Robert E. Norton
One of the reasons, presumably, that the International Herder Society came into being in 1985 was to celebrate its namesake by promoting the study and serious discussion of Herder's thought and of the context in which he lived and worked. The group of scholars that has devoted itself to this pursuit is diverse, but if there is one shared belief that unites them it is the conviction that Herder was a committed champion of a liberal, pluralistic conception of humanity; that he was an early advocate of the idea that every cultural entity and every historical era possessed its own inviolate dignity and worth; and that he insisted that his readers, as Western-European observers, may try to understand the past sympathetically, but that in the end they cannot or rather should not--judge it at all because they were inevitably biased by their own culturally determined preconceptions. These appear to be laudable, even strikingly modern, principles to which many of us, especially today, would readily subscribe. And indeed they have provided something like the ideological creed that has given the Herder Society its nominal unity.
But outside of the still relatively narrow compass of that organization, Herder often appears in a much less favorable light which shows him to be diametrically opposite to the figure I have just described. A recent example of this kind of perception can be found in a book by Paul Rose, entitled Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner ( 1990). Rose argues that, contrary to what he calls the "myth of Herder as a liberal pluralist," Herder