Johann Gottfried Herder
German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic
Johann Gottfried Herder (or von Herder) (25 August 174418 December 1803) was a German poet, philosopher, literary critic and folksong collector. He is remembered as a theorist of the Sturm und Drang movement, and as a decisive influence on the young Goethe.
We live in a world we ourselvescreate.
Should there not be manifest progress and development but in a higher sense than people have imagined it? ... No one is in his age alone, he builds on the preceding one, this becomes nothing but the foundation of the future
The craving for a delicate fruit is pleasanter than the fruit itself.
Brave the tamer of the lion;
Brave whom conquered kingdomspraise;
Bravest he who rules his passions
Who his own impatience sways.
Whate'er of us lives in the hearts of others is our truest and profoundest self.
Wir leben immer in einer Welt, die wir uns selbst bilden.
Should there not be manifest progress and development but in a higher sense than people have imagined it? ... No one is in his age alone, he builds on the preceding one, this becomes nothing but the foundation of the future, wants to be nothing but that — this is what we are told by the analogy in nature, God’s speaking exemplary model in all works! Manifestly so in the human species!
"This Too a Philosophy of History for the Formation of Humanity" ["Auch eine Philosophie zur Geschichte der Menscheit"] (1774), as translated by Michael N. Forster, in Johann Gottlieb von Herder: Philosophical Writings (2002), edited by Michael N. Forster, p. 299
Am sorgfältigsten, mein Freund, meiden Sie die Autorschaft darüber. Zu früh oder unmäßig gebraucht, macht sie den Kopf wüste und das Herz leer, wenn sie auch sonst keine üblen Folgen gäbe. Ein Mensch, der die Bibel nur lieset, um sie zu erläutern, lieset sie wahrscheinlich übel, und wer jeden Gedanken, der ihm aufstößt, durch Feder und Presse versendet, hat sie in kurzer Zeit alle versandt, und wird bald ein blosser Diener der Druckerey, ein Buchstabensetzer werden.
Der Appetit nach einer schönen Frucht ist angenehmer als die Frucht selbst.
Calmly take what ill betideth;
Patience wins the crown at length:
Rich repayment him abideth
Who endures in quiet strength.
Brave the tamer of the lion;
Brave whom conquered kingdoms praise;
Bravest he who rules his passions,
Who his own impatience sways.
"Die wiedergefundenen Söhne" [The Recovered Sons] (1801) as translated in The Monthly Religious Magazine Vol. 10 (1853) p. 445
Was in dem Herzen andrer von Uns lebt,
Ist unser wahrestes und tiefstes Selbst.
Sag' o Weiser, wodurch du zu solchem Wissen gelangtest?
"Dadurch, daß ich mich nie andre zu fragen geschämt."
Jesus Christ is, in the noblest and most perfect sense, the realized ideal of humanity.
Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 54
[India is the] lost paradise of all religions and philosophies," "the cradle of humanity," and also its "eternal home," and the great Orient "waiting to be discovered within ourselves."... "mankind's origins can be traced to India, where the human mind got the first shapes of wisdom and virtue with simplicity, strength and sublimity which has - frankly spoken - nothing, nothing at all equivalent in our philosophical, cold European world."... "O holy land (India), I salute thee, thou source of all music, thou voice of the heart' ... "Behold the East - cradle of the human race, of human emotion, of all religion."
Quotes by Herder about India. Quoted from Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication. (quoting Ghosh, Pranebendranath Johann Gottfried Herder's Image of India (1900)p334, Singhal, Damodar P India and world Civilization Rupa and Co Calcutta 1993 p. 231)
Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-91)
How transitory all human structures are, nay how oppressive the best institutions become in the course of a few generations.
German quotations are cited from Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Leipzig: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1841); English quotations from T. Churchill (trans.) Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (London: J. Johnson, 1803)
Die zwei größten Tyrannen der Erde, der Zufall und die Zeit.
Jeder liebt sein Land, seine Sitten, seine Sprache, sein Weib, seine Kinder, nicht weil sie die besten auf der Welt, sondern weil sie die bewährten Seinigen sind, und er in ihnen sich und seine Mühe selbst liebt.
Das Maschinenwerk der Revolutionen irret mich also nicht mehr: es ist unserm Geschlecht so nötig, wie dem Strom seine Wogen, damit er nicht ein stehender Sumpf werde. Immer verjüngt in neuen Gestalten, blüht der Genius der Humanität.
