Magnifying and reducing 

Are you ever finished observing? No, there is always more to see. Behind each detail hides a new detail. There comes a point, however, that you feel you've found out enough, you're satisfied. Perhaps you reach this point when you know a plant's name, or when you understand how a cow digests its food, or how you grow grass-clover mixtures. In other words, you generally reach this point when you've found out something or when you know how to solve a problem. But you are always free to continue your explorations; each detail harbours a new world of yet more detail. That is why nearly all research concludes with recommendations for follow-up research. Clearly, there is no end to the details that can be studied.

Conventional science has also delved deeper and deeper into detail. It is at the most microscopic level that scientists seek to explain natural phenomena. These days, DNA is increasingly put forward as an explanation for the behaviour, the diseases and manifestations of living organisms.

Instead of observing the smallest detail, you could also study the subject en gros. Goethean scientists study the details, but also combine these details to create whole images. Enlargement, creating the whole, is an essential part of the goethean scientific approach. Early in the 20th century, the Dutch anatomist, Louis Bolk, recommended using reducing glasses as well as magnifying glasses in order to gain a better understanding of phenomena.

This is illustrated by the following example. You can observe many different characteristics of an oak. Close examination of the trunk, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits gives you more and more details about the structure of the wood and the cells, the substances that it is composed of, and the DNA. This knowledge will help you to explain many of the aspects of the oak. But you can also examine the oak's build, its situation, the woods where it grows, and the landscape. You are effectively using reducing glasses to examine relationships on a larger and larger scale. This will also yield a lot of valuable knowledge about the oak.

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The bark of a tree

Exercises

Increasing detail

Make observations of siomething. Take one and observe of that 10 more details.

Magnifying and reducing

Find a situation in which you needed to zoom in on the details in order to resolve a problem. Find a situation in which you needed to zoom out in order to resolve a problem.

© Heirs Tom van Gelder - Stichting AntroVista