Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: Philosophical Writings by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Steven Tester

49583f64f81d6f7-261x361.jpg Author Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Steven Tester
Isbn 978-1438441962
File size 3MB
Year 2012
Pages 224
Language English
File format PDF
Category philosophy


Georg Christoph Lichtenberg SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy —————— Dennis J. Schmidt, editor Georg Christoph Lichtenberg Philosophical Writings Translated, Edited, and with an Introduction by Steven Tester Published by State University of New York Press, Albany © 2012 State University of New York All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY Production by Eileen Meehan Marketing by Michael Campochiaro Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph, 1742–1799.   [Sudelb¸cher. English. Selections]   Georg Christoph Lichtenberg : philosophical writings, selected from the Waste books / translated, edited, and with an introduction by Steven Tester.     p. cm. — (SUNY series in contemporary Continental philosophy)   Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.   ISBN 978-1-4384-4197-9 (hardcover : alk. paper)   1. Philosophy.  I. Tester, Steven.  II. Title.  III. Title: Philosophical writings, selected from the Waste books.   B2681.L43S83213 2012   193—dc23 2011021679 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 We can use Lichtenberg’s writings as the most wonderful divining rod: where he makes a joke, there a problem lies hidden. —Johann Wolfgang Goethe Contents Acknowledgments ix Chronology xi Note on the Edition, Text, and Translation Introduction xv 1 Philosophical Writings Selected from the Waste Books Notebook A: 1765–1770 29 Κέρας Ἀμαλθείας: 1765–1772 39 Notebook B: 1768–1771 43 Notebook C: 1772–1773 47 Notebook D: 1773–1775 51 Notebook E: 1775–1776 65 Notebook F: 1776–1779 77 Notebook G: 1779–1783 91 vii viii Contents Notebook H: 1784–1788 97 Golden Notebook: Winter 1789 105 Notebook J: 1789–1793 107 Notebook K: 1793–1796 145 Notebook L: 1796–1799 163 Notes 183 Further Reading 197 Index 199 Acknowledgments I am very grateful for the advice and assistance of my professors at Northwestern University: Peter Fenves, for his mentorship and insightful comments on the translations and introduction; Rachel Zuckert, for her excellent comments on various drafts of the introduction; and Samuel Weber, for his thoughtful reflections on the very notion of translation. The comments of Rolf-Peter Horstmann and the participants in his weekly colloquium at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin have also been invaluable for my understanding of Lichtenberg’s place within eighteenth-century German philosophy. The translations and introduction have also benefited from my discussions with Alfred Nordmann and other members of the LichtenbergGesellschaft and from an anonymous referee’s helpful comments. For his assistance with proofreading and translating a few difficult passages, I am also indebted to Karsten Schoellner. For any errors or omissions in the text, I am of course solely responsible. The Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen and Dr. Helmut Rohlfing have also been kind enough to grant permission to use an image from Lichtenberg’s notebooks, containing remark A 136, for the cover of this edition. The editorial staff at State University of New York Press has also been a pleasure to work with and a great help in preparing this edition for publication. This translation and related research would not have been possible without the generous support of the Fulbright program, Northwestern University, the Rolf und Ursula Schneider-Stiftung of the Herzog August Bibliothek, and the Steuben-Schurz-Gesellschaft during the academic year 2008–09. I would also like to thank my parents and brother for their support, my wife, Karen, for her encouragement, and my daughter, Vivian, for her smiles. ix Chronology 1742 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg born July 1 in Ober-Ramstadt to Johann Conrad Lichtenberg and Henriette Katharina (Eckhardt) as the youngest of seventeen children. 1752–61 Attended Därmstadter Pädigogium. 1763 Matriculation at Georg-August University in Göttingen, where he studied mathematics and physics under Abraham Gotthelf Kästner until 1767. 1764 Earliest preserved entries in his Waste Books. 1766 Astronomical work at the Göttingen observatorium under Kästner. Publishes “Attempt at a Natural History of Bad Poets, Particularly the Germans” and “On the Uses Mathematics Can Provide for a Bel Esprit.” 1767 Finishes studies at Georg-August University. 1768 Begins Waste Book B (1768–1771). 1770 March–May, first trip to England. Appointed professor extraordinarius. Inaugural paper entitled “Examination of Some Methods for Resolving a Certain Difficulty in the Calculation of Probability in Games of Chance,” on the Petersburg Problem. 1773 Timorus, “Some Experiments with Polyps,” “On Comets.” 