Johann Gottfried Herder: Reasoning Across Disciplines

Workshop 26-29.05.10 in Rosendal: Johann Gottfried Herder’s teaching has helped shape virtually every discipline within the humanities and the social sciences. Herder is seen as the father of modern linguistics and philosophy of language, he is counted amongst the early proponents of critical hermeneutics, viewed as the founder of anthropological studies, and acknowledged as first historicist. Moreover, Herder is seen as an early spokesman of political and cultural cosmopolitanism and a relentless defender of enlightenment tolerance. He is known as an avid collector of folk poems, a literary theorist of consideration, and he produced important work within musical theory, theory of sculpture and painting, and the philosophy of emotions.

Johann Gottfried Herder. Photo: Wikimedia

It is no surprise, then, that Herder’s work has been subject to a renaissance over the past decade. Most of this renaissance, however, as been specific to the individual disciplines to which Herder contributed. “Reasoning Across Disciplines” seeks to illuminate Herder’s status as a thinker who refused to be boxed within one or several academic fields or subfields, and chose to draw on empirical data as well as the theoretical resources of the human sciences at large. This, Herder thought, was a condition of possibility for a critical use of reason and judgment.

This workshop, which is open to scholars and PhD students alike, will address Herder’s interdisciplinary idea of reason through posing a number of issues: It addresses Herder’s call for a closer relationship between art history and philosophical aesthetics, his theory of music and emotions, his call for an anthropological turn in philosophy, his historicism, his hopes for a world-literature, as well as his cosmopolitan aspirations.



The relevance of Herder’s philosophy will be addressed by a number of speakers from fields such as musicology, literary studies, intellectual history, Germanistic and philosophy. The speakers are all distinguished by the interdisciplinary nature of their research as well as their ability to combine a historical and systematic focus of scholarship.


Wednesday May 26

18.30: Arrival in Rosendal with the express ferry. Taxis to the Home Farm - Rosendal Avlsgård & Fruehus.

20.00: Dinner in the Kitchen at the Home Farm.


Thursday May 27

8.00-10.45: Breakfast is served in the Kitchen.

Rosendal Avlsgård & Fruehus conference room

11.00-11.30: Welcome, introduction, presentation of all participants by Kristin Gjestdal and Helge Jordheim.

11.30-13.00: John Zammito (Rice University, Houston): "Johann Gottfried Herder Revisited: The Revolution in Scholarship in the Last Quarter Century"

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.30: Kristin Gjesdal (Temple University): "The Hermeneutic Impact of Herder’s Shakespeare Studies"

15.30-15.45: Break

15.45-17.15: Robert Norton (Notre Dame University): "Herder as Faust"

18.00: Evening at the Manor. Guided tour, aperitif in the Wine Cellar, dinner in the Blue Room, coffee and cakes in the Old Kitchen.


Friday May 28

Rosendal Avlsgård & Fruehus conference room

09.00-10.30: Michael Forster (University of Chicago): "Herder and Spinoza"

10.30-10.45: Break

10.45-12.15: Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard College): "Rousseau and Herder on the Relation between Genealogy and Human Nature"

12.15-13.15: Lunch

13.15-14.45: Helge Jordheim (University of Oslo): "Birth of Historismus, Death of Synchronismus? – Time and Space in Herder’s Philosophy of World History"

14.45-15.00 Break

15.00-16.30: Paul Guyer (University of Pennsylvania): "Herder's Debts to Baumgarten and Mendelssohn". Download full paper (pdf)

16.30-16.45: Break

16.45-18.15: Katrin Kohl (Oxford): "Negotiating Processes of Thought and Language: The Power of Metaphor in the Work of Johann Gottfried Herder"

20.00: Dinner in the Tea Room (Havestuen) at the Manor.


Saturday May 29

From 7.00: Breakfast

From 8.00: Departure in taxi or on foot to the ferry. The ferry leaves at 8.30.



