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PREFACE .......... vii 

I. Life of Jean-Frederic Herbart (1776-1841). His early 

places of residence : Oldenburg, Jena, Bremen, Gottin- 
gen. The successor of Kant at the University of 
Konigsberg (1809-1833). He returns to Gottingen 
and ends his life there (1833-1841). Forming of his 
intellect. His natural gifts and the multiplicity of his 
aptitudes. His mother's influence. His precocity in 
philosophy. How he became a teacher. His years 
as a tutor in Switzerland (1797-1800). Influence 
of Pestalozzi on his theories. Points of resemblance 
and of contrast between the two teachers. Practice in 
teaching joined to the theory of education. The 
Konigsberg Pedagogical Seminary. Few vicissitudes 
in Herbart 's quiet life. His marriage (1811). His 
death (August 11, 1841) 1 

II. Herbart's psychology and its pedagogical consequences,- 
Pedagogy based on psychology. Exposition of 
Herbart's psychology. A matter apart from his 
mathematical speculations. His conception opposed 
to idealism. Absence of faculties. There are in the 
mind representations gained from experience. Her- 
bart 'a spiritualism. The soul a monad lacking con- 
tents and without original activity. Struggle of ideas 
for consciousness. Static and dynamic states of mind. 
Attraction and repulsion of ideas. Fusions and com- 
plexes. Psychical mechanism. Sentiments and vo- 


1 65083 



litions. Sensation a mode of intelligence. Criticism 
of Herbart's psychology. Pedagogical intellectualism 
a result of psychological intellectualism. Power of 
education. Its limitations. The body the physio- 
logical obstacle. Criticism of formal culture. 
"Knowledges" not valuable for themselves. Theory 
of apperception. Its importance. Home education 
superior to public education. Disadvantages of public 
instruction. Reestablishment of the individuality in 
Herbart's system. Necessity of studying the disposi- 
tion of each individual. Diversity of temperaments. 

Abnormal children. Pedagogy the goal of all the 
sciences. Necessity of uniting practice and theory. 
Science and the art of education 17 

III. Herbart's intellectual pedagogy. Its complexity. 
Difficulty of a brief exposition. The foundation of edu- 
cation is instruction. To instruct the mind is to con- 
struct it. Interest the essential condition of instruc- 
tion. Two fundamental sources of interest : acquaint- 
anceship with nature, and dealings with mankind. 
Various forms of interest. Empirical interest. 
Speculative interest. ^Esthetic interest. Sympa- 
thetic interest. Social interest. Religious interest. 
All the forms of interest should be cultivated. The 
"many-sided interest." Exclusiveness and narrow- 
ness of mind. The full life. Can a single individual 
attain it? New distinction: "direct" and "indirect" 
interest. Direct interest springs from the things 
themselves. Relation of direct interest and of involun- 
tary attention. Criticism of attention called voluntary. 

Primitive attention and apperceptive attention. 
Important role of apperceptive attention. The point of 
departure for instruction is experience. Rules to follow 
to arouse attention. Nothing should be taught which 



is entirely new. The four "moments" of instruction : 
clearness, association, systematization, and method. 
Intuition. It should be completed by description. 
The three "methods" or "modes" of instruction. 
Descriptive, analytic, and synthetic methods. Analy- 
sis arranges and defines the intuitions. It proceeds 
above all by questions. Synthesis occurs particularly 
in didactic expositions. Defects and virtues of Her- 
bart's pedagogical theories. Excessive systematiza- 
tion and artificial methodizing. Integral education. 
The perfect man. All matters of instruction in- 
cluded in his schedule of studies. Preference for the 
positive sciences. Herbart's opinion of the study of 

ancient languages 44 

IV. Moral culture. Man measured by his desires. 
Will depends on knowledge. Special rules of moral 
culture. Its point of departure in experience. Dis- 
cipline or " control of children." Preparatory period 
before moral culture should begin. Aim and char- 
acteristics of discipline. Threats. Watching. 
Disciplinary punishments. Corporal chastisement. 
"Pedagogic" punishments. Herbart and Mr. Her- 
bert Spencer. Authority and affection. The 
mother's role. Virtue the supreme aim in life. 
Herbart's moral system. Attraction of goodness 
substituted for the categorical imperative. Criticism 
of transcendental freedom. A moral system without 
free will and without obligation. The five moral 
ideas. Inner liberty. Perfection. Good-will. 
Law. Justice. The moral ideas result from the re- 
lationships of the ideas and the volitions. Morality, 
like mentality, is the product of experience. The 
"aesthetic necessity." Conscience and taste. Moral 
judgments are none other than aesthetic judgments. 



Intellectual conditions necessary to the formation 
of aesthetic judgments. Character. Formation of 
character. " Obj ective " character. " Subj ective " 
character. "Memory of the will." Role of action 
in moral culture. Criticism of Herbart's moral sys- 
tem. Special processes of moral culture. It is neces- 
sary to control the child. It is necessary to direct his 
mode of action. Rules or maxims of conduct. 
Calmness and serenity of mind. Approval and blame. 

Warning and exhortation. Religious education . 82 
V. Herbart's influence. A Herbartian library. The 

Herbartian pedagogical school in Germany. Its lead- 
ing representatives. Ziller (1817-1883). The peda- 
gogical seminary at Leipzig. Original and bizarre 
methods. Ziller's concentration plan. Reasons 
given for the coordination of studies. Stoy (1815- 
1885). The seminary at Jena. M. Rein, Stoy's suc- 
cessor at Jena. Otto Frick and the Halle Institute. 
Slow spread of the ideas of Herbart. Reasons for their 
success. The United States another centre of the Her- 
bartian pedagogy. American Herbartians : Mr. de 
Garmo, Mr. McMurry, Colonel Parker, William James, 
etc. Causes of Herbart 'a success in America. In- 
fluence of Herbart in England, in Italy, and in France. 

Conclusion : why the Herbartian movement will last. 

Herbart had faith in education. He had faith in 
instruction. He had imagined a society based on the 
progress of individuals 113 



WE desire to call attention to a thinker who is 
worthy of being placed in the very first rank of 
educationists, both as theorist and practical teacher. 

Kousseau was a romance writer; Herbert Spencer, 
a brilliant essayist in the field of education. ^Her- 
bart was at once a schoolmaster and a profound 
philosopher; and if it could be said of him that he 
was "JJie father of modern psychology/' he has no 
less a claim to be considered the founder of a scien- 
tific pedagogy, with psychology iLs fas basis. 

Pestalozzi, a man of admirable natural gifts, but 
gifts which lacked the support of a sound psy- 
chology, had only dim perceptions and "partial 
intuitions " ; and, also, his theory concerned almost 
entirely the education of little children and ele- 
mentary instruction. 

Herbart had all the resources of a subtle dialecti- 
cian and of a learned psychologist, and he built up 
with hands powerful, but somewhat awkward, a 
whole system; a system wide and full, which em- 
braces the whole field of education and is applica- 



ble to every style, to youth as well as to 
childhood. His works no longer present to us 
disconnected opinions, disjecti membra poetae, but 
a solidly linked and harmonized doctrinal whole. 
Parts of it are certainly open to criticism, but 
every one must acknowledge and admire its firm, 
well-marshalled order. In addition to this, we 
note that he was not satisfied with theorizing and 
arguing about the general laws of education; he 
studied narrowly and with infinite care the small- 
est details of applied pedagogy; he did not keep 
the science apart from the art of education; he 
extended the same watchful care over both 
together; his science was replete with abstract 
conceptions and bold generalizations; his art de- 
scended to the smallest details and abounded in 
methods and practical devices. 

We shall try to give an idea of this vast system, 
with the intention of throwing light on a theory 
of education, which is at times obscure and always 
complicated ; we shall, so to say, try to make this 
somewhat muddy stream clearer; and this not 
without the fear of weakening it by our abridg- 
ment and of making it shallower by our explana- 

The reasons, in our opinion, why Herbart's 
system of education is to be recommended is, in 


the first place, because lie claims to haveestab- 
lished it on experience, on the natural history 
of the mind. But if Herbart is a realist who 
breaks with the metaphysical dreams of his age, 
in his own way he is also an idealist; and educa- 
tion as he conceives it, education aiming above__all_. 
at forming the individual, the human creature, is , 
in no way utilitarian. It is in a high degree moral, 
proclaiming as the Qhief ends of instruction, morality | 
and virtue. It is a universal education, offering/ 
'invitations to all men. Finally, it is a democratic/ 
education, which counsels children to seek the 
company of workmen and peasants; like to the 
education which made Edgar Quinet, our fellow- 
countryman, a simple, free soul, loved by the people 
from his earliest years in a rural district of his 
native land. 

It is a hundred years since Herbart published 
his treatise on General^ Pedagogy : it dates from 
1806. And yet, this book, now old, answers per- 
haps better to the needs and aspirations -of the 
hour than any other. At this time, in fact, when 
democratic peoples are seeking more and more to 
base their morality on science, it is surely worth 
while to listen to the voice of a philosopher who 
believed, and tried to demonstrate, that all educa- 
tion depends alone on instruction, and that ideas 


and knowledge are the source of good feeling and 
virtue. When we feel that faith in education is 
increasing every day, and, too, the hope that as it 
advances it will guarantee to human societies a 
better future, might we not think that only yester- 
day were said these noble words of Herbart : " The 
interest which we take in education is one of the 
forms of interest which we take in human beings. 
Our hopes find refuge in the hearts of the young, 
in the expectation that men, when they are more 
carefully educated, will attain to things yet beyond 

our view." 


