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If Kant had never made the "critical turn" of 1773, would he be worth more than a paragraph in the history of philosophy? Most scholars think not. But in this pioneering book, John H. Zammito challenges that view by revealing a precritical Kant who was immensely more influential than the one philosophers think they know. Zammito also reveals Kant's former student and latter-day rival, Johann Herder, to be a much more philosophically interesting thinker than is usually assumed and, in many important respects, historically as significant as Kant.

Relying on previously unexamined sources, Zammito traces Kant's friendship with Herder as well as the personal tensions that destroyed their relationship. With this background, he shows how two very different philosophers emerged from the same beginnings and how, because of Herder's reformulation of Kant, anthropology was born out of philosophy. Shedding light on an overlooked period of philosophical development, this book is a major contribution to the history of philosophy and the social sciences, and especially to the history of anthropology.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226978598
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

John H. Zammito is a professor and chair of the Department of History at Rice University. He is the author of three books including The Genesis of Kant's Critique of Judgment, published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology

By John H. Zammito
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2002 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-97859-8

Chapter One
The Aufklärung of the 1760s: "Philosophy for the World" or Bildung as Emancipation

The system of Christian Wolff has often served as a virtually opaque backdrop against which to set the drama of Kant's philosophical career. We need to see through Wolff to a fuller context in which he was an important but often only a placeholding figure. The task of this chapter is to configure the multiple contexts through which Kant and Herder experienced the decade of Aufklärung roughly from the early 1760s to the early 1770s. Here the idea is to link Kant's well-known rebellion against orthodox Wolffianism to a larger current of thought in the Aufklärung that saw Wolffian Schulphilosophie not only-or even primarily-as a problem of metaphysics (technical philosophy) but also as an obstacle to cultural-and even political-emancipation. In short, much of what in intellectual history has fallen under the rubric Enlightenment belongs equally to the social history of the "public sphere," or to the political history of "bourgeois emancipation." For a social group that would define itself and its progressive aspirations around education, philosophy and its constitutive role in the university and in the creation and propagation of culture could not be a matter of indifference. It is this idea which gives sharpness to the cultural assault upon Schulphilosophie at the middle of the eighteenth century. The German Hochaufklärung (1750-1780) maintained that philosophy was far too important to be left to (such) philosophers.

Disputes among philosophers regarding the character and practice of their discipline interfaced with a wider social transformation of culture. In the terms of Hans Erich Bödeker, there was a contest between the new gebildeten Stände and the established Gelehrtenstand. Questions of the uses of philosophical knowledge played a significant role: "the 'gebildeten Stände' were not any longer identical at all with the traditional 'gelehrten Stand.' ... Accordingly the traditional concept of the 'gelehrten Stände' was devalued and confined to the guild quality of the traditional scholarly estate." Similarly, Frank Kopitzsch notes that while "academic schools and universities were of substantial importance for the propagation of enlightenment ideas," over the course of the eighteenth century "the enlightenment expanded in all ways-in thematic terms as well as in recruitment-turning from a matter of 'scholars [Gelehrten]' to a concern of the 'educated [Gebildeten].'"

What alternative model(s) of the intellectual (our anachronistic term) prevailed in the later eighteenth century? One model was French, and its nomenclature warrants reflection: these were philosophes, but what that signified had changed dramatically from the seventeenth century and earlier. That, indeed, is the core of the matter: redefining the meaning-in other words, the mission and practice-of philosophy. Another clue is to be found in the term Bildung and the model of education and subsequent life practice it came to represent over the course of the eighteenth century. To be gebildet was not simply to be gelehrt. Sometimes it was not even clear that they were compatible. The uncoupling of Bildung from traditional Gelehrsamkeit is central to the Hochaufklärung. Something about the acquistion and management of learning was centrally in dispute here. It was in dispute not only at the level of the individual person, but also at the social-historical level, and that was precisely the burden of the key term for the epoch, Aufklärung. Recently scholars have been carefully examining the intense discussions of the meaning of Aufklärung that took place in Germany in the 1780s. Attention then and now focuses on the two famous essays by Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant on the question, "What is Enlightenment?" which appeared in the Berlinische Monatsschrift. What needs to be observed is that the issues that came to articulation through these two landmark essays already had a substantial intellectual and institutional history in eighteenth-century Germany, as the very term associated with these events, Spätaufklärung, would token. Indeed, it behooves us to go back some twenty years to appraise what many of these same figures, notably Mendelssohn and Kant, understood by Aufklärung.

There is considerable evidence that the course of Aufklärung took a decisive turn in Germany around the middle of the eighteenth century. It was a moment in which Schulphilosophie, especially in its orthodox Wolffian form, seemed to have lost momentum and to be ceding leadership among the intellectual currents of the day to what came to be called Popularphilosophie. Connected with this, and supplying considerable energy for it, was the German assimilation of ideas from France and, above all, England. It was also a moment in which the legacy of the almost forgotten early Aufklärung figure, Christian Thomasius, came to be retrieved in Germany. A way to put the central dispute over Schulphilosophie is to say that by midcentury its critics doubted that it could serve the grand purpose of Aufklärung any longer.

