Elective Affinities

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An annotated poster for the 1996 French-Italian film remake of Goethe's Elective Affinities (1809), showing Edward (B) and Charlotte (A) bonded together in a marriage (or gypsum), the Captain (C) and Ottilie (D) forming a friendship, and also the Captain alone as sulfuric acid H2SO4, when he arrives at the estate in chapter 3 and makes contact with Edward and Charlotte, aka gypsum.

In famous publications, Elective Affinities: On the Nature of the Choice of Our Elective Attractions (AB:6) (TR:833) (LH:14) (TL:847|#30), in German: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, is a 3 Oct 1809[1] cypher-based[2] novella by Goethe, his third novel, which outlines his evolution or metamorphosis of humans from chemicals over time theory, aka "Goethe model", via Socratic dialogue, wherein each character, the four main characters being: Charlotte (A), Edward (B) Captain (C), and Ottilie (D), others being Mittler (M) the mediator, the child (Bc), etc., is a chemical species, and each chapter, of 36 total chapters, is a new human chemical reaction scenario, and the large country estate is the reaction beaker or retort.


In 1809, Goethe, in his Elective Affinities, presented a novella stylized scientific discourse, in an effort to address the following:

  • An extrapolation of Newton's Query 31 (1718) up to the social interaction, reproduction, and evolution scale.
  • The question of where the "choice" of our elective attractions to others, to either attract, repel, bond, not bond, or debond to others originate.
  • The logic of Geoffroy's affinity table (1781), expanded in Bergman's affinity table (1775), scaled, via Goethe's affinity table (1808), up to the human interaction level.[3]
  • A refutation of Prosper Crebillon's c.1715 premise that the passions are like playing cards, that can be shuffled around, played, reshuffle, and play again, without their changing at all.
  • An explanation of how the "moral symbols"[4] of nature are found in physical chemistry, e.g. Torbern Bergman's A Discourse on Elective Attractions (1775).
  • The battle between passion and morality that results from intellectual ramifications of the former points.

Title decoding | Die + Wahl + Verwandt + Schaften

A Jun 66AE mock cover for Thims long-planned, semi-drafted (online)[2], illustrated, annotated, and decoded publication of Goethe's Elective Affinities.

The German title of Goethe's novel is Wahlverwandtschaften. This is a four part word: Die + Wahl + Verwandt + Schaften, each with a distinct meaning. It was rendered in English, by James Froude (1854), as Elective Affinities, wherein a certain amount of the original meaning is lost. The following is an analysis of each term.[5] At right, we see translation alternatives for the compound term "verwandt-schaften" (no hyphen):

Die Wahl Verwandt Schaften
The Choice Allied Unions
Selection Kindrid Ties
Option Related Companies
Election Interrelated Communities
Kin, Kindred, Kinfolk

Modern | Translations

Hence, we have the following title options, ranked by correctness:

# Title Year Translator
Elective Affinities: On the Nature of the Choice of Our Elective Attractions[6] 66AE Thims
On Nature of the Choice of the Unions or Relationships Formed by the Forces of the Chemical Attractions or Affinities 66AE Libb Thims
The selection (choice or election) by nature of allied (connatural, related, or interrelated) unions (ties, companions, companies, or communities)[7] 2015 Libb Thims
The Choice of One's Elections or Attractions to Things or People[8] 2012 Libb Thims
The Selection [wahl] of Connatural [verwandt] Unions [schaften][9] 2012 Jeffrey Tuhtan
The Choice of One’s Chemical Affinities[10] 2003 Stanley Corngold
Elective Affinities 1854 James Froude
The Selective Affinities (Las afinidades selectivas)[11] 2010 Vladimir Cruz
Kindred by Choice 1960 Herbert Waidson
Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Die + Wahl + Verwandt + Schaften) 1809 Johann Goethe
Von der Attraction 1789 Heinrich Tabor
Disquisitio de Attractionibus Electivis (Dissertation on Elective Attractions) 1775 Torbern Bergman
Table of Affinities (Affinitatum) Between Different Substances (Inter Differentes Substantias): Not invented, or thought involved, but to be seen what the nature of the issue, or does (Non Fingendum Aut Exogit Andum, Sed Videndum Quid Natura Ferat; Aut Faciat); or Table of the Different Relations [Rapports] Observed between Different Substances 1718 Etienne Geoffroy
The Nature of the Attractive and Dis-Attractive Virtue or Force between Bodies (see: Query 31) 1717 Isaac Newton
Election to Embrace and or Exclude 1620 Francis Bacon
The philia (attracting) and neikos (strife) forces 445BC Empedocles


Quotes | Related

The following are related quotes:

“There is a certain secret ‘secret principle’ in nature by which liquors are sociable to some things and unsociable to others. Thus, water will not mix with oil but readily with spirit of wine or with salts. But a liquor which is of itself unsociable to a body may by a mixture of a convenient mediator be made sociable. So molten lead which alone will not mix with copper or with Regulus of Mars, by the addition of tin is made to mix with either.”
Isaac Newton (1679), “Letter to Robert Boyle[12]; compare William Newman's 2003 summary of this quote: "Just as water ‘elects’ to mix with ethyl alcohol or with salts, so it chooses not to mix with oil, Similarly, water will sink into wood while quicksilver will not, but quicksilver will penetrate and amalgamate with metals, which water will not. Likewise, aqua fortis (nitric acid) will dissolve silver and not gold, while aqua regis (mixed nitric and hydrochloric acid) will dissolve gold and not silver. Nonetheless these rules are not written in stone"[13]

Quotes | On

The following are quotes employed by Lukacs:

Elective Affinities is genuinely magnificent and lasting influential.”
— Author (c.1920), Publications; cited by Georg Lukacs (1950) in German Realists (pg. 387) [14]

Quotes | From

The following are quote from the book:

“These comparisons are pleasant and entertaining; and who is there that does not like playing with analogies? But man is raised very many steps above these elements; and if he has been somewhat liberal with such fine words as ‘election’ and ‘elective affinities’, he will do well to turn back again into himself, and take the opportunity of considering carefully the value and meaning of such expressions.”
Johann Goethe (1809), Elective Affinities (§4, character: Charlotte)

End matter


  1. Goethe timeline – Hmolpedia 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 EA: IAD (WB) – Hmolpedia 2020.
  3. Goethe affinity table – Hmolpedia 2020.
  4. Moral symbols – Hmolpedia 2020.
  5. Elective Affinities (title decoding) (WB) – Hmolpedia 2020.
  6. Note: based on caption to this diagram.
  7. Note: Edit probed into action via difficulties on theory discussion of Henry Bray's 1910 "manifestation of choice" discussion of love and affinities at the atomic and human level; where, correctly, a one nature "mechanism of choice" in both scenarios is the requisite description (23 Dec 2015).
  8. Note: edit themed on Francis Bacon's description (23 May 2012).
  9. Tuhtan, Jeffrey. (2012). “Alternative translations of Wahlverwandtschaften”, Hmolpedia thread, May 23.
  10. Corngold, Stanley. (2003). “Compulsive Affinities: Goethe, Kafka, Benjamin”, Keynote Address, Conference: “Distortion”, University of Western Ontario, Apr 6.
  11. Afinidades – Hmolpedia 2020.
  12. Newman, William R. (2003). Gehennical Fire: the Lives of George Starkey, and American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution (Elective affinity, pgs. 231-34). University of Chicago Press.
  13. Affinity chemistry – Hmolpedia 2020.
  14. Lukacs, Georg. (1950). German Realists in the Nineteenth Century (Elective Affinities, 37+ pgs). MIT Press, 2000.

External links

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