THERE is little to tell about the life of Herbart. 
It was an unbroken, simple, and peaceful life, 
comparable to that of Kant; the noble life of a 
thinker wholly devoted to study, who never let dis- 
tractions withdraw him from meditation. There 
are few events to be recorded from the laborious 
years of a professor who left his study only for his 
lecture-room, other than changes of residence and 
the publication of his books. 

Herbart was born at Oldenburg on the 4th of 
May, 1776; he died at Gottingen, the llth of 
August, 1841. He differed from Kant in this, that 
he travelled, either as student or professor, to all 
quarters of Germany, while Kant never left Konigs- 
berg, his native town. During the years 1788 to 
1794, he took his first course of higher studies at the 
Gymnasium of Oldenburg, where his grandfather 
had been head-master. Then, from 1794 to 1798, 
he attended the University of Jena. Jena was at 
that time one of the most brilliant centres for the 



study of German philosophy, and Fichte was teach- 
ing there. After completing his university course, 
Herbart became a tutor, and from 1797 to 1800 he 
educated the three sons of the governor of Inter- 
laken, M. de Steiger. It was while he lived in 
Switzerland that he had the good fortune to meet 
Pestalozzi, and to visit his school at Burgdorf in 
1798. After a short stay at Halle, and a two years' 
residence at Bremen, where he studied and taught 
specially mathematics, he settled, from 1802 to 
1809, at Gottingen. He was admitted to the doc- 
tor's degree there on theses purely pedagogical, 1 and 
he began his career as university teacher in the 
capacity of Privat Docent (private lecturer); after 
having declined an ordinary professorship which was 
offered to him at the University of Heidelberg, he 
became special lecturer at Gottingen. 

To this period belongs the most important of his 
pedagogical writings, General Pedagogy deduced 
from the Aim of Education; 2 it was published in 

1 Allgemeine Paedagogik aus dem Zweck der Erziehung abgeleitet, 
which Herbart dedicated to his friend John Smith, senator of 

2 These are the titles of the theses put forth by Herbart for 
his Doctorship: (1) Ars pedagogica non experientia sola nititur; 

(2) In liberorum educatione matheseos et poeseos maxima vis est; 

(3) Institutio liberorum a Greeds litteris incipienda et quidem ab 
Homeri Odyssea, nullo omnino prosaico, minime autem chrestomatico, 
libra proemisso. 


1806. Already in this he was formulating the fun- 
damental principles of his system of education, and 
in his subsequent works he only developed and ex- 
plained the theories which he had projected before 
his thirtieth year. These theories were full of new 
ideas ; this is seen especially in his Outline of Peda- 
gogical Lectures, 1 which appeared in 1835, and which 
crowns all the others. 

It was the period when Germany was winning in 
the world of thought a fine revenge for its defeat on 
the battle-field. Kant, it is true, had just died in 
1804, and his successor was Krug, a man of no 
account. But Schelling was lecturing on philosophy 
at Wtirzburg, and Hegel at Jena. Celebrated 
additions were being made to the literature of edu- 
cation. In 1803 appeared Kant's short essay On 
Pedagogy. Schwartz was beginning the same year 
the publication of his treatise on pedagogy, the 
Theory of Education. In 1807 Jean-Paul Richter 
published his Levana. Niemeyer was the heir of 
Francke, and Director of the Educational Institute 
at Halle; Francke greatly esteemed Herbart's 
work, quoted him often, and tried to keep him at 

1 Umriss paedagogischer Vorlesungen, 1835; 2d edition, 1841. 
The list of Herbart's pedagogical publications is long, but the two 
essential works are the General Pedagogy and the Outlines of 
Pedagogical Lectures. Let us add the Aphorisms on Pedagogy 
collected by Hartenstein. 


Halle. Niemeyer, in 1806, was issuing the fifth 
edition of the third volume of his Fundamental 
Principles of Education and Instruction; Fichte was 
then delivering at Berlin his famous Discourses 
to the German Nation. Everywhere an intellectual 
movement of rare power was stirring and gathering 
strength. The young professor at Gottingen at- 
tached himself to this movement with all the ardor 
of an intellect matured already by patient reflection, 
and with the boldness of an exceptional originality, 
he resolved to occupy a position apart, and deliver 
severe attacks on the dominant philosophy. In the 
midst of idealists lost in dreams of metaphysical 
| pantheism, Herbart at once announced himself an 
individualist and a realist who put faith only in 
-experience. Already, in 1795, a philosopher only 
twenty years old, he had dared to measure himself 
( with Schelling and to criticise his theories, and to 
break with Fichte, whose course of lectures he was 
following. In 1802 he had openly rejected the doc- 
trine of Kant in his doctor's theses ; he there ar- 
dently opposed the theory of " transcendental 
liberty," and that of " forms of a priori intuition." 
Yet it was this same man who was called seven 
years later to occupy the chair of Kant at the 
University of Konigsberg. He accepted it, so it 
would seem, rather to oppose the work of his prede- 


cessor than to continue it. Herbart in no way 
concealed his joy at succeeding the greatest philoso- 
pher of modern times, dissent from his doctrine in 
no way diminishing the profound admiration in- 
spired by his genius. "How great was my happi- 
ness," he said, "in occupying this most celebrated 
of all chairs of philosophy, the chair dreamt of in 
ambitious youth, when I was studying the works 
of the sage of Konigsberg. . . ." 

For more than twenty years, from 1809 to 1833, 
Herbart brought honor in his turn, in a new spirit, 
to the chair held by Kant with so much fame from 
1770 to 1797. In 1831 another great honor just 
missed him, that of following Hegel, who had 
recently died, and occupying after him the Chair 
of Philosophy in the University of Berlin. But he 
was suspected of liberalism, and the spirit of reaction 
was triumphant in Prussia : he was not nominated. 
So it was to Gottingen that he returned, to take the 
place of Schulze, who also was an opponent of Kant. 

How was the powerful intellect of Herbart formed ? 
Certainly by grace of natural gifts. He was~a 
striking refutation of his own psychological doc- 
trine, defective in this respect, that it does not \ 
acknowledge anyjpower whatever as innate in the 
souE The forclTof his insight into philosophy re- 
vealed itself early with extraordinary precocity; 


and circumstances, however favorable they may 
have been, would not suffice to explain the rapid 
expansion of his genius. To the college graduate 
at Oldenburg in 1793 was assigned for the custom- 
ary leaving oration this weighty subject : " Causes 
of the growth and decay of morality amongst the 
common people/ 7 and his speech made a great 
impression. The Jena student in 1796 wrote an 
important monograph, On the Duty of the State in 
Education. 1 

In his youth Herbart was specially remarkable 
for an extraordinary variety of pursuits : on the one 
hand for an aptitude for understanding science, phys- 
ics as well as mathematics, and on the other for an 
equal delight in literature and the fine arts. "Poe- 
try and mathematics," he said in one of his theses, 
"are the two fountains of education." Already in 
his play as a child he revealed the mental gift of 
the mathematician, before he applied it boldly to 
measuring psychological phenomena. Music had 
attractions for him, and this taste lasted all his life ; 
he played different instruments, the harp and vio- 
lin, piano and violincello. He composed a sonata 
(1808), and he wrote a treatise on harmony. He 
was an eager student of antiquity, and yet imbued 

1 Herbart returned to this subject in an essay published in 1810, 
On the Task of Public Authorities in Education. 


with the modern spirit. In conclusion, it might be 
said that he found in himself, in the manifold diver- 
sity of his own aptitudes, the germ that inspired 
his favorite theory, the theory which perceives in 
" many-sided interests," in a variety of tastes, the 
first condition for the successful training of the 

The work of nature in forming the genius of Her- 
bart was completed by intense personal effort and 
persistent application. In the midst of the disturb- 
ances of those troublous times, and while the wars of 
Napoleon were thundering their cannon, he buried 
himself in quiet study and solitary meditation. 
Finally, the tender solicitude of a devoted mother 
also helped and sustained him in his life of study. 
His father, a state councillor in Oldenburg, a cold 
and severe man, does not appear to have exercised 
any influence on the formation of his mind. It was 
otherwise in regard to his mother, a woman of 
superior mental gifts despite some defects of char- 
acter. In fact, she was of a capricious and irritable 
disposition; in 1801 she separated from her husband 
and went to live in Paris, where two years after- 
ward she died. She had directed the education of 
her son during his early years, with pleasure, herself ; 
not, however, without severity and with some harsh- 
ness of the Protestant type. On account of his 


delicate health (when quite a child he burnt him- 
self in a vessel of boiling water) she delayed send- 
ing him to the grammar school until he was thirteen. 
She learnt Greek in order to work with him. Ar- 
dently longing for the honors which she saw would 
be his in the future, she would not leave him even 
during his adolescent years. She followed him to 
Jena when he entered the university. She helped 
him to make acquaintance with noted people, for 
example, with Schiller. Certainly Herbart partly 
owed to her to the enlightened care with which she 
surrounded his entrance into life the unfolding of 
his faculties, or, to use his own expression (since he 
rejects the notion of faculties), the cultivation of 
his intellect and the early acquisition of a wealth of 
ideas. He was not an ungrateful son. He tenderly 
returned the affection of his mother. During his 
residence in Switzerland, in 1799, she was seriously 
ill ; he was wretched at not being able to be with 
her, and he wrote to his friends: "My excellent 
mother, and eternal benefactress, how much suffer- 
ing she has borne for me ! How much I wish I could 
repay all her trouble ! With what joy I would 
lighten her pain if that were possible ! . . ." 

