Herder, Johann Gottfried von
(1744–1803)
German philosopher and historian, and an important influence on German Romanticism . Herder was originally destined for medicine, but at the university of Königsberg he changed his subject to theology, and made the acquaintance of Kant and Hamann . After various travels he took up the post of Generalsuperintendent of the clergy at Weimar. He published continuously, his most important works being Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache (1772, trs. as Treatise upon the Origin of Language, 1827) and Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (four parts, 1784–91, trs. as Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man, 1800). Herder's work, like that of Vico, is marked by a historical depth that led to dissent from the Enlightenment assumptions of a uniform, if progressing, human nature, and to a stress on the pervasive influence of history in the shaping of human language and art. Herder also attacked the prevailing faculty psychology of the time, holding that only nonsense arose from the standard distinctions between reason, will, desire, affection, and so forth. Rather, the person is a single unity (infused by a spirit or vital force, Kraft ) that reasons, wills, and desires. Herder was also one of the first philosophers to identify the ability to reason with the ability to use language, and to equate thinking with inner speaking.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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