Essays in Philosophy

Volume 19, Issue 2, July 2018

The Philosophy of Memory

Laura Follesa
Pages 196-212

Learning and Vision
Johann Gottfried Herder on Memory

A consistent thread throughout Johann Gottfried Herder’s thought is his interest in human knowledge and in its origins. Although he never formulated a systematic theory of knowledge, elements of one are disseminated in his writings, from the early manuscript Plato sagte (1766–68) to one of his last works, the periodical Adrastea (1801–3). Herder assigned a very special function to memory and to the related idea of a recollection of “images,” as they play a pivotal role in the formation of personal identity. He provided an original description of the Platonic theory of recollection, trying to merge ancient and modern metaphysical views and to interpret them from a less metaphysical and more psychological point of view. I then analyze Herder’s notion of memory via another research line, which is basically founded upon the analogy between the childhood of an individual and the infancy of the human race. Finally, I explore Herder’s view that memory and imagination, as “forces” of the soul, can have negative effects on an individual when they are not equally balanced.