Call for Papers: GSA 2018

Heterodox Thinking: Goethe and the Creation of Philosophical Concepts

Panel 1: Philosophical Conceptualization and Goethe
Panel 2: Philosophical Conceptualization in Faust and the Poetry
Panel 3: Philosophical Conceptualization in the Dramatic and Narrative Fiction
Panel 4: Philosophical Conceptualization in the Scientific and Aesthetic Works

In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Richard Rorty gives prominent mention to Goethe as a philosophical contrarian who is situated “on the margins of the history of modern philosophy.” According to Rorty, Goethe, along with other heterodox thinkers (like Kierkegaard, Santayana, James, Dewey, and Heidegger) typically shocked systematic philosophy by waging war on its foundational principles, including the conceptual structures, or universals, that have traditionally supported it. Taking a cue from Rorty’s inclusion of Goethe in his lineage of “edifying” philosophers, this series of panels will consider the writer’s re-invention of philosophical concepts as part of his own philosophical edification (Bildung). If Goethe’s relation to the received opinions (doxa) of the professors of philosophy around 1800 was fraught, as he documents in “Einwirkung der neueren Philosophie,” (1820) it also prompted him to pursue an alternative kind of philosophical method, “durch die ich die Meinungen der Philosophen, eben auch als wären es Gegenstände, zu fassen und mich daran auszubilden suchte.”

We invite paper proposals for a series of four panels that will explore Goethe’s heterodox re-thinking of philosophical concepts.

Papers for three of the panels will focus on specific conceptual investments in Faust and the poetry, the plays and the narrative fiction, and the scientific and aesthetic works. Proposals for these work-specific papers, which we envision as “entries” in a Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts for Goethe, should explore the semantic range of a single linguistic marker. We are especially interested in examining concepts that Deleuze and Guattari call ”signed” (e.g., Aristotle’s “substance,” Descartes “cogito,” Leibniz’ “monad,” and Kant’s “condition.”) For Goethe these might include (1) signature words that he hijacked from the philosophical tradition, but that function differently for him: e.g., Subjekt, Idee, transzendental, Monade; (2) signature words that he coined: e.g., Urphänomen; or (3) signature words that he adapted for his own conceptual purposes: e.g., Polarität, Steigerung, Tat, Erscheinung, Bedingung. Beyond such “signature” words, papers might also explore (4) ambiguous words that change their “meanings” across several of his works or within a single work: e.g., Leiden, scheinen, Geist, trüb, Wahn, Schaudern; (5) coined words that shock: e.g., irrlichtilieren; (6) coined compound-words: e.g., Wechsel-Dauer or das Ewig-Weibliche; (7) everyday words that may not resonate philosophically for the untrained ear: e.g., Herz, Gefühl, Herrlichkeit, Wonne, Liebe, Form; (8) theological words, for example ewig or transzendent; (9) grammatical lexemes or syntactical units: e.g., the indirect object mir in the first line of “Mailied,” the wenn-clauses in Werther, or the preposition hinan in Faust; or (10) formal features (such as prosody) that create meanings: e.g., Knittelvers and Ottava Rima in Faust or the distich in the elegies.

In addition to papers on individual concepts we also welcome proposals for a panel on more general topics. Examples might include (11) historical dimensions of the philosophical concept within the western tradition; (12) the challenge of identifying/choosing the entries for the lexicon project for Goethe; (13) Goethe’s conceptualization of the concept (Begriff); (14) the relation of philosophical conceptualization in Goethe to metaphor and/or Bildlichkeit; or (15) the philosophical conceptualization of the literary symbol as process (Goethean Symbolik); (16) what should all entries in the lexicon project for Goethe include?

Papers should be about 2000 words in length, but should not exceed 2500 words. Please submit proposals of 300-500 words by January 22, 2018, to Clark Muenzer ( and John H. Smith ( Completed papers must be submitted by August 31, 2018.

All presenters at the GSA conference must become GSA members by February 15, 2018, see

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