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Goethean science concerns the natural philosophy (German Naturphilosophie "philosophy of nature") of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Although primarily known as a literary figure, Goethe did research in morphology, anatomy, and optics. He also developed a phenomenological approach to natural history, an alternative to Enlightenment natural science, which is still debated today among scholars.

His works in natural history include his 1790 Metamorphosis of Plants and his 1810 book Theory of Colors. His work in optics, and his polemics against the reigning Newtonian theory of optics, were poorly received by the natural history establishment of his time.

Arthur Schopenhauer expanded on Goethe's research in optics using a different methodology in his On Vision and Colors.

Rudolf Steiner presents Goethe's approach to science as phenomenological in the Kürschner edition of Goethe's writings.[9]Rudolf Steiner presents Goethe's approach to science as phenomenological in the Kürschner edition of Goethe's writings.[9] Steiner elaborated on this in the books Goethean Science (1883)[10] and Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886).[11] in which he emphasizes the need of the perceiving organ of intuition in order to grasp Goethe's biological archetype (i.e. The Typus).

Steiner's branch of Goethean Science was extended by Oskar Schmiedel and Wilhelm Pelikan, who did research using Steiner's interpretations.

Ludwig Wittgenstein's discussions of Goethe's Theory of Colors were published as Bemerkungen über die Farben (Remarks on Color).[12]

Goethe's vision of holistic science inspired biologist and paranormal researcher Rupert Sheldrake.

He went to an Anglican boarding school and then took biology at Cambridge, studying "life" by killing animals and then grinding them up to extract their DNA. This was troubling. Rescue came when a friend turned him on to Goethe. This old German's 18th century vision of "holistic science" appealed to the young Brit very much. Sheldrake used Goethe to investigate how the lilies of the field actually become lilies of the field.[13]

Sheldrake is famous for the term "morphogenetic field" actually a quote from one of Steiner's students, Poppelbaum.

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American philosopher Walter Kaufmann argued that Freud's psychoanalysis was a "poetic science" in Goethe's sense.[14][15]

In 1998, David Seamon and Arthur Zajonc wrote Goethe's way of science: a phenomenology of nature.[16]

Also in 1998, Henri Bortoft wrote The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe's Science of Conscious Participation in Nature[17] in which he discusses the relevance and importance of Goethe's approach to modern scientific thought.

Biologist Brian Goodwin (1931-2009) in his book How the Leopard Changed Its Spots : The Evolution of Complexity claimed that organisms as dynamic systems are the primary agents of creative evolutionary adaptation, in the book Goodwin stated: "The ideas I am developing in this book are very much in the Goethean spirit."[18]