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JB: You're proposing a new science of qualities.

GOODWIN: It will take time, involving a growth and learning process.

JB: How will things change?

GOODWIN: I honestly can't predict in detail, John. My experience in this area is very limited. This is what I'm doing now at Schumacher College, which, by the way, is now seven years old. It is a place where this kind of educational innovation can be explored. This month we are running a course called "Living Science Creatively" and it's precisely on this issue of balance. On one hand there is the new set of ideas about complexity, health as a balance of order and chaos, dynamical disease, emergent phenomena, the nature of self-organizing systems and so on. That's still within conventional science the third person, objective perspective. But complexity and unpredictability invite a move into a participatory way of being in the world. This takes us on an inner journey as we call it, where you cultivate your intuition and holistic ways of understanding yourself and the world.

You can do that in systematic ways you can follow for example some of Goethe's procedures in respect to experiencing light. When people do Newton's experiments with prisms they do them in a particular way and they come up with Newton's formulae, his correlations between color and wavelength. This is a consistent way of describing certain aspects of light, but it doesn't actually give you the experience of color itself. Goethe was primarily interested in investigating light in such a way that the process of color production in experiments with prisms, and our experience of the qualities of the color produced, result in a coherent whole that provides an understanding of the phenomena as a self-consistent unity. This is a rather different goal and method from the analytical procedure that seeks to describe light in terms of quantities such as the wavelengths of the colors. They are not actually in conflict with one another; they are different.

Goethe also worked with organisms, particularly with plants. As a biologist I find this work very interesting and revealing. Goethe's goal was to understand the relationships between the parts of the plant (leaves and flower organs) and the whole plant as a dynamic process; and at the same time to understand the intrinsic (organizational) principles that connect all plants as an expression of a type of dynamic living order. I have found that my own work on the organizational principles of plants and animals comes quite close to Goethe's in many ways, but there is a dimension missing which is the experience of the particular qualities expressed by plants of different species. This is where things begin to sound rather strange to the scientifically trained person. But the experience of wholeness and coherence carries with it a quality of meaning that refers to something quite precise. I believe that one aspect of this is understanding what qualities of healing particular plants have i.e., their herbal properties. Traditional cultures have developed this capacity to read plants to a high degree, and it is an area where it is possible to make some systematic studies on the relationships between holistic and analytical ways of knowing.


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