Johann Gottfried Herder: Another Philosophy of History, and Selected Political Writings

In This Review

Johann Gottfried Herder: Another Philosophy of History, and Selected Political Writings

Edited by Ioannis D. Evrigenis and Daniel Pellerin
Hackett, 2004
224 pp. $39.95
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Herder, selections of whose writings are translated and presented here, has often been described as a father of modern nationalism. But as the editors of this collection show, things are not so simple. In his nuanced comments on history, Herder writes of the progression of mankind but not of progress-even in the wake of the Enlightenment, the tyranny of reason is still tyranny. He also offers a prescient condemnation of expansionist nationalism and does not endorse notions of German ethnic superiority. He offers a conception of national identity that is more civic than it is racial or ethnic-people linked by a common language and common customs, endowed "with one national character"-and thus dislikes conquests and tyrannies. Essentially, Herder is a moderate with limited expectations, who knows that history has frequently been a wrecker of hopes. There is much wisdom in these pages, even if Herder's path is anything but linear.