Describing, Sampling, Collecting: Warburg, Wittgenstein and the Epistemology of Comparative Morphology

Marco Brusotti, Sabine MainBerger


In the period from around 1900 until the 1930s, there is a huge amount of friction between questions of form and questions concerning history. Various approaches attempt to overcome patterns of causal genesis and to develop different models of the relationship between history and form. In German-speaking Europe, Goethe’s morphology proves to be exceptionally appealing in this context: it is seen as a possible solution to the conflicting relationship. We will take a closer look at two examples from a wide array of attempts to update Goethe’s morphology: we will consider Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and Wittgenstein’s thoughts about Spengler’s ‘art of comparing’ and James Frazer’s evolutionary anthropology.

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ISSN Polythesis 2723-9020 [online]