Written by Vladimir Moss



     The Enlightenment in due time begat its opposite, the Counter-Enlightenment, which exalted will instead of reason, the particular instead of the universal. If the Enlightenment was born in England, and came to radical fruition in France, the Counter-Enlightenment was born in Prussia, although its father was the Swiss Rousseau. For its leading proponents were Hamann, Herder and (paradoxically) Kant, all three men from the remote province of East Prussia.      


     The whole development of western thought from the Renaissance onwards centred on the idea of freedom, of human autonomy and especially the autonomy of human reason. However, this development had led, by the second half of the eighteenth century, to a most puzzling dead-end: to the conclusion that man, being a part of nature, is not free, but determined, and that the exercise of human reason is based on the most irrational leap of blind faith in objects and causes, without which we could not be assured of the existence of anything external to our own mind – which is in any case just a bundle of sensations. The most intellectually powerful and consistent expositor of this rationalist philosophy had been David Hume; and Hume’s demonstration of the irrationality of rationalism had one very important result: it aroused Kant, from what he called his “dogmatic slumbers”. 


     Kant sought to re-establish some of the beliefs that Hume’s thorough-going scepticism had undermined, to use reason to disprove the irrationalist conclusions Hume had come to. To that end, he determined to subject “pure reason itself to critical investigation”, answering the question: “what and how much can understanding and reason know, apart from all experience?”[1] In his trilogy, The Critique of Pure Reason (1781-7), The Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and The Critique of Judgement (1790), he sought to demonstrate certain non-mathematical “synthetic a priori judgements” which, although they cannot be proved either by logic or from empirical experience, nevertheless constitute the conditions for the possibility of theoretical, moral and aesthetic judgement in general. The significance of this is exercise, if successful, would be to show that there are certain truths which are demonstrable neither from experience nor from the postulates of purely rationalist thinking, but which are true and transcendent in essence, pointing to a supra-natural realm that cannot be entered or known directly but of whose existence there can be no doubt. 


     Being a rationalist and a product of the Enlightenment, Kant did not succeed in restoring a proper understanding of the nature and limits of human reason. Nor, being a Protestant, could he conceive how Grace given through Christ in the Church can take the mind beyond the limits of fallen human reason, so that it truly knows the transcendent by participating in it, rather than merely mutely pointing to it. Nevertheless, he established an important truth: that while empirical reason can know certain things, the use of reason itself presupposes the existence of other things which transcend reason, including the thinking self. Thus the thought “I think”, according to Kant, must accompany all our experiences if they are to be qualified as ours. This is what he calls “the transcendental unity of apperception”, which unifies experience while being at the same time beyond it. And so, apart from the “phenomenal” realm of nature, which scientists and historians study, that is, the realm of things as they appear to the senses, there is a “noumenal” realm of the spirit, of “things-in-themselves”; this is the realm of spirit, reason and freedom containing the a priori categories of substance, causality and mutual interaction, which shape all thought and experience. “There is thus a being above the world, namely the spirit of man”.[2]


     This was not, of course, a new discovery; the wisest of the ancients, as well as the Christians, knew it long before. But it was an important achievement to establish, through dry, philosophical reasoning alone, that the spirit of man exists and transcends the world and cannot therefore be an object of empirical scepticism or denial. Nevertheless, it is an indication of the abyss of blindness into which Western thought had descended that it took such a ferocious and complicated effort of philosophical reasoning as Kant’s Critiques to re-establish what all pre-Enlightenment generations of Christian Europe knew already…


     Kant’s re-discovery of the spirit of man had consequences for ethics as well as epistemology. For the spirit of man determines not only what is true and real but also what is right and good and beauiful. And just as man the thinker must be free from the causal nexus in order to determine what is true, so man the actor must be free of his desires, interests and motives in order to determine what is right. According to Kant, man himself is noumenally free while being at the same time empirically (phenomenally) determined. His spirit is not a substance in the empirical sense, nor an objective part the empirical causal nexus (psychologists, take note). It is free, being the seat of that which is greatest and most truly rational in man, which includes his sense of duty, his will to do good. Hence the famous words“It is impossible to conceive of anything in the world, or indeed out of it, which can be called good without qualification, save only a good will.”[3] A good will acts neither out of some psychological sympathy, antipathy or passion pushing it from behind, nor in order to attain some end or goal in front of it; it acts out of a pure duty, in answer to a “categorical imperative”.


