Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet
Gottfried Herder was born in Mohrungen, East Prussia, the son of a
schoolmaster. He was educated at
Königsberg University (where he met Kant and Hamann), studying medicine for a
time before changing to theology. He
became a teacher in Riga, and embarked on his writing career. In 1769 he travelled in France (meeting
Goethe in Strasbourg). Having been
ordained in 1765, he was appointed court preacher in Bückeburg. By this time he had broken away from the
Enlightenment and had become one of the leaders of the Sturm und Drang ('Storm and Stress') movement. He moved to Weimar in 1776 (again to become
court preacher) and despite financial difficulties and a large family
maintained his prolific output of books and essays on literature and
PHILOSOPHY OF MAN/ CULTURE
 Herder rejected 'faculty' psychology; for him
reasoning, perceiving, feeling, desiring, and so on are all activities of a
unitary organism. [See Treatise on the Origin of Language and Cognition and Sensation.] He
was also critical of a priori forms of sensibility and
understanding, and of any mind-body dualism [a],
insisting that psychology could not be dissociated from physiology. He supposed that the psycho-physical organism exhibits in its
thoughts and actions a fundamental force or energy (Kraft). This is also
manifested in the phenomenal world in general, all things being
interconnected. There is thus
'continuity' within and between the parallel orders of the natural and the
spiritual or 'ideal' [b]. He later argued [Metacritique] against Kant that the judgements of mathematics are not synthetic but are
'identical' [c]; and he also criticized Kant's
account of space and time; they are not forms of intuition [d]. Just as he had rejected faculty psychology so he was critical of faculty theories of art
such as commonsense, conscience, taste [see Critical Forests, IV]. And
while in his later work he seems to accept that there are common features in all forms of art (in so far
as art is both an expression of the whole man and reflected in Nature the ground of aesthetic and religious
feeling), he yet regarded beauty as relative to a particular culture or period
of culture [e]. He thus argued for a view of art that
requires both a psychological and a historical approach [see, for example, Another Philosophy of History].
Herder says that running
parallel to the stages of language there are different stages in the history of human development. But he
rejects any suggestion of historical inevitability, progress, or rationalistic
schemes into which events must be forced. In all societies, though, man's moral 'purpose' is to achieve Humanitt, that is self-realization
which involves the fulfilment of his spiritual, mental, and physical potential.
Education is the key [see Letters for the Advancement of Humanity] [d].
Herder also says that different cultures reflect
different geography, climates, human needs, and so on; but each has its own value and is united or integral by virtue of shared traditions expressed through its
language in poetry and other cultural activities. No culture should be regarded as 'superior'
to another. To understand different cultures we must study and
interpret them from within: we must
learn and empathize (einfhlen) with
Enlightenment thinker, Herder progressively moved away from both rationalism
and the Kantian critical philosophy in the direction of Romanticism as he came
to emphasize the central role played by language in human history and indeed
in culture in general. Accepting Hamann's views on the inseparability of
language and reason, he regarded man as
a unitary, active organism. However, by
stressing that there are different types of language and corresponding cultures
and rejecting absolute standards Herder lays himself open to the charge of
relativism. At the same time his key
concept of 'Humanity' as something to be
realized carries with it the suggestion that it is an ideal of perfection
towards which individual man can aspire. Whether or not these tendencies can be
reconciled, Herder's wide-ranging thought was to influence significantly the
subsequent development of the philosophy of culture and the emergence of
Herder: Kritische Wälder (1769) (Critical Forests); Abhandlung ber den Ursprung der Sprache (1770) (Treatise on the Origin of Language); Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur
Bildung der Menschheit (1774) (Another
Philosophy of History Concerning the Development of Mankind); Vom Erkennen und Empfinden der menschlichen
Seele (1778) (Of the Cognition and
Sensation of the Human Soul); Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der
Menschheit (1784-01) (Ideas for the
Philosophy of History of Mankind); Briefe
zur Befrderung der Humanitt (1793-7) (Letters
for the Advancement of Humanity); 'Metakritik'
zur Critik der reinen Vernunft (1799) (Metacritique
of the Critique of Pure Reason); and many others. Most of these are included in Herder:
Philosophical Writings, ed. and trans. M. N. Forster, et al.; and
his Ideas for a Philosophy of History are translated by T. Churchill as Outlines
of a Philosophy of the History of Man. See also G. Moore (ed. & trans.), Selected Writings on Aesthetics.
I. Berlin, Vico and Herder.
Berlin, Three Critics of the Enlightenmen:t Vico, Hamann, Herder.
R. T. Clark, Herder: His Life and Thought.
J. H. Zammito, Kant, Herder, and the
Birth of Anthropology.