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Price: $57.95

Paperback 496 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm



Publication date:
November 2012

Imprint: OUP UK

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After Herder

Philosophy of Language in the German Tradition

Michael N. Forster

Philosophy of language has for some time now been the very core of the discipline of philosophy. But where did it begin? Frege has sometimes been identified as its father, but in fact its origins lie much further back, in a tradition that arose in eighteenth-century Germany. Michael Forster explores that tradition. He also makes a case that the most important thinker within that tradition was J. G. Herder. It was Herder who established such fundamental principles in the philosophy of language as that thought essentially depends on language and that meaning consists in the usage of words. It was he who on that basis revolutionized the theory of interpretation ("hermeneutics") and the theory of translation. And it was he who played the pivotal role in founding such whole new disciplines concerned with language as anthropology and linguistics. In the course of developing these historical points, this book also shows that Herder and his tradition are in many ways superior to dominant trends in more recent philosophy of language: deeper in their principles and broader in their focus.

Readership : Scholars and advanced students of philosophy.


  • Review from previous edition: "a hugely important book"

    --Times Higher Education

  • "will amply repay the most serious attention from historians of philosophy, philosophers of language, and social theorists"

    --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Part I: Herder
1. Johann Gottfried Herder
2. Herder's Philosophy of Language, Interpretation, and Translation: Three Fundamental Principles
3. Gods, Animals, and Artists: Some Problem Cases in Herder's Philosophy of Language
4. Herder's Importance as a Philosopher
5. Herder on Genre
6. Herder and the Birth of Modern Anthropology
7. The Liberal Temper in Classical German Philosophy: Freedom of Thought and Expression
Part II: Hamann
8. Johann Georg Hamann
9. Hamann's Seminal Importance for the Philosophy of Language?
Part III: Schleiermacher
10. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher
11. Schleiermacher's Hermeneutics: Some Problems and Solutions
12. Herder, Schleiermacher, and the Birth of Foreignizing Translation
Select Bibliography

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Since 1985 Michael Forster has taught at the University of Chicago, where he served for ten years as chairman of the Philosophy Department and is currently the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy and the College. He is the author of six books on German philosophy, including German Philosophy of Language: From Schlegel to Hegel and beyond (OUP, 2011), and many articles on German philosophy and ancient philosophy. Thematically, his main interests are philosophy of language (broadly construed) and epistemology (especially skepticism).

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Special Features

  • Ground-breaking study in the history of ideas.
  • Has radical implications for our understanding of the philosophy of language.
  • Promises to broaden the range of German thinkers currently under discussion in philosophy.
  • At the centre of the book is the first general philosophical study of the great German thinker J. G. Herder.
  • Combines historical scrupulousness with philosophical rigor.