      The categorical imperative is a law of reason composed of several rules. The first is the golden rule that we should do as we would be done by (which, of course, derives from the Gospel). More formally put, this is the principle that I am never to act otherwise than so that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law, so that every other rational being in the same circumstances should make the same decision. The second is that I must “so act as to treat humanity, whether in my own self or in that of another, as an end, and never as a means”. Indeed, it is from the existence of a “kingdom of ends”, of men who ideally treat each other as rational beings and ends in themselves, that Kant derives, if not the existence of God and immortality, at any rate the possibility and reasonableness of their existence: for a kingdom of ends encourages belief in a rational being who legislates for all other rational beings while not having any limitations on his will, and who, in the life to come, brings virtue its due reward in happiness…


     “If Kant is right,” writes Peter Singer, “the only kind of action that is not the result of our innate or socially conditioned desire is action in accordance with the categorical imperative. Only action in accordance with the categorical imperative, therefore, can be free. Since only free action can have genuine moral worth, the categorical imperative must be not only the supreme imperative of reason, but also the supreme law of morality.


      “One final point is needed to complete the picture. If my action is free, my motivation for acting in accordance with the categorical imperative cannot be any particular desire I might happen to have. It cannot, therefore, be my desire to go to heaven, or to win the esteem of my friends, nor can it be my benevolent desire to do good to others. My motivation must be to act in accord with the universal law of reason and morality, for its own sake. I must do my duty because it is my duty – the Kantian ethic is sometimes summed up in the slogan: ‘Duty for duty’s sake.’ It does indeed follow from what Kant said that we are free when we do our duty for its own sake, and not otherwise. 


     “So we have arrived at the conclusion that freedom consists in doing one’s duty. To the modern reader this conclusion is paradoxical. The term ‘duty’ has come to be associated with obedience to the conventional rules of institutions like the army and the family. When we speak of doing our duty we often mean that we are doing what we would much rather not be doing, but feel ourselves constrained to do by customary rules we are reluctant to defy. ‘Duty’ in this sense is the very opposite of freedom.


     “If this is the basis of the paradoxical air of the conclusion that freedom consists in doing our duty, we should put it aside. Kant’s conclusion was that freedom consists in doing what we really see as our duty in the broadest sense of the term. To put the point in a way that modern readers might be readier to accept: freedom consists in following one’s conscience…”[4] 


     One of the fiercest attacks on this idea was launched by Nietzsche: “An action demanded by the instinct of life is proved to be right by the pleasure that accompanies it; yet this nihilist [Kant] with his Christian dogmatic entrails considered pleasure an objection. What could destroy us more quickly than working, thinking and feeling without any inner necessity, without any deeply personal choice, without pleasure – as an automaton of ‘duty’?”[5]


      Of course, Nietzsche was an antichristian figure. But it should be clear that Kant’s ethics based on his categorical imperative are also directly opposed to Christian ethics. For, as the great Russian hermit who was contemporary to Kant, St. Seraphim of Sarov, said: only that deed which is done out of love of Christ, for the sake of carrying out His commandments, is truly good. But such a motivation is very particular, and does not conform to Kant’s criterion of duty, which rejects all particular desires and motivations… Kant’s desiccated idea of duty, rejecting all particular human desires but founded on a rigid backbone of will alone, loses all the warmth of real moral action and everything but the most abstract connection to the Christian faith. The title of his work, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, says it all. Religion without living faith in Christ, morality without evangelical love, all for the sake of adherence to some abstract “Reason” which is certainly not the Word of God – that is the fruit of this easternmost outpost of Voltairean rationalism in Europe.




