Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rush, Fred. Review of Michael N. Forster, AFTER HERDER. NDPR (November 2011).

Forster, Michael N.  After Herder: Philosophy of Language in the German Tradition.  Oxford: OUP, 2010.

After Herder and German Philosophy of Language are books to be reckoned with and will amply repay the most serious attention from historians of philosophy, philosophers of language, and social theorists. While there is significant overlap between chapters due to the origins of some of them as separate essays published previously, and while some of the pieces are synoptic, taken as a whole these essays comprise a cohesive alternative vision for both the philosophy of language and the history of the period. Along with a philosophical reconsideration of Goethe, reevaluating Herder is of the utmost importance to a balanced view of the German philosophical tradition and of its philosophical resources.

To return to the initial question: is the slogan 'back to Herder' apt? Probably not. The object of a slogan must present itself, or be presented, as a stable point of reference. For some, Kant is such a figure. I think this is an error. Kant is much more a transitional figure, simultaneously inhabiting two very different philosophical worlds at their interstices: one rooted in theologically-based teleology and the other in naturalism. But there can be no mistake about Herder in this regard. He is patently many-sided and, for that, a fitting figure for consideration in genealogies of many concepts that have come to play significant roles in various philosophical disciplines. But being of genealogical importance is precisely not to be an appropriate object for 'back to . . .' sloganeering. . . .

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