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Journal Article

Searching for "The Order of Things": Does Goethe's "Faust II" Suffer from the "Fatal Conceit"?

Nicholas Vazsonyi
Monatshefte
Vol. 88, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 83-94
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30153492
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Searching for "The Order of Things": Does Goethe's "Faust II" Suffer from the "Fatal Conceit"?
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Abstract

Commonly viewed as a revision of the Faust-legend according to the new Enlightenment principles, Goethe's magnum opus actually mediates between two opposing paradigms. While Faust the character pursues teleological goals, these are undermined by the work's circularity. This "undermining" of the modern project has become an intellectual topos in the 20th century. In The Order of Things, Foucault traces the history of "order" in "modernity," concluding with the revolt against it in the 20th century-a "revolt" also evident in Hayek's thesis of the "fatal conceit" (1988), which critiques the idea that humans can comprehend and improve on the "order" found in complex systems. Chaos-theorists have also rejected modern conceptions based on Newtonian "order." The affinity between these current ideas and Faust explains the continuing difficulty of finding consistent "meaning" in the work, as long as it is analyzed solely based on conventional assumptions of "order" developed during the Enlightenment. (NV)

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