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History Germany


Aesthetics against Imperialism

by (author) John K. Noyes

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2015
Germany, General, History & Theory, Epistemology, German, General, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2015
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    Publish Date
    Nov 2015
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Among his generation of intellectuals, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is recognized both for his innovative philosophy of language and history and for his passionate criticism of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. A student of Immanuel Kant, Herder challenged the idea that anyone – even the philosophers of the Enlightenment – could have a monopoly on truth.

In Herder: Aesthetics against Imperialism, John K. Noyes plumbs the connections between Herder’s anti-imperialism, often acknowledged but rarely explored in depth, and his epistemological investigations. Noyes argues that Herder’s anti-rationalist epistemology, his rejection of universal conceptions of truth, knowledge, and justice, constitutes the first attempt to establish not just a moral but an epistemological foundation for anti-imperialism. Engaging with the work of postcolonial theorists such Dipesh Chakrabarty and Gayatri Spivak, this book is a valuable reassessment of Enlightenment anti-imperialism that demonstrates Herder’s continuing relevance to postcolonial studies today.

About the author

John K. Noyes is a professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto.

John K. Noyes' profile page


  • Winner, Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures

Editorial Reviews

‘While displaying a remarkable suppleness, Noyes strikes a cogent, yet nuanced balance between probing, sensitive readings of Herder’s and his Enlightenment contemporaries’ texts on the one hand, and, on the other, deliberative, thought-provoking critical commentary on current Herder scholarship.’

Arcadia vol 52:03:2017

‘A profound source of philosophical interpretation, which is very close to the source, in which Herder’s significance for the current discourse of global history and anti-imperialism is of surprising actuality.’

H-Soz-u-Kult March 2017