August 02, 2008

Vico, Hamann, and Herder; Goethe, Nietzsche, and Dilthey

Berlin saw Vico, Herder, and Hamann as antipathetic to the underlying ideas of the French Enlightenment, and in these three essays, he delineates the reasons for that antipathy. In them, and particularly in Hamann, Berlin sees the first cogent criticisms of the movement. Three Critics of the Enlightenment by Isaiah Berlin (Author), Henry Hardy (Editor)

It is one which Berlin rightly sees as akin to Dilthey's "verstehen," which Berlin also rejects...

Who then, besides Hamann, may be said to have employed what I have called "intuitive reason"? The prime examples are the great epistemological heirs of Hamann: Goethe and Nietzsche. Goethe belongs here because of his refusal to analyze the "Urphaenomen." Hence, his anti-Newtonian stance. Nietzsche, especially in "Zarathustra," which I have analyzed closely from the standpoint of intuitive reason in "Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian Tradition"(1985).

Having stated my reservations concerning Berlin's interpretation of Hamann, I must say, however, that we can be grateful that he has helped mightily to rescue that German philosopher from the obscurity to which he has been unjustly relegated by those who remain under the spell of the strictly rationalistic wing of the Enlightenment... By James C. O'Flaherty (Winston-Salem, North Carolina United States) - See all my reviews Comment Permalink


Giambattista Vico was the anachronistic and impoverished Neapolitan philosopher sometimes credited with founding the human sciences. He opposed Enlightenment methods as cold and fallacious. J. G. Hamann was a pious, cranky dilettante in a peripheral German city. But he was brilliant enough to gain the audience of Kant, Goethe, and Moses Mendelssohn. In Hamann's chaotic and long-ignored writings, Berlin finds the first strong attack on Enlightenment rationalism and a wholly original source of the coming swell of romanticism. Johann Gottfried Herder, the progenitor of populism and European nationalism, rejected universalism and rationalism but championed cultural pluralism.


Kant himself did not develop the historical implications of his theory of social culture. His single essay on history follows the Leibnizian model and suggests the possibility of a divine providence immanent in universal human history -- a theory which, he thought, still required its Newton to develop and verify. In fact, this was precisely the thesis of Vico in his New Science, of which Kant apparently was ignorant. It is also the thesis of Hegel's Pheneomenology of Mind. -- David Bidney Phenomenology and the Social Sciences Volume 1 by Maurice Natanson, ed. 1973


In Germany, Vico's ideas were known to Johann-George Hamman and, via his disciple J.G. von Herder, to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi... Subsequently, Vico's views impacted the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, Karl Marx, R.G. Collingwood, and James Joyce, who used The New Science to structure Finnegans Wake. -- Timothy Costelloe <>


Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga grafts itself to the Modernist idea of progressive evolution. Although Sri Aurobindo, who was also attempting to reconcile the cyclic view of Yugas in Indian mythology with Darwinian evolution, referred to progress as curiously circular not linear. More recently, Ken Wilber has also voiced acceptance of a directional ordering of evolution...

Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to systematically incorporate Indian philosophy into European theory. His theory of the will became the will to power of Nietzsche's Overman, which to varying degrees is the historical predecessor of both Sri Aurobindo' Superman and Wilber's 2^nd tiered man . (The first reference in literature however, to trans-personal or super-humanity was Dante in Paradiso who refers to Beatrice as "transhumana") -- Richard Carlson

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