On World History: An Anthology

By Johann Gottfried Herder; Hans Adler et al. | Go to book overview

17
The Present State of Humankind Is Probably the Connecting Link between Two Worlds

With the following part of his philosophy of history, Herder comes to the end of his reflections on the nature of the human being as an agent of history. The conclusion might read that the human being, as a "middle being," is the mediator between the animal on the one side and presumed celestial creatures on the other. But the human being is not limited to the role of a mediator. Herder insists on the human dialectics of freedom and determination as a condition for human history. In large portions of this far-reaching exploration of philosophical and even theological ideas, Herder is very much indebted to Leibniz and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

Everything in nature is connected; one stage strives toward the next and prepares it. If then the human being is the last and highest link, closing the chain of terrestrial organization, it also, and by the same token, begins the chain of a higher species of creatures as its lowest link, and is therefore probably the central link between two interlocking systems of creation. The human being cannot pass into any other organization on earth without regressing and wandering in circles; to stand still is impossible, since no living power in the realm of the most effective goodness can be in a state of rest; thus, the human being must anticipate a stage so proximate, and yet again so exalted above, just as the human, endowed with the most noble of advantages, resides at the edge of the animal world. This prospect, which is supported by all the laws of nature, alone gives us the key to the wonderful phenomenon of the human being, and at the same time to the only philosophy of human history. For thus,

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