Karl J. Fink

Karl J. Fink received his Ph. D. from the University of Illinois in 1974 with research in the historiography of science and in this field published essays on “atomism,” “organics,” “perception theory,” and “concept formation” in journals like Eighteenth Century Studies, Eighteenth Century LifeInternational Journal of Middle East StudiesGoethe Jahrbuch, Archiv für BegriffsgeschichteDie Kleine Senckenberg ReiheHistory of the Human SciencesElectric Quarterly, and The European Legacy. He has co-edited collected volumes of scholarship including The Quest for the New Science (1979), Goethe as a Critic of Literature (1984), and The Eighteenth-Century German Book Review (1995). Fink’s primary publication is Goethe’s History of Science (Cambridge University Press, 1991), which was re-issued in paperback in 2009. On May 31, 2014, he retired to Professor Emeritus in German at St. Olaf College, where he taught proficiency based German language and culture courses and seminars and tutorials on writers from the “Age of Goethe” (1750-1850). Recently he has been examining the proposition of the “Weimar Friends of Art” (1798-1800), that a curriculum of scientific art would move individuals beyond base needs of survival to aesthetic skills where they may advance their potential for civic courage. From this perspective Fink is looking at the writings of American transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau who followed the dictum of Goethe, Herder, Schiller and other German romantics that the arts and sciences manipulate nature and for this “nature must put them to shame.” This theistic turn puts the measure of life in nature rather than in art and science.

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