1774–75 Elected to Royal Society of Sciences in Göttingen. Second visit to England. Edits and annotates Tobias Meyer’s Opera Inedita containing papers on astronomy, color theory, and magnetism. xi xii Chronology 1776 Begins Waste Book F. “Observationes astronomicae per annum 1772 et 1773 ad situm Hannoverae, Osnabrugi et Stadae determinandum institutae.” 1777 Discovers Lichtenberg Figures. Designates electricity with the mathematical symbols + and –. Becomes editor of the Göttingen Pocket Almanac. 1778 Begins his renowned lectures on experimental physics at Georg-August University. “On Physiognomy; Against the Physiognomists.” 1779 Begins editing Göttingen Magazine for Science and Literature with Georg Forster. Continues research on electricity. 1780 Address to Academy of Sciences entitled “Observationes super dubiis quibusdam circa aptitudinem vulgatae mensurae sortis.” Publishes “Orbis Pictus” and “A Most Gracious Epistle from the Earth to the Moon.” 1781 “On the Pronunciation of the Sheep of Ancient Greece in Comparison with Their Newer Brothers on the Elbe: Or, on Beh Beh and Bäh Bäh.” 1782 Elected to Society of Natural Scientists in Halle. “On Attempts Recently Undertaken in France to Cause Hollow Bodies to Rise in the Air,” “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Aerostatic Machines.” Review of Joseph Priestley’s Experiments and Observations Relating to Various Branches of Natural Philosophy with a Continuation of the Observations on Air (1781). 1783 Research on aerostatic machines, balloons, and gases. Visit from Goethe. “Fragment on Tails,” “A Contribution to Physiognomical Fragments,” “Orbis Pictus.” 1784 Edits third edition of Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben’s Foundations of the Natural Sciences. Three subsequent editions appear in 1787, 1791, and 1794. Most likely begins Waste Book H. “On Hogarth’s Engravings.” 1787 “Continuation of Observations on the Cosmos,” “On Comets.” 1791 “Amintor’s Morning-Prayer.” Chronology xiii 1793 Begins Waste Book K (1793–1796). Correspondence with Goethe on the color theory (1792–1796). Elected to Royal Society in London. 1794 Beginning of the appearance of “Commentaries on Hogarth’s Engravings.” Elected to Royal Academy of Sciences St. Petersburg. 1795 “Geological Fantasies” and “Franklin’s Geogony.” 1796 Waste Book L (1796–1799). Elected member of the Society of Natural Scientists in Jena. “Does the Moon Rotate on Its Axis?” 1798 Elected to Scientific Society of Holland. “I Wish You Were on the Blocksberg,” “A Dream Like Many Dreams.” 1799 Lichtenberg dies on February 24 and is buried on February 28. Note on the Edition, Text, and Translation The texts that have come to be known as the Sudelbücher (Waste Books) consist of fifteen notebooks kept by Lichtenberg from 1765 until his death in 1799. Beginning with A, which consists of five notebooks, each volume was designated by Lichtenberg himself with a letter of the alphabet up to L. Notebooks G and H were lost in the nineteenth century; notebook K was for the most part destroyed; and L is incomplete. The remarks in this State University of New York Press edition were selected from volumes 1 and 2 of the most recent edition of Lichtenberg’s works, Schriften und Briefe, edited by Wolfgang Promies (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1968–), and follow the numbering of the Promies edition. The Albert Leitzmann edition of the Waste Books, Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs Aphorismen: Nach den Handschriften (Berlin: Behr, 1902–1908) follows a different numbering scheme. Readers who wish to research older secondary sources that follow the numbering of the Leitzmann edition will find the concordance in the Promies edition helpful. Portions of notebooks G, H, and K were reconstructed by Promies from texts published in the first (1800–1806) and second (1844–1853) editions of Lichtenberg’s Vermischte Schriften. The “Golden Notebook,” refers to a notebook designated by Promies as the Goldpapierheft (GH) because of its gold-colored binding. Lichtenberg also kept a notebook of excerpts and commentaries on his readings, to which he gave the title Κέρας Ἀμαλθείας, meaning “horn of Amaltheia” or “cornucopia”; this notebook has since been designated by Promies as KA. In this edition, I have focused on presenting the reader with a selection of Lichtenberg’s writings that will expand our understanding of Lichtenberg’s philosophical thinking and his relation to the history of philosophy. xv xvi Note on the Edition, Text, and Translation Many of Lichtenberg’s remarks appear here in English for the first time. In my translations, I have consulted a number of previous translations: R. J. Hollingdale, The Waste Books (New York: NYRB Classics, 2000); F. Mautner and H. Hatfield, The Lichtenberg Reader (Boston: Beacon, 1959); J. P. Stern, Lichtenberg: A Doctrine of Scattered Occasions; Reconstructed from his Aphorisms and Reflections (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959); and Normann Alliston, The Reflections of Lichtenberg (Swan Sonnenschein, 1908). At times, we are in agreement regarding the translation of a passage. Each has influenced my translation in its own way, so I am greatly indebted to them. I am also indebted to the Wolfgang Promies edition of Lichtenberg’s Schriften und Briefe for its extensive notes, which have formed the basis for many of my own critical notes. Lichtenberg’s writings in his notebooks are often not punctuated or poorly punctuated, so in order to facilitate readability I have inserted appropriate punctuation. Where possible, I have retained Lichtenberg’s technical vocabulary but have also added or removed minor words and altered syntax for clarification. Where I have not translated Lichtenberg’s entire remark, I indicate this with bracketed ellipses [. . .]