Notes on "The Roots of Romanticism" by Isaiah Berlin
Overview
Here is Berlin's mature account of Romanticism, an interesting contrast with his earlier attempt at "Poltical Ideas in the Romantic Age". He begins by explaining why a definition of Romanticism is impossible but Romanticism is nevertheless worth writing about as a historical phenomenon, and proceeds through four stages: first reactions against the enlightenment, the "true" fathers of Romanticism, early moderate romanticism and the later unbridled manifestations.
The notes do not follow exactly the breakdown into lectures, because Berlin's material for the lectures does not fit exactly with the lecture headings. For example, the discussion of Hamann, begins in "The First Attack.." but extends well into the next lecture. My notes on this will not be split across the sections.
This is an explanation of why a definition is not to be had (though very many have been offered).
Berlin refers here to Hamann.
These are, according to Berlin, Herder and Kant.
Kant, Schiller and Fichte.
Fichte's theory of knowledge, the French Revolution and Goethe's ,Wilhelm Meister.
In Search of a Definition
This is an explanation of why a definition is not to be had (though very many have been offered).
The First Attack on Enlightenment
Berlin refers here to Hamann.
Hamann
The True Fathers of Romanticism
These are, according to Berlin, Herder and Kant.
Content of the Lecture
The lecture begins with further material about Hamann, which I think properly belongs under the topic of the previous lecture. There is then some discussion of the topic of this lecture including a justification of not taking Rousseau as a father of Romanticism, followed by the naming of Herder and Kant as the fathers. The discussion of Herder then follows, that of Kant appears in the next lecture.
Herder
1. Introduction
There are three elements of Herder's thought which qualify him as a father of Romanticism, his ideas about expressionism, the notion of belonging, and the idea that true ideals may be incompatible.
3. Belonging

Herder's ideas about belonging appear at least in part to be elaborations of his ideas about the expressive character of works of art. Some works of art are the product of individuals, others of groups. The groups in question need not be nations or races. To understand a work of art you need to know in the social context in which it was created.

Herder is a cultural relativist. He is tolerant and positive towards cultural diversity, he not only believes that works of art can only be understood or their value appreciated in the context of an understanding of the culture in which they were produced, but also values these diverse cultural backgrounds.

This does also extend to distinct historical periods in the same culture, so that (controversially I think) one must understand the sepecific context in which Bach wrote his music to appreciate that music, not just have a general exposure to modern european culture. [This seems to me over the top, I do think, particularly in relation to music but I am tempted to think also in relation to other creative works, that one can get a worthwhile understanding with very little if any cultural background. I would expect this to depend on the art form in question this affects what kind of thing the artists may be expressing in his work. However, in Berlin's account he talks about a "true" understanding, and this makes the claim technically unrefutable; do we ever truly understand any work of art, even our own?]

2. Expressionism

The idea here is that self expression is a fundamental function of human beings. Whatever a man does expresses his whole nature unless he maims himself by inhibition or self-constraint. In this view Herder follows Haman.

There is a here a new attitude towards works of art, which again belongs both to Haman and Herder. Hitherto (and for most people even to the present day) works of art were valued primarily for what they were nothing to do (according to Berlin) with who made them or why they were made. For Haman and Herder a work of art is an expression of the whole being of the artist and is valued as such.

The whole being of an artists, does of course include his cultural identity.

4. Incompatible Ideals

Ideology is just as much as art a product of culture. The cultural diversity which makes a single standard of interpretation or evaluation for art impossible is also evident in diverse ideals. Berlin takes Herder to be fairly radically and systematically contrary to the universalism of the Enlightenment, in which a single set of values is supposed to be applicable throughout the universe and throughout time. Since this is one leg of Berlin's characterisation of the Enlightenment (and in a sense, the ultimate leg, relative to which the objectivity of truth and its accessibility to reason pave the way for objective universal knowable values) Herder is understood as a key critic of the Enlightenment.

Its not obvious whether the point which Berlin makes about the incompatibility of these ideals is explicitly made by Herder.

The Restrained Romantics
Kant, Schiller and Fichte.
Unbridled Romanticism
Fichte's theory of knowledge, the French Revolution and Goethe's ,Wilhelm Meister.
The Lasting Effects

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