It has been said that Herbart was a born school- 
master, that he bore the sign on his forehead. 
That is quite true ; but it must be added, and there 


is no contradiction in this, that he was also born a 
philosopher. At twenty years of age he had ex- 
plored all systems, the most ancient as well as the 
most recent. He was not less familiar with the 
philosophy of Plato, and even with that of Cicero, 
than with modern philosophy. Before he turned 
his attention to new speculations, and attempted 
to grasp the bold conceptions of his great con- 
temporaries, he had had as his first master in his 
own home a disciple of Wolf, who initiated him into 
classical philosophy. Studied almost from child- 
hood, during adolescence philosophy grew to be 
his only passion, and it continued a constant sub- 
ject of reflection and research, no side of it being 
neglected. In 1808 he published a book on ethics, 
General Practical Philosophy; in 1816, his Manual of 
Psychology; in 1824, Psychology as Science, founded, 
according to a New Method, on Experience, Metaphys- 
ics, and Mathematics; in 1828, General Metaphysics. 
But all these essays at constructing a comprehensive 
philosophy tended, however, toward one end only, 
an end that lay nearer to his heart than any other, 
to establish a science of education, the aim and 
completion of all other sciences. 

If the philosopher Herbart was primarily a teacher, 
if he became a teacher in youth to remain a teacher 
until his last hour, this was in a great degree owing 


to the practical knowledge which a three years' 
experience as tutor enabled him to acquire when 
a youth of twenty years. Circumstances made him, 
in 1797, the tutor of the three sons of M. de Steiger, 
the oldest of whom was barely fourteen. This was a 
most fruitful experience, for he took his duties as 
/instructor very seriously. He studied the characters 
/ of his pupils closely; he gathered observations, 
I combined methods, thought out principles. The 
reports which he sent twice a month to M. de Steiger 
to keep him informed about the studies, the con- 
duct, and progress of his children, five of these 
reports have been preserved and published, 
bear witness to the delicacy of his observing power, 
the clearness and fulness of his views, as well as 
to the nobility of the sentiments which inspired him 
in accomplishing a task which possessed his whole 
heart. He left his beloved pupils with regret; he 
never forgot them ; their old tutor remained their 
friend ; he corresponded with the eldest, Karl, until 
1817. There is no doubt that it was this first 
contact with children, this practical initiation into 
the duties of a teacher, that decided forever the 
destiny of Herbart, determining the pedagogical 
tendency which was henceforth to control all his 
His residence in Switzerland was also the occa- 


sion of his contact with Pestalozzi, and the influence 
exerted by the humble teacher of Burgdorf on the 
greatest of modern education philosophers is un- 
deniable. Doubtless there are profound differences 
between them, all the distance which exists between 
the floating, vague enthusiasm of a dreamer, about 
whom it has been said justly that he had more 
heart than head, and the scholarly reflection, the 
methodical reasoning, of a profound and subtle 
psychologist. On the one side excessive and ill- 
regulated sentiment; nothing beyond "partial 
intuitions/' flashes of genius, no well-defined sys- 
tem; on the other, an astonishing gift for abstrac- 
tion and excessive systematization. In spite of 
these differences of temperament, the two had 
much in common. 1 * Both accepted sense-perception 
as their starting-point. ' ' Sense-perception," said 
Herbart, "is the great inspiring idea of the noble 
Pestalozzi ; but he applied it over a narrow sphere, 
only that of elementary education." Herbart 
wanted it to illuminate all parts of teaching and 
education. "The essential element in Pestalozzi's 
method of instruction," he wrote again, "is that he 

1 The importance that Herbart attached to the work of Pesta- 
lozzi is shown by the fact that he devoted to him three pamphlets 
in succession : On the Recent Book of Pestalozzi, How Gertrude, etc., 
1802; The A B C of Sense-perception, 1802; and finally, A 
Criterium for judging Pestalozzi's Method of Instruction, 1804. 


understood that the business of teaching is to con- 

I struct the mind of the child by dint of definite and 

(clear experiences." And that is also the essential 

/ element of Herbart's method. VThey ^greejr^gajd - 

ing the necessity of selecting and adapting the 

arious subjects of instruction in logical coordination 

needs of the child as he 

develops^ naturally. The points of contact between 
them are numerous, the descent is clearly marked. 
But what in the case of Pestalozzi a man un- 
skilled, after all, in psychological questions was 
only an outline, a kind of instinctive divination, 
this grew through the industrious application of 
Herbart into a scientific doctrine, a complete pic- 
ture, all the details of which had been sought out 
and examined with minute care. 

The pedagogy of Herbart aspires, in short, to 
become a science. Here, for the first time in the 
history of education, we see ourselves confronted 
by a strongly organized body of doctrine. In con- 
ceiving his system Herbart was guided by abstract 
ideas; but, be it stated also, he was something 
more than a pure theorist. During the whole of 
his career as professor he was not satisfied to ex- 
pound the result of his reflections ex cathedra; he 
always endeavored to control and justify his ideas 
by experience./ His first care on assuming the 


chair at Konigsberg, was to organize a kind of 
practical laboratory as companion to his lectures. 1 
Kant had already thought of this when he said: 
" We need normal schools and experimental schools." 
It was this plan which Herbart made an effort to 
carry out by establishing a pedagogical seminary, 
where a few university students, eight or ten at 
most, prepared themselves to teach under his direc- 
tion ; and also a practice school, where a small num- 
ber of children (at most fifteen) gave opportunity 
for experiment and for putting to proof and testing 
the theories of the master. Such was the origin of 
those institutions for pedagogical apprenticeship, 
which have been founded in Germany 2 during the 
last century at Halle, at Leipzig, and elsewhere; 
above all, at Jena, where first Stoy, the direct pupil 
of Herbart and a student in the Konigsberg Semi- 
nary, and then Rein, one of the most eminent repre- 
sentatives of the Herbartian tradition, have followed 
their master. 

His days being divided between occupations 
which were complements the one of the other, so 

1 See the details furnished by Rein about the pedagogical semi- 
nary in the Encyklopddisches Handbuch der Padagogik, t. v. p. 208. 

2 See the recent interesting work of M. Chabot, La Pedagogic au 
Lycee, notes de voyage sur les seminaires de gymnase en Allemagne, 
Paris, Golin, 1903. See also, La Preparation professionelle a 
l'enseignement secondaire, Paris, 1902, by Ch. V. Langlois. 


arranged that he could at the same time both 
think and act, Herbart led a happy life: that 
is the usual lot of men who study and act both. 
Nothing in his life recalls the dramatic and vexed 
career of a Comenius or a Pestalozzi. Nevertheless, 
he suffered some reverses. About the year 1800, he 
passed through a wretched attack of pessimism. He 
lost his health ; he felt as if each winter as it came 
would be his last. Also at the beginning of his 
career he was poor. At Gottingen, he was forced 
to exert himself to the utmost to make a bare 
living, wearing himself out by giving private 
lessons. And when the government demanded 
five hundred francs as his contribution to the 
war fund, he had difficulty in making both ends 
meet. A more lasting trouble was the small 
measure of success which attended his ideas of 
reform amongst colleagues indifferent and even 
hostile. He had to suffer and be vexed by the 
opposition of elderly professors, who were sunk in 
routine. He was struggling, he said, "against 
wind and tide." 1 And again, "My poor pedagogy 
has not been able to lift up its voice." But calm 
and patient by nature, Herbart followed his course, 
without letting himself be disturbed beyond meas- 

1 See the pamphlet published in 1814, On my Struggle against 
the Prevailing Philosophy. 


ure by public opinion. ' ' Although he was not averse 
to winning honor," wrote one of his biographers, 1 
"he preferred to await it even vainly, rather than 
gain it by the methods of the charlatan methods 
which he judged unworthy of philosophy, and which, 
in the case of some of his contemporaries, he severely 
castigated." 2 

For the rest, a union which he contracted in 1811 
at Konigsberg helped to render his life happy and 
fortunate. He married a young lady gifted with an 
intelligence which fitted her to be his intellectual 
companion. It was & marriage of mutual affection. 
Herbart is represented by his biographer Har- 
tenstein as an active man, of short stature, large 
blue glancing eyes, and resolute gait. At a party 
in Konigsberg, one evening, the company was en- 
gaged in the innocent amusement of playing cha- 
rades. The word selected was "Herbart." The 
first syllable was represented as signifying "a 

1 The chief biographers of Herbart are Hartenstein and Fr. 
Bartholomai. Bartholomews biography has been republished in 
the series of Pddagogische Schriften, edited by von Sallwiirk; we 
quote from this edition at present. 

2 We pass over without comment the regrettable incident which 
occurred at Gottingen in 1837, consequent on the coup d'etat 
of the king of Hanover. Herbart separated himself from his 
colleagues, many of whom resigned their chairs. The position he 
took up was regarded as a weak acquiescence in the tyranny of 
the government. To justify himself, he published a memorandum 
entitled, Recollections of the Catastrophe at Gottingen in 1837. 


gentleman" (Herr)j the second as "the ornament 
of the face" (Bart, beard). Miss Drake, a young 
English lady, educated in Germany, was present, 
and when she was asked what the whole word 
represented, she exclaimed in earnest, "The whole, 
that is the ornament of the University." Herbart 
smiled. A few days later he asked and obtained 
the hand of the agreeable lady who had declared her 
sentiments so prettily. Their union of heart and 
mind lasted undimmed by any cloud for nearly 
thirty years. It was severed by the death of 
Herbart in 1841; a death swift and easy, which 
overtook him almost in his lecture-room. On the 
9th of August he delivered a lecture, as usual, 
before a large audience. On the llth he was 
attacked by apoplexy. "Blessed apoplexy," a great 
French surgeon called it. 


