Education - Personal

Major Themes
The Enlightenment Tradition
The Age of Enlightenment was a broad movement of intellectual culture and philosophy that arguably began with René Descartes' philosophical work Discourse on Method and culminated in the revolutionary works and actions of the eighteenth century such as the American and French Revolutions. While the Enlightenment included a vast array of thought, one of its central intellectual themes was that of reason and the role that reason played in science and the arts.
As a poet and artist of the Enlightenment age, Goethe’s literature argued against the shift towards radical rationalism. Faust is the culmination of this argument. As a man of the Enlightenment, Faust seeks to escape the extreme rationalism of his academic and medical life, but Goethe shows this tradition ultimately cannot satisfy without emotion and art.
Science and Spirituality
Faust is a scholar and a man of science who feels that he has reached the limits of what rational thought can contribute to his life. One of the concepts of Enlightenment thought was that humanity would eventually perfect itself through the advancement of knowledge and technology. Faust argues against this line of thinking. Faust attempts to perfect himself through learning and science, yet he finds that at the end of his intellectual journey, he has destroyed his faith and his reason to live.
What Faust strives for is a taste of the spiritual, either in his own life or in a life beyond. His life of science and medicine and the vast array of knowledge that he has collected keeps him from this spiritual state. He conjures spirits yet cannot join their world. He soon discovers that his own nature contains a spiritual dimension, that of love, which he finds in his relationship with the young girl, Gretchen. Goethe argues that love and tragedy can conquer the tyranny of extreme science and rationalism.
Signifier and Signified
Goethe’s literary and theological argument in Faust concerns the...