In thermodynamics, eigenenergie is a term used significantly by German physicist Georg Helm in his 1887 The Doctrine of Energy, which directly translates as self-energy or intrinsic energy or the energy of the body, but in a modern thermodynamical sense seems to mean ‘internal energy’ in the original Clausius formulation. [1] Clausius, however, does never employs the term ‘eigenenergie’, but defines U as the energie des systems (‘energy of the system’).

The prefix eigen- is said to be adopted from the German word "eigen" for "innate" or "own".

German thermodynamics historian Ingo Muller reasons that Helm used the term ‘eigenenergie’ in the same Clausius sense as ‘internal energy’. [2]

As to the 1880s origin of the term, American German studies professor Karl Fink reasons that the source of "Eigenenergie" is most likely in the Latin-Greek "energia" (ultimately from Latin energia or Ancient ἐνέργεια (enérgeia)) picked up by Johann Herder in his term "Volkgeist' to unite mind-body-spirit in his theory of culture, which German physician Johann Blumenbach (1752-1840) re-cast in his concept of "bildungstrieb" (1781) or "formational drive" in human development, a term that united growth, maintenance, healing, regeneration, and reproduction as variations of the single goal of maintaining form. [4]

German philosopher Immanuel Kant, supposedly, admitted to be following Blumenbach in some respects, in distinguishing between a principle of primordial organization and a merely mechanicial formative force of impulse that resides in matter and body. [5]

By the end of the eighteenth-century this developmenal force became central to Johann Schiller's theory of aesthtetic education which also attempted to invest psychological develment in physiology, the topic of Schiller's medical dissertation from 1779. In a way, modern genetics continues to define the "Bildungstrieb" that links mind-body development. It would be fair to say that Timothy Lenoir's 1982 book The Strategies of Life has become a classic scholarly treatment of the "energia" concept as it became more and more a term for human biological development. Goethe of course knew and used the term, but found it too much of an abstraction to be a useful term for complexities of human development. [3]

1. Helm, Georg F. (1887). Die Lehre von der Energie: Historisch-kritisch entwickelt: Nebst Beitragen zu einer allgemeinen Energetik (The Doctrine of Energy: historical-critical development: in addition to contributing to an overall energetics) (eigenenergie, 16+ pgs; section: VIII: Die Eigenenergie der Körper (The Eigenenergie of the Body), pgs. 34-35). Leibzig: Verlag von Arthur Felix.
2. Email communicate from Ingo Muller to Libb Thims on 25 Jun 2010.
3. Email communicate from Karl Fink to Libb Thims on 15 Jul 2010.
4. (a) Blumenbach, Johann. (1781). On the Formative Drive of the Generation Process (Uber den Bildungstieb und das Zeugungsgeschafte). Gottingen: Johann Dieterich.
(b) Engelstein, Stefani. (2008). Anxious Anatomy: the Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (pg. 13). SUNY Press.
(c) Email communicate from Karl Fink to Libb Thims (15 Jul 2010).
5. Roque, Alicia J. (1985). “Self-Organization: Kant’s Concept of Teleology and Modern Chemistry” (abs), The Review of Metaphysics, 39(1):107-35.

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