IN the system in which Herbart sought to con- 
struct a new metaphysics, psychology, logic, aesthet- 
ics, and ethics, everything is interdependent and 
connected; and his pedagogy is only a fragment of 
the great whole. It is wrapped in a general con- 
ception of nature and humanity, which determines 
and explains it. It is, above all, directly dependent 
upon and derived from his psychology. If his 
General Pedagogy, at the time of its appearance in 
1806, appeared obscure to his readers, that was 
because Herbart left the principles of his philosophy 
too much concealed in it : he had not yet explained 
them separately. 

Although this is not the place either to study in 
detail or to criticise thoroughly Herbartian philoso- 
phy, it is yet necessary, if we wish to understand 
his pedagogy, to make a rapid review of his psy- 
chology : we shall select from it only what is indis- 

The psychology of Herbart is usually represented 
as an attempt more or less useless to apply the cal- 



culus to the measurement of mental phenomena. 1 
In fact, Herbart considered the states of conscious- 
ness as so many forces, isolated and independent of 
each other, which, since quantity forms one of their 
elements, may be valued and numbered mathe- 
matically. But this is, however, merely a peculiar 
aspect of his theory, and the one most disputed. 
Herbart 's general psychology is a matter apart from 
these mathematical speculations ; it is new, profound, 
and lays claim to originality, although it is allied 
to the empiricism of Locke, of Hume, and Condillac. 
To Herbart we owe, at least, the first attempt 
to frame a scientific psychology a psychology 
which seeks to establish a definite order and a 
determined sequence amongst the states of con- 
sciousness. It is a bold rejoinder to the idealism 
of Kant and Fichte. To the philosophers who 
regarded the world, time, and space, as a purely 

1 It was especially in the Letters on the Application of Psy- 
chology to Pedagogy, addressed to Professor Griepenkel , and written 
towards 1831, that Herbart indulged in mathematical speculation 
and in abstract digressions. Although we owe thanks to M. Dereux 
for having conscientiously analyzed this work in his articles in the 
Revue Pedagogique in 1890, we must not look to that work to find 
the essential ideas of Herbart or, at least, the ideas which ought to 
live. The Letters are an incomplete work, and the author treats in 
them only the preliminaries of education ; he examines the diverse 
temperaments which condition the degree of education possible to 
the child. The projected work was to comprise three parts, of which 
he composed only the first. 


subjective creation of the intellect, Herbart opposed 
a conception which, on the contrary, sees in the 
mind only a reflection of things outside, a construc- 
tion from sense experiences. To the metaphysicians 
who represented everything as issuing from within 
the soul and the thinking subject, a realist replied, 
who, by way of extreme reaction, claimed to estab- 
lish that everything emanates from objects and from 
the external world, and who was bent on discover- 
ing in sense-perception all the conditions of the birth 
and development of mind. 

The point of departure of the psychological 
conception of Herbart is that there are no faculties 
in the soul. This must be accepted in its strictest 
sense. Herbart does not admit in the mind any 
original force, any native energy. Others had dis- 
missed to the land of dreams the old machinery of 
innate ideas: Herbart went farther, he rejected 
not only ideas but innate faculties. The faculty 
theory is, in his view, only a mythology. Faculties 
are idols that must be overthrown. In the soul 
there are only successive happenings. The mind, 
in its original state, js^ merely a tabula rasa. It 
has no content. It is created bit by bit, thanks 
to representations or ideas (Vorstellungeri) brought 
to it by sense-perception. According to the popular 
view (and whatever Herbart thought, this is the cor- 


rect view), nature has endowed the mind with latent 
powers, inherited or innate, and these mental predis- 
positions, developing with the help of the senses, give 
birth to the inner world of thought. Mind is thus 
conceived as a primitive force which puts something 
of its own more or less, according to the system 
into its successive acquisitions. In Herbart's theory 
thetfe is nothing of this sort. To Euclid you grant his 
axioms and postulates, and he produces from these 
a whole geometry. In the same way you grant to 
Herbart his sense representations, and by an in- 
genious manipulation of these representations, from 
their interplay and reciprocal reactions, he claims to 
build a mind, sensibility, and will as well as in- 
tellect. According to him it is not mind which, 
preexisting at least as power, pursues ideas; it is, 
on the contrary, representations or ideas which, 
following each other and uniting together, in a way 
pursue mind, and which, by forming groups, end 
by fashioning it. They enter the soul through the 
avenue of the senses, and they become conscious by 
accident, as it were; they pass out and return as 
they please, or rather, as it pleases other ideas, 
which now summon them, now repulse and replace 
them, in a perpetual coming and going. 

Let us say at once that it is not easy to under- 
stand how Herbart, with such a conception of in- 


tellectual development, could deem himself justified 
in holding to a belief in the existence of a soul. It 
is vain to say that the soul is a " monad," simple and 
homogeneous, superior to the myriads of monads 
which people the universe; this undefined being, 
this hypothetical substratum, appears to be a pure 
negation, for it has no activity of its own, possesses 
at most a vis inertice, power to enter into relation- 
ship with the world of sense through the medium 
of the nervous system. The monad of Leibniz 
was quite a different thing: isolated and shut in, 
having no opening to the external world, its prin- 
ciple of activity was in itself. Herbart's monad, as 
he himself defined it, "has originally no ideas, desires, 
or feelings. Itself knows nothing of itself, nothing 
of the external world. Still more, it has no forms of 
perception, as Kant thought, no laws of will or action, 
no sort of predisposition remote even from all that ; 
its nature is entirely unknown." * One might just 
as well say that it does not exist; and if Herbart 
grants to it a power of "conservation," in face of 
other monads which try to destroy it, one wants to 
ask him what has it to conserve ? To deny to it all 
preformation, impoverish and empty it, so to speak, 

1 Text-book of Psychology, Part III, 152, 153. In addition he 
says: "I would not admit any kind of germs, or any kind of 
natural predispositions; such predispositions are the death of 


to the point of depriving it of all initial force, does 
not this, in fact, amount to denying its existence? 

Nevertheless, Herbart represents himself as a 
spiritualist; he calls materialism an " absurdity." 
The soul which he has reduced to nothing, he de- 
scribes as mistress of the body which she rules ; and 
this preeminence he attributes to the place which he 
assigns to it in a locality of the brain: "a splendid 
situation where all the nerves meet and end." 

However that may be, such is the way in which 
Herbart reconstructs the soul and builds a scaffold- 
ing for his intellectualism on the ruins of the innate, 
without any primitive foundation, with nothing 
except the deposit of sensations; for his system 
might be defined as absolute intellectualism on 
an empirical basis. I Mind, as we have said, is a 
vague and empty place, into which are introduced 
one after another different representations of the 
external world, " presentations" of the senses. 
Mind cannot be said to be conscious of these repre- 
sentations or ideas, since it is itself nothing but the 
whole group of ideas; but each is conscious of itself, 
and it remains so until it yields place, as it were, to 
other ideas. Then it falls back below what Herbart 
calls the " threshold of consciousness." When they 
have returned to the region of shadows, all the ideas 
acquired form in the depths, one might say the crypt, 


of the soul, as it were, an unconscious or subcon- 
scious underground region. They are not, indeed, 
"annihilated, nor have they disappeared forever"; 
they are merely latent ; they continue in a condition 
'of tendency, and they aspire to reproduce and re- 
instate themselves, as soon as a favorable occasion 
will permit this to occur. Amongst all the represen- 
tative elements which have gradually enriched the 
mind, there is in progress a sort of struggle for con- 
sciousness, analogous to the struggle for life amongst 
individuals in society. 

I/ But it is not by chance or regardless of law that 
: the ideas stored up reappear in order to again take 
possession of the light. There are both static and 
dynamic states of mind. Static, when ideas have, 
so to speak, fallen asleep and entered a state of 
rest or repose; dynamic, when circumstances set 
them free and recall them to conscious life. Ideas, 
moreover, find in themselves the power to render 
mutual assistance, or to struggle with each other. 
They are mental forces which act on each other by 
attraction or repulsion, though it is not easy to 
understand how an idea, which is only a passive 
representation of an external object, can become 
active, when there is no feeling and willing subject 
who communicates activity to it. v But the power 
which Herbart has withdrawn from the soul and 


the faculties he must discover somewhere, and he 
attributes it to ideas. If ideas are more or less 
alike, they tend to form groups and unite : that is 
what we call a " fusion." If they are merely dif- 
ferent, unlike, they get mixed and entangled, form- 
ing a " complex." If they are contrary, opposed to 
each other, they cannot coexist, and they drive 
each other out. 

