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Herder's Science of Man: The Origins of Anthropology in the Philosophy of Language

Eck, William (2019) Herder's Science of Man: The Origins of Anthropology in the Philosophy of Language. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Herder is one of the historical figures most responsible for the establishment of cultural anthropology as its own discipline. Before Herder, anthropology was conceived of as a science more closely related to biology and anatomy. Early anthropologists such as Ernst Platner proposed to answer philosophical questions by means of an examination of our physical bodies and nervous systems. Questions in logic, epistemology, and the theory of action were transformed by these anthropologists into questions concerning the workings of our nervous system and sensory organs. The central claim of this dissertation is that this transformation of anthropology from an empirical study of anatomy to an empirical study of culture and history was motivated by a new picture of the relationship between mind and language developed together by Hamann and Herder in the 18th century.
The development of anthropology from a medical science into a study of culture in the work of Herder and Hamann was largely instigated by Kant’s critiques of Platner’s anthropology. Concepts central to philosophy, such as freedom and reason, are, on Kant’s view, fundamentally normative concepts, and therefore cannot be meaningfully investigated by means of an empirical study of the body. Hamann, however, develops a conception of reason as dependent on language, and therefore social and historical, and he comes to the thought that, just as languages are particular to a given community and a particular point in history, so must reason be. What this meant was that the study of reason not only could but must be made responsible to empirical evidence. Anthropology could then be rehabilitated into a study of reason and free action by means of the empirical study of language and culture. In Herder’s work, rehabilitating anthropology into an empirical discipline capable of drawing conclusions concerning reason, meanings, and values meant coming up with an understanding of normativity consistent with both empiricism and naturalism. I reconstruct Herder’s arguments for Einfühlung, a method of “feeling one’s way” into the culture under study, as providing an answer to the former problem, and his social conception of normativity, which provides an answer to the latter.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Eck, Williamwilliam.alexander.eck@gmail.comwae8
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBrandom, Robertrbrandom@pitt.edurbrandom
Committee MemberEngstrom, Stephenengstrom@pitt.eduengstrom
Committee MemberMcDowell, Johnjmcdowell@pitt.edujmcdowell
Committee MemberWilson, Markmawilson@pitt.edumawilson
Committee MemberMoran, Richardmoran@fas.harvard.eduNA
Date: 25 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 April 2019
Approval Date: 25 June 2019
Submission Date: 12 April 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 252
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Herder, Hamann
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 21:24
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2019 21:24


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