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Johann Gottfried Herder Revisited: The Revolution in Scholarship in the Last Quarter Century

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 71, Number 4, October 2010
pp. 661-684 | 10.1353/jhi.2010.0006



A veritable tidal shift in Herder scholarship has taken place over the last quarter century, primarily but not exclusively in German. This review essay seeks to evoke the richness and vitality of this revival with the hope of persuading American academics that some ill-founded opinions still circulating concerning Herder's "irrationalism" and chauvinistic, even racist nationalism, and his philosophical naivety and literary effrontery, might at last be put to rest. The recent revival has brough sharply to the fore two crucial aspects of Herder. First, there is the contribution of Herder's thought to the emergent cultural and social sciences. Second, for Herder the "science of man" was also a natural science: the division between the humanities and the natural sciences that has been such a hallmark of the age from Kant until very recently did not exist for Herder.

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