The soul, then, is like the stage of a theatre, on to 
which the actors come in their turns to occupy 
the front place before the footlights. The first 
person appears, and stays until another, entering 
in his turn, either expels him by violence and throws 
him back behind the curtain, or, on the contrary, 
tells him to stay, and, if they can find a common sub- 
ject of conversation, makes friends with him. The 
soul, in other terms, is only a series of states of 
consciousness, a flow and ebb of ideas, which now 
emerge like rising stars above the horizon, now 
vanish into night. Ideas agree with each other or 
struggle together : the soul, a dumb creature, has no 
objection to raise. Hence Herbart thought that ideas 
might be subjected to quantitative determination; 
that was a chimerical notion which we may wholly 
reject in spite of the importance which Herbart him- 
self may^have attached to it ; but when the notion is 
transferred from the realm of pure ideas to that of 


sensations and psychological phenomena (so far as 
they are allied with physiological manifestations) it 
may lead to solid and certain results ; hence we may 
say that Herbart, by one of his errors, even opened 
up the road for the fruitful researches in psycho- 
physiology of Lotze, Fechner, Helmholtz, and Wundt. 1 

Everything, then, with Herbart is reduced to 
psychical mechanism; " fusions" and " complexes" 
of representations explain all phenomena of the in- 
tellect : abstraction, judgment, comparison, reason, 
the notion of self, not leaving out memory and im- 
agination. The other phenomena of the soul, sen- 
timents, desires, volition, are adequately accounted 
for by the relation of ideas to each other. Senti- 
ments are no longer elementary and primitive states, 
but states transitory and derived : fleeting modifica- 
tions of ideas. They are the shadows that pass: 
the foundation of the mind remains, and this founda- 
tion consists of ideas. Education, therefore, must 
be constructed on ideas, and not on the shifting 
sands of sensation. 

Sensation, and this opinion of Herbart has 
maintained its prestige in the German philosophy of 
the nineteenth century, sensation is only a mode, 

1 On the relation of the doctrine of Herbart to experimental 
psychology, see the recent work of Th. Jehen: Das Verhaltniss 
der Herbartischen Psychologic zur physiologisch experimentellen 
Psychologic, Berlin, 1900. 


a function of the intellect. Pain arises from a con- 
flict, an antagonism of two ideas, and from the result- 
ing state of tension. Pleasure is the consequence 
of the union of two ideas which are in accord. 
Pleasure comes from the forward movement of 
thought, pain from its arrest. Desire is only a 
strong, vivid representation, which tends to maintain 
itself above the " threshold of consciousness"; and, 
finally, volition, a special form of desire, appears 
when a representation which tends to reappear is 
assisted by other representations, and, in addition, 
belief that it can be realized is present. 

The psychological system of Herbart, as far as 
one can judge from this short study, is extremely 
ingenious; but it is difficult to perceive in it any- 
thing but a work of his imagination. It proceeds, 
in fact, neither from the old method of introspective 
observation, the evidence for which may be sought 
in the testimony given by the consciousness of 
others (and this may or may not confirm what you 
believe you have discovered in your own conscious- 
ness), nor the method of modern psychology, the 
psychology which seeks the conditions of mental 
life in the study of the nervous system. 

Physiologists may rightly say to Herbart: You 
neglect and slight the function of the brain. At 
least you make very rare allusions to it. You forget 


that ideas are only conscious manifestations of 
molecular movements and vibrations of the cerebral 
masses. On the other hand, an objection may be 
raised by the spiritualists : You reduce to nothing 
the activity of the soul ; you leave it only the func- 
tion of King Log (roi faineant). In ascribing to ideas 
alone the duty of explaining mental movement, 
you annihilate the thinking subject. We can see 
how they come one after the other, brought in by 
the senses ; but there is no one to receive them. . . . 
Herbart is wrong on both counts. He eliminates 
at one stroke the double framework : the brain and 
the general consciousness, the material substance, 
and the intellectual principle of psychic phenomena. 
If " representations" pass back and forth in the mind 
like marionettes on the stage of a Guignol theatre, 
or Chinese shadows behind a screen, that is riot, as 
he thought, because of relationships between them. 
If they obey a settled order of succession, it is be- 
cause they are directed by an invisible hand; that 
is to say, either by the brain or by the soul. Thus, 
as M. Fouillee has expressed it: "A cloud in the sky 
does not take the form of a tower because it had 
previously the form of a mountain, but it took the 
two forms successively under the action of the wind 
which drives it." * 

1 M. Fouillee, L'tvolutionnisme des ide es-forces, p. 34. 


To convince oneself that the hypotheses of Her- 
bart are false, it suffices to confront them with a few 
facts from experience. Let us recall, for example, 
any moment of our lives when we felt a keen sorrow 
or great joy. Immediately after this emotional dis- 
turbance, whether painful or pleasant, is it not a 
fact that some interior force, the emotion still thrill- 
ing us, summons incessantly to consciousness ideas 
which correspond to our feeling, ideas connected with 
sorrow or pleasure? Is it possible that the mere 
resemblance of these ideas, whether sad or merry, 
to the idea dominating our mind, explains their 
union ? No ; what proves that the force of attrac- 
tion does not lie in the ideas alone, that its source 
must be sought where it resides, in an inner feeling, 
is the fact that the busiest occupations and repre- 
sentations, quite new and unlike, of such a nature 
as completely to turn aside the current of thoughts, 
do not hinder the wave of wretchedness or satis- 
faction from overtaking us again in the middle of 
cares of quite another kind. We may work, or we 
may seek distraction in vain, or even succeed for 
several hours in turning our attention to objects 
which have no relation to the happy or unhappy 
event which has disturbed our life, but that does 
not hinder the sorrowful or joyful ideas from gain- 
ing the ascendant again, at a moment when we 


are thinking least about them. What can be said, 
except that ideas do not control themselves by 
virtue of their relations ; that above them there is 
a hidden power which governs them, and which 
intervenes to disturb the order of their succession. 

Let us consider another case, recalling an ex- 
perience somewhat as follows : during hours of soli- 
tary meditation, when the senses were mute, even 
when we were controlling the stream of ideas with a 
strong hand, the thread of thought to use Herbart's 
expression was suddenly interrupted and cut short 
by an idea quite foreign to the matter which occupied 
us. An unexpected reminiscence, a landscape long 
ago passed from our vision, the image of some one we 
have not seen for years, these come and disturb 
us by their sudden apparition. They come from I 
do not know where, and they have no relation what- 
ever to the reflections which were absorbing us. An 
internal spring was touched, a latent activity of the 
imagination, or modification of the cellules of the 
brain, and caused a sleeping image to awaken. In > 
any case, the logical association of ideas does not 
hold good here, and the theory of Herbart regard- 
ing an intrinsic interlacing, a normal union of ideas, 
falls once more to the ground. 

But, true or false, the psychology of Herbart is 
the foundation of his pedagogy, and it is possible 


already to discern, according to what has just been 
said, what will be the general characteristic features 
of his system of education. 

In the first place, from a psychological intellec- 
tualism which explains the soul as consisting only 
of a series or a network of representations or ideas, 
arises a pedagogical intellectualism which makes 
instruction, that is, the acquisition of ideas, the only 
basis of education. Even the formation of charac- 
ter will depend on forming the intellect. There 
will be no manner of separation or scission between 
intellectual and moral education. The understand- 
ing will be the principle of the will, and actions will 
conform to ideas. 

A second consequence of this psychological em- 
piricism of Herbart is that the influence of education 
.sets up a claim to be considered omnipotent. Since 
^,the souls of men are originally alike, it depends 
bn education alone to form them. If there are no 
inborn intellectual tendencies which assist the 
educator, neither does the soul inherit vicious or 
adverse inclinations to hinder his efforts. He can 
write at will on the white pages of the child's 
understanding ; on this condition, however, that the 
supposition in the education of the solitary Emile 
is made actual, viz., that from his infancy only one 
master controls the pupil. The destiny of each 


individual depends on the grouping of ideas which 
the wisdom of his parents or the ability of his 
teachers has been able to bring about in his mind 
when a child. From this the conclusion inevitably 
follows that education is the mistress ruling the 
future of mankind; if, by a strange contradiction, 
Herbart did not restore to the body the innate pre- 
dispositions of which he was content to rob the soul, 
and attribute to the organism, the physical tem- 
perament, those individual characteristics, defects, 
or virtues, which sometimes favor the action of edu- 
cation, sometimes oppose it, and thus fix in a meas- 
ure the character and destiny of individuals in 
advance, now by over-exciting intellectual activity, 
now by checking it. "Bodily differences are re- 
flected in psychical manifestations." The body is 
the physiological obstacle, the hereditary enemy. 
It is to the body that individuality belongs. In 
consequence, Herbart does not indulge that simple 
illusion that one could produce geniuses or even 
talented men at will. He admits that the best 
education sometimes fails, that great men have edu- 
cated themselves, that men of moderate ability re- 
main such, in spite of all the efforts of their masters. 
None the less Herbart is warranted by his system 
as a whole in ascribing very great influence to edu- 
cation. In his pedagogy, therefore, he belongs to the 



believers, the men of faith. "Without the joyful 
hope inspired by meditating on youth, how could one 
overcome the benumbing impressions made by the 
idea that the world might remain always what it is 


A third point, and one of the most important: 
there can no longer be any question about the culti- 
vation of faculties in a system which denies that they 
exist. Although in current psychology " faculties" 
are no longer held to be anything beyond conven- 
tional terms, labels for connecting a series of phe- 
nomena, methods of education are none the less still 
in part adjusted to suit the old faculty theory. 
Hence we still witness examples of mischievous 
educational procedure. We speak, for example, of 
developing the memory as such, as if there were a 
memory independent of the successive ideas that 
enter consciousness. Regarding judgment and rea- 
son, the same is true. Who amongst us has not 
made sacrifice to this ancient prejudice of classic 
psychology? In that case it would then matter 
little what knowledges were used to cultivate the 
so-called faculties, whether or no they were inter- 
esting. Some science or other, arithmetic, for ex- 
ample, would be taught, not in order to know it, but 
to exercise the reasoning faculty. Herbart's posi- 
tion in this paramount and delicate question is alto- 


gether different. In his opinion, the knowledges are 
valuable onfy for themselves by reason of their 
intrinsic utility, and not for the doubtful profit 
which formal culture might claim to derive from 

It seems an argument on his side, that an aptitude 
acquired in one branch of knowledge does not appear 
applicable to studies in general, without losing any 
of its power and with like results, yet this should be 
the case if faculties really existed. Certain children 
have good memories at home and none at school. 
That would be enough to prove that there is no 
memory faculty applicable without distinction to 
all objects; that there are only groups of recollec- 
tions; hence we may have acquired with ease a 
knowledge series in a certain sphere, and be quite 
incapable of acquiring fresh knowledge in another 
field. A certain study cultivates the mind in a 
certain direction, not in all directions. 