To grasp this social appropriation of philosophy, there are two loci of cultural transformation that need to be correlated, the university and the "public sphere" (Öffentlichkeit), both of which must always be understood in terms of the authority exercised over them by the territorial states. Within the university setting, the distillation of philosophy into a "special science" (Fachwissenschaft) and its pursuit of grander directorial aspirations for the entire academy (what Kant would later call the Streit der Fakultäten) were at issue. The meanings of "discipline" and "science," the place of philosophy as a "faculty" within the institutional hierarchy of the university-all these were drastically underdetermined in these decades, yet the moment proved seminal in a process that achieved substantial clarification only early in the next century in Wilhelm von Humboldt's University of Berlin.

Within the "public sphere," the issue has been called "bourgeois emancipation" but would perhaps more prudently be termed the emergence of elements of what in the nineteenth century could securely be termed a Bildungsbürgertum. Only the cataclysmic events of the French Revolution decisively effectuated the shift from estate to class stratification so that, in the nineteenth century, bourgeois would become commonplace in social identification both subjectively for the historical actors and conceptually for the historian. The very idea of a "public sphere" is by no means uncontroversial, to say nothing of "bourgeois" or Bildung. Yet these terms are, at least, historically grounded: people used them; moreover, they proved vital to the people's self-understanding. By the 1790s, elements especially in Prussian society came to be identified as gebildeten Stände. This was a new phrase, to be distinguished in three directions: from the höheren Stände (the aristocracy and upper ministerial elite), from the traditional Ständegesellschaft (the corporate social order of birth and status inherited from the middle ages), and from the Gelehrtenstand (grasped narrowly as the university professoriat). Indeed, much of the cultural struggle of Aufklärung would be about discriminating this new social category, gebildeten Stände, from the very concept Stand, which persisted in its name but which was in fact incompatible with its actuality. And it was precisely here that the gebildeten Stände made an issue of the nature and role of the "philosophy faculty" and of philosophy altogether: it should help them become gebildet. Failure at that could be laid at the door of the "lower faculty" far more plausibly than at the door of the higher professional faculties. The struggle for emancipation-or, perhaps more accurately, for self-definition and eventual public recognition-of the emergent gebildeten Stände found expression in a sharply negative attitude toward university scholarship and the model of enculturation it offered.

We have not yet resolved anything with these terms, but we now have a more recognizable constellation of questions. There are three levels of inquiry through which we can achieve the necessary clarification. The first level is that of philosophy as a specific disciplinary pursuit. The second level is that of philosophy as the name (and also the agenda) of the so-called lower faculty within the university system, in other words, the "arts faculty" as distinguished from the "higher" or professional faculties of theology, jurisprudence, and medicine. The third level is that of "philosophy for the world," or, in its more problematic and polemical formulation, Popularphilosophie. These are obviously circles of widening implication, with the last opening out onto the world.

That idea of "world," it must be noted from the outset, meant only the bourgeois public sphere; it largely excluded participation by the lower classes, though Volk was by no means excluded from its rhetoric. It is a matter of some controversy whether it included even as a possibility participation by non-Europeans or by women, and a particular issue was the role permitted Jews. These were the unpleasant limits of the Enlightenment as an age, and they were certainly not unique to Germany. Moreover, there were occasionally remarkable exceptions to this exclusionary practice that help retrieve some historical authenticity for the Enlightenment's fervently avowed-if subjectively equivocal-universalism in theory. That in turn helps illuminate the irreversibility of the long-term reception of universalist Enlightenment ideals.

The Discipline of Philosophy: Wolff's Ideal of a Rigorous Science

Philosophy in the early modern period took as its disciplinary project self-liberation from the yoke of theology. This found literal expression in eighteenth-century Germany in the widespread (though brief) adoption of the term Weltweisheit for the discipline. The obvious thrust of the term was toward secularization. The "world" meant physical nature, but even more it meant the human dimension, and philosophy took on the role of addressing the "essential interests of humanity," to use Kant's terms. Two issues latent in this turn to the world were, first, the problems of the adequacy of a "human measure"-not only cognitively but ethically-in the new physical world revealed by natural science, and, second, the problems of the "democratization" of philosophy: if it addressed universal human interests, should it not be accessible to everyone? But the initial conception of disciplinary philosophy was tightly bound up with resisting theology and its dogmatic interventions. The break with theology was no easy enterprise, and God and immortality would remain indispensable questions for metaphysics over the eighteenth century. Still, the point is that these questions-and all other questions of philosophy as a discipline distinct from theology-had to be answered, if possible, with only the resources available in the finite human mind.

