Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind

Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher associated with the Enlightenment. He wrote the article, “Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind” in 1784, and he discussed the idea of nationalism. Paul Halsall provided an introduction to this article. There have been different types of nationalism, such as cultural pride, …right to self-government, and …national superiority” (Halsall 1)

He established the central ideas of nationalism, which are that people can be defined as having a “common history, language, and tradition” and that a nation “has a unique claim to be considered a legitimate political basis for sovereignty” (Halsall 1). In general, the people of nations do not necessarily consider themselves as members of a given nation. They are more aware that they belong to a smaller group, such a family or a town whereas nationalism is in a broader sense.

For France, the concept of nationalism was difficult because most residents of France did not speak French. Ultimately, a French national identity was created by having all people learn to speak French. For French thinkers, an nationalistic France was not complicated because France had been established as a united state. However, for German thinkers, the idea of nationalism was more difficult because heterogenous groups of people were interspersed. For example, people had different religions, languages, and traditions. THe idea of nationalism can be created throughout language because “to deprive a people of its speech is to deprive it of its one eternal good” (Halsall 2).

How do you think that the United States establishes its own sense of nationalism and how does this compare to the idea of nationalism in France during the French Revolution?

3 thoughts on “Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind

  1. The American and the French Revolutions certainly feed off of one another, although they have their own distinct reasons for nationalism. Immigrating to the colonies was seen as a way to escape the poverty and drudgery that England’s major cities had become. The poorest of England saw the colonies as a place in which they could acquire land and make a better life for themselves. Therefore, the taxation and lack of rights granted to the colonists helped foster united feelings against the British Crown, leading to nationalism. The French, on the other hand, were united against the monarchy, and the desire to abolish the throne helped to foster feelings of French Unity. However, the goals of the Revolution were not united, which made feelings of national unity more difficult.

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