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Grant number: FA-58338-15

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John Kenneth Noyes
University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A5 Canada)

The Legacy of Johann Gottfried Herder's Theories of Cultural Difference and Universal Reason

Johann Gottfried Herder (1745-1803) was one of the most innovative philosophers and cultural theorists of the 18th century. By the time he died, he had become one of the most influential German philosophers, and his ideas provided the most radical alternative to Kant. On the basis of his strikingly original theory of language, Herder developed an equally original critique of imperialism. He was the first person to argue that imperialism is not only morally wrong, but that it is epistemologically wrong: it can be shown to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the human mind. This idea has been passed on through a complex chain of influence to late 20th century debates in cultural theory. In my proposed research I will explain to readers how this happened, and how Herder's ideas can help in understanding one of the most pressing problems in cultural studies today: what is universal about reason, and how does it relate to cultural difference and to the problem of imperialism?

Project fields:
History of Philosophy; Intellectual History; Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2016 – 6/30/2017