In the same way we have known children who at 
twelve years of age gave clear proofs of the strength 
of their reasoning power in mathematical science; 
that was because they had just been studying, 
mathematics. Afterwards they neglected this study. 
They exercised their reason in other studies, histori- 
cal or philosophical. At eighteen years of age they 
found themselves quite unskilled in understanding 



mathematics. Herbart, then, has some reason to 
maintain that the general cultivation of hypotheti- 
cal faculties is absurd, that the only real education 
is such as furnishes the intellect with positive knowl- 
edge. As an English humorist has said, "The 
prescription for developing digestive power is not to 
chew elastic rubber, it is to grow strong on good 
beefsteaks." In the same way intellect is cultivated, 
not by purely formal and empty exercises, but by 
solid, substantial, and nourishing instruction. 

Let us note in the fourth place in Herbart's 
psychology an assumption of very wide bearing in 
pedagogy: his theory of "apperception," a term 
that has found favor in modern philosophy. It 
was not new, for Kant employed it to signify the 
elemental knowledge of self, anterior to all percep- 
tion. Herbart, however, gave it a different mean- 
ing. His apperception must be understood as 
applying to sense-perception, in so far as it is made 
clear and complete by representations already ac- 
quired by the mind. As a matter of fact, the new 
expression was, perhaps, not quite necessary; the 
term "conception" would have sufficed, if conception 
is, as sometimes defined, the apprehension of an 
object by the intellect. You look at a rose : your 
senses tell you its form, color, and convey to you 
its perfume. But with these simple, immediate, per- 


ceptions others are united that have been formerly 
acquired, and which are more or less distinct: 
that this small round thing, red or white, is called 
a rose, that you have seen others similar in other 
gardens, etc.; this is, then, an apperception. Mr. 
Stout, one of the commentators of Herbart who 
has given an excellent exposition of his psychology, 1 
has said that apperception is "the act by which a 
mental system appropriates a new element:" one 
might define it more clearly yet as the act by which 
ideas already acquired assimilate and incorporate 
a new idea. In consequence, they modify and alter 
the perception : whence it may be inferred that two 
persons never have an identical apperception of the 
same object. Above all, ideas facilitate or hinder 
the acquisition of knowledge : groups of ideas pre- 
viously acquired do or do not lend themselves to 
further acquisitions. From this way of conceiving 
the mind at work acquiring knowledge, Herbart 
derived the inspiration of some of his methods of 
teaching which do the most honor to his pedagogical 
insight, notably as regards the necessity of rendering 
the mind ready to receive instruction. In order 
that a new representative may be received into the 
circle of ideas, that it may find its way with ease 
and security amidst the network of knowledges, 

1 See Mind, 1888, 1889. 


the teacher, at the beginning of each lesson, must 
prepare the ground; he must, so to speak, summon 
up a mental escort into the presence of the newcomer 
to welcome and introduce him. In other words, 
the teacher must put before the child only such 
notions as can easily combine with those he already 
has, and thus form groups of ideas associated logi- 
cally and united strongly ; on this will depend not 
only wealth of mind but also strength and force of 
character. The old faculty psychology taught us that 
when pupils enter the class-room they had at their 
disposal an intelligence and memory quite ready to 
learn anything whatever. But this view is false; 
it is necessary to summon, to awaken and set in 
order, those ideas to which the topic selected for the 
day's lesson can be adjusted; we must eliminate and 
crowd out all preoccupations which might hinder 
the effect of the teacher's words, his instruction, from 
penetrating ; we must thus clear the road for distinct 
and fruitful apperception. 

If it was his own psychology which suggested to 
Herbart those processes in instruction which he 
extols, it also led to his definite conclusion regarding 
the preference to be given to public or to home edu- 
cation. He rejected the opinions of his master at 
Jena, the famous Fichte, as much in pedagogy as 
in philosophy. Fichte, having specially in view 


national and civic education, sketched his plans for 
regiments of young men in the gymnasiums ; Herbart, 
on the contrary, is concerned above all with the 
individual himself, with the man rather than with 
the citizen. He makes the reproach against the 
State as educator that it thinks only of preparing 
bureaucrats. Home education, if that were always 
possible, would be superior to all other. "That boy," 
said he, "is infinitely more accessible to the influ- 
ences of education who has been a long time educated 
by one person, especially if he has had the good for- 
tune to be educated by his mother." He was here 
recalling a personal experience. When a child passes 
from hand to hand, it is difficult for the masters 
who follow each other to establish authority over 
him. For the rest, Herbart recognized that domestic 
education is, as a rule, an unrealizable ideal, that 
the family is too much occupied otherwise to fulfil 
its duty in this respect, and besides it is often 
too noisy and gay to fulfil it well. But since 
parents must send away their children, let them 
at least be followed in thought, and never lost from 
view. These are truths worth recalling at a time when 
families abandon their children to the State more 
and more, and shift on to it the burden of caring for 
and educating their children. The great mischief 
of the public school, according to Herbart, is that it 


collects together children who are very different, 
unequal morally and intellectually, for the pur- 
pose of giving them a uniform education. Even 
supposing that all had in the beginning the same 
starting-point, they have already had time when 
they become scholars to undergo very different im- 
pressions, whether at home or in society, and these 
have modified their character and intellect. Hence 
the inferiority of public-school education, which, 
bending all heads under the same yoke, cannot 
mete out and adapt the rules of discipline and 
methods of instruction to the many and various 
aptitudes of the scholars as would a teacher in con- 
versation with a single child. No matter whether 
they are ailing or strong, it presents to them the same 
difficulties to conquer ; whether their pace is rapid 
or slow, it conducts them along the same road and 
in the same order. The disadvantage of public 
instruction is still more marked when, following 
the theory of apperception, we consider that in- 
struction can bring forth all its fruit only when the 
teacher knows how to impart it skilfully with all 
kind of precaution, adjusting it to the complicated 
network of ideas of which the intellect of each child 
is composed. 

A philosopher who, like Herbart, denies all innate- 
ness and mental heredity, would seem condemned, 


in consequence, to ignore the special and individual 
elements in human personality. But by reason of 
the influence ascribed by him to the physical or- 
ganism, an influence varying from one child to 
another, Herbart reestablishes the individuality, 
which his system appeared at first to compromise. 
To this subject he devotes long chapters. Hence 
he does not admit that to be an educator it is suffi- 
cient to have studied abstract psychology and its 
general principles. Since it is the individual that 
we have to educate, it is the individual that it is 
necessary to know. As an English humorist has 
said, it is not a matter of grinding in a pedagogical 
mortar the sixty pupils of a class of which John is a 
member, until they have been reduced, so to speak, 
to the state of a mass of uniform youth, in order 
to obtain the average. John is not a quotient; he 
is an actual individual being, who must be studied 
in his own character, with the virtues and faults 
which mark him off from all his comrades. 1 

From the writings of Herbart one could gather 
precious contributions for the psychology of the 
adolescent yet to be written, and which, when once 
in existence, will render not less service to the art and 
science of education than the psychology of the little 

1 John Adams, The Herbartian Psychology applied to Education, 
London, 1898. 


child. I mean a descriptive psychology, in which 
different temperaments will be distinguished, causes 
of their diversity analyzed, and then the means 
pointed out which should be used as remedy for the 
deficiencies or mental defects of youth according to 
the particular case. Herbart traced out the charac- 
teristic differences between children, and also those 
marking young men, with delicate insight. He 
deserves to be considered one of the forerunners 
of the science called "ethnology." He shows us, for 
example, children of a contradictory humor, " an in- 
tellect that always replies no," whom nothing suits, 
who mix with everything, as it were, a drop of bit- 
terness. With these morose and peevish natures, 
special precautions must be taken; in order to in- 
spire them with respect, or even fear, they should be 
subject to severe discipline. On the other hand, there 
are children who see everything rose-colored, and 
Herbart considers this superficial optimism also a 
kind of disease which needs appropriate attention. 
Herbart, like a good psychologist, had listened to 
doctors and health experts, and the question of 
physical temperament attracted and held his at- 
tention. He distinguished seven classes of tem- 
peraments four normal, three abnormal. Here are 
children muscularly feeble, but with a well-shaped 
head and active intellect. They prefer intellectual 


occupations to games and physical exercises. They 
are, as Plato would have said, " musicians "as opposed 
to "gymnasts." We must take books away from 
their hands, force them to play and be active. But 
the nature of the physical organism is not the only 
source of diversity of temperament. Circumstances, 
the conditions of education and life, may modify the 
primitive disposition. There are, for example, 
blunted temperaments which Herbart calls " Boeo- 
tians"; and this intellectual languor, this mental 
heaviness, is often the effect of the mode of life of 
the individual and of the habits he has contracted. 
Thus the peasant whose thoughts are imprisoned in 
a narrow and predetermined circle, whose imagina- 
tion passes regularly from seed-time to harvest, and 
harvest to seed-time, he is condemned by the yoke 
of his monotonous life, to become in every land a 
" Boeotian," whatever may have been the original 
wealth of his temperament. In the same way a 
child, naturally of very sweet temperament, will 
become, perhaps, irritable and cross under the in- 
fliction of repeated annoyances. The most san- 
guine and ardent man will succumb to melancholy 
if he is subjected to a kind of life which undermines 
his natural gayety. 

