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N. 32 (2016)

Lorella Ventura

«Siamo filantropi e cosmopoliti»:
l'Europa dei Lumi e le altre civiltà
Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte
zur Bildung der Menschheit di Herder

PP. 72-95

1. Introduzione, p. 72; 2. L’“Oriente” tra presente e passato, p. 73; 3. I cliché sull’Oriente, p. 77; 4. Europa e mondo extraeuropeo, p. 82; 5. I momenti “oscuri” della storia, p. 87; 6. La critica alla cultura illuminista, p. 91.


In his work
Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte Herder severely criticizes the culture of his time, in particular in relation to the view of history and to the consideration of non-European civilizations. In this paper, I highlight the main points of Herder’s critical position toward the Enlightenment’s view of history and of the non-European peoples, and of his own view, which is based on the rejection of the assumption that the Enlightenment represents the highest stage of civilization and can be the measure for evaluating other cultures. In particular, I am focusing on Herder’s consideration of non-European and “Oriental” peoples, and on their relationship with Europe. I will show that, in his description of non-European peoples and of the civilizations of the past, even when he refers to images and stereotypes which were widespread in his time, he gives them a completely different value. In fact, features which are considered “negative” by the Enlightenment, for Herder are mainly features which belong to a given people and a given period, without being “good” or “bad” according to a supposed unique scale. Moreover, I will point out Herder’s deep understanding of the ideology of colonialism and its use of values such as “cosmopolitanism” and “philanthropy” to hide its real intentions and justify its aggressive behaviours.

Keywords: Herder, Philosophy of History, Enlightenment, Colonialism, Orientalism.


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