FRIEDRICH WILHELM CHRISTIAN KARL FERDINAND VON HUMBOLDT (German: ;
22 June 1767 – 8 April 1835) was a Prussian philosopher , linguist ,
government functionary, diplomat , and founder of the Humboldt
University of Berlin , which was named after him in 1949 (and also
after his younger brother,
Alexander von Humboldt
He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important
contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and
practice of education. In particular, he is widely recognized as
having been the architect of the
Humboldtian education ideal , which
was used from the beginning in
His younger brother,
Alexander von Humboldt
* 6 Bibliography
* 6.1 Collected writings
* 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
In June 1791, he married Karoline von Dacheröden . They had eight children, of whom five (including Gabriele ) survived to adulthood.
Humboldt was a philosopher ; he wrote
The Limits of State Action in
1791–1792 (though it was not published until 1850, after Humboldt's
death), one of the boldest defences of the liberties of the
Enlightenment . It influenced John Stuart Mill\'s essay On Liberty
through which von Humboldt's ideas became known in the
English-speaking world. Humboldt outlined an early version of what
Mill would later call the "harm principle ". His house in
The section dealing with education was published in the December 1792 issue of the Berlinische Monatsschrift under the title "On public state education". With this publication, Humboldt took part in the philosophical debate regarding the direction of national education that was in progress in Germany, as elsewhere, after the French Revolution.
Bust of Wilhelm von Humboldt, by
Humboldt had been home schooled and never finished his comparably
short university studies at the universities of
Humboldt installed a standardized system of public instruction, from basic schools till secondary education, and founded Berlin University. He imposed a standardization of state examinations and inspections and created a special department within the ministry to oversee and design curricula, textbooks and learning aids.
Humboldt's plans for reforming the Prussian school system were not published until long after his death, together with his fragment of a treatise on the 'Theory of Human Education', which he had written in about 1793. Here, Humboldt states that 'the ultimate task of our existence is to give the fullest possible content to the concept of humanity in our own person through the impact of actions in our own lives.' This task 'can only be implemented through the links established between ourselves as individuals and the world around us' (GS, I, p. 283).
Humboldt's concept of education does not lend itself solely to individualistic interpretation. It is true that he always recognized the importance of the organization of individual life and the 'development of a wealth of individual forms' (GS, III, p. 358), but he stressed the fact that 'self-education can only be continued in the wider context of development of the world' (GS, VII, p. 33). In other words, the individual is not only entitled, but also obliged, to play his part in shaping the world around him.
Humboldt's educational ideal was entirely coloured by social considerations. He never believed that the 'human race could culminate in the attainment of a general perfection conceived in abstract terms'. In 1789, he wrote in his diary that 'the education of the individual requires his incorporation into society and involves his links with society at large' (GS, XIV, p. 155). In his essay on the 'Theory of Human Education', he answered the question as to the 'demands which must be made of a nation, of an age and of the human race'. 'Education, truth and virtue' must be disseminated to such an extent that the 'concept of mankind' takes on a great and dignified form in each individual (GS, I, p. 284). However, this shall be achieved personally by each individual, who must 'absorb the great mass of material offered to him by the world around him and by his inner existence, using all the possibilities of his receptiveness; he must then reshape that material with all the energies of his own activity and appropriate it to himself so as to create an interaction between his own personality and nature in a most general, active and harmonious form' (GS, II, p. 117).
Humboldt educational model goes beyond vocational training. In a letter to the Prussian king, he wrote: "There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life." The philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin criticized discrepancies between Humboldt's ideals and the contemporary European education policy, which narrowly understands education as a preparation for the labor market, and argued that we need to decide between McKinsey and Humboldt.
As a successful diplomat between 1802 and 1819, Humboldt was
plenipotentiary Prussian minister at
Humboldt's work as a philologist in Basque has had more extensive
impact than his other work. His visit to the Basque country resulted
in Researches into the Early Inhabitants of
Humboldt died while preparing his greatest work, on the ancient Kawi
language of Java , but its introduction was published in 1836 as The
...first clearly laid down that the character and structure of a language expresses the inner life and knowledge of its speakers, and that languages must differ from one another in the same way and to the same degree as those who use them. Sounds do not become words until a meaning has been put into them, and this meaning embodies the thought of a community. What Humboldt terms the inner form of a language is just that mode of denoting the relations between the parts of a sentence which reflects the manner in which a particular body of men regards the world about them. It is the task of the morphology of speech to distinguish the various ways in which languages differ from each other as regards their inner form, and to classify and arrange them accordingly.
