Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Garrett Zantow Bredeson

Second Advisor

Lauren Shizuko Stone

Third Advisor

Dominic Bailey

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796) can be read as a novel of self-discovery that develops the individual through a method of dialectical movements as demonstrated in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). I will do this by analyzing the idea of “Negation” as it is developed in both works as well as the tension that is developed in Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship between Fate and Chance and how this tension operates within the novel. Studying these works in tandem will allow a student to enrich their understanding of the two works in two ways. First, Goethe’s novel will allow a more concrete example of how the movements of an individual’s thought, as demonstrated through the Phenomenology’s dialectic, take place within that individual’s experiences. Second, a close reading of the Phenomenology will utilize Hegel’s concepts and conceptual framework as apparatuses to develop a critical view to evaluate Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and perhaps use this style of analysis to further investigate intersections of Hegel and other works of Goethe. This paper will demonstrate that the narrative and philosophical methods of exposition in the authors’ works push towards a concept of “thoughts” and “experiences” to be understood not as separate viz. a hard separation between internal and external phenomena. They will be instead understood as methods of cognition emphasizing the role of the individual’s formative experience, indicative of the intellectual climate in the German Idealist movement.

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