaneous and the successive. The series thereby begins to participate in the dynamics germane to a relational or “endogenous” concept of form in the tradition of Shaftesbury’s “inward form.” Goethe’s bi-level concept of form, as David Wellbery puts it,

enables a theoretical operation that oscillates between unity and multiplicity on the one hand, totality and individuality on the other. Concrete artistic forms, insofar as they are genuine descendants of the all-encompassing inner form, turn out to be individual perspectivizations of the entirety of nature.7

In terms of a history of theory, the moment at which the conceptual work of form and the series intersect marks a decisive point in Goethe’s oeuvre, where form receives a new relational meaning that anticipates modernist concepts of form in later humanistic thought.

All in all, there is no scheme or formula that allows one to neatly sum up the representational role of the series. A certain vagueness inherent to the concept makes the task of formulating a positive definition of serialization foolhardy: series follow neither a deductive logic nor a teleological one. A series is neither a model for comparing experiences with theoretical hypotheses, nor does it facilitate abstraction and reflection based on reason. Instead, the series projects the dynamics of natural processes onto a horizontal axis and thereby depicts the complexity of ongoing transformations, of experimental results, and of observations. On the other hand, precisely because of this recalcitrant vagueness inherent to the concept of serialization (especially in Goethe’s morphology), it remains up for discussion whether these conceptual aspects inadvertently follow from Goethe’s shifting, protean conception of nature as articulated in his morphology.8

Reihen and Serial Narration

Aesthetically, the loose form of the series corresponds to the loose-leaf booklet form of the Morphologische Hefte,9 to Goethe’s essayistic writing,10 and to some of his literary texts. Since the series tends toward a more general method of depiction or form of representation in Goethe’s works, the question as to whether it is linked to genuinely artistic forms merits further investigation.

Serial narration in Goethe’s thought is of course a topic in and of itself. In particular, the series can be mobilized as an interpretive tool brought to bear on those texts that are characterized by an open form at the narrative level. For example, the West-östlicher Divan (1819/27; West-Eastern Divan) in its very title connotes the organizational principle of a serial collection in the Persian word “Divan” (assembly), as do the above-mentioned Morphologische Hefte. Other texts by the late Goethe have been regarded as serial in a broader sense, as have the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (1795; Conversations of German Refugees). Scholars have shown how unity and form are represented in these texts in different ways as “precarious,”11 as forces whose counterforces strive toward differentiation and plurality.

In the Unterhaltungen, for example, the ending of a story is explicitly put up for discussion. In these moments of flagrant uncertainty about whether a story has ended or whether it has only reached a momentary point of pause, the serial order becomes integral to the narrative structure itself. At such moments where narrative order and form are subjected to reflection, “connectivity” itself turns out to be the true crux of narration. In the Unterhaltungen, seriality thus marks the point at which the continuation of narration becomes reflexive: when the linkage of narrative elements is itself at stake in the narrative, when the very future of communication becomes opaque. Generating opacity about the progress of narration is only one technique of serial narration. Others include narrative repetitions at syntagmatic and paradigmatic levels, the relationship between the frame narrative and the embedded narrative, as well as the material and syntagmatic form of serial publication, which shapes reading habits and expectations.

These narratological aspects of serial narration are linked to the concept of the series in Goethe’s scientific writings, for in both realms the series questions the very possibility of connectivity. In this sense, connectivity can be regarded as the moment when narratological questions begin to contribute to the conceptual work performed by the series: since for Goethe, as Rüdiger Campe puts it, all scientific research has a historical dimension (both science and historiography are dedicated to the connection of observations and occurrences), connectivity is the point where thinking and writing, experiment and medial techniques, intersect.12

Semantic Networks

The semantics of the term Reihe have been extensively examined in the Goethe-Wörterbuch.13 In what follows, only the most important nuances of meaning that shed light on the scope of the concept are summarized.

As a spatial juxtaposition, a series is mainly used to describe the order and regularity of natural phenomena (for example, landscapes such as mountain chains, clouds, plants, and astronomical units) as well as those of architectural structures. Especially in botanical and morphological contexts, series are used for descriptions of plant parts such as leaves or the small hairs of infusoria (microorganisms). Regarding humans, the series can also be used to describe choreographed formations as found in dances or military formations.

