Ideas of Johann Gottfried Herder, by Theme

[German, 1744 - 1803, Studied at Königsberg. Superintendant of clergy at Weimar.]

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1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 5. Linguistic Analysis
Thoughts are learnt through words, so language shows the limits and shape of our knowledge
     Full Idea: If it is true that we cannot think without thoughts, and that we learn to think through words: then language gives the whole of human knowledge its limits and outline.
     From: Johann Gottfried Herder (On Recent German Literature. Fragments [1767], p.373), quoted by Andrew Bowie - Introduction to German Philosophy
     A reaction: Deomonstrating that Frege's famous 1884 'linguistic turn', immortalised by Dummett, was actually the continuation of a long focus on language in German philosophy. Non-verbal animals very obviously think.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 6. Meaning as Use
Study the use of words, not their origins
     Full Idea: Not how an expression can be etymologically derived and determined analytically, but how it is used is the question. Origin and use are often very different.
     From: Johann Gottfried Herder (works [1784], p.153), quoted by Andrew Bowie - Introduction to German Philosophy 2 'Herder'
     A reaction: This doesn't quite say that meaning is use, and is basically an attack on the Etymological Fallacy (that origin gives meaning), but it is a strikingly modern view of language.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / f. Ultimate value
We cannot attain all the ideals of every culture, so there cannot be a perfect life
     Full Idea: For Herder, we cannot attain to the highest ideals of all the centuries and all the places at once, and since we cannot do that, the whole notion of the perfect life collapses.
     From: report of Johann Gottfried Herder (works [1784]) by Isaiah Berlin - The Roots of Romanticism Ch.3
     A reaction: Herder seems to be the father of modern cultural relativism. The idea is hard to challenge, but the ideals of some cultures should be ignored, if they diminish rather than enhance the good life for all.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 7. Communitarianism
Herder invented the idea of being rooted in (or cut off from) a home or a group
     Full Idea: The whole notion of being at home, or being cut off from one's natural roots, the whole idea of roots, the whole idea of belonging to a group, a sect, a movement, was largely invented by Herder.
     From: report of Johann Gottfried Herder (works [1784], Ch.3) by Isaiah Berlin - The Roots of Romanticism
     A reaction: Hm. Broad generalisations are an awful temptation in the history of ideas. As a corrective to this, trying reading the two Anglo-Saxon poems 'The Wanderer' and 'The Seafarer'. Very Germanic, I suppose. Interesting, though. Leads to Hegel's politics.