     Kant’s philosophy makes of man a kind of schizoid creature living on a razor blade between the noumenal and phenomenal realms. Yes, he says, man is a part of nature and determined, otherwise the science of man and the whole educational project of the Enlightenment would be impossible (and Kant remains an Enlightenment figure to the end). And yes, he says, man is free and uncaused, otherwise Christianity and morality would be impossible (and Kant remains a devout Lutheran to the end). 


     But the balance and synthesis he achieves between the two is hard to express and difficult to maintain. Thus in his Idea of a Universal History (1784) he asserts that the human will is free, but “human actions… are determined by universal laws”. This is an impossible distinction to maintain consistently, and succeeding generations preferred to go in one direction or the other: some down the Enlightenment path of seeking a Utopia on earth through science and rational social organization, and others down the Romantic path of irrational, unfettered self-expression in both the private and the public spheres. 


     That is why Kant, an Enlightenment figure who believed in science and reason, was at the same time a forerunner of the Counter-Enlightenment with its emphasis on unfettered self-expression. 


     Thus “in his moral philosophy,” writes Berlin, Kant lifted the lid “of a Pandora’s box, which released tendencies which he was among the first, with perfect honesty and consistency, to disown and condemn. He maintained, as every German schoolboy used to know, that the moral worth of an act depended on its being freely chosen by the agent; that if a man acted under the influence of causes which he could not and did not control, whether external, such as physical compulsion, or internal, such as instincts or desires or passions, then the act, whatever its consequences, whether they were good or bad, advantageous or harmful to men, had no moral value, for the act had not been freely chosen, but was simply the effect of mechanical causes, an event in nature, no more capable of being judged in ethical terms than the behaviour of a an animal or plant. If the determinism that reigns in nature – on which, indeed, the whole of natural science is based – determines the acts of a human agent, he is not truly an agent, for to act is to be capable of free choice between alternatives; and free will must in that case be an illusion. Kant is certain that freedom of the will is not illusory but real. Hence the immense emphasis that he places on human autonomy – on the capacity for free commitment to rationally chosen ends. The self, Kant tells us, must be ‘raised above natural necessity’, for if men are ruled by the same laws as those which govern the material world ‘freedom cannot be saved’, and without freedom there is no morality.[6]


     “Kant insists over and over again that what distinguishes man is his moral autonomy as against his physical heteronomy – for his body is governed by natural laws, not issuing from his own inner self. No doubt this doctrine owes a great deal to Rousseau, for whom all dignity, all pride rest upon independence. To be manipulated is to be enslaved. A world in which one man depends upon the favour of another is a world of masters and slaves, of bullying and condescension and patronage at one end, and obsequiousness, servility, duplicity and patronage at the other. But whereas Rousseau supposes that only dependence on other men is degrading, for no one resents the laws of nature, only ill will, the Germans went further. For Kant, total dependence on non-human nature – heteronomy – was incompatible with choice, freedom, morality. This exhibits a new attitude to nature, or at least the revival of an ancient [supposedly] Christian antagonism to it. The thinkers of the Enlightenment and their predecessors in the Renaissance (save for isolated antinomian mystics) tended to look upon nature as divine harmony, or as a great organic or artistic unity, or as an exquisite mechanism created by the divine watchmaker, or else as uncreated and eternal, but always as a model from which men depart at their cost. The principal need of man is to understand the external world and himself and the place that he occupies in the scheme of things: if he grasps this, he will not seek after goals incompatible with the needs of his nature, goals which he can follow only through some mistaken conception of what he is in himself, or of his relations to other men or the external world…. 


     “Man is subject to the same kind of causal laws as animals and plants and the inanimate world, physical and biological laws, and in the case of men psychological and economic too, established by observation and experiment, measurement and verification. Such notions as the immortal soul, a personal God, freedom of the will, are for them metaphysical fictions and illusions. But they are not so for Kant.


