Wahlverwandtschaft

Walh-verwandtschaften (translation)
A 2002 translation of Walh-verwandtschaften by Susan Gustafson. [6]
In terminology, wahlverwandtschaft is a German term that translates as “elective attraction” or elective affinity”; but, in more detail, is a complex word having the two part meaning:

wahl [choice or election] verwandtschaft [affinities]

Translator Charles Leland (1893), in his translation of the works of Heinrich Heine, of note, translates (ΡΊ) wahlverwandten as “electively allied”.

In the plural sense, wahlverwandtschaften, with the suffix -en, means “elective attractions” or elective affinities. [1] In this sense, the full original German title, as Goethe would have conceptualized it, in the Baconian sense (1620) of the term "election":

“It is certain that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception; for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate; and whether the body be alterant or altered, evermore perception precedeth operation; for else all bodies would be like one to another.”

might well be correctly rendered in English as:

Die Wahlverwandtschaften | The Choice of [one's] Elective Attractions [elections towards attractions]

A rendition that, of course, embodies the age-old "choice or free will vs determinism" debate.

In 1960, Herbert Morgan Waidson (1916-1988), to noted, did a translation into English under the title Kindred by Choice, but the translation seems to have not been popular, and hence "correct", by virtue of the fact that no later mass production reprintings were made under that title.

Wahl
The term German prefix ‘wahl’ translates directly as election or "choice". [5]

Verwandtschaft
The German suffix term ‘verwandtschaften’ translates directly as affinities or 'relationship', or a mixture of both, depending on context. [7]

Crebillon (1799)
An example 1990 English-to-German translation of the term "verwandtschaften" from the 1799 Goethe-Schiller discussion quote of Crebillon, wherein Goethe first begins to openly discuss his theory that human relationships are chemical relationships or affinity reactions. [8]
Etymology
The origins, the term "wahlverwandtschaften" or "elective affinities", stems from Greek philosopher Empedocles theory of the affinity forces of philia (love) and neikos (strife) existing between all bodies in the universe. Others expanded on this logic.

The name affinitas was first used in the sense of chemical relation by German philosopher Albertus Magnus in the year 1250 to qualify the combinations of bodies. In his Book of the Marvels of the World, Magnus outlined four principles related to affinity. The first principle of affinity is that likes attract to likes, meaning that an attraction between things with similar qualities or virtues exists, stated in general terms, referring to the Aristotelian elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The second affinity principle is that all things have prime, or first, qualities, but can acquire second or third qualities by association. The third affinity principle is that qualities may be innate to a whole species or to individual things. The fourth affinity principle is antagonism where just as all things attract related things with like qualities, they also ‘repel’ things with opposite qualities. Magnus’ affinity theories and works were frequently reprinted well into the 16th century.

In 1620, English scientific philosopher Francis Bacon developed theories on chemical affinityto explain the inherent nature of motion and its causes. Bacon reasoned that ‘dispute and friendship are the spurs to motion in nature, and the keys to her works.’ Bacon defined chemical affinity as such:

“It is certain that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception; for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate; and whether the body be alterant or altered, evermore perception precedeth operation; for else all bodies would be like one to another.”

Wahlverwandtschaften
Left: a 1976 edition Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften, with essay Walter Benjamin notes by Hand J. Weitz (notes). [4] Right: Wahlverwandtschaften: German language version of the 1996 Italian-language film: Les affinities electives (Elective Affinities), written and directed by: Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani; produced by: Jaen-Claude Volpi.
This logic, naturally, evolved into a conception of elective attractionor elective affinity, defined as ‘a favorable inclination to one more than to another’ or a process in which ‘a substance tends to combine with certain substances in preference to others.’

The first table of affinity relations between a group of basic chemical species was compiled in 1718 by French chemist Etienne Geoffroy, during a translation into French of Isaac Newton's Opticks, wherein Newton described a series of affinity relations verbally. Geoffroy's affinity table was entitled: "Table of the Different Relations Observed between Different Substances" or Tableau des différentes Rapports Observées entre Différentes Substances, in French.

The term die wahlverwandtschaften, meaning “The Elective Affinities”, was famously used as the title of German polymath Johann Goethe’s 1809 novella Elective Affinities. [2] Goethe said that he adopted the term from the 1782 translation of Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman’s chemistry textbook De Attractionibus Electivas (A Dissertation on Elective Attractions), which is an expanded version of Geoffroy's original table, with affinity reaction diagrams and explanation. [3]

References
1. Wahlverwandtschaft – German-English Dictionary.
2. (a) Die Wahlverwandtschaften – Wikipedia (German).
(b) Die Wahlverwandtschaften (German → English) – Wikipedia.
3. Tantillo, Astrida, O. (2001). Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the Critics (pg. xvii). New York: Camden House.
4. Goethe, Johann. (1976). Wahlverwandtschaften (with Essay by Walter Benjamin and notes Hand J. Weitz). Frankfurt AM Main: Insel Verlag.
5. Wahl (German → English) – Google Translate.
6. Gustafson, Susan F. (2002). Men Desiring Men: the Poetry of Same-sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism (excerpt, pg. 68; Ch. 2, Section: Elective Affinities or Metaphors of Self and (Same-Sex) Desire, pg. 67-91). Wayne State University Press.
7. Verwandtschaften (German → English) – Google Translate.
8. Steer, Alfred G. (1990). Goethe’s Elective Affinities: the Robe of Nessus (Crebillon, pg. 37). Winter.

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