Elective affinities problem

Elective affinities problem (labeled) 1000px
A Thomas Huxley (1871) / Goethe (1809) style depiction of the "elective affinities problem" namely: how to explain human behavior through the language of the physical sciences as it explains chemical behavior, according to the view, as expressed in Goethe's 1809 famous advertisement for his newly-published physical chemistry based novella Elective Affinities, that "there is, after all: only one nature"; mixed in with Huxley's 1863 evolution of man diagrams and his 1871 theories on social chemistry, the synopsis of which, in Goethe's day (pre: 1882-years), i.e. before Helmholtz's article "On the Thermodynamics of Chemical Processes", was that one had to explain how human behavior was regulated by the forces of chemical affinity, and in modern days (post: 1882-years), one has to explain human behavior in terms of both the chemical affinities at the interpersonal level and the human free energies, at the social system boundary level, the two being related via the Goethe-Helmholtz equation. Right: a 2011 depiction of the "elective affinities problem", by Peter Glaser, namely how to explain passions of existence in terms of Bergman's 1775 chemical affinities theories (Goethe's day) or in terms of Gibbs' 1876 free energies (modern day). [6]
In modern queries, elective affinities problem, aka "love thought experiment", depending, similar to the great problem of chemical affinity, classificationally, the hardest intellectual genius puzzle of them all, is the quest to explain human passions, turmoils, and experience via the chemical affinities or free energies, such as depicted adjacent.

In 1768 to 1775, German polyintellect Johann Goethe began searching for a secret principle or universal rule to explain the hows and whys of the happenings of existence and experience: [7]

“I perceived something in nature (whether living or lifeless, animate or inanimate) that manifested itself only in contradictions and therefore could not be expressed in any concept, much less any word. It was not divine, for it seemed irrational; not human, for it had no intelligence; not diabolical, for it was beneficent; and not angelic, for it often betrayed malice. It was like chance, for it laced continuity, and like providence, for it suggested context. Everything that limits us seemed penetrable by it, and it appeared to dispose at will over the elements necessary to our existence, to contract time and expand space. It seemed only to accept the impossible and scornfully to reject the possible.”

In 1799, Goethe, in an Oct 23 letter (see: Goethe timeline) to his intellectual friend Friedrich Schiller, in comment on the lack of realism in the literary work of French author Prosper Crebillon, explicitly stated the elective affinities problem as follows:

“Crebillon … treats the passions like playing cards, that one can shuffle, play, reshuffle, and play again, without their changing at all. There is no trace of the delicate, chemical affinity, through which they attract and repel each other, reunite, neutralize [each other], separate again and recover.”

In 1809, Goethe, ten years later, penned a draft outline attempt at solution to the problem, which he explained via hidden layers of coded gestalt in his 36 chapter physical chemistry based novella Elective Affinities, finished on Oct 3, after which, as he said, he was "set free" from the problem.

In 1859, English electrochemist Michael Faraday, in his “On the Various Forces of Nature” lecture, stated what seems to be an outline of the elective affinities problem, in query self-reflective format, as follows: [8]

“Let us now consider, for a little while, how wonderfully we stand upon this world. Here it is we are born, bred, and live, and yet we view these things with an almost entire absence of wonder to ourselves respecting the way in which all this happens. So small, indeed, is our wonder, that we are never taken by surprise; and I do think that, to a young person of ten, fifteen or twenty years of age, perhaps the first sight of a cataract or a mountain would occasion him more surprise than he had ever felt concerning the means of his own existence: How he came here; how he lives; by what means he stands upright; and through what means he moves about from place to place. We come into this world, we live, and depart from it, without our thoughts being called specifically to consider how all this takes place; and were it not for the exertions of some few inquiring minds, who have looked into these things, and ascertained the very beautiful laws and conditions by which we do live and stand upon the earth, we should hardly be aware that there was anything wonderful in it. These inquiries, which have occupied philosophers from the earliest days, when they first began to find out the laws by which we grow, and exist, and enjoy ourselves, up to the present time, have shown us that all this was effected in consequence of the existence of certain forces, or abilities to do things, or powers, that are so common that nothing can be more so; for nothing is commoner than the wonderful powers by which we are enabled to stand upright: they are essential to our existence every moment.”