PhD fellows or scholars wishing to participate without paper should email Beate Trandem ( within 15 April 2010 and state a) their affiliation and b) research interests (max. 50 words). Limited number of places. Participants admitted to the workshop will receive notice on Friday 16 April.



Arrival in Rosendal on Wednesday evening 26 May 2010.

Departure from Rosendal on Saturday morning 29 May 2010.


Baroniet. Photo: laura_morgan CC



No conference fees. Participants admitted to the workshop enjoy free meals and rooming during their stay. You should expect to share your room. Shared bathrooms in the hallway.

Participants organise and cover their travel themselves.




Baroniet Rosendal - The Manor Rosendal (built 1665). The Manor is situated between Bergen and Haugesund, on the south side of the entrance to the Hardanger fjord.

The workshop is taking place at the Home farm Rosendal Avlsgård & Fruehus in the Manor's park.



Hardangerfjordekspressen, the speed ferry from Bergen city centre and Flesland airport is fastest mean of travelling to Rosendal from Bergen.
Price: NOK 470 if you by a round trip ticket ("minipris").

The ferry leaves from the centre of Bergen on Wednesday 26 May at 16.30. Last departure!
The same ferry stops close to Bergen airport (Flesland) at 16.55. Around 16.30 a bus leaves the airport to bring passengers to the ferry. Or take a taxi (around 10 minutes trip).

Departure from Rosendal on Saturday morning, 29 May: 8.30 (first, last and only departure!).
Arrival close to Flesland airport: 10.00. Arrival airport with bus: around 10.20.
The ferry arrives in Bergen at 10.25.



Bibliographical Sketches:

Michael Forster, Professor, University of Chicago
Professor Forster’s work in philosophy has both historical and systematic aspects. Historically, he works primarily on German philosophy, and secondarily on ancient philosophy. Systematically, his main interests are in epistemology (especially skepticism) and philosophy of language. He also has interests in other areas of philosophy, such as moral and political philosophy, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of history. He is the author of innumerable articles on German philosophy, and his books include Hegel's Idea of a "Phenomenology of Spirit", Wittgenstein on the Arbitrariness of Grammar, Hegel and Skepticism, Herder: Philosophical Writings. He has two forthcoming books: Kant and Skepticism (Princeton University Press), and After Herder: Essays on Philosophy of Language in the German Tradition (Oxford University Press).

Paul Guyer, Murray Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania
Professor Guyer works on the history of modern philosophy, especially Kant, and on the history of aesthetics. His books include Kant and the Claims of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979, sec. ed. 1997); Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Kant and the Experience of Freedom: Essays on Aesthetics and Morality (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Kant on Freedom, Law and Happiness (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press: 2000); Kant’s System of Nature and Freedom: Selected Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005); Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Kant (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).

Katrin Kohl, Professor of German Language and Literature, Jesus College, Oxford University
Professor Kohl has published widely on German eighteenth-century literature and theory. Her special subjects include Subjects in Narrative Identities since 1945, GDR Literature, and advanced translation. Her work combines close textual work and exploring ways in which authors engage with their society and communicate across time. Her sole authored books include Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (Weimar: Metzler 2000), Poetologische Metaphern. Formen und Funktionen in der deutschen Literatur (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2007). She has published a number of articles on German and Austrian literature from the 1730s to our days. Professor Kohl has been working on issues of grammar and language learning and has authored and co-authored works and articles within this field. 

Frederick Neuhouser, Viola Manderfeld Professor of German and Professor of Philosophy, Barnard College/Columbia University
Professor Neuhouser’s scholarship focuses on German Idealism and Continental social theory. He has published widely in the area of European thought and his books include Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory: Actualizing Freedom (Harvard University Press, 2000). His most recent work is Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition (Oxford University Press, 2008), which focuses on notions of recognition, self-love, and rationality. Professor Neuhouser is the author of numerous articles on German eighteenth and nineteenth-century as well as issues within contemporary European theory.

