Johann Gottfried Herder: Academic Disciplines and the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) wrote at an age when the polyhistoric scholar or amateur was replaced by the professional academic specialist. A universalist who fought against narrow-minded specialised scholarship and artificial boundaries between disciplines, Herder himself had seminal insights into a variety of disciplines, from aesthetics to education. He made constant efforts to achieve a synthesis of human knowledge, notably in his Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Humankind), 1784-91. However, his monumental oeuvre can be criticised as mere 'fragments', and he has been faulted by professionalised scholarship of the last two centuries, including his own teacher Immanuel Kant, for his flowery style and his 'vagueness'. The nineteen studies in this volume provide a debate on Herder's contribution to the intellectual discourse of the later eighteenth century in the context of momentous changes in the natural and social sciences. They give new insights into the psychology of the younger Herder, on historiography, a new concept of education, and Herder's position in theology.