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Encyclopedia > Johann Gottfried von Herder
Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried von Herder (August 25, 1744 - December 18, 1803), German poet, critic, theologian, and philosopher, is best known for his concept of the Volk and is generally considered the father of ethnic nationalism.


Along with Wilhelm von Humboldt, he proposed what is now called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - that language determines thought. Herder's focus upon language and cultural traditions as the ties that create a "nation" extended to include folklore, dance, music and art, and inspired Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their collection of Germanic folk tales.

Born in Mohrungen (Polish: Morag), Kingdom of Prussia, Herder is also known as a philosopher, theologian and poet; he grew up learning from his father's Bible and songbook. He studied at the University of Königsberg and after that with Immanuel Kant. In 1764 Herder went to Riga as a preacher and teacher. He received some notice after the publication of his Origins of Language. While travelling, he met Goethe. This event can be seen as the beginning of the 'Sturm und Drang' movement. In 1771 he took a position as head pastor and court preacher at Bückeburg under Count Wilhelm von Schaumburg-Lippe. In 1776 he moved to Weimar and at Goethe's urging took a position as General Superintendent.

Herder emphasised that his conception of the nation encouraged democracy and the free self-expression of a people's identity. He proclaimed support for the French Revolution, which did not endear him to the royalty. He also differed with Kant's philosophy and turned away from the 'Sturm und Drang' movement to go back to the poems of Shakespeare and Homer.

To promote his concept of the Volk, he published letters and collected folk songs. These latter were published in 1773 as Voices of the People in Their Songs (Stimmen der Voelker in ihren Liedern). The poets Achim von Arnim and Clemens von Brentano later used Stimmen der Voelker as samples for The Boy's Magic Horn (Des Knaben Wunderhorn).

Herder died in 1803 in Weimar.


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  Results from FactBites:
Johann Gottfried Herder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1913 words)
Johann Gottfried von Herder (August 25, 1744 – December 18, 1803), German poet, critic, theologian, and philosopher, is best known for his influence on authors such as Goethe and the role he played in the development of the larger cultural movement known as romanticism.
Herder attached exceptional importance to the concept of nationality and of patriotism — "he that has lost his patriotic spirit has lost himself and the whole worlds about himself ", whilst teaching that " in a certain sense every human perfection is national".
Herder carried folk theory to an extreme by maintaining that "there is only one class in the state, the Volk, (not the rabble), and the king belongs to this class as well as the peasant".
  More results at FactBites »



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