. As might be expected of texts from the eighteenth century, most of Lichtenberg’s gender references are male, and he almost exclusively uses the male pronoun. I have not attempted to alter this. Where the grammar of Lichtenberg’s remarks demands it, “Der Mensch” (human, human being, person, man) has also been translated as “man,” as this would have been the formulation common to Lichtenberg’s time and to the English authors he read (for example, Hartley’s Observations on Man and Pope’s An Essay on Man). But Lichtenberg’s thoughts on language also tell us why such formulations should not be regarded as innocuous. The aim of the translation has been to convey the content of Lichtenberg’s thoughts while retaining as much of the form as possible. As Lichtenberg himself observes, however, every commentary and every translation acquires something new, altering the thought even to the point that it is unrecognizable. It is only my hope that such a transformation will be productive. Introduction There is perhaps something dubious in suggesting that the thoughts of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg could be organized under the heading of “Philosophical Writings.” He was, after all, not a philosopher in the current sense of the term, instead dedicating his life and work to advancing the nascent field of experimental physics, toiling away his days in the laboratory and classroom where he dazzled his students with strange apparatuses, electrical and magnetic phenomena, and the manipulation of various gases. The short remarks contained in his Sudelbücher (Waste Books) have traditionally been regarded as satirical and humorous, as have most of his lengthier contributions to eighteenth-century journals. In Germany, where he is well known and widely read, he is largely regarded as a witty observer of humanity, credited with introducing the literary form of the aphorism into German literature, while in the English-speaking world he is known for little more than his commentaries on Hogarth’s engravings and his discovery of the electrical phenomenon known as “Lichtenberg figures.” Yet many thinkers have appreciated Lichtenberg for the trenchant philosophical thoughts he offers obliquely in his work: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Freud, Benjamin, Mach, Mauthner, and Wittgenstein, among others, have all engaged with his work to advance their own thinking on topics ranging from self-consciousness and the unconscious to the relationship between philosophical and ordinary language. In this regard, Lichtenberg occupies an important, if largely unacknowledged, role in the history of philosophy, and this role is likely to grow as we understand his writings from a philosophical point of view. Life Lichtenberg was born in Ober-Ramstadt, near Darmstadt, Germany, on July 1, 1742, the youngest of seventeen children, most of whom died at a 1 2 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg very young age. A malformation of the spine, the cause of which continues to be a matter of speculation, led to his small stature (about 4 feet 9 inches) and hunched back and was the source of various pains and medical ailments throughout his life, no doubt contributing to his often hypochondriacal disposition. His father was a Protestant clergyman associated with the pietist tradition popular in Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From 1752 to 1761, he attended the Darmstädter Pädagogium under Johann Martin Wenck (1704–1761), after which he received private lessons. In 1762, he was awarded a stipend to pursue his studies at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, where he matriculated in 1763 as a student of mathematics and physics. Founded under the Hanoverian ruler, King George II of England, the university was one of the most modern and liberal in Germany, focusing in large part upon the empirical sciences and Newtonian physics and well connected to English academic life. While a student at the university under the eminent mathematician and natural scientist Abraham Gotthelf Kästner (1719–1800), Lichtenberg befriended Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben (1744–1777), whose Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre (Foundations of the Natural Sciences) Lichtenberg would