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6. Goethean Science as a Way to Read Landscape

DescriptionA demonstration of the method of Goethean observation as a means of surveying and appraising landscape which "allows for a schooled subjectivity". Similarities between this method and the phenomenological studies are made.
MethodologyDiscussion of Goethean methodology and the application of this method to the study of a specific location. Analysis of the consistencies and discrepancies arising from group appraisal work.
ResultsRecommendations for future research and discussion of the application of this method to landscape appraisal.
PublishedLandscape Research 23 (1)
AuthorsBrook, I
PublisherLandscape Research Group Ltd
Pricesubscription c. 114 p.a. (3)
Keywordsphenomenology, landscape survey, pathways, sensory awareness, perceptual modes, genius loci

The article is subjective and written from a personal perspective. It does not provide guidance for empirical research.

The study arises from the author's interest in the philosophy of science and in particular the way in which Goethe's methodology has been developed and adopted in current research. It looks at the Goethean application of observation listing the key features as:

  • observing with patience and rigour;
  • deepening a sense of wonder to the world;
  • using sensual and emotional awareness to experience phenomena as fully as possible;
  • attending to connections between phenomena;
  • acknowledging an ethical dimension to the practice of science;

It concludes by suggesting that Goethean observation can be used to "respect and use the findings of other sciences, the views of local people, aesthetic judgements, etc. but maintain as central a guided and trained receptivity to the phenomenon itself." The article is arguing that a phenomenological response can be isolated through training of the individual. Although, the author quotes Goethe's acceptance of the role of the mind in rendering experience meaningful she also points out his disagreement with Kant's contention that what is revealed by the mind is not what is there but what appears to the human intellect.

Using Goethe's observational methodology, as interpreted in this article, the phenomenological approach is seen as having a contributory but not paramount role in appraising landscape.

The article is of limited interest for study of perception in the population in general: it is based on an individual response to landscape following a particular course of study to improve self awareness. For further discussion of phenomenological studies see Porteous (1996).

ReferencesPorteous, J.D. (1996), Environmental Aesthetics London: Routledge.