Dec 5, 2016

Lorenz Oken and Naturphilosophie in Jena, Paris and London

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Although Lorenz Oken is a classic example of Naturphilosophie as applied to biology, his views have been imperfectly understood. He is best viewed as a follower of Schelling who consistently attempted to apply Schelling's ideas to biological data. His version of Naturphilosophie, however, was strongly influenced by older pseudoscience traditions, especially alchemy and numerology as they had been presented by Robert Fludd, whose works were current in Jena and available to him. According to those influences, parts of Oken's philosophical conception were communicable even in a non-idealistic scientific culture, for example in Paris, where Oken met Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Geoffroy however was embedded in a French intellectual tradition, and the correspondence between his views and those of Oken was only superficial. The English anatomist Richard Owen attempted to incorporate the views of Oken and Geoffroy within his own, idiosyncratic system. Although Darwin knew of Oken's ideas, it was Geoffroy who really affected his evolutionary biology, and any influence of Oken must have been attenuated to the point of triviality

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