Notes on Matt Johnson’s take on Herder

This is a highlight of Matthew Raphael Johnson’s “Some Thoughts on Johann Herder and Modernism” (originally available at; accessed 19 February 2009.  That website is now defunct and Johnson is slowly moving his material to the new and highly-recommended

These posts will try to show why the GOP utterly failed to account for the rise of  Trump and ultimately on why neoconservatism/neoliberalism not only is politically shallow, but probably mentally alienated.

  1. Herder’s Critique of the Enlightenment: the study of man is different from the study of empirical science.
    1. Peoples are distorted if they are abstracted from their whole.
  2. The idea of social contract is a false bill of goods.
    1. For such a contract to exist the civilizational apparatus would have to already be in place.
    2. This is why attempts to spread “democracy” universally fail.
  3. We are born into community and cannot exist apart from it.  Thus, the idea of autonomous man is false.
  4. Epistemological premise of Herder: the conceptualization of data must always use poetry and memory as valid modes of knowing.
    1. Epistemology is intensely social.
    2. If we divorce it from the social life in which we find it–and the historical consciousness–then we divorce knowledge from reality.
    3. We cannot remove “romance” from reason.
    4. The spirit of loyalty and tradition is what maintains loyalty, not mathematical and economic equations.  (This is why Donald Trump won the nomination.)  
      1. These are relations of family, church, village.
      2. These relations are immediate because it is these relations that make conceptual mediation (i.e., reason) possible.
  5. Aesthetics: to aestheticize nature is to imprint the general will upon it and place it within the cultural vortex.
    1. Language, tradition, memory must all form a unified whole.
    2. Failure to do this results in alienation.
  6. Organic is not pantheistic
    1. What does “organic” mean?  
    2. Simply that the whole is manifest in the part.
  7. The nation is not the State.
    1. Custom, tradition, and nationality are not things one “consents” to.
    2. They are the conditions for one to consent to anything.
    3. “Liberal” consent is a fraud.  No one consents to be economically ruled by George Soros.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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