Robert Norton, Professor of German, Chairperson, Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, Notre Dame University
Professor Norton specializes in 18th-20th century German literature and philosophy, aesthetics and ethics, and German intellectual history. His books include Stephan George and his Circle (Cornell University Press, 2002); The Beautiful Soul: Aesthetic Morality in the Eighteenth Century (Cornell University Press, 1995); Herder’s Aesthetics and the European Enlightenment (Cornell University Press, 1991). He has also translated works by Bertram, Nietzsche, and others. His published articles cover Lessing, Herder, Schiller, George, Mann, and others. 

John H. Zammito, John Antony Weir Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
John H. Zammito publishes and teaches in the areas of German intellectual history. He has written on German 18th-century culture as well as topics in contemporary epistemology. His books include A Nice Derangement of Epistemes: Post-Positivism in Science Studies from Quine to Latour (University of Chicago Press, 2004); Herder, Kant and the Birth of Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment (University of Chicago Press, 1992).

Helge Jordheim, Academic director Kultrans, University of Oslo
Helge Jordheim focuses on eighteenth-century German literature and intellectual history. He is the author of Der Staatsroman im Werk Wielands und Jean Pauls (Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2007). He has published a number of articles on the methodological implications of “Begriffsgeschichte,” and especially on the work of Reinhart Koselleck.

Kristin Gjesdal, Asssistant Professor of Philosophy, Temple University
Kristin Gjesdal specializes in German Idealism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics. She has published widely on Herder and interdisciplinary issues and is the author of Gadamer and the Legacy of German Idealism (Cambridge University Press, 2009).


Paul Guyer: Herder's Debts to Baumgarten and Mendelssohn
In his "Monument to Baumgarten," Herder wrote that "Baumgarten's account of poetry is draw from psychology" and that his definition of poetry "leads me deepest into the soul." He also wrote that Mendelssohn's development of the "main principles of all the beaux arts and belles lettres" from Baumgarten's definition made the "treasure" of Baumagrten's definition "yet more certain." These claims seems surprising in light of the standard conception of Baumgarten and Mendelssohn as Wolffian rationalists, and in light of Herder's own claim that too much in Baumgarten's aesthetics is arrived at by "a priori deduction." So what could Herder have had in mind in his praise for Baumgarten and Mendelssohn? I will argue that he had in mind above all Baumgarten's conception of "vita cognitionis aesthetica" or aesthetic life and Mendelssohn's development of this into his own conception of the emotional impact of art, although we also have to bring in G.F. Meier's German completion of Baumgarten's incomplete Latin aesthetics to see what Baumgarten meant by his concept and why it was so important to Herder.

Katrin Kohl: Negotiating Processes of Thought and Language: The Power of Metaphor in the Work of Johann Gottfried Herder
Herder was remarkable for the originality of his thinking and his rhetorical powers. This paper will proceed from the premise that the two are intrinsically connected in Herder’s exploitation of metaphor as a cognitive and linguistic tool. The paper will set Herder in the context of a humanist approach to language in order to highlight the fruitfulness of rhetoric as a basis for investigating his work. Using a cognitive approach to the theory of metaphor, the paper will then explore how Herder uses metaphor in his writing, and how it shapes his concept of how language works as an interface between thought and speech.

Robert E. Norton: Herder as Faust
To many early interpreters of Herder's place and contribution with German letters and culture at large, his role was best understood as the figure who most fully embodied what became known as the Faustian ideal. Indeed, many thought Herder inspired Goethe's most famous work. In my paper I trace the origins of this conception and focus on the implications it had and arguably still has for the understanding of Herder and his role in German intellectual and even political history.

