Logos, Vernunft, Erkenntnis and Bildung in the philosophy of Johann Gottfried Herder


  • Andrea Gentile Università degli studi Guglielmo Marconi, Roma




In the essay Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit (Another philosophy of history for the formation of humanity, 1774), against the background of the semantic correlation between Logos and Bildung, Herder identifies in history, in language, in religion, in philosophy , in poetry, art, creativity and freedom, the immediate and natural expression of a people, the immediate form of its "conscience", the manifestation of its spirituality, of its "deep soul" in its particular nature and unrepeatable. In this horizon, the leitmotif of Herderian philosophy can be identified in his reflection on the idea of ​​Bildung in history, to which all the articulations of his thought can be traced: a conception on which Herder reflects incessantly, making continuous changes, and which it will arrive at an exhaustive formulation with the publication of the volumes: Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit, up to the Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, works destined to exert a decisive influence on Romantic thought and on German historicism of the late nineteenth century.

Against the background of the correlation between Logos and Bildung, in Herder's philosophy one can glimpse not only a deep and dynamic correlation between knowledge, reason and experience, but also a profound analogy between the world of “nature” (Natur) and the world of “history” (Geschichte): just as “nature” is characterized by living forms in which it expresses itself, so history is characterized by the realization of “humanity” (Menschheit) in ever more complete “forms”. In other words, if in nature there is a general plan to which every being is subjected, a specific and individual plan by virtue of which every organism takes shape, the same happens in history, where everything falls within a general purpose: every particular realization historical has its own individual “internal purpose” on the basis of which it is configured in the flow of time. The most complete form that history reaches is humanity: language, art, religion, freedom, reason are particular “forms” in which “humanity” manifests itself. Language and art not only express the knowledge and feelings of men, but reveal and express that particular individuality that characterizes them: the being of man in his authenticity. So it is also for religion and freedom; in one, as in the other, the person takes on a leading role: his choices, his passions, his feelings; however, this individuality attests to something that goes beyond itself and becomes like a “symbol of divinity”. Religion, then, precisely because of the cult of the divinity it bears, appears as the highest form of Bildung, of education and formation of the person to humanity: Herder's romanticism asserts itself in religion as the supreme form of humanity in its particularity, in the horizon of a unitary understanding of nature, reason and history.





Logos and paideia: moments and models in Modernity