Air, fire, water and the earth evolve out of the spiritual and material staminibus in periodic cycles of time. Diverse connections of water, air, and light precede the emergence of the seed of the simplest plant, for instance moss. Many plants had to come into being, then die away before an animal emerged. Insects, birds, water animals, and night animals preceded the present animal forms; until finally the crown of earthly organization appeared—the human being, microcosm. He is the son of all the elements and beings, Nature’s most carefully chosen conception and the blossom of creation. He must be the youngest child of Nature; many evolutions and revolutions must have preceded his formation.
Book 1, as cited in Frank Teichmann (tr. Jon McAlice), "The Emergence of the Idea of Evolution in the Time of Goethe"
Wie hinfällig alles Menschenwerk, ja wie drückend auch die beste Einrichtung in wenigen Geschlechtern werde. Die Pflanze blühet und blühet ab; eure Väter starben und verwesen: euer Tempel zerfällt: dein Orakelzelt, deine Gesetztafeln sind nicht mehr: das ewige Band der Menschen, die Sprache selbst veraltet; wie? und Eine Menschenverfassung, Eine politische oder Religionseinrichtung, die doch nur auf diese Stücke gebauet sein kann: sie sollte, sie wollte ewig dauern?
Die Natur des Menschen bleibt immer dieselbe; im zehntausendsten Jahr der Welt wird er mit Leidenschaften geboren, wie er im zweiten derselben mit Leidenschaften geboren ward, und durchläuft den Gang seiner Thorheiten zu einer späten, unvollkommenen, nutzlosen Weisheit. Wir gehen in einem Labyrinth umher, in welchem unser Leben nur eine Spanne abschneidet; daher es uns fast gleichgültig sein kann, ob der Irrweg Entwurf und Ausgang habe.
…nothing in Nature stands still; everything strives and moves forward. If we could only view the first stages of creation, how the kingdoms of nature were built one upon the other, a progression of forward-striving forces would reveal itself in all evolution.
Book 5, as cited in Frank Teichmann (tr. Jon McAlice), "The Emergence of the Idea of Evolution in the Time of Goethe"
Quotes about Herder
We (Goethe and Herder) had not lived together long in this manner when he confided to me that he meant to be competitor for the prize which was offered at Berlin, for the best treatise on the origin of language. His work was already nearly completed, and, as he wrote a very neat hand, he could soon communicate to me, in parts, a legible manuscript. I had never reflected on such subjects, for I was yet too deeply involved in the midst of things to have thought about their beginning and end. The question, too, seemed to me in some measure and idle one; for if God had created man as man, language was just as innate in him as walking erect; he must have just as well perceived that he could sing with his throat, and modify the tones in various ways with tongue, palate, and lips, as he must have remarked that he could walk and take hold of things. If man was of divine origin, so was also language itself: and if man, considered in the circle of nature was a natural being, language was likewise natural. These two things, like soul and body, I could never separate. Silberschlag, with a realism crude yet somewhat fantastically devised, had declared himself for the divine origin, that is, that God had played the schoolmaster to the first men. Herder’s treatise went to show that man as man could and must have attained to language by his own powers. I read the treatise with much pleasure, and it was of special aid in strengthening my mind; only I did not stand high enough either in knowledge or thought to form a solid judgment upon it. But one was received just like the other; there was scolding and blaming, whether one agreed with him conditionally or unconditionally. The fat surgeon (Lobstein) had less patience than I; he humorously declined the communication of this prize-essay, and affirmed that he was not prepared to meditate on such abstract topics. He urged us in preference to a game of ombre, which we commonly played together in the evening.
The Autobiography of Johann Goethe, p. 349-350
Towards the close of the eighteenth century, Johann Gottfried Herder boldly proclaimed this idea, asserting that each age and every people embody ideals and capacities peculiar to themselves, thus allowing a fuller and more complete expression of the multiform potentialities of humankind than could otherwise occur. Herder expressly denied that one people or civilization was better than another. They were just different, in the same way that the German language was different from the French.
William Hardy McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (1976)
About the end of the eighteenth century fruitful suggestions and even clear presentations of this or that part of a large evolutionary doctrine came thick and fast, and from the most divergent quarters. Especially remarkable were those which came from Erasmus Darwin in England, from Maupertuis in France, from Oken in Switzerland, and from Herder, and, most brilliantly of all, from Goethe in Germany.
Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896)
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Last edited on 15 April 2020, at 21:30
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