But it is impossible for us to follow Herbart's 
footsteps along all the roads whither his observant 


intelligence led him. Let it suffice to have shown 
the important place that his psychology holds in 
his system of education. Since Herbart's time, the 
assertion that psychology and pedagogy cannot 
mingle, that they are "like oil and water," is no 
longer admissible. Herbart employed his life and 
all his thinking-power to prove the contrary. 

That psychology is enough to prepare and form a 
teacher, however, cannot be said. The science of 
education can be the goal only of the whole range 
of research of the human mind. In order that 
pedagogy may at last leave behind the " gross 
empiricism" where it has so long languished, it must 
have recourse to all forms of knowledge; it will 
" erect its scaffold on a united group of all sciences." 
The educator will, then, be a theorist above all else, 
-a scholar, a philosopher. Nowhere else is the 
necessity of having wide philosophic views and 
broad general ideas so imperative as in pedagogy; 
for the hard daily toil imposed on teachers tends to 
narrow their horizon. 

Without theory, practice ends in routine ; but on 
the other hand, without practice, theory may lose 
itself in the clouds of abstraction. There is at one 
and the same time a science of education and an art 
of education. Herbart does not separate them. 
No one has understood better than he the complex 


and delicate conditions under which the teacher 
of infancy and youth is formed, what a heavy price 
he pays. No one has contributed more than he to 
discredit and destroy the traditional prejudice that 
the teacher is born, that a man is a professor by 
the grace of God. Too often it is imagined that to 
become a good schoolmaster it is enough to have 
knowledge and ability. Herbart believed, on the 
contrary, that skill, pedagogical efficiency, is ac- 
quired only by prolonged effort, that long practice 
and exercise are necessary, experience gained 
through failure as well as success ; at the same time 
there must be the continuous hard work involved 
in a philosophic investigation of the laws of edu- 

"It is by meditation," said he, "it is by reflection 
and research, it is through scientific study, that the 
educator must prepare his mind and heart to fit 
himself to conceive, feel, and judge rightly the par- 
ticular incidents, the special cases, which he must 
meet in his career as a teacher." 


THE pedagogy of Herbart is a whole world of 
thought, and a big volume would be necessary for an 
analysis and exposition covering the whole ground. 
There is not a question, whether of pedagogical 
theory or practice, which he has not attacked and 
solved. By the side of general notions, conceptions 
in which he delights to revel with exceptional power, 
he furnishes abundant special rules. He abounds 
in methods, processes, devices. He is not satisfied 
to skim over the surface of his subject; he descends 
to the details of a matter with minute accuracy. 
' Moreover, a brief exposition of the theories of 
Herbart is rendered difficult by his peculiar mode of 
thought. Some one has said, " We do not read Her- 
bart, we must study him." So one might say, 
"We do not make a synopsis of Herbart, we are 
forced to examine him thoroughly." His penetra- 
tive power makes him subtle, and at times his 
extreme abstraction renders him obscure. He 
analyzes beyond measure. His writings bristle 
with endless distinctions, divisions, subdivisions. 




His central thought is constantly overlaid with 
incidental considerations which hamper and con- 
ceal it. To use his own term, he does not suffi- 
ciently sharpen ' 'the point " of his ideas. He hardly 
makes any assertion without immediately gathering 
round it corrections and reservations. Doubtless, 
in the delicate matters of which he treats, there are, 
perhaps, modes of approximation to truth. All the 
same, one would like greater clearness, clearer-cut 
conclusions. At the beginning, the reader loses 
himself amid the twists and turns of his elaborated 
reflections. The first impression is painful, confus- 
ing, and even annoying. But provided we return 
to the study of the pages which at first repelled 
us, one becomes attracted, fascinated, and we be- 
gin to think we may become Herbartian. We end 
by moving at ease through the windings of thoughts 
which are endlessly complex, and of which we did 
not at first apprehend the strict logic. Diamonds 
are not less brilliant because effort must be exerted 
to separate them from their bed; so Herbart's ideas, 
some of them at least, do not appear less sound or 
less admirable, because they must be loosened from 
a somewhat rough case, and from the scholastic 
form in which he embodied them. Certainly in the 
thick growth of his theories there is more than one 
dead branch ; but these branches may fall and yet 


the trunk remain healthy and unshaken ; and when 
one is allowed to neglect those parts of his work 
which to-day are of interest only from the historic 
and curious point of view, there yet remain enough 
living ideas for it to be worth while to gather and 
bring them to the light. 

The governing idea of Herbart's pedagogy, the 
\ idea which should guide us if we wish to understand 
\ it, is that the foundation, the only foundation of 
' the whole of education, is instruction. There exist, 
then, no longer two distinct educations, an intellec- 
tual and a moral education, as those necessarily 
were tempted to believe who acknowledged distinct 
faculties, and who, in consequence, had to provide 
for the intellect, the senses, the will, and their sep- 
arate cultivation each by themselves. Above all, 
there is no education as distinct from instruction. 
No ; the mental nature is a unity, and consequently 
there is only one education, education by instruc- 
tion, or educative instruction. 

We are acquainted with the new force which the 
word " instruction" gains in Herbart's writings. To 
i instruct the mind is, he considers, to construct it. 
It is no longer a question, as under the old hypothe- 
sis of faculties bestowed by nature, of overlaying 
a more or less trustworthy memory, of causing 
literary or scientific knowledge to enter an under- 


standing more or less open. Knowledge is no longer 
a mental ornament, it is a mental element. Knowl- 
edge builds up and produces mind. According to 
the old theory, since mind existed prior to expe- 
rience, it conditioned the unity of consciousness. 
But if it is true that there is no intellect apart 
from successive ideas, henceforth we must seek the 
bonds that unite them in the cohesion, the interlac- 
ing of the ideas themselves. "Whatever is isolated," 
said Herbart, "is valueless." It is a consequence 
of this theory that instruction assumes a profound 
and delicate meaning, and that quite new duties 
are imposed on teaching; its office is no longer 
confined to developing the intellect, since it must 
create it, and since by the association, of memories, 
by regular " series" of ideas, those mental forces 
are aroused whence spring not only strength of 
intellect, but also strength of will. 

The essential condition of fruitful instruction is 
that it excites " interest" and attracts it. A peda- 
gogical theorist may be allowed to be dull (and it 
must be acknowledged that Herbart sometimes per- 
mits himself this), but the practical teacher, the 
schoolmaster, commits a fatal sin if he is dull; 
the first duty of a master is to be interesting. 

Interest is the watchword, the word to conjure 
with in Herbart's pedagogy. Just as in ethics he re- 


jects the categorical imperative, and as guide for 
souls seeking virtue he desires to substitute for the 
hard law of Kant the pure but arid bond of duty, 
the pleasant and attractive notion of the ideal, so 
in pedagogy he excludes constraint, and he tones 
down effort almost to the degree of suppressing it. 
" All is lost," said he, "if from the beginning we have 
been clumsy enough to make study a source of 
misery and torment." The charm of the true, 
like the charm of the good and of the beautiful, 
this is the chief principle of education. 

Interest (die Interesse) is the liking one may 
conceive for a thing, and that causes one to take 
pleasure in it. To interest is to arouse the hunger 
of the intellect. Let us mark well that its aim is 
not to amuse or divert, and make teaching into a 
play. Herbart marked himself off clearly from the 
educationists of his time, called " Philanthropists," 
who claimed to make of instruction a recreation. 
He will not have "soft pedagogy," or let a teacher 
stoop to construct an infantile world for his pupil. 
Interest, as he understood it, is at once the charac- 
teristic of things which captivates the attention, and 
a feeling of curiosity, of alertness and activity of 
intellect, manifested in the mind. The term inter- 
est, then, is two-faced; it belongs at the same time 
to the object which arouses the taste and the sub- 


ject in whom the taste is aroused. It is interest 
which is the spring of mental activity, the principle 
of intellectual life. It keeps the attention of the 
class centred on the lips of a skilful master, and like- 
wise fixes it and holds it to the observation of things 
that please them, or to carrying out attractive pieces 
of work to the end. The activity which Herbart 
denied to the soul itself, he revived under the form 
of interest ; for interest summons up old ideas, calls 
for new ones, and, in short, determines the move- 
ment of the intellect. 

There are, moreover, two fundamental sources of 
interest: first, the feeling of questioning attention > 
provoked by experience (Erfahrung), by the study 
of nature, and by the search for knowledge ; and ,-. 
also interest springing out of social life, the presence 
of human beings and communication with them 
(Umgang). Hence education, or instruction, must 
have a double aim: to give knowledge of things, 
and love of humanity. But Herbart divides only in 
order to subdivide; and the two forms of interest 
are each presented under three successive aspects. 