later edit and use as the foundations for his own lectures on physics. Under the direction of Kästner, Lichtenberg conducted astronomical observations at the Göttinger Observatorium from 1766 through 1774, graduating from his university studies in 1767. In 1770, Lichtenberg was appointed professor extraordinarius in Göttingen, where he would for the most part remain throughout his career until his death from pneumonia on February 24, 1799, at the age of fifty-seven. Perhaps unexpectedly, Lichtenberg’s romantic life has been the topic of much interest and speculation in both academic and literary works. The most scandalous of his relationships was with the twelve-year-old flower girl Dorothea Stechard (1765–1782), whom he met in 1777. With the permission of her family, she was employed as Lichtenberg’s housekeeper, and although they were never married, she lived with Lichtenberg from 1780 until her death in 1782. Shortly thereafter, in 1783, he employed Margarethe Elisabeth Kellner (1759–1848) as a housekeeper; she was also from a working-class family and at twenty-two years old was much younger than Lichtenberg. This relationship eventually developed into a secret affair that produced three children out of wedlock. In 1789, as Lichtenberg’s health deteriorated, they were married to ensure that she would receive his pension after his death, and between 1791 and 1797, they had four more children. She died well into the nineteenth century, some fifty years after Lichtenberg. That Lichtenberg was not readily bound by social conventions, Introduction 3 and indeed often flouted them, is reflected not only in his romantic life but also throughout his writings. Lichtenberg achieved notoriety during his lifetime primarily through his lectures and his revisions of Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben’s Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre (Foundations of the Natural Sciences), rather than for his own advancements in the natural sciences. Between 1784 and 1794, Lichtenberg published four editions of this physics compendium, including his own critical comments and revisions, which remained the standard German physics textbook even into the beginning of the nineteenth century. His lectures based on Erxleben’s text were supplemented by experiments that brought him renown throughout Europe and were attended by famous scientists and intellectuals, including Alessandro Volta (1745–1827), Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832), Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855), and Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). Election to numerous scientific societies, including the Royal Society of Sciences both in Göttingen and London, the Royal Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, and the Scientific Society of Holland, among others, attests to Lichtenberg’s prominence in the natural sciences and the great respect accorded him by his contemporaries. He was renowned not just for his scientific work but also for his literary publications and work as an editor. From 1778 to 1799 he edited the Göttinger Taschenkalender (Göttingen Pocket Almanac), which published essays on the natural sciences and philosophical and literary observations in the humanist spirit of the Enlightenment. These essays, such as “Von Cometen” (“On Comets”) (1787) and “Amintors Morgenandacht” (“Amintor’s Morning-Prayer”) (1791), and his commentaries on Hogarth’s engravings, which appeared between 1794 and 1799, represent an important part of Lichtenberg’s literary corpus, supplementing and extending many of the ideas found in his Waste Books. Between 1780 and 1785, Lichtenberg, together with Georg Forster, edited the Göttingische Magazin der Wissenschaften und Literatur (Göttingen Journal of Science and Literature), which was dedicated to updates and reviews of current scientific research and also contained numerous literary contributions. To today’s readers, however, Lichtenberg is best known for his Waste Books. The Waste Books In 1764, while still a student in Göttingen, Lichtenberg began the Waste Books for which he was later to become famous. They consist of a series of fifteen notebooks that he kept throughout his life, and in which he notes

Author Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Steven Tester Isbn 978-1438441962 File size 3MB Year 2012 Pages 224 Language English File format PDF Category Philosophy Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare This is a great project by an extremely knowledgeable translator. Tester does a fine job making the case for Lichtenberg and explaining his thinking. Carl Niekerk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign”     Download (3MB) Kant And The Concept Of Race: Late Eighteenth-century Writings The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Nietzsche On Morality Fichte: Foundations Of Transcendental Philosophy Sextus Empiricus: Against The Logicians Beyond Aesthetics and Politics Load more posts

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