Johann Friedrich Herbart

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Johann Friedrich Herbart; Engraving by Konrad Geyer (1816–1893)
Signature Johann Friedrich Herbart.PNG
Plaque on the birthplace in Oldenburg, Herbartgang 6
Herbart's grave in the Albanikirchhof in Göttingen

Johann Friedrich Herbart (born May 4, 1776 in Oldenburg (Oldb) , † August 14, 1841 in Göttingen ) was a German philosopher , psychologist and educator who is considered a classic in education beyond the German-speaking area . He founded Herbartianism and general pedagogy .


The son of a judiciary began studying law at the University of Jena after attending the Oldenburg Latin School . His grandfather was the Oldenburg pedagogue and pioneer of the Enlightenment Johann Michael Herbart (1703–1768). Under the influence of Johann Gottlieb Fichte , he switched to philosophy and literature . After distancing himself from the philosophy of Fichte and Schelling , studying Greek classics and becoming a member of the student society of free men , Herbart broke off his studies in 1797 and went to Interlaken near Bern as a private tutor to the family of the old bailiff von Steiger . Here his interest in educational work began as part of his lessons with his three sons, about whom he gave an account in reports. In 1798 he met Pestalozzi , whose concepts prompted him to critically rethink his own pedagogical ideas.

In 1800 Herbart gave up his position as private tutor and, at the request of his mother, returned to Oldenburg due to the breakdown of his parents' marriage, and soon accepted an invitation from his friend Johann Smidt to Bremen . In 1802 he began his academic career at the University of Göttingen , where he completed his doctorate and then his habilitation in philosophy. In Göttingen he initially taught as a private lecturer and was appointed associate professor in 1805, after an offer to Heidelberg was rejected . In the years 1806 to 1808 there were important publications such as general pedagogy, derived from the purpose of education , main points of metaphysics , main points of logic , general practical philosophy .

In 1809 Herbart was appointed professor of philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Königsberg on the previous chair of Immanuel Kant , where he also participated in the reform of the school system in Prussia . He established a Pädagogium , where he lived with about ten children, some students and his wife.

In Königsberg he met Wilhelm von Humboldt , who had arrived in Königsberg at about the same time as him , and was the new head of the Culture and Education Section. He wrote to his teacher, the philologist Friedrich, in Berlin that at the University of Königsberg only Herbart was “to be singled out” and he let Goethe know that he liked “Herbart, recently appointed from Göttingen” much better around him than “from afar the reviews of his books ”. Herbart became a member and director of the "Scientific Deputation", an advisory body for school reform. a. drafted new curricula. He also became a school councilor in 1829 and examined the teaching candidate.

In 1811 Herbart married Mary Jane Drake, who came from an English merchant family . The marriage remained childless. In 1813 the first edition of the textbook on the introduction to philosophy appeared , in 1816 the first edition of the textbook on psychology , 1824/1825 the psychology as a science, newly founded on experience, metaphysics and mathematics in two parts, 1828/1829 the two-part general metaphysics, along with the beginnings of the philosophical theory of nature .

In 1833 he followed a call back to his old place of work, the University of Göttingen, after he had not been entrusted with the successor to Hegel in Berlin. There he published his late work Outline of Pedagogical Lectures , the second edition of which was added in 1841. In 1837, Herbart, as dean of the Philosophical Faculty, distanced himself from the protest actions of the “ Göttinger Sieben ”. One year later he described the Hanoverian constitutional conflict and the consequences of dismissal and expulsion from the country as a "Göttingen catastrophe". On August 14, 1841, Herbart died of a stroke at the age of 65. He found his final resting place in the Albani cemetery in Göttingen.

Herbart's pedagogy and Herbartianism

Herbart, General Metaphysics, Part 2, Königsberg 1829

Outline of educational lectures (1841): Herbart is considered one of the founders of modern education as a science. Starting from the concept of the plasticity of the human being, he tried to underpin upbringing and teaching theoretically. Herbart is considered a pioneer in the development of a psychology-based systematic theory for learning and teaching; he developed a complex methodology, the so-called formal stage theory . In its most widespread form, this system initially included four formal levels of teaching: Clarity, Association, System, and Method. Tuiskon Ziller (1817–1882), an important Herbartian, preceded these stages with another, analysis. Wilhelm Rein (1847–1929) then gave the formal stages German names: preparation, presentation, handling, generalization and application. They were integrated into a theoretical concept of a pedagogical curriculum, which should be designed in such a way that children and young people in their individual learning process “climb” the essential levels of the learning processes that humanity as a species has so far climbed. Herbart saw the main task of the teacher in finding out the existing interests of the student and relating them to the knowledge and culture of humanity in order to help the student to become part of civilized life. His philosophy founded a set of instructions for teaching that his students implemented in a strict set of rules, Herbartianism , which dominated scientific pedagogy in the 19th century.

