Wilhelm von Humboldt, Fichte, and the Idéologues (1794–1805)
This paper – whose point of departure is Hans Aarsleff s thesis that the intellectual environment provided by the Idéologues in the years 1798–1801 decisively influenced Humboldt’s resolve to make the study of language his central intellectual preoccupation and decisively shaped his ideas about language – comes to the following conclusions: (1) In his years in Jena (1794–97) Humboldt’s concern with problems of language was already manifest, and formulations characteristic of his mature linguistics already appear in his writings. At this time he became intimately conversant with Fichte’s philosophy and Fichtean concepts made a lasting imprint on his approach to general grammar. Humboldt, however, did not cast aside altogether what he had absorbed from the tradition of Locke and the Enlightenment. He remained firmly committed to empirical methods in what he considered their appropriate sphere. (2) In his first year in Paris (1798) Humboldt confronted head-on the leading Idéologues with a critique from a Kantian-Fichtean standpoint, but he manifested no preoccupation with the Idéologues’ ideas about linguistic matters per se. During his later years in Paris he found a more congenial intellectual partner in Joseph Degérando, and serious exchanges about linguistic questions did occur, with Humboldt however as the dominant partner. Meanwhile Humboldt’s fascination with the Basques was the wedge opening up an approach to the philosophy of language based on detailed study of many languages. In moving in this direction he was propelled mainly by an inner dynamic rather than by intellectual ‘influences’. Or so it would seem. Meanwhile he became disenchanted with philosophical systems. (3) A subsidiary theme is Humboldt’s relations with Herder.
Published online: 01 January 1988
Acton, H. B.
Bernhardi, August Ferdinand
Bratranek, F. Th
Busse, Winfried & Jürgen Trabant
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb
Flitner, Andreas & Klaus Giel
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Helfer, Martha B.
Humboldt, Wilhelm von
Manchester, Martin L.
Staël-Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine de
Sweet, Paul R.
Cited by 2 other publications
Sweet, Paul R.
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