As a temporal sequence, a series implies some kind of reasonable order that transcends a mere temporal succession, e.g., a series of experiments or a successful presentation of a literary story or speech. It can also imply a “successful” life in the sense of a well-ordered life. With respect to collections (of coins, minerals, or books, for example), a series stands for a clear arrangement of things that follows an “inner method” of sorting. A series can also describe a hierarchy that moves from the simplest to the most complex, such as the gradation of colors in the color wheel (Farbenkreis) or that of tones in compositions or in scales, or, alternatively, it can imply a developmental series that depicts some kind of evolution (especially in botanical and morphological contexts). Furthermore, a series can describe the sheer number or quantity of things or living beings or something like a key guiding principle that directs the observer’s eye to all kinds of ordered things (ships, names, leaves, mountains, pictures, thoughts, ideas, houses, masks, etc.).

The term Reihe evinces a diversity and range of lexical usage that includes the technical terminology of botany, morphology, and the theory of colors, but also a more colloquial use when only quantities of various things are addressed as a series. Nonetheless, it seems clear that across all these differences a series refers to an order that is always more than just an aggregate of heterogenous things, one that has a direct connection to its visibility. A series is never a hidden order only observed by experts, but something that catches the eye as soon as it enters the visual field. This becomes ever clearer when the series is not mobilized within specialized vocabularies. As the clear display of a collection or the successful presentation of a story or speech, it elaborates the rhetorical variety inherent to the concept of evidential presentation that offers clarity to everyone but is at the same time an effect of the technical process through which this clear order is generated with the help of artistic or museal techniques. This specific kind of clarity is, as described above, also a central issue in Goethe’s natural-scientific writings, although it seems to be ambiguously evoked by the method of the scientist or even nature itself.

Historical Backgrounds

Goethe does not refer to any specific background from which he borrows the concept of the series, but some implicit paradigms can nonetheless be named. The so-called “great chain of being” is a first reference point for Goethe, though primarily one disavowed by Goethe himself. The great chain of being is an ancient and Neoplatonist concept derived from the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, and reformulated and popularized by many others. It symbolizes the hierarchical structure of all matter and life, reaching from God down to the angels and human beings, further to animals, plants, and non-living matter. The great chain of being was most prominent in Neoplatonism and during the Middle Ages but also extends into the Enlightenment period.14 Beyond the background of the scala naturae (ladder of being), serialization had the objective of representing and displaying the order of nature, but at the same time it was meant to provide a metaphysical ground for empirical documentation. During the late Enlightenment, this function of metaphysically grounding disparate empirical data began to be viewed as highly questionable; actual empirical research seemed more and more to fail its purpose of representing and confirming the metaphysical ground of the scala naturae. Goethe expresses this point, too, when he turns against the “static” taxonomic orders of natural historians like Carl von Linné (1707–1778) and Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon Buffon (1707–1788), demanding a “dynamic” one instead.15 With the dynamization and temporalization of nature, Goethe draws a stark contrast to practices of serialization in natural history, which consisted in listing, counting, and using tables to demonstrate the order of nature. In lieu of these static approaches, Goethe sought to capture nature in its inner workings by wedding the movement of nature itself to a mode of observation that was itself in motion. Goethe’s morphological Reihe thus represents living forms according to their own temporal movement and dynamic interrelation. Even though serialization in Goethe’s works no longer functions as a symbol of the cosmological order and the hierarchy of living beings, but rather as a basis for a methodological and anthropologically controlled approach to nature, he still relies on the tradition of natural history and the great chain of being by varying their traditional technologies of series formation.16 Goethe no longer views counting and generating comparative tables as the main activities involved in serialization. Rather, he has in mind a practice of observing the function and location of parts (e.g., a bone in an organism). This technique suspends the difference between subject and object and can be regarded in its basic operations as akin to a proto-structuralist approach.17

