Fragment 4

Why a "morphology" of antiquarianism?

I draw my inspiration from Goethe's use of "morphology" to describe the way appearances are shaped from within, by a function or set of functions, and from without, by external forces, some of which reflect general conditions and others quite specific responses to the individual subject.

In "Towards a General Comparative Theory" [1790-94] he puts it this way:

“An initial and a very general observation on the outer effect of what works from within and the inner effect of what works from without would therefore be as follows; the structure in its final form is, as it were, the inner nucleus molded in various ways by the characteristics of the outer element. It is precisely thus that the animal retains its viability in the out world: it is shaped from without as well as from within.” [Goethe, Scientific Studies. Collected Works vol. 12, ed. and tr. Douglas Miller (Princeton UP, 1995), 55]

Studying the history of antiquarianism over time, especially in the period after which "antiquarianism" is conventionally noted, means tracing the continuity of those inner functions while at the same time recognizing that external forces (politics, society, disciplines) change the outward appearance. At the end of the process it may not look like antiquarianism- though in a "morphological" perspective the continuity is apparent.

At least this is the challenge.


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