     “The German revolt against France and French materialism has social as well as intellectual roots. Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century, and for more than a century before, even before the devastation of the Thirty Years War, had little share in the great renaissance of the West – her cultural achievement after the Reformation is not comparable to that of the Italians in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of Spain and England in the age of Shakespeare and Cervantes, of the Low Countries in the seventeenth century, least of all of France, the France of poets, soldiers, statesmen, thinkers, which in the seventeenth century dominated Europe both culturally and politically, with only England and Holland as her rivals. What had the provincial German courts and cities, what had even Imperial Vienna, to offer?


     “This sense of relative backwardness, of being an object of patronage or scorn to the French with their overweening sense of national and cultural superiority, created a sense of collective humiliation, later to turn into indignation and hostility, that sprang from wounded pride. The German reaction at first is to imitate French models, then to turn against them. Let the vain but godless French cultivate their ephemeral world, their material gains, their pursuit of glory, luxury, ostentation, the witty trivial chatter of the salons of Paris and the subservient court of Versailles. What is the worth of the philosophy of atheists or smooth, worldly abbés who do not begin to understand the true nature, the real purpose of men, their inner life, man’s deepest concerns – his relation to the soul within him, to his brothers, above all to God – the deep, the agonising questions of man’s being and vocation? Inward-looking German pietists abandoned French and Latin, turned to their native tongue, and spoke with scorn and horror of the glittering generalities of French civilisation, the blasphemous epigrams of Voltaire and his imitators. Still more contemptible were the feeble imitators of French culture, the caricature of French customs and taste in the little German principalities. German men of letters rebelled violently against the social oppression and stifling atmosphere of German society, of the despotic and often stupid and cruel German princes and princelings and their officials, who crushed or degraded the humbly born, particularly the most honest and gifted men among them, in the three hundred courts and governments into which Germany was then divided.


     “This surge of indignation formed the heart of the movement that, after the name of a play by one of its members, was called Sturm und Drang. Their plays were filled with cries of despair or savage indignation, titanic explosions of rage or hatred, vast destructive passions, unimaginable crimes which dwarf the scenes of violence even in Elizabethan drama; they celebrate passion, individuality, strength, genius, self-expression at whatever cost, against whatever odds, and usually end in blood and crime, their only form of protest against a grotesque and odious social order. Hence all these violent heroes – the Kraftmenschen, Kraftschreiber, Kraftkersl, Kraftknaben – who march hysterically through the pages of Klinger, Schubart, Leisewitz, Lenz, Heinse and even the gentle Carl Philipp Moritz; until life began to imitate art, and the Swiss adventurer Christoph Kaufmann, a self-proclaimed follower of Christ and Rousseau, who so impressed Herder, Goethe, Hamann, Wieland, Lavater, swept through the German lands with a band of unkempt followers, denouncing polite culture, and celebrating anarchic freedom, transported by wild and mystical public exaltation of the flesh and the spirit.


     “Kant abhorred this kind of disordered imagination, and, still more, emotional exhibitionism and barbarous conduct. Although he too denounced the mechanistic psychology of the French Encyclopaedists as destructive of morality, his notion of the will is that of reason in action. He saves himself from subjectivism, and indeed irrationalism, by insisting that the will is truly free only so far as it wills the dictates of reason, which generate general rules binding on all rational men. It is when the concept of reason becomes obscure (and Kant never succeeded in formulating convincingly what this signified in practice), and only the independent will remains man’s unique possession whereby he is distinguished from nature, that the new doctrine becomes infected by the ‘stürmerisch’ mood. In Kant’s disciple, the dramatist and poet Schiller, the notion of freedom begins to move beyond the bounds of reason. Freedom is the central concept of Schiller’s early works. He speaks of ‘the legislator himself, the God within us’, of ‘high, demonic freedom’, ‘the pure demon within the man’. Man is most sublime when he resists the pressure of nature, when he exhibits ‘moral independence of natural laws in a condition of emotional stress’. It is will, not reason – certainly not feeling, which he shares with animals – that raises him above nature, and the very disharmony which may arise between nature and the tragic hero is not entirely to be deplored, for it awakens man’s sense of his independence.”[7]