Another reference point for Goethe is the mathematical series. In Versuch als Vermittler, Goethe establishes seriality as the main practice for experimental research and claims that we should learn from mathematicians how to generate series (FA 1.25:34). Goethe does not reveal exactly which mathematicians he has in mind, though he speaks in another text positively about Jean le Rond d’Alembert (1717–1789) and appreciates his analytical method of demonstrating how a geometrical proposition can be viewed from all sides and in all variations when displayed in a series (FA 1.25:67). The advantage, Goethe concludes in Versuch als Vermittler, lies in the fact that mathematical serialization creates something like a middle ground between analytical and synthetic argumentative moves. While the analytical move tends toward delineating mere differences, the synthetic move draws connections too hastily. Goethe further claims that mathematical serialization has a specific Reinheit (purity) and Bedächtlichkeit (deliberateness) (FA 1.25:34; Bell: 945) which “gleich jeden Sprung in der Assertion offenbart” (FA 1.25:34; Bell, 945, instantly exposes every leap in an assertion). Significant for mathematic serialization, Goethe points out, is not its resemblance to argumentation, but rather that it affords a method for reviewing a whole in its entirety and in a detailed way: “Und so sind ihre Demonstrationen immer mehr Darlegungen, Rekapitulationen, als Argumente” (FA 1.25:34; Bell, 945, Thus its demonstrations are always more exposition, recapitulation, than argument). The mathematical series puts something in an evident way before the eyes rather than producing an entire chain of evidence interlocked in an axiomatic manner. However, mathematical series during Goethe’s life were used to depict not just any kind of mathematical truths, but the specific concept of the infinitesimal, which is a quantity that is closer to zero than any standard real number without being equal to zero. How this abstract mathematical idea can be philosophically controlled18 and graphically visualized was one of the key challenges of mathematical research in Goethe’s age.

In addition to the epistemological background of Goethe’s time,19 the mathematical series shares other important aspects with his concept of the series: firstly, the paradox of contact and non-contact between elements at the same time, the status of the elements at the threshold of visibility, and the way the temporal status of elements is imagined. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, is the cultural context and the scientific status of infinitesimal mathematics around 1800, which could have attracted Goethe to the idea of seriality. Strong rationalists and philosophers repeatedly denounced the techniques of infinitesimal serialization because there was no logical proof for them at that time. The techniques based on infinitesimal mathematics were established because of their success in practice, since it was their productive results which helped to revolutionize the fields of economics and physics. In 1784, the Berlin Academy of Sciences even offered a reward to the person who could first close the gap of logical evidence in infinitesimal mathematics, albeit without success. Therefore, the usefulness of an “unproven” technique overtook the logical reasoning and axiomatic derivation of rationalist philosophy and mathematics. This success in applied mathematics raised the question as to whether strict logical foundations were necessary at all.20 The way in which empirically applied mathematical seriality provoked and threatened the dominion of rationalist logic might also have informed Goethe’s critical and polemic attitude toward so-called “proper philosophy.”

Furthermore, the concept of the Reihe should be regarded in its relation to cognate serial concepts developed by Goethe’s contemporaries. Seriality plays a central role in the works of the young Schelling, who corresponded with Goethe about myriad topics. For example, Schelling notes that the “archetype of the infinite series, or the ideal of the infinite series, in which our intellectual infinity evolves, is time.”21 A series, according to Schelling, is in the first place the absolute continuity of nature that flows without any visible differences through time. But when such absolute continuity of nature becomes the object of intellectual observation and “construction,” it reveals itself to be made up of infinitesimal differences produced by so-called repulsive and attractive forces. When nature becomes an object of cognition, it changes its character by being transformed from an unstructured line to a series with differences that reveal the character of its internal organization. Serialization for Schelling, like for Goethe, is defined as a technique that helps us understand nature and the principles driving its processes, even though this series remains embedded in a systematic natural philosophy to which Goethe never ascribed. Worth mentioning are also the works of Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841) and Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772–1801), who likewise imagined temporal serial structures where a morphological depiction of figures was at stake. The works of Herbart especially could be of further interest in their relation to Goethe. For Herbart, the observation of dynamic forms in the sense of morphological transformation is the key to understanding the environment in which the observer is embedded—the basis for practical orientation in the world. A training of pure, non-empiric intuition for Herbart means training oneself to be able to perceive forms in their dynamic and serial formation; this is what he demands in the ABC der Anschauung (1802/04; ABCs of Intuition).22 Furthermore, there are competing concepts of series in German narratology. In the tradition of Leibnizian philosophy, Johann Jakob Engel (1741–1802), Friedrich von Blankenburg (1744–1796), and Christian Garve (1742–1798) all define tightly knit series as the core of narrative structures that achieve the contemporaneous ideal of a vivid presence, of “anschaulicher Gegenwärtigkeit,” especially in the poetological context of the theory of the novel.