John Zammito: Johann Gottfried Herder Revisited: The Revolution in Scholarship in the Last Quarter Century
A veritable tidal shift in Herder scholarship has taken place over the last quarter century, primarily but not exclusively in German. The recent revival has brought sharply to the fore two crucial aspects of Herder. First, there is the contribution of Herder’s thought to the emergent cultural and social sciences. To be sure, there were other important enterprises launching the cultural sciences in Germany in the 18th century, but the recognition extended Herder in the histories of various disciplines in the human sciences has not been misguided. The problem is that it has not been amalgamated effectively enough across these disciplines to demonstrate his truly seminal importance. Second, there has been a second and even more striking recognition of Herder’s involvement with the emergent natural sciences of his day. My contribution will consider Herder in terms of the history and philosophy of science.

Kristin Gjesdal: The Hermeneutic Impact of Herder’s Shakespeare Studies
The young Johann Gottfried Herder is typically credited for his literary criticism and hermeneutic practice - a practice that culminates in his celebrated 1773 essay on Shakespeare. Yet it is often claimed that a full-fledged philosophical hermeneutics only emerges in the later half of Herder’s work. In this paper, I argue that Herder, already in the early 1770s, develops a robust and sophisticated theory of understanding in and through the encounter with historical expressions, most importantly through his work on literature.

Frederick Neuhouser: Rousseau and Herder on the Relation between Genealogy and Human Nature
Taking off from John Zammito's path-breaking work on Herder and anthropology, this paper aims to get clearer on Herder's position regarding the relation between genealogy and our knowledge of human nature. It considers Herder's conception of human nature (its content and function) and why and in what sense he takes genealogy to be necessary for our knowledge of it. It uses Rousseau's position on these issues as a contrast that helps to bring out the specific features of Herder's position.

Helge Jordheim: Birth of Historismus, Death of Synchronismus? – Time and Space in Herder’s Philosophy of World History
Taking as a pivotal text Herder’s devastating critique of Schlözer’s Vorstellung seiner Universalgeschichte from 1772 this paper is going to discuss how his idea of world history is founded on a reorganization of the relationship between time and space, in opposition to the model propagated by contemporary professional historians, such as Schlözer and Gatterer. At the heart of this opposition, I will argue, is the notion of synchronicity, of events taking place at the same time, but in different geographical and cultural spaces.

Michael Forster: Herder and Spinoza
Just as Herder's cosmopolitanism allowed him to become very sympathetic to Judaism as a religion and cultural tradition, so it also allowed him to become a great admirer of the most important Jewish philosopher of the modern period: Spinoza. As is well known, Herder's appropriation (and modification) of the metaphysical monism of Spinoza's Ethics in God: Some Conversations (1787) played a central role in generating the forms of neo-Spinozistic metaphysical monism that later dominated German Idealism and German Romanticism. But Herder's interest in and sympathy with Spinoza in fact reach much further back in time than that work, to the late 1760's, and his intellectual debts to Spinoza extend well beyond the principle of metaphysical monism. Thus, another important debt lies in the anti-dualistic and deterministic philosophy of mind that Herder presented, with explicit mention of Spinoza, in On the Cognition and Sensation of the Human Soul (1778), which is again heavily indebted to the Ethics. Moreover, even before Herder was influenced by the Ethics in the ways just mentioned, he was influenced by the Tractatus. Thus, another major area in which he owes debts to Spinoza is the theory of interpretation, especially biblical interpretation, where he borrowed principles from the Tractatus from the late 1760's on. And yet another debt can be seen in Herder's early turn, in about 1770, away from monarchy as a constitutional ideal towards the ideals of democracy and liberalism – for that turn was influenced by Spinoza's championing of the latter ideals in the Tractatus. Putting these cases together, one can indeed see that Herder beginning in the late 1760's engaged in a sort of progressive appropriation of increasingly fundamental levels of Spinoza's thought: first principles of interpretation, then political ideals, then philosophy of mind and metaphysics. All of the principles in question went on to play important roles within German Idealism and German Romanticism. Spinoza's contribution to those movements was thus far greater than has usually been realized.


Publisert 10. mars 2010 08:53 - Sist endret 8. jan. 2014 11:10