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Herder’s collection of and commentary on folksongs (Volksliedprojekt) was of enormous importance, not only for the development of (folk) poetry which received a new assignation because of the project. There were also direct political implications. This “initial spark” (Initialzündung) (Ulrich Gaier) was decisive for the poetics as much as for the politics of many of the “smaller” European nations: Herder’s project ignited debates about abolition of serfdom and colonialism, and it created theoretical foundations for the development of new literatures. The chapter traces Herder’s concept formation/conception of folksong (Volkslied) against the background of his reflections on lyrical poetry (especially the ode). It considers both his encounter with Baltic folksongs and the scholarly colloquy concerning folksongs, in which Herder participated. The question is raised to what extent Herder succeeded in evoking sympathy among German-Baltic men of letters for the folksongs of local peoples (Estonians and Latvians), and the effect of Herder’s theory of folk poetry on the poetic praxis in the Baltic.

In: Herder on Empathy and Sympathy
The English-German collection Herder on Empathy and Sympathy: Einfühlung und Sympathie im Denken Herders considers the meaning and role of the concepts of empathy and sympathy in Herder’s thought. Herder invokes sympathy in a number of disciplinary domains ranging from metaphysics, biology, anthropology, epistemology, psychology, morality, politics, history, aesthetics to homiletics. While Herder is shown as belonging to a long line of thinkers who view sympathy as a metaphysical principle contributing to the interconnectedness of all parts of nature, he also offers new insights about intra-/inter-species sympathetic communication and distinctively human varieties of sympathy for which he reserves the term “sich einfühlen”. Acknowledging the limits of the natural capacity for “sich einfühlen”, Herder nonetheless calls for its reflective cultivation in various domains.
In: Herder on Empathy and Sympathy
In: Herder on Empathy and Sympathy