(add discussion)

Galaxy (three views)
A three-view depiction of the Milky Way galaxy, showing the glimpse of the "waves and tides", which Henry Adams spoke of in 1863, amid his 5-decade search for a systematic conception of it all, humans viewed as chemically reactive "human molecules" (1885) or "social phases" (1908), the rise and fall of civilizations explained in terms of physico-chemical Gibbsian chemical thermodynamics framework; the modern version of the elective affinities problem.
In 1863, Adams, writing to Charles Gaskell, seems to have begun searching for a universal theory of existence, applicable, in a one nature manner, atoms to humans:

“Everything in this universe has its regular waves and tides. Electricity, sound, the wind, and I believe every part of organic nature will be brought someday within this law. The laws which govern animated beings will be ultimately found to be at bottom the same with those which rule inanimate nature, and as I entertain a profound conviction of the littleness of our kind, and of the curious enormity of creation, I am quite ready to receive with pleasure any basis for a systematic conception of it all. I look for regular tides in the affairs of man, and, of course, in our own affairs. In ever progression, somehow or other, the nations move by the same process which has never been explained but is evident in the oceans and the air. On this theory I should expect at about this time, a turn which would carry us backward.”

In 1885, Adams restated the problem in the following format, in an April 12th letter to his wife, written while at extended stay at work in Washington, in which Adams declares: [2]

“I am not prepared to deny or assert any proposition which concerns myself; but certainly this solitary struggle with platitudinous atoms, called men and women by courtesy, leads me to wish for my wife again. How did I ever hit on the only women in the world who fits my cravings and never sounds hollow anywhere? Social chemistry—the mutual attraction of equivalent human molecules—is a science yet to be created, for the fact is my daily study and only satisfaction in life.”

Adams, of course, would go on to spend a record five decades on the problem, culminating in his famous 1910 A Letter to American Teachers of History, among other publications on the subject prior to this, in which he lamented that American history teachers need to start teaching the second law to students to explain human history in a more uniform physical chemistry sense, and at the end of which surmised that complete solution to the problem would require the aid a new Newton:

“Such a complete solution [socio-history human chemical thermodynamics] seems not impossible; but at present to call for the aid of another Newton.”

In 1871, English naturalist Thomas Huxley stated the elective affinities problem as such: [3]

“Every society, great or small, resembles ... a complex molecule, in which the atoms are represented by men, possessed of all those multifarious attractions and repulsions which are manifested in their desires and volitions, the unlimited power of satisfying which we call freedom ... the social molecule exists in virtue of the renunciation of more or less of this freedom by every individual. It is decomposed, when the attraction of desire leads to the resumption of that freedom the expression of which is essential to the existence of the social molecule. The great problem of social chemistry we call politics, is to discover what desires of mankind may be gratified, and what must be suppressed, if the highly complex compound, society, is to avoid decomposition.”

In 1962, in commentary on Huxley’s call for the development of the field of social chemistry in order to attempt solution of the elective affinities problem, Austrian social economist Werner Stark stated the following: [4]

“Why should no social chemistry ever been developed? Nobody would suggest that the social scientists should imitate meteorology, for this discipline does not appear to have got very far … but what about chemistry? A sociology based on chemistry [has] in fact been called for, but, significantly, [this call has] found no echo. It would have been easy to take up this suggestion and develop it further. An intending social chemist would have found it one whit more difficult to manufacture a sociological parallel to the Boyle-Charles law than Haret did to the Newtonian propositions. But the experiment appears never to have been tried. Why?”

Here, to comment quickly, regarding "sociological parallel to Boyle-Charles law", the experiment was tried ten years earlier in the introduction section chapter to English physicist C.G. Darwin's 1952 The Next Million Years, but, as summarized so rightly by Nicholas Georgescu (1971), quoted above, who attempted a similar solution in formulation of economic thermodynamics, "manifold avenues open up" almost as soon as one begins to work on the problem. [5]

The 2,500+ articles of Hmolpedia, the 824-page two-volume Human Chemistry (2007) textbook, and the assimilation of the history of the point of view of the 120+ human molecule pioneers, are only some of the examples of these "manifold avenues" that begin to open up when one attempts to tackle the great two-hundred-year-old elective affinities problem, and that's not to mention the 700-equations of Willard Gibbs that one has to master to solve the problem.
Newton in Senegal (labeled)
An illustration of Jean Sales’ 1777 satirical play “Reasonable Drama”, aka Newton in Senegal, showing Newton, as “social Newton”, a possible rendition of what "Another Newton", i.e. Henry Adams' 1910 term for the person who will solve the elective affinities problem (or the problem of "physico-chemical social dynamics" as he termed it), might like look like, above fictionally depicted as a vegetarian, eavesdropping on a conversation between a meat-eating Merman, a talking oyster, pleading for it’s life, amid which an African, who believes in a scarab-conceptualized god, enters the scene; at the end of which Newton reasons that he should only attempt to explain morality to the African, since he alone, with his type of belief system, might obtain a soul, or something along these lines. [9]