The difference between Herbart's systematic pedagogy (as a pedagogy of the pupil's self-development) on the one hand and Herbartianism (as a strict set of rules that leaves the pupil little freedom in self-development) on the other hand was emphasized especially in the more recent reception, among others by Dietrich Benner who pointed out that the strict rules of Herbartianism did not follow Herbart's original intentions. In fact, it was contrary to Herbart's system in many ways. Herbart's original intention was to help the student to self-education through impetus (support) and not to “pull” him through a set of rules more precisely in a direction given by the teacher / educator (as a rule default) . Herbart mentions in his treatise The Aesthetic Representation of the World as the Main Business of Education (1804):

“Make the pupil find himself as choosing the good, as rejecting the bad: this or nothing is character formation ! This elevation to a self-confident personality should no doubt proceed in the mind of the pupil himself and be carried out through his own activity ; it would be nonsense if the educator wanted to create the real essence of the strength to do so and to infuse it into the soul of another [guidelines / rules] ” (JF Herbart: On the aesthetic representation of the world as the main business of education. In: Dietrich Benner: Johann Friedrich Herbart: Systematic Pedagogy. Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim 1997, p. 49.)

Herbart expressly opposes an authoritarian style of upbringing and also an affirmative pedagogy, from today's perspective and encourages teaching to a place in which the students are encouraged by encouraging self-activity” (Dietrich Benner) and can develop their character. Here the teacher enters into a supportive relationship. It should give the student impetus / food for thought . However, the actual learning process can only be carried out by the educated student (student) himself.

Herbartianism and the criticism concerning it were based in many places on errors of Herbart's original teaching. This only gained a lasting influence on education in the second half of the 20th century. The reason for the late and in this sense critical (appreciative) reception of Herbart's original system lies in the generalization of Herbart or the restrictive narrowing of Herbartianism to a rigid set of rules.

Before that, however, Herbartianism had influenced aspects of education in Europe and the United States. And with regard to psychology and philosophy, Herbart's original teaching has already been recognized and his findings have been integrated into the respective sciences, albeit not as a dominant current of their own.

Herbart's philosophical work had a certain influence on the Göttingen mathematician Bernhard Riemann , as can be seen from his excerpts from Herbart's works. As Riemann himself writes, he was “Herbartian in psychology and epistemology (methodology and eidology)”, but was mostly unable to join “Herbart's natural philosophy and the related metaphysical disciplines (ontology and synechology).” Furthermore, Riemann stated: “ so I could almost completely agree with Herbart's earliest investigations, the results of which are expressed in his doctoral theses and habilitation theses (of October 22nd and 23rd, 1802), but had to deviate from the later course of his speculation in one essential point The difference in relation to his natural philosophy and those sentences of psychology which concern their connection with natural philosophy is conditioned. "


Bust of Johann Friedrich Herbart in his hometown Oldenburg, artist: Heinrich Carl Johann Manger , 1876

The Herbartgymnasium in Oldenburg is named after Herbart . There are numerous Herbartstrasse in Germany .

International Herbart Society

The International Herbart Society promotes the scientific examination of Herbart's philosophy and education, mainly through congresses that take place every second year. The congress contributions will be published.

See also


  • Pestalozzi's idea of ​​an ABC of perception . Göttingen 1804.
  • General pedagogy derived from the purpose of education . Göttingen 1806.
  • About philosophical studies . Göttingen 1807.
  • General Practical Philosophy . Göttingen 1808.
  • Textbook as an introduction to philosophy . Koenigsberg 1813.
  • Psychology textbook . Königsberg and Leipzig 1816. 2nd edition, Königsberg 1834 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Psychology as a science, newly founded on experience, metaphysics and mathematics . 2 vols. Königsberg 1824/25 ( vol. 1 , vol. 2 , each digitized and full text in the German text archive ).
  • General metaphysics, together with the beginnings of the philosophical theory of nature . 2 parts. Königsberg 1828/29.
  • Brief encyclopedia of philosophy from practical points of view . Hall 1831.
  • Pedagogical Lecture Outline . Göttingen 1835; 2nd, increased edition 1841.
  • Psychological research . Göttingen 1839/40.
  • Memory of the Göttingen catastrophe in 1837 . Königsberg 1842 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive ).
  • All works . Edited by Gustav Hartenstein . Leipzig 1851 ( digitized from Google Books ).


  • Textbook as an introduction to philosophy. Meiner, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 978-3-7873-1343-3 .
  • More precise development of the main terms that go into the determination of the pedagogical purpose (= pedagogical reform in sources. Vol. 2). Edited by Rotraud Coriand. Jena 2006, ISBN 3-938203-22-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Herbart, Johann Michael In: Hans Friedl u. a. (Ed.): Biographical manual for the history of the state of Oldenburg . Edited on behalf of the Oldenburg landscape. Isensee, Oldenburg 1992, ISBN 3-89442-135-5 , pp. 304-305 ( PDF; 4.6 MB ).
  2. Erhard Scholz: Herbart's influence on Bernhard Riemann , Historia Mathematica, Volume 9, 1982, pp. 413-440.
  3. a b H. Weber and R. Dedekind, Leipzig (1876). Bernhard Riemann's collected mathematical works and scientific papers. Chapter: Fragments of Philosophical Content.
  4. Herbartstrasse in Germany. Retrieved on February 25, 2020.


Web links

Commons : Johann Friedrich Herbart  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Johann Friedrich Herbart  - Sources and full texts