Back to the Facts – Herder on the Normative Role of Sensibility and Imagination

  • Anik WaldowEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 29)


In his 1785 review of Herder’s Ideen zur Geschichte der Menschheit Kant stresses the negative effects of sensibility and imagination in undermining philosophy. This essay will offer a defence of Herder against Kant in order to gesture towards a more positive account of the cognitive function of these capacities. I will argue that the eighteenth-century fascination with the experimental sciences and the demand to engage in anti-speculative philosophy in fact called for the integration of sensibility and imagination. The reason for this call is that it is in virtue of these capacities that the mind is able to focus on the world of particulars and avoid the kind of metaphysical speculation that came under attack for its failure to account for the experienceable reality of human life. By analysing which cognitive role Herder attributes to our sensible and imaginative engagement with the world, it will emerge that the kind of inquiry advocated as a remedy against school metaphysics was not a reductive form of verificationism that pits the benefits of observation against reason, but a position marked by the belief that the mind’s best results can be achieved only if it commits itself to an integrated use of its rational and non-rational capacities.


Sense Perception Linguistic Competence Conceptual Resource Linguistic Convention Environmental Pattern 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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