Conclusion: Reception in the 19th and 20th Century

In retrospect, the concept of the Goethean Reihe is an influential precursor to serial figures in the nineteenth and twentieth century. To be sure, there is a vast reception of Goethe’s morphology; beyond that, however, morphological serialization is an essential feature of the following works: in biology, there is D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860–1948), who in On Growth and Form (1917) works with serial concepts in anticipation of later morphogenesis and cybernetics;23 there is also Paul Kammerer (1880–1926), who develops in Das Gesetz der Serie. Eine Lehre von der Wiederholung im Lebens- und Weltgeschehen (1919; The Law of the Series: A Theory of Repetition in the Course of Life and World Events) an almost literary technique of descriptive analytical comparison defined in contrast to causal explanations;24 in literary studies, there are the Russian Formalists and Czech structuralists, who founded their early literary theories on the concepts of the series; moreover, there is the literary scholar André Jolles (1874–1946), who develops a literary theory of so-called “simple forms” (einfache Formen) as a fundamental explanatory term for fluid forms of literary writing that have not yet reached a fixed state. Another literary scholar is Franco Moretti, who uses the series to differentiate between different timelines with their own temporalities. The art historian George Kubler (1912–1996) worked on a theory of art history that differentiates between various series in a manner reminiscent of Moretti. In philosophy, one could include the Austrian-Hungarian Habsburg tradition of philosophical realism based on the works of Johann Friedrich Herbart, where serialization is a basic analytical concept used to describe cultural phenomena as well as art. There is furthermore the work of Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), whose concept of function (Funktionsbegriff) is based on a fascination with seriality that draws lines of influence both to the history of mathematics and to Goethe’s works.25 While the question of how much influence Goethe’s concept of Reihe had on these diverse theories of nature, art, literature, and culture merits further investigation, each of them bears at least a kind of family resemblance to Goethe insofar as he laid a foundation for the thought of a serial order that resists a purely logical and rationalist vision of the world.