The interest belonging to knowledge has three ^ 
phases: empirical interest, speculative interest, 
and aesthetic interest. Empirical interest takes its u\ 
rise in the direct sense-perception of things, from 
variety amongst the concrete objects which nature 


or instruction presents to the wondering eyes of 
childhood. Speculative interest follows empirical: 
it has its source in prolonged reflection on the objects 
of experience, the need for an explanation of phe- 
nomena and inquiry into causes and effects. This 
type of interest is already manifest in the ever- 
recurring "why" of the child. It is the pleasure felt 
by the mind in understanding the reason for things, 
the laws of nature. To enjoy the sight of the sky 
studded with stars, that is empirical interest : to re- 
flect on the origin of the stars, on the causes of their 
movements, that is speculative interest. Finally, 
^ it aesthetic interest is fed by the contemplation of 
beauty in nature, in works of art, or in moral actions. 
To this kind of interest Herbart gave a large share 
of his attention. He claimed that sesthetic taste 
should be cultivated early, as the source of the purest 
joys that life reserves for mankind, that it should 
be cultivated in every child without exception, re- 
gardless of the social rank to which he belongs; for 
the day will come and it is our duty to try to 
hasten that day when the artisan will be in his own 
fashion an artist, and when beauty will become the 
charm and enchantment of existence for every one. 
Turning now to the interest occasioned, not by 
knowledge, but by human relationships, which the 
child derives from his environment, his relation to 


his fellows, in his family, in the school, in church, 
and in society, this also appears wider under three 
distinct aspects. In the first place, there is sym- 
pathetic interest, the interest the chijd feels when it 
takes part in the joy or grief of the people who 
surround him: this is developed at home, in the 
social life of the school. In the second place, there is 
social interest, an extended form of family sympathy 
or school comradeship; it springs from reflection 
on the important facts about social cooperation; 
it is the root of philanthropy, of all the social virtues, 
of what to-day we call human solidarity. Finally, 
religious interest is the crown, the last rung of the 
ladder which the human mind ascends to reach 
complete living, and to exercise its activity in the 
fullest way. Herbart, who would not have religion 
excluded from education, declared that the order of 
the world would remain unintelligible, if one did not 
admit that a divine spirit has presumably willed 
and conceived its plan, and a divine power realized 
it. Yet however incomprehensible and undefinable, 
God appears to Herbart as "the father of man- 
kind " ; and it is in the feeling of filial respect that 
the first elements of religious humility, of divine 
veneration and adoration, germinate in the child's 
heart. "God is thought of by the child as the 
father of his father and mother." 


Not one of the six forms of interest just enumer- 
ated may be neglected. In schools of the lowest as 
well as of the highest rank, all these sources of mental 
activity must be either simultaneously or successively 
drawn upon ; each must gush forth in a stream of 
ideas that the soul may be filled. Interest is, in 
all kinds of study, a necessary condition of mental 
fruitfulness and value; and manifold interest, "a 
many-sided interest" (Vielseitigkeit des Interesse), 
is not less demanded, in order that education may 
reach its end and correspond with the high calling 
of man. What Herbart requires, is that minds 
should be broad and wide, awake to everything, 
active in every direction, that the intellect should 
have, so to speak, "many sides/' and should, in con- 
sequence, escape exclusiveness, the great stumbling- 
block to a complete plan of education. 

This exclusiveness, in other terms narrow-minded- 
ness, is the inevitable consequence of education when 
it develops only one type of interest. It is evident, 
for example, that a mind will remain imperfect and 
limited if it is confined to speculative or religious 
interest without room being made for sympathetic 
interest. The understanding will then be hard, and 
the soul without heart. Hence how often must 
we acknowledge a kind of insensibility regarding 
affairs of the world in men whose religious devotion 


leads to asceticism, or in scholars who let themselves 
be entirely occupied in meditation, and who spare 
no glances for what is passing around them. On 
the other hand, the exigencies of practical life too 
often lead men to shut themselves up in their pro- 
fession or trade; a grave error; a profession should 
not isolate a man. However much a man's own 
occupations may play the tyrant over him, he should 
not remain unconcerned and a stranger to the oc- 
cupations of others. His interest should extend to 
the labors of all his fellows. When an individual 
wraps himself up in himself, a frost penetrates his 
egoistic soul; it then warms itself only at one 
hearth, that of personal well-being. The true destiny 
of each man is to take interest in everything human, 
and, so to speak, to bear and to honor all humanity 
in himself. 

Further, the mischievous effect of exclusiveness 
does not emanate only from the fact that some of 
the six forms of interest are sacrificed in order that 
the man may devote himself entirely to the others. 
Each of them tends to develop special tastes in its 
own domain, and these lead to intellectual or moral 
excesses, against which education cannot strive too 
strongly. Thus it may happen that empirical, or 
speculative, or aesthetic interest may be centred on 
one favorite study, and this causes all others to be 


neglected; one may wish to be only a botanist or 
zoologist, or mathematician, or metaphysician, 
painter, or musician. Sympathetic interest, in the 
same way, may unite the child only to his parents, 
or to his school or comrades. In the same way, 
again, social interest may fall into regrettable ex- 
clusiveness, when it inspires passionate attachment 
to any special political party, to which the man is 
given up to such a degree that he measures every- 
thing by its value to the party. Finally, even 
religious interest has a tendency also to mutilate the 
soul, when it induces a believer in religion to despise, 
and even perhaps to hate, all those who do not think 
with him, and who belong to other faiths. 

Many-sided interest, then, is the safeguard of a 
broad, well-balanced education, the only kind which 
can guarantee fulness of mind and heart. It is true 
that if wide interests save and preserve the soul from 
partiality and narrowness, they expose it to another 
danger, that of enfeebling it by dispersion. Wealth 
may result in weakness: the calyx of a flower is 
broken by trying to enlarge it too much. But 
Herbart thinks it will be possible to steer clear of 
this rock, if, through an equal division of the dif- 
ferent interests, balance is maintained, and if we 
can unify the subjects by coordinating them and 
strictly systematizing them. 


It must be acknowledged that Herbart's goal is 
very high. What more desirable, if it were possible, 
than to call upon all men to slake their thirst at 
every source of interest, that is to say, to profit by 
all forms of instruction, all the subjects taught? 
But how could one single man accomplish a task 
so immense ? Herbart has sketched his fascinating 
picture not from the individual, but from humanity 
as a whole, its collective activity exerted in different 
directions. In practical life time passes too rapidly, 
school life is too short, professional necessities too 
urgent, to entirely escape the inevitable specializa- 
tion and limitation, to indulge the hope in the educa- 
tion of the individual, of attaining to the universality 
of interests and tastes which would be perfection, 
but which remains, unhappily, an inaccessible ideal. 

However that may be, interest, wherever it can 
serve as agent in exciting mental activity, is subject 
to certain delicate conditions which it is important 
for us to analyze. Herbart proposes, first of all, a 
new distinction, and a very true one. There is a 
"direct," and an "indirect" interest. Only the 
first is really fruitful. Indirect interest, which we 
impose on the child through praise and blame, 
through exhortation and threats, through hope of 
reward and fear of punishment, just because it is 
commanded and imposed, leaves the mind in a 

OU H r j r\, H A r\. J. 

relatively passive condition. It necessitates an 
effort, sometimes a painful effort, and Herbart dis- 
likes effort. It corresponds to the kind of attention 
which he improperly calls voluntary (artificial would 
be a more correct designation), and which, in hi3 
opinion, is not the best. " In the case of children, 
the desire to be attentive is uncertain and waver- 
ing, and in the effort which they make to maintain 
it, they expend part of their strength, thus injuring 
the smoothness and clearness of their perceptions." 
We must not have recourse to indirect interest, 
except when it is impossible to do otherwise, for 
example, in oral lessons and in memory exercises, 
which have no attraction in themselves, but are, 
nevertheless, indispensable ; for Herbart rightly con- 
siders that in every study some parts must be 
learnt by heart. 

Direct interest is the true interest; it springs 
spontaneously from the things themselves, from the 
knowledge which the child gathers from his daily 
experience at home and in school, and from interest 
which wells up naturally from pleasant sensations 
and skilled instruction; these captivate the mind 
and hold it prisoner, while at the same time they 
arouse, inspire, and quicken it. 

With this direct interest is united voluntary at- 
tention, which at bottom is nothing but curiosity: 


the need of understanding, the desire to see and 
know. Only, in the theory of Herbart, curiosity, 
which the old psychology considered an instinct of 
the intellect aspiring spontaneously after knowl- 
edge, becomes merely the result of interest. We are 
justified in saying it is provoked, rather than for 
holding it fully spontaneous. 

Herbart has thrown the most vivid light on the 
doctrine of attention. On the whole, he is in agree- 
ment with modern psychologists, who, like Ribot, 
maintain that the cause of attention is always some 
emotional condition. Interest, in fact, which keeps 
the mind alert, must be regarded as an emotional 
condition, since it provides pleasure and renders 
study agreeable. 

But this involuntary and natural attention, which 
Ribot says is "the true and fundamental form of 
attention," 1 may, according to Herbart, cover two 
distinct forms: it is either "primitive" or "apper- 

Primitive attention depends on the strength of 
sensations. The mind becomes the immediate prey, 
as it were, of vivid sense impressions. Hence Her- 
bart, following Pestalozzi, accords a large place 
to intuition, that is to say, to the direct perception 
of sounds, colors, forms. The presentation of the 

1 Ribot, The Psychology of Attention, p. 3. 


objects themselves is worth more than an image 
representing them, because it strikes and stirs the 
mind to a greater degree by conquering the atten- 
tion ; and the image is worth more, in its turn, than 
a verbal description. 

But in instruction the principal role is played by 
involuntary attention of the second degree, by ap- 
perceptive attention. This theory of apperception 
is the most interesting innovation in Herbart's psy- 
chology, and the application he has made of it in 
education is the luminous point in his pedagogy. 
Apperceptive attention has its origