In: KulturPoetik 2009, Heft 1


Johannes Endres


Evolution und Erbe. Zur wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Aktualität von Goethes und Darwins Denkform der ›Wahlverwandtschaften‹




In On the origin of species Darwin compares the principle of natural selection, which is thought to be the core power of evolution and an ambiguous term as well, to the chemists’ use of the phrase ›elective affinities‹. As the article is going to show, this comparison serves not only as an apology neither is it a mere stilistic correspondence. It rather links up some far reaching implications of both concepts. As in Goethe’s novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften and in the scientific discourse of the 19th century, Darwin relates the originally chemical model of elective affinity to his biological theory of heredity and evolution. In doing so, he emphasizes the major role of acquired characteristics for the various modes of decent and transfer, both natural and cultural.