The German situation, with its massive confessional investment in the institution of the university dating back to the Reformation, made the issue of this liberation of disciplinary philosophy from theology dangerous and protracted. In the eighteenth century, to practice philosophy in a German university-or even outside it-was always to work in the shadow of theology. This lingering subordination to dogma marked the German academic scene not only in the Catholic regions of the Reich but in the Protestant domains as well. Trends within Protestantism in Germany, both in practices and in doctrine, sharply affected the contours of philosophical discourse throughout the century. Salient episodes included the banishing of Wolff from Halle in 1723, the acrimony over the publication of the Reimarus fragments, the Spinoza controversy, and the Wöllner Edict of 1788.

Nevertheless-and this was the signal achievement of Christian Wolff-a new disciplinary self-conception did crystallize for philosophy in early eighteenth-century Germany: the idea of philosophy as a "rigorous science." Wolff's background was in mathematics and the natural sciences, and he brought with him into his philosophizing the ideal of the esprit géométrique so central to René Descartes and the seventeenth-century metaphysicians. Such rigorous science could only conceive itself as systematic. Above all it needed to be self-grounded or absolute. Systematicity, rigorous closure, was a hallmark of rationality for Wolff, requiring demonstrative proofs of all propositions. Grounding-begründen-was what distinguished philosophy, drawing it close to the lucidity of mathematics. The mode of knowledge in philosophy and natural science needed to approximate mathematics in its structure of argumentation and proof if it was to attain true knowledge, or knowledge of truth. While it would be wrong to contend that Wolff simply identified mathematical and philosophical method, he saw more in common between them than would his eventual critics.

By contrast, mere cognitio historica suffered two fatal deficiencies. Either it was literally derivative-secondhand or "book" knowledge-or it was all too unreflected, nuda facti notitia, immediate sense experience (Sinnlichkeit or Erfahrung). In both instances cognitio historica lacked the rigorous formulation of arguments or explanations according to principles. To enter the higher realm of truth, Wolff and his school maintained, one had to get beyond mere historical knowledge to the autonomous realm of the a priori, in other words, to cognitio philosophica and cognitio mathematica. Kant was entirely Wolffian in this regard; he celebrated Wolff just for this in the B-Preface to the Critique of Pure Reason as the figure who had secured the "spirit of rigor [Geist der Gründlichkeit]" in Germany.

Wolff's agenda was not restricted to the narrow confines of philosophy as Fachwissenschaft along the lines hitherto set forth. The founder of "school philosophy" was an energetic advocate of university reform. His argument-and it was not simply about how to learn philosophy in the disciplinary sense-was that one had to discriminate between "historical" (casual-empirical) knowledge and "philosophical" (principled) knowledge across the board. Wolff put a fundamental challenge to the traditional disciplinary ascendancy of theology, jurisprudence, and medicine by claiming they offered merely a historical knowledge of their fields, whereas "only philosophy could raise this knowledge to the theoretical level of a knowledge of principles [Gründewissens]." Kant would raise all these issues himself at the end of the century in his Streit der Fakultäten.

Wolff had grand ambitions for his system of philosophy in this regard. He saw himself as correcting a serious loss of rigor in scholarship which had set in with Thomasius and his followers and their advocacy of "eclecticism" or "practicality." Wolff was not so much opposed to their goal as he was to the method of its achievement. "Eclecticism" for Wolff meant lack of method. Where Thomasius and his followers wanted to be immediately relevant, reaching outward to ordinary people and also upward to the seat of power, Wolff believed that university scholarship should follow a more circumspect avenue to influence: via scientific rigor, discovery, and the transformative potential of truth. He wanted philosophy as science to constitute the primary and dominant faculty of the entire university. He therefore proposed a new organization of the university into three faculties: the humanistic, in other words, the traditional trivium less logic; the mathematical (less music); and the philosophical, in other words, logic, natural science, and social science.


Excerpted from Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology by John H. Zammito Copyright © 2002 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Emergence of the Personal Rivalry between Kant and Herder and the Disciplinary "Calving" of Anthropology from Philosophy
1. The Aufklärung of the 1760s: "Philosophy for the World" or Bildung as Emancipation
2. Kant and the Leibniz-Wolff School to 1762-1763
3. "An Altogether Different Kant": The "Gallant Magister" and Popularphilosophie
4. A "Kantian of the Year 1765": Herder's Conception of the Project of Philosophy
5. Kant's Crisis of Professional Identity: The Calling of Philosophy and the Dreams of a Spirit-Seer
6. Constituting the Discourse of Anthropology: The "Philosophical Physicians"
7. Kant's Critical Turn and Its Relation to His Anthropology Course
8. "Enough Speculating; Let's Get Our Facts Straight": Herder and the Agenda of German Anthropology in the 1770s
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