Elective Affinities (enemies)

In cultural reactions, Elective Affinities (enemies), as compared to its admirers, refers to enemies, objectors, or non-fans of German polymath Johann Goethe’s 1809 physical chemistry based novel Elective Affinities (see: Goethe timeline) and or objectors or detractors of the great revolutionary doctrine embodied within.

“In 1809, Goethe published a book which was a puzzle both to his admirers and his enemies. This was Elective Affinities.
Hjalmar Boyesen, “The Life of Goethe” (1885)

The following is a listing of enemies, detractors, or protestors of Elective Affinities:


icon 75 (test)Anonymous woman
(friend of Heinrich Laube)
1809Commented to Goethe: ‘I cannot approve of Elective Affinities, Herr von Goethe; it really is an immoral book!’
icon 75 (test)Friederike Helene Unger
German writer
c.1809Wrote to German translator and critic August Schlegel (1767-1845) that the morality of the book is "atrocious". [2]
Ludwig Tieck 75Ludwig Tieck
German poet and romantic movement novelist (IQ=165)
c.1809Called Goethe's novella "torture affinities"; a fact that German writer and novelist Bettina Brentano (1785-1859) let Goethe know. [2]
Karl Knebel 75Karl Knebel
German poet
1810Commented to Goethe: “he could not stomach it” (Feb 7). [2]
Christoph Wieland 75Christoph Wieland
German poet and writer
1810Religion icon 20x27 Commented in a letter to German philologist and archeologist Karl Böttiger, which he suggested should be "burned" after it is read, that: “to all rational readers, the use of the chemical theory is nonsense and childish fooling around”; supposedly, objected owing to the "radicalness of its Christianity" (Jul 16); in another letter, whose addressee, a woman, is unknown, he stated: "I confess to you, my friend, that I have read this truly terrifying work not with out feeling or concern."
Tominaga Keii 75Tominaga Keii (1920-2009)
Japanese chemical engineer
2004Stated in his chemical thermodynamics chapter, specifically in his mis-dated subsection "Chemical Affinity in 1806", of his Heterogeneous Kinetics, after nearly re-quoting the entire part of the famous "chapter four", that in his concluding passing remark view the human chemical reaction theory and the publication "did not add any scientific value."
Sam Kean 75Sam Kean
American science writer
2010 In his laymanized chemistry history book The Disappearing Spoon: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Element, he attempts to deride Goethe’s Elective Affinities, commenting, for example: “Goethe would have been better off cutting out the science” and that “Goethe would have been crushed after his death in 1832 to learn that its science and philosophy would soon disintegrate and that people now read his work strictly for its literary value.”
Ryan Grannell 75Ryan Grannell
Irish openly atheist biochemistry student
2011Believes that Goethe's human chemistry theory is a "nutty theory" and that the modern chemical thermodynamics version of Goethe's human chemistry, as presented in the works of American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims, is "calculus coated woo" and "Goethe's Elective Affinities wrapped in a lab coat."
Erland Lagerroth 75Erland Lagerroth
Swedish literary critic and humanism theorist
2013 “Today I started from scratch again [see: discussion] and when I got to your homepage, I understood. We have different interests and foci, and so we differ in research and results. Already before I quoted from Gladyshev: "History can be predicted with thermodynamics" and now I found another bon mot: "Love is in its ultimate analysis nothing but a chemical reaction" [Anon chemist, c.1922] [5]. You want to understand by reducing, Prigogine, Jantsch and I by comprehending the great connections = relations, processes, wholenesses, systems. Because it is in their world we live - and love and it is this world that is a wonder to be loved. I understand you have found something related to your interest in Die Wahlverwandtschaften, but I doubt that Goethe would have loved your reductions. But, maybe, as an experiment [see: love thought experiment]. But the four-five persons certainly are much more than their chemical formulas [see: human molelcular formula]. So I stay with Prigogine and Jantsch and myself. But I admire the tremendous work you have done on your interest, and I know there are many like you. But for me this passion for reduction of our wonderful world is a perversion.” [see: anti-reductionism] [4]

The following icons given a quick-mark indication to the main or central reason for the objection:

ReligiousReligion icon 20x27The cross icon signifies that the person objects for religious reasons.
Philosophicalphilosophy 39x20The infinity symbol signifies that the person objects for philosophical reasons and or belief system conflict reasons.
Free willfree will iconThe bird in a cage icon signifies that the person has a "free will" objection, that he or she believes in free will, and as such does not believe in determinism; as is the case in the novella, which itself is based on the experimental results of the 180 reaction experiments presented in Swedish physical chemist Torbern Bergman's 1775 A Dissertation on Elective Attractions, each of which are predetermined reactions, as is the case with all chemical bondings, debondings, and or formation changes, all governed by the nature of affinity tables (Goethe's day) or free energy tables (modern day); the person, in other words, believes that his or her "choices" are under the control of their own mind, that he or she has a "self-drive", among other possible variants.

To note, the distinction between those who are admirers as contrasted with those who are enemies, seems to fall within the framework or distinction of those who, in modern times, consider themselves to be giant molecules (human molecules), as contrasted with those who do not, such as indicated in the 2001-present polling numbers of English physicist Jim Eadon, the results of which show that about 43 percent of people do "not" believe that they are in fact a large animated molecule; this number should likely corroborate similarly with the percent of people who are enemies of Goethe's Elective Affinities.

1. Keii, Tominaga. (2004). Heterogeneous Kinetics: Theory of Ziegler-Natta-Kaminsky (ch. 2: Thermodynamics of Chemical Reactions, pgs. 11-20; section: Chemical Affinity in 1806, pgs. 16-17). Springer.
2. Tantillo, Astrida O. (2001). Goethe's Elective Affinities and the Critics (§Unpublished Comments, pgs. 7-12; §Negative Reviews and Responses, pgs. 12-26). Camden House.
3. Benjamin, Walter. (1921). “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” (scribd), first published by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in the Neue Deutsche Beitrage (1924/25); in: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926 (Elective Affinities, pgs. 297-360; Wieland, pg. 310). Harvard University Press, 1996.
4. Email communication to Libb Thims (9 Feb 2013).
5. Bennett, Frederick M. (1922). “Is Spirit a Chemical Reaction?”, The Personalist (pgs. 106-11), Vol. 3-4. School of Philosophy, University of Southern California.

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