Herbart, Johann Friedrich
Herbart, Johann Friedrich an eminent German philosopher, was born at Oldenburg May 4, 1776. He became professor of philosophy in the University of Göttingen in 1805, afterwards at Kinigsberg in 1809, and finally returned to Göttingen in 1833. He died there, Aug. 14, 1841. His most important works are: Kurze Darstellung eines Planes z. philosoph. Vorlesungen (Gött. 1804): — Deplatonici systematis fundamento (Gött. 1805): — Allg. praktische Philosophie (Getting. 1808): Hauptpunkte d. Metaphysik (Gött. 1808): — Lehrbuch z. Einleitung in d. Philos. (Konigsb. 1815; 4th ed. 1841): Lehrbuch d. Psychologie (Konigsb. 1816; 3rd ed. 1834): Psychologie als Wissenschaft (Königsberg. 1824,2 parts): — Allg. Metaphysik (Konigsb. 1828, 2 parts; 2nd ed. Halle, 1841): — Gesprache i. d. Bose (Konigsb. 1817): — Encyk. d. Philosophie (Konigsb. 1831; 2nd ed. 1841): —
Analytische Beleuchtung d. Naturrechtes u. d. Moral (Götting. 1836): — Zur Lehre von der Freiheit d. menschl. Willens (Gött. 1836): — Psychologische Untersuchungen (Götting. 1839,2 vols.). Herbart's philosophical essays and pamphlets were published by Hartenstein (Lpz. 1841-43, 3 vols.), who also published a complete collection of his works (Sammtliche Werke, Lpz. 1850-52, 12 vols.).
Herbart was at first a Kantian, but afterwards, influenced by the study of ancient Greek philosophy, he created a philosophical system of his own, which is distinguished by ingenuity above all the other post-Kantian systems. "Although Herbart occasionally professes to be a follower of Kant, still he is of opinion that Kant's Criticism of Pure Reason is almost without any objective value, and that its method must be entirely abandoned if metaphysics are to be founded on a secure and permanent basis. Herbart's realistic tendency further reminds us of the monades of Leibnitz. Philosophy, according to Herbart, has not, like ordinary sciences, any particular set of subjects which are its province, but it consists in the manner and method in which any subject whatsoever is treated. The subjects themselves are supposed to be known, and are called by him 'notions' (Begriffe), so that philosophy is the methodical treatment and working out of those 'notions.' The different methods of treatment constitute the main departments of philosophy. The first of them is logic, which considers the nature and clearness of notions and their combinations. But the contemplation of the world and of ourselves brings before us notions which cause a discord in our thoughts. This circumstance renders it necessary for us to modify or change those notions according to the particular nature of each. By the process of modification or change something new is added, which Herbart calls the supplement or complement (Erganzung). Now the second main department of philosophy is metaphysics, which Herbart defines to be the science of the supplementary notions. The method of discovering the supplementary notions which are necessary in order to render given facts which contain contradictory notions intelligible, is, according to him, the method of relations, and it is by this method alone that the other notions of the world and of ourselves can be properly defined. Hence arises what he calls practical metaphysics, which is subdivided into psychology, the philosophy of nature, and natural theology. A third class of notions, lastly, add something to our conceptions, which produces either pleasure or displeasure, and the science of these notions is aesthetics, which, when applied to given things, forms a series of theories of art, which may be termed practical sciences. They are founded upon certain model notions, such as the ideas of perfection, benevolence, malevolence, justice, compensation, equity, and the like. In his metaphysics Herbart points out three problems containing contradictions, viz. things with several attributes, change, and our own subjectivity (das Ich). In order to solve these contradictions, and to make the external and internal world agree and harmonize so as to become conceivable, he assumes that the quantity of everything existing (des Seienden) is absolutely simple. Things therefore which exist have no attributes referring to space and time, but they stand in relation to a something, which is the essence of things. Wherever this essence consists of a plurality of attributes there must also be a plurality of things or beings, and these many simple things or beings are the principles of all things in nature, and the latter, consequently, are nothing but aggregates of simple things. They exist by themselves in space so far as it is conceived by our intellect, but not in physical space, which contains only bodies. We do not know the real simple essence of things, but we may acquire a certain amount of knowledge concerning internal and external relations. When they accidentally meet in space they disturb one another, but at the same time strive to preserve themselves; and in this manner they manifest themselves as powers, although they neither are powers nor have powers. By means of these principles Herbart endeavors to reform the whole system of psychology which he found established by his predecessors; for, according to him, the soul, too, is a simple being, and as such it is and remains unknown to us; and it is neither a subject for speculation nor for experimental psychology. It never and nowhere has any plurality of attributes, nor has it any power or faculty of receiving or producing anything; and the various faculties usually mentioned by psychologists such as imagination, reason, etc., which sometimes are at war and sometimes in concord with each other, are, according to Herbart, mere fictions of philosophers. In like manner he denies that it possesses certain forms of thought or laws regulating our desires and actions. The soul as a simple being, and in its accidental association with others, is like the latter subject to disturbance, and exerts itself for its own preservation. The latter point is the principal question in Herbart's psychology, and he endeavors to deduce and calculate the whole life of the soul, with the aid of mathematics, from those mutual disturbances, 'checks, and from its reactions against them. Hence he is obliged to deny man's moral or transcendental freedom, although he allows him a certain free character. He maintains the immortality of the soul, because the simple principles of all things are eternal; but he denies the possibility of acquiring any knowledge whatever of the Deity" (English Cyclopedia, s.v.). On the whole, it may be said that Herbart was a careful observer of psychological phenomena; but that speculation, in the proper sense, was not congenial to him. See also Thilo, Die Wissenschaftlich Zeit der mod. specul. Theologie, etc. (Leipsic, 1851, 8vo); Tennemann, Manual Hist. of Philosophy, p. 462; Morell, History of Modern Philosophy, p. 482-489; Schwegler, Epit. Hist. Phil., transl. by Seelye, p. 304 sq.; Hollenberg, in Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 19, 630 sq.