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The lexeme veloziferisch (velociferian) was first coined by Goethe in an unsent letter from 1825 and entered the public stage four years later with the second edition of the novel Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, oder die Entsagenden (1829; Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, or The Renunciants). As a portmanteau, the neologism, which is composed of the Italian velocità and the German luziferisch, combines two central elements of the Goethean imaginary: the accelerated velocity of modern life and the “luciferian” function of negation. Das Veloziferische marks a dangerous speed at which organic growth is outpaced by the rapid acceleration of technological development. At velociferian speeds, the otherwise figurative role of negation in Goethe’s philosophy of nature takes on a disfiguring function, highlighted most clearly by the techno-accelerationist allegory Faust. The invention of this term has prompted recent investigations into the relationship between technological development and social acceleration in modernity. Furthermore, an appreciation of Goethe’s critique of the velociferian enables a fuller understanding of his unique position in relation to broader trends in natural philosophy and the philosophy of biology (Spinoza, Schelling, and Erwin Schrödinger), in addition to the philosophy of technology (Thomas Carlyle and Bruno Latour).
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