Heinrich LaubeIn a scene reported by German writer Heinrich Laube (1806-1884):

“A women friend of mine said to Goethe at that time: ‘I cannot approve of Elective Affinities, Herr von Goethe; it really is an immoral book!’ According to her report Goethe was silent for a while and then said with great earnestness:

Goethe (1808-09)
‘I’m sorry you feel that way. It is my best book, and don’t think that this is the mere whim of an aging man. I grant you that one loves most deeply the child of one’s last marriage, the product of one’s late power of generation.

But you wrong me and the book. The principle illustrated in the book is true and not immoral.

But you must regard it from a broader point of view and understand that the conventional moral norms can turn into sheer immorality when applied to situations of this character.”
The Goethe late December 1809 "best book" incident, wherein he tells correct that the human physical chemistry principle contained in his Elective Affinities are true. [1]
In reality, true or what is considered "truth, as compared to what is not true or considered as false, refers to subjects, things, or a state of being that are in accordance with fact or the actual state of affairs; conformable to an essential reality; and or being that which is the case rather than what is manifest or assumed.

“The first and last thing which is required of genius is the love of truth.”
Johann Goethe (1829), Maxims, Volume III (pg. 229) (Ѻ)(Ѻ) [3]

Elective Affinities
In 1796, German polymath Johann Goethe began to develop his physical chemistry based theory of passions; the final result of his theory is embedded in layers of coded gestalt in his 1809 novella Elective Affinities, his self-defined best book, the central principle of which, when attacked by a women on the street, he told are "true" and not false, in his own words (as depicted in full adjacent): [1]

“The principle illustrated in the book is true.”

American woman's rights activist Victoria Woodhull, in her 1871 "Introduction" section to the D.W. Niles English translation of Goethe's Elective Affinities, seems to have been the first to state explicitly that there is a revolution in human thought embedded in Goethe's novella, and to query about whether or not the future would see it as being scientific truth: [2]

“The tale is, in a word, of the simple construction and genial and moderate character of the "Vicar of Wakefield" rather than in the exciting style of Dickens' Christmas Carols: but, everywhere, the interest is skilfully kept up, and the subtle insinuation of a great revolutionary doctrine pervades the whole, and to the thoughtful reader makes the chief point of interest. Doctrines, however, which are here merely insinuated and illustrated by allusions to science, are now so openly expounded and advocated that a portion of the community will regard the great German as too conservative, while yet, doubtless, to the great mass of readers, the radical element may startle, and in some instances offend.

If this fundamental thought of the man who has proved to be the seer or prophet of science in so many other things, is also a scientific truth, the fact cannot be appreciated by the world too soon, nor its immense sweep of consequences be too clearly foreseen and provided for. It will affect the whole scope of morals and social order, whether we accept it in our theories or not, and the less hurtfully and the more beneficently, in proportion as we thoroughly study and understand the subject.”

The following quote by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, notable for having incorporated much of Goethe's human chemistry morality theory into his The World As Will and Representation (1818; 1844), seems to capture the gist of truth:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

This is especially true, in the context of Goethe's theory presently passing through the first-to-second stage of scientific truth, such as outlined on the "crackpot" page and the "Rossini debate" page, respectively, to cite two examples, within the last decade.


1. Lewisohn, Ludwig. (1949). Goethe: the Story of a Man: Being the Life of Johann Wolfgang Goethe as Told in his Own Words and the Words of his Contemporaries, Volume Two (pg. 174). Farrar Straus and Co.
2. Goethe, Johann. (1872). Elective Affinities: with an Introduction by Victoria C. Woodhull. D.W. Niles.
3. Klopsch, Louis. (1896). Many Thoughts of Many Minds (106). Publisher.

External links
Truth – Wikipedia.

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