This article discusses Goethe's theory of color and his (at times vitriolic) diatribes against the Newtonians by situating his work within two contexts, one political and the other intellectual. The political context is Goethe's dismay over the rise of obscurantism, typified by the Illuminati movement of the late eighteenth century, with secrecy and elitism as its hallmarks. The intellectual context is the tradition of German Idealism. He was fundamentally committed to understanding the relationship between the subject, or the investigator of nature (or Naturforscher), and the object, or nature itself. How can a Naturforscher, who is a part of nature, be able to depict it objectively?

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