     Thus to the thesis of the godless worship of reason was opposed the antithesis of the demonic worship of will. Dissatisfied with the dry soullessness of the Enlightenment, western man would not go back to the sources of his civilization in Orthodoxy, but forward to – the Revolution, and the hellish torments of the Romantic hero. For, as Francisco Goya said, “the sleep of Reason engenders monsters”… 


     This combination of opposites can also be found in Kant’s political philosophy. Thus he both advocated rational schemes of avoiding war through a kind of United Nations – and the irrational French Revolution. As Adam Zamoyski writes, “In his great work On the Conflict of Faculties, published in 1798, the ageing Kant maintained that however ghastly some of its manifestations, the French Revolution had been intrinsically moral, since every people had the right to create its own laws and its own morality…”[8]




     The Prussian Counter-Enlightenment was launched not only in reaction to the French Enlightenment, but out of a kind of jealousy of the French achievement.  “Nowhere was German amour propre more deeply wounded,” writes Berlin, “than in East Prussia, still semi-feudal and deeply traditionalist; nowhere was there deeper resentment of the policy of modernisation which Frederick the Great conducted by importing French officials who treated his simple and backward subjects with impatience and open disdain. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most gifted and sensitive sons of this province, Hamman, Herder, and Kant too [who was from the capital, Königsberg], are particularly vehement in opposing the levelling activities of these morally blind imposers of alien methods on a pious, inward-looking culture.”[9]


     Hamann and Herder were the first thinkers explicitly to attack the whole Enlightenment enterprise. This attack was perhaps the first sign of that great cleavage within western culture that was to take the place of the Catholic/Protestant cleavage: the cleavage between the classical, rationalist and universalist spirit of the Latin lands, and the romantic, irrational and particularist spirit of the Germanic lands. (England with its dual Roman and Germanic inheritance stood somewhere in the middle).


     “Hamann,” writes Berlin, “was brought up as a pietist, a member of the most introspective and self-absorbed of all the Lutheran sects, intent upon the direct communion of the individual soul with God, bitterly anti-rationalist, liable to emotional excess, preoccupied with the stern demands of moral obligation and the need for severe self-discipline. The attempt of Frederick the Great in the middle years of the eighteenth century to introduce French culture and a degree of rationalisation, economic and social as well as military, into East Prussia, the most backward of his provinces, provoked a peculiarly violent reaction in this pious, semi-feudal, traditional Protestant society (which also gave birth to Herder and Kant). Hamann began as a disciple of the Enlightenment, but, after a profound spiritual crisis, turned against it, and published a series of polemical attacks written in a highly idiosyncratic, perversely allusive, contorted, deliberately obscure style, as remote as he could make it from the, to him, detestable elegance, clarity and smooth superficiality of the bland and arrogant French dictators of taste and thought. Hamann’s theses rested on the conviction that all truth is particular, never general: that reason is impotent to demonstrate the existence of anything and is an instrument only for conveniently classifying and arranging data in patterns to which nothing in reality corresponds; that to understand is to be communicated with, by men or by God. The universe for him, as for the older German mystical tradition, is itself a kind of language. Things and plants and animals are themselves symbols with which God communicates with his creatures. Everything rests on faith; faith is as basic an organ of acquaintance with reality as the senses. To read the Bible is to hear the voice of God, who speaks in a language which he has given man the grace to understand. Some men are endowed with the gift of understanding his ways, of looking at the universe, which is his book no less than the revelations of the Bible and the fathers and saints of the Church. Only love – for a person or an object – can reveal the true nature of anything. It is not possible to love formulae, general propositions, laws, the abstractions of science, the vast system of concepts and categories – symbols too general to be close to reality – with which the French lumières have blinded themselves to the real experiences which only direct acquaintance, especially by the senses, provides.