  1. Unless otherwise noted, works by Goethe are cited according to the Frankfurt edition (FA): Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Sämtliche Werke, Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, eds. Hendrik Birus, Dieter Borchmeyer, Karl Eibl, et. al., 40 vols. (Frankfurt a.M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1987–2013). Hereafter cited as FA in the body of the text.
  2. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Essential Goethe, ed. Matthew Bell (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2016), 943.
  3. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sämtliche Werke nach Epochen seines Schaffens, eds. Karl Richter, Herbert G. Göpfert, Norbert Miller, et. al., 33 vols (München: Carl Hanser 1987–2013), 17:922.
  4. Friedrich Steinle, “‘Das Nächste ans Nächste reihen’: Goethe, Newton und das Experiment,” Philosophia naturalis 39 (2002): 141–72.
  5. For more on the relationship between the Versuch als Vermittler and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781/87), see Wolf von Engelhardt, “Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt: Goethes Aufsatz im Licht von Kants Vernunftkritik,” Athenäum. Jahrbuch für Romantik 10 (2000): 9–28.
  6. Prominently, Eckart Förster has argued for an understanding of the series as embedded in a “methodology of finite intuitive understanding.” Unlike Kant, who only accepts a discursive understanding in most realms, in the Spinozist tradition intuitive understanding, with help of the imagination, is more strongly acknowledged as a legitimate mode of cognition. Cf. Eckart Förster, The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy. A Systematic Reconstruction. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2012), 254.
  7. David E. Wellbery, “Romanticism and Modernity: Epistemological Continuities and Discontinuities,” European Romantic Review 21, no. 3 (2010): 275–89, 278.
  8. Eva Geulen, “Keeping it Simple. Making it Difficult. Morphologische Reihen bei Goethe und anderen,“ in Komplexität und Einfachheit. DFG-Symposion 2015, ed. Albrecht Koschorke (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2017), 357–73, 359–60.
  9. Eva Geulen, Aus dem Leben der Form. Goethes Morphologie und die Nager (Berlin: August Verlag, 2016), 77.
  10. James M. van der Laan, “Über Goethe, Essays und Experimente,” in Literarische Experimentalkulturen. Poetologien des Experiments im 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Marcus Krause and Nicolas Pethes (Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2005), 243–50.
  11. Rabea Kleymann, Formlose Form. Epistemik und Poetik des Aggregats beim späten Goethe (München: Fink, 2021), 2.
  12. Rüdiger Campe, “To Be Continued. Einige Beobachtungen zu Goethes Unterhaltungen,“ in Noch einmal anders. Zu einer Poetik des Seriellen, ed. Elisabeth Bronfen, Christiane Frey and David Martyn (Zürich/Berlin: diaphanes, 2016), 119–36, 133: “Konnektivität oder das Herstellen von Zusammenhängen, so zeigt sich, ist nicht eine entweder epistemologische oder sprachliche Angelegenheit. Konnektivität ist vielmehr der Punkt, an dem sich Denken und Schreiben, Experiment und Medientechnik kreuzen.”
  13. See the entry “Reihe” und “Reihen” in the Goethe-Wörterbuch, ed. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, and the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1978), columns 338–41 and 341–42. http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de/GWB?lemma=reihe; http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de/GWB?lemma=reihen.
  14. Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1936).
  15. James L. Larson, “Goethe and Linnæus,” Journal of the History of Ideas 28, no. 4 (1967): 590–96; Werner A. Müller, R-Evolution – des biologischen Weltbildes bei Goethe, Kant und ihren Zeitgenossen (Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer Spektrum, 2015).
  16. Margrit Wyder, Goethes Naturmodell. Die Scala Naturae und seine Transformationen (Böhlau: De Gruyter 1998).
  17. Mark A. Schneider, “Goethe and the Structuralist Tradition,” Studies in Romanticism 18, no. 3 (1979): 453–78.
  18. John H. Smith, “Kant, Calculus and the Mathematical Infinite in Us,” Goethe Yearbook 23 (2016): 95–121.
  19. Julia Mierbach, “Die Reihe. Zur mathematischen Poetik einer Denkfigur um 1800 (Goethe, Schelling, Herbart, Novalis),” Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte 92, no. 3 (2018): 377–427.
  20. Andrea Albrecht, “Allezeit unparteiliche Gemüther? Formen und Funktionen des Streitens über Mathematik im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert,“ Zeitsprünge. Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit, Sonderband Gelehrte Polemik. Intellektuelle Konfliktverschärfung um 1700, ed. Kai Bremer and Carlos Spoerhase (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2011), 282–311.
  21. F.W.J Schelling, Werke. Historisch Kritische Ausgabe, eds. Wilhelm G. Jacobs, Jörg Jantzen and Hermann Krings, et. al., Akademie-Ausgabe, 35 vols. (Stuttgart: Frommann und Holzboog, since 1976), 8:42.
  22. Johann Friedrich Herbart, Sämtliche Werke, in chronologischer Reihenfolge, eds. Karl Kehrbach, Otto Flügel, 19 vols. (Langensalza: Hermann Beyer & Söhne, 1887), 1:151–274.
  23. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, On Growth and Form. (Cambridge: University Press, 1917).
  24. Paul Kammerer, Das Gesetz der Serie. Eine Lehre von den Wiederholungen im Lebens- und Weltgeschehen (Stuttgart and Berlin: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1919).
  25. Ernst Cassirer, “Goethe und die mathematische Physik,“ in Idee und Gestalt. Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin, Kleist. Fünf Studien (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1971), 33–80; Ernst Cassirer, Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969).

Works Cited and Further Reading