Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism

By John K. Noyes

© 2015

Among his generation of intellectuals, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is recognized both for his innovative philosophy of language and history and for his passionate criticism of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. A student of Immanuel Kant, Herder challenged the idea that anyone – even the philosophers of the Enlightenment – could have a monopoly on truth.

In Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism, John K. Noyes plumbs the connections between Herder’s anti-imperialism, often acknowledged but rarely explored in depth, and his epistemological investigations. Noyes argues that Herder’s anti-rationalist epistemology, his rejection of universal conceptions of truth, knowledge, and justice, constitutes the first attempt to establish not just a moral but an epistemological foundation for anti-imperialism. Engaging with the work of postcolonial theorists such Dipesh Chakrabarty and Gayatri Spivak, this book is a valuable reassessment of Enlightenment anti-imperialism that demonstrates Herder’s continuing relevance to postcolonial studies today.

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Product Details

  • Series: German and European Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 416 pages
  • Illustrations: 10
  • Dimensions: 6.4in x 1.3in x 9.3in
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  • PUBLISHED DEC 2015

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    Regular Price: $79.00

    ISBN 9781442650381
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    Regular Price: $79.00

Quick Overview

In Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism, John K. Noyes plumbs the connections between Herder’s anti-imperialism, often acknowledged but rarely explored in depth, and his epistemological investigations.

Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism

By John K. Noyes

© 2015

Among his generation of intellectuals, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is recognized both for his innovative philosophy of language and history and for his passionate criticism of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. A student of Immanuel Kant, Herder challenged the idea that anyone – even the philosophers of the Enlightenment – could have a monopoly on truth.

In Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism, John K. Noyes plumbs the connections between Herder’s anti-imperialism, often acknowledged but rarely explored in depth, and his epistemological investigations. Noyes argues that Herder’s anti-rationalist epistemology, his rejection of universal conceptions of truth, knowledge, and justice, constitutes the first attempt to establish not just a moral but an epistemological foundation for anti-imperialism. Engaging with the work of postcolonial theorists such Dipesh Chakrabarty and Gayatri Spivak, this book is a valuable reassessment of Enlightenment anti-imperialism that demonstrates Herder’s continuing relevance to postcolonial studies today.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: German and European Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 416 pages
  • Illustrations: 10
  • Dimensions: 6.4in x 1.3in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘A profound source of philosophical interpretation, which is very close to the source, in which Herder’s significance for the current discourse of global history and anti-imperialism is of surprising actuality.’


    Michael Maurer
    H-Soz-u-Kult March 2017

    ‘While displaying a remarkable suppleness, Noyes strikes a cogent, yet nuanced balance between probing, sensitive readings of Herder’s and his Enlightenment contemporaries’ texts on the one hand, and, on the other, deliberative, thought-provoking critical commentary on current Herder scholarship.’


    David R. Greeves
    Arcadia vol 52:03:2017

    “In the eight meticulously orchestrated chapters of his book, Herder: Aesthetics and Imperialism,John Noyes develops step-by-step how J.G. Herder’s anti-imperialism is systematically founded in his anthropological concept of aesthetics. It is a pleasure to follow Noyes’ lucidly written argument, and his dialectics of aesthetics and imperialism is particularly engaging. This book illuminates hitherto undiscovered relationships between aesthetics and politics in Herder’s thinking and simultaneously offers a critical contribution to running debates within the context of post-colonialism.”


    Hans Adler, Halls-Bascom Professor for Modern Literature Studies, Department of German, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Author Information

    John K. Noyes is a professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto.

  • Table of contents

    Introduction: Postcolonial Theory and Herder’s Anti-Imperialism
    Chapter 1: From Epistemology to Aesthetics
    Chapter 2: From Organic Life to the Politics of Interpretation
    Chapter 3: From Human Restlessness to the Politics of Difference
    Chapter 4: From the Location of Language to the Multiplicity of Reason
    Chapter 5: From Human Diversity to the Politics of Natural Development
    Chapter 6: The Aesthetics of Revolution and the Critique of Imperialism
    Conclusion: Herder, Postcolonialism, and the Antinomy of Universal Reason

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