New blue sky problem | IQ=225+
The elective affinities problem, in some sense, has become the new blue sky problem, as was formerly the only problem worked on by all IQ: 200+ range geniuses, prior to its early 20th century solution; the elective affinities problem, presently, is the only puzzle common to the rare ceiling geniuses cited in the IQ=225+ range, namely:

Goethe (1796) (IQCit=225; IQ=230), who called his solution to this problem his "greatest work" or "best book" (1809), of all his 142+ collected works publications, in which he embedded a secret principle which he said was “true” and which was “only production of greater extent” in which he was “conscious of having labored to set forth a pervading idea”;
Einstein (IQCit=225; IQ=220), who commented on the problem (see: Einstein on love), in a somewhat irritated perplexment scribble note: “gravitation cannot be responsible for people falling in love” (1933) and previously in query to geneticist Thomas Morgan: “how on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” (1920s);
Thims (1995) (IQCit=225+; IQ=190), who was led into the problem, similar to Goethe, via a mixture of the "love thought experiment" and the "reverse engineering puzzle";
Hirata (2000) (IQCit=225; IQ=190), who called his solution a "fun compilation of worthless applications of physics and mathematics to relationships";

Even the great child prodigy William Sidis (IQCit=250-300; IQ=195) attempted solution, in a round-about-way, via his 1920 theories on animate matter and entropy.

Romanian mathematician and economist Nicholas Georgescu, who spent several decades on the problem, stated the following, in 1971, on the problem:

“Manifold avenues open up almost as soon as one begins to work on the problem.”

In 1910, Henry Adams (IQ=190) surmised, after working on the problem for 45-years, through Gibbs (IQ=200), Clausius (IQ=205), and others, that the "complete solution" would require the "aid of another Newton".

See also
Equation of love

1. (a) Adams, Henry. (1863). “Letter to Charles Gaskell”, Oct.
(b) Adams, Henry. (1982). The Letters of Henry Adams, Volume 1: 1858-1868 (editor: Jacob Levenson) (pgs. 395-96). Harvard University Press.
(c) Stevenson, Elizabeth. (1997). Henry Adams: a Biography (pg. 69). Transaction Publishers.
(d) Taylor, Matthew A. (2008). Universes Without Selves: Cosmologies of the Non-Human in American Literature (pg. 108), PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins University. ProQuest, 2009.
2. (a) Adams, Henry. (1885). “Letter to Marian Adams”, April 12.
(b) Adams, Henry. (date). The Letters of Henry Adams: 1892-1899, Volume 4 (equivalent human molecules, pg. xxviii). Harvard University Press.
3. Huxley, Thomas. (1871). “Administrative Nihilism”, Fortnightly Review, pg. 536. Nov.
4. Stark, Werner. (1962). The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought. (pgs. 261-63). Routledge.
5. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (pg. 3). Harvard University Press.
6. Glaser, Peter. (2011). “Die Wahlverwandtschaften” (The Elective Affinities), Glaserei Blog, Sep 9.
7. (a) Goethe, Johann. (1814). Poetry and Truth (book 20). Publisher.
(b) Schwartz, Peter J. (2010). After Jena: Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the End of the Old Regime (pg. 19). Publisher. Bucknell University Press.
8. Faraday, Michael. (1859). On the Various Forces of Matter: and their Relation to Each Other (pgs. 2-3), six lectures delivered before a juvenile auditory at the Royal Institute, during the Christmas Holidays of 1859-60. Richard Griffin and Co, 1861.
9. (a) Sales, Jean. (1777). “Reasonable Drama” (“Drame Raisonnable”). Publisher.
(b) Sales, Jean. (1789). The Philosophy of Nature: Treatise on Human Moral Nature, Volume 4 (De la Philosophie de la Nature: Ou Traité de Morale Pour Le Genre Humain, Tiré de la Philosophie Et Fondé Sur la Nature, Volume 4) (Drame Raisonnable, 7+ pgs; esp. pgs. 173-201, 205). Publisher.
(b) Darnton, Robert. (1996). The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (Delisle de Sales, Jean-Babtiste-Claude Isoard, pgs. 48-49, 70-71, 397 n. 32). W.W. Norton.
(c) Malandian, Pierre. (1982). Delisle des Sales: Philosophe de la Nature (1741-1816), Volume 1. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.
(d) Malandian, Pierre. (1982). Delisle des Sales: Philosophe de la Nature (1741-1816), Volume 2. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.
(e) Fara, Patricia. (2002). Newton: the Making of a Genius (pg. 126; Newton in Senegal, figure 5.1). Columbia University Press.
(f) Shank, J.B. (2008). The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment (pg. 9). University of Chicago Press.

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