Johann Gottfried Herder was a prophet of his time period, whether he knew so or not. He correctly identified and attempted to correct what would soon develop into a type of Pandora’s Box, which has yet to be closed to this day. In his short essay, Herder almost pleaded with the reader not to encourage what could be viewed as racial separation. Herder’s apparent foresight was uncanny as he tried to place some type of restriction on what would later serve as a type of justification for how certain races were treated throughout history. As we discussed during class, although Herder was a student of Kant, he was not necessarily an advocate of all of his thoughts. The brief detours that Kant takes from his scientific and seemingly objective view of races ultimately helped to set the stage for an even greater division of the races that still exist even in the 21st century and centers around popular misconceptions that came from the time period in which philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, and Herder wrote on the concept of what would soon be known as race.
Being a young, Black man the concept of race is all too real and many of the different stereotypes that I have heard while growing up now have a origin. The description of Black people as being “lazy” and “aloof” but “strong” and well-suited have been descriptions that have been around for hundreds of years. The argument that I have heard in talking with some people outside of class is that regardless of who made the observations, it would only be a matter of time before the races were eventually separated, regardless of who that person ended up being. This draws off of the idea that all human beings have a natural inclination to differentiate between different people by physical appearance. I would argue that we have no way of knowing what another person had the potential to come to being and make completely different observations regarding race. As Dr. J presented in class, what kept us from being separated by height or eye color or some other physical feature? Although Kant attempts to base his explanation on race behind scientific evidence, its still hard to believe that a complex concept such as the origin of race would be left to those who, according to their writings, present both a subjective and objective view. I would like to present the question of whether or not philosophers such as Hegel and Kant and in some cases Herder should be seen as the source of the racial problems that have plagued humanity over the centuries or if humanity has developed its own sense of race since the times of early racial definition.