Johann Gottfried Herder on War and Peace

J.M. van der Laan


In the Briefe zu Beförderung der Humanität, J. G. Herder engages both Saint-Pierre and Kant in the eighteenth-century debate about perpetual peace, but comes to his own characteristic conclusions. With the last letters of the last collection, Herder analyzes past and present rationalizations for war, finds them hypocritical and self-serving, and proposes a paradigm for peace suggested by a Native American institution instead. An investigation of his formula for peace reveals as well a clear and fundamental link to his definition of Humanität, the concept at the center of all his thought. Although unable to assert a utopian solution for eternal peace, he nevertheless challenges his readers then and now to temper realism with idealism, skepticism with hope. (JMvdL)

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