He is credited with being the first European linguist to identify human language as a rule-governed system, rather than just a collection of words and phrases paired with meanings. This idea is one of the foundations of Noam Chomsky\'s theory of language . Chomsky frequently quotes Humboldt's description of language as a system which "makes infinite use of finite means", meaning that an infinite number of sentences can be created using a finite number of grammatical rules. Humboldt scholar Tilman Borsche, however, notes profound differences between von Humboldt's view of language and Chomsky's.
More recently, Humboldt has also been credited as an originator of
the linguistic relativity hypothesis (more commonly known as the
Sapir–Whorf hypothesis ), developed by linguists
The reception of Humboldt's work remains problematic in
English-speaking countries, despite the work of Langham Brown,
Manchester and Underhill (Humboldt, Worldview & Language, 2009), on
account of his concept of what he called Weltansicht, the linguistic
worldview, with Weltanschauung being translated simply as 'worldview'
a term associated with ideologies and cultural mindsets in both German
and English. The centrality of distinction in understanding Huimbolt's
work was set out by one of the leading contemporary German Humboldt
scholars, Jürgen Trabant, in his works in both German and French.
Polish linguists, at the Lublin School (see
However, little rigorous research in English has gone into exploring the relationship between the linguistic worldview and the transformation and maintenance of this worldview by individual speakers. One notable exception is the work of Underhill, who explores comparative linguistic studies in both Creating Worldviews: Language, Ideology & Metaphor (2011) and in Ethnolinguistics and Cultural Concepts: Truth, Love, Hate the Roman numeral indicates the volume and the Arabic figure the page; the original German spelling has been modernized.)
* ^ Helmut Thielicke, Modern Faith and Thought, William B. Eerdmans
Publishing, 1990, p. 174.
* ^ Philip A. Luelsdorff, Jarmila Panevová, Petr Sgall (eds.),
Praguiana, 1945–1990, John Benjamins Publishing, 1994, p. 150:
"Humboldt himself (Humboldt was one of the leading spirits of romantic
linguistics; he died in 1834) emphasized that speaking was permanent
* ^ David Kenosian: "Fichtean Elements in Wilhelm von Humboldt's
Philosophy of Language", in: Daniel Breazeale,
Tom Rockmore (ed.),
Fichte, German Idealism, and Early Romanticism, Rodopi, 2010, p. 357.
* ^ A B Jürgen Georg Backhaus (ed.), The University According to
Humboldt: History, Policy, and Future Possibilities, Springer, 2015,
* ^ Michael N. Forster, After Herder: Philosophy of
* Hegel, G. W. F. , 1827. On The Episode of the Mahabharata Known by
the Name Bhagavad-Gita (Hegel's review of Wilhelm von Humboldt's
lectures on the Bhagavad-Gita).
* Sorkin, David. "Wilhelm Von Humboldt: The Theory and Practice of
Self-Formation (Bildung), 1791–1810" in: Journal of the History of
Ideas, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan.–Mar., 1983), pp. 55–73.
* Berman, Antoine . L\'épreuve de l\'étranger. Culture et
traduction dans l\'Allemagne romantique: Herder, Goethe, Schlegel,
Novalis, Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Hölderlin , Paris, Gallimard,
Essais, 1984. ISBN 978-2-07-070076-9 .
* Mitxela, Koldo . "G. de Humboldt et la langue basque" in: Lengua e
historia. Madrid: Paraninfo, 1985. ISBN 84-283-1379-2
* Tilman Borsche, Tilman. Wilhelm von Humboldt, München, Beck,
1990. ISBN 3-406-33218-8 .
* Lalatta Costerbosa, Marina Ragione e tradizione: il pensiero
giuridico ed etico-politico di Wilhelm von Humboldt, Milano, Giuffrè,
2000. ISBN, 88-14-08219-7.
* Doerig, Detmar (2008). "Humboldt, Wilhelm von (1767–1835)". In
Hamowy, Ronald . The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks,
CA: SAGE ;
Cato Institute . pp. 229–30. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4 .
LCCN 2008009151 .