     “Hamann glories in the fact that Hume had successfully destroyed the rationalist claim that there is an a priori route to reality, insisting that all knowledge and belief ultimately rest on acquaintance with the date of direct perception. Hume rightly supposes that he could not eat an egg or drink a glass of water if he did not believe in their existence; the date of belief – what Hamann prefers to call faith – rest on grounds and require evidence as little as taste or any other sensation. True knowledge is direct perception of individual entities, and concepts are never, no matter how specific they may be, wholly adequate to the fullness of the individual experience. ‘Individuum est ineffabile’, wrote Goethe to Lavater in the spirit of Hamann, whom Goethe profoundly admired. The sciences may be of use in practical matters; but no concatenation of concepts will give an understanding of a man, of a work of art, of what is conveyed by gestures, symbols, verbal and non-verbal, of the style, the spiritual essence, of a human being, a movement, a culture; nor for that matter of the Deity, which speaks to one everywhere if only one has ears to hear and eyes to see.“[10]


     “Hamann is first in the line of thinkers who accuse rationalism and scientism of using analysis to distort reality: he is followed by Herder, Jacobi, Mōser, who were influenced by Shaftesbury, Young and Burke’s anti-intellectualist diatribes, and they, in their turn, were echoed by romantic writers in many lands. The most eloquent spokesman of this attitude is Schelling, whose thought was reproduced vividly by Bergson at the beginning of this century. He is the father of those anti-rationalist thinkers for whom the seamless whole of reality in its unanalysable flow is misrepresented by the static, spatial metaphors of mathematics and the natural sciences. That to dissect is to murder is a romantic pronouncement which is the motto of an entire nineteenth-century movement of which Hamann was a most passionate and implacable forerunner. Scientific discussion leads to cold political dehumanisation, to the strait-jacket of lifeless French rules in which the living body of passionate and poetical Germans is to be held fast by the Solomon of Prussia, Frederick the Great, who knows too much and understands so little. The arch-enemy is Voltaire, whom Herder called a senile child with a corrosive wit in place of human feeling.”[11]


     Following up on these insights, Hamann’s disciple Herder “believed that to understand anything was to understand it in its individuality and development, and that this required the capacity of Einfühling (‘feeling into’) the outlook, the individual character of an artistic tradition, a literature, a social organisation, a people, a culture, a period of history. To understand the actions of individuals, we must understand the ‘organic’ structure of the society in terms of which alone the minds and activities and habits of its members can be understood. Like Vico, he believed that to understand a religion, or a work of art, or a national character, one must ‘enter into’ the unique conditions of its life… To grade the merits of cultural wholes, of the legacy of entire traditions, by applying a collection of dogmatic rules claiming universal validity, enunciated by the Parisian arbiters of taste, is vanity and blindness. Every culture has its own unique Schwerpunkt (‘centre of gravity’), and unless we grasp it we cannot understand its character or value…”[12]


     As he wrote in Auch eine Philosophie: “How unspeakably difficult it is to convey the particular quality of an individual human being and how impossible it is to say precisely what distinguishes an individual, his way of feeling and living; how different and how individual [anders und eigen] everything becomes once his eyes see it, once his soul grasps it, his heart feels it. How much depth there is in the character of a single people, which, no matter how often observed, and gazed at with curiosity and wonder, nevertheless escapes the word which attempts to capture it, and, even with the word to catch it, is seldom so recognizable as to be universally understood and felt. If this is so, what happens when one tries to master an entire ocean of peoples, times, cultures, countries with one glance, one sentiment, by means of one single word!”[13]


     This admirable sensitivity to the unique and unrepeatable was undoubtedly a needed corrective to the over-generalising and over-rationalising approach of the French philosophes. And in general Herder’s emphasis on warm, subjective feeling and the intuition of quality - “Heart! Warmth! Blood! Humanity! Life!” “I feel! I am!”[14] – was a needed corrective to the whole rationalist emphasis on cold clarity, objectivity and the measurement of quantity that had come to dominate western thought since Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”. From now on, owing in part to Herder, western thought would become more sensitive to the aesthetically intuited, as opposed to the scientifically analysed aspects of reality, to organic, living, historical wholes as well as to inorganic, dead, ahistorical parts. 


