[Humanist] 27.531 being romantic
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Nov 14 05:46:10 CET 2013
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 531.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:55:06 +0100
From: "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>
Subject: Re: 27.508 being romantic
In-Reply-To: <20131105064424.52ED676D0 at digitalhumanities.org>
Dear Willard and members of this "invisible college",
This interesting discussion has surfaced a very special
understanding of "romantic" or "romantic scholar" that seems
to be peculiar to the English-language tradition. It is
embraced in Pres. Eisenhowers 1961 statement quoted by
Willard: "Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his
shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in
laboratories and testing fields."
Within the German tradition, we also have the image of the
idiosyncratic individual scholar as exemplified in
Spitzweg's painting 'The Poor Poet' (1839), the most popular
painting in Germany right after Leonardo's Mona Lisa
(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_arme_Poet), yet he was
never described as a "Romantic" as such.
The identification of individual one-person enterprises in
science with Romanticism makes sense when we remember that
the very word 'scientist' was added to the English language
in the 1830s (Whewell among others). The German
'Naturwissenschaftler' and 'Naturforscher' make their debut
already around 1690. 1845, the founding of the Physikalische
Gesellschaft zu Berlin with its emphasis on the concept of
force, is an appropriate final date for Romanticism in science.
If, in the English-language world, 'scientists' as
individuals originated in the Romantic period, it is quite
understandable that, in the public mind, scientific
individuality may still share some connotations attached to
the Romantic Movement. In a way, it is experienced as the
empty shell of the humanistic scholar.
In Germany, mention was always made of the 'Romantic School'
to emphasize its subjective and particular outlook, until
Wilhelm Scherer (1841-1886) first used the collective term
'Romantische Wissenschaft' in 1883. The 'romantic' as a
certain 'orientation' in philosophy had already been set
apart from the the 'classical' in 1877. It is this
distinction that is kept alive in Eisenhower's 1961 address.
To cut a long story short, the meaning of 'romantic' in
science is not necessarily confined to individualism or
subjectivism. As a matter of fact, quite a number of
scientific organizations of a new kind were founded between
1798 and 1845 that relied on the co-operation of interested
laymen in the acquisition of their data. The Annual Reports
of the U.S. National Museum and other institutions of the
times abound with stories of school kids who sent in
fossilized bones, bird eggs, feathers, and the like.
Remarkable influences have issued from this 'Romantic
Science' as a "progressive universal poetry" (Schlegel
1798). Nevertheless, it definitely leaves the realm of
science when it uses "symbolic representation" where
knowledge is said to be unknowable and belief is substituted
for inquiry. It is more concerned with personal expression
than with a modest acknowledgement of what is. Science
In no way must individualism in science be identified with
romanticism and there are good uses for fiction even within
the most exact sciences, but the substitution of insight
with convenient formulations will lead nowhere.
There are research questions that only an individual can
pursue over several decades. This statement is just as true
as to say that without focussing there is no photographic
image. On the other hand, large-scale research is not to be
condemned as such. The problem that Eisenhower seems to have
addressed 52 years ago is the substitution of genuine
curiosity and innovative sipirit with scene shifting for the
only purpose to acquire grants for institutions.
Am 05.11.2013 07:44, schrieb Humanist Discussion Group:
> In other words, I think the
> difference is between a deep-rooted idealism and a feet-on-the-ground
> realism. I'm*very* glad my friends are realists, but I cannot help myself
> when it comes to research -- I'm a romantic.
More information about the Humanist