Two Ways to Approach a Flower: Outing Goethe and Heidegger One Bloom at a Time

It is possible to talk to a flower. Like this:

With nothing before you but a flower, you can deduce that a flower is a series of specialized leaves, opening not just in the sun these weeks but in function and evolution, all leading to ripeness. It is the realization of new forms. The biologist Goethe did just that:

An Attempt to Explain the Metamorphosis of Plants, 1790

Out of such observations, and attempts to put them into order, both modern science and modern universities were born. Here’s the other way of approaching flowers:

This is called educational material. Out of it comes a description of the parts of a flower, whose relationships can be tweaked, but the continuity, the flower opening out of its seed and out of deep time, is divorced from it. Yet here it is.

siya? in Bloom

Goethe went further to observe that science does the same to light, that it splits up white, continuous light into spectra, the point of interaction of light with various devices, and then analyzes and manipulates those, most powerfully, while losing contact with the universality of light and Goethe’s observation that colour is an effect of the various presences and absences of shadow in the eyes of an observer. When Goethe wrote that the human body is the most precise analytical instrument, he was referring to the human ability to observe light and flowers as bodies, not only individually but living as extended bodies across time. The body of knowledge, or the body of science, were part of this to him, but they were not this:

In the 20th century, the philosopher Martin Heidegger made the same observation, that a river, bridged, leads to commerce and wealth, while a river dammed leads to the end of a river and a system of technical connections, much like the prisms tht split Goethe’s light. It is the same with the description of the parts of the flower above: the act of transforming the flower into a system has destroyed the unified flower, except as an aesthetic object or one of wonder.

Lupines Getting Ready

Those are great things, but they are no longer included in science. They were. It is sobering to consider how this splitting, this naming, has resulted in an increase in technique, and a decrease in human capacity. What do you think? Is there a link to the decreased carrying capacity of the Earth? Even more sobering, these are considered feminine ideas in this time, this time in which it has long been in fashion to discredit the writings of Dead White Men. For good reason, a lot of the time, but in this case, it might just be time to start reading some of them again, as a kind of early feminists, giving us messages from a time when such messages were buried.

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