     It began, consequently, to understand the Kultur distinguishing individual nations from the Zivilisation that was common to them all. And so “Works of art from the European Enlightenment took as their subject matter other cultures, other countries and other climes, so as expressly to profile the shared humanity of the different peoples of the world. Examples like Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes, Lessing’s Nathan der Weise, Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, MacPerson’s Ossian poems, Goethe’s Westostlicher Divan, and a thousand lesser creations remind us of the immense curiosity that grew in European and American society, towards the varieties of human experience and community.”[15]


     “Burke’s famous onslaught on the principles of the French revolutionaries was founded upon the self-same appeal to the myriad strands that bind human beings into a historically hallowed whole, contrasted with the Unitarian model of a society as a trading-company held together solely by contractual obligations, the world of ‘sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators’ who are blind and deaf to the unanalysable relationships that make a family, a tribe, a nation, a movement, any association of human beings held together by something more than a quest for mutual advantage, or by force, or by anything that is not mutual love, common history, emotion and outlook.”[16]


     Nevertheless, Herder was as unbalanced in his way as the philosophers were in theirs. This is particularly evident in his relativism, his idea that every nation and culture was not only unique, but also incommensurable – that is, it could not be measured by universal standards of truth and falsehood, right and wrong. As we have seen that was the justification that Kant gave for the French Revolution. And Herder wrote in a similarly relativistic vein: “Not one man, country, people, national history, or State, is like another. Hence the True, the Beautiful, the Good in them are not similar either.”[17] If Herder has been unjustly accused of being an ancestor of German fascist nationalism, he cannot so easily be absolved of being one of the fathers of the modern denial of universal truths and values, of the multiculturism that has so eaten into and corroded modern western civilization. Indeed, Hamann’s and Herder’s thesis that “all truth is particular, never general” lies at the root of the identity politics that began to torture the western world towards the end of the twentieth century

[1] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, first edition, XVII.

[2] Kant, Opus Posthumum, XXI.

[3] Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.

[4] Singer, in German Philosophers, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 146-147.

[5] Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 11.

[6] “Kant’s moral doctrines stressed the fact that determinism was not compatible with morality, since only those who are the true authors of their own acts, which they are free to perform or not perform, can be praised or blamed for what they do. Since responsibility entails power of choice, those who cannot freely choose are morally no more accountable than sticks and stones. Thereby Kant initiated a cut of moral autonomy, according to which only those who act and are not acted upon, whose actions spring from a decision of the moral will to be guided by freely sdopted principles, if need be against inclination, and not from inescapable causal pressure of factors beyond their control – physical, physiological, psychological (such as emotion, desire, habit) – can properly be considered to be free, or, indeed, agents at all.

     “This emphasis upon the will at the expense of contemplative thought and perception, which function within the predetermined grooves of the categories of the mind that man cannot escape, enters deeply into the German conception of moral freedom as entailing resistance to nature and not harmonious collusion with it” (Isaiah Berlin, “The Counter-Enlightenment”, in The Proper Study of Mankind, London: Pimlico, 1998, pp. 258-259). (V.M.) 

[7] Berlin, “The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will”, in The Proper Study of Mankind, London: Pimlico, 1998, pp. 561-564.

[8] Zamoyski, Holy Madness. Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999, p. 161.

[9] Berlin, “The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will”, op. cit. p. 566.

[10] Berlin, “The Counter-Enlightenment”, in The Proper Study of Mankind, London: Pimlico, 1998, pp. 248-

[11] Berlin, “The Counter-Enlightenment”, pp. 251-252.

[12] Berlin, “The Counter-Enlightenment”, op. cit., pp. 253-254.

[13] Herder, in Berlin, “Herder and the Enlightenment”, in The Proper Study of Man, London: Pimlico, 1998, p. 405.

[14] Herder, in Berlin, “Herder and the Enlightenment”, op. cit., p. 388.

[15] Sir Roger Scruton, How to be a Conservative, London: Bloomsbury, 2014, p. 81.

[16] Berlin, “The Counter-Enlightenment”, pp. 256-257.

[17] Herder, in Berlin, “Herder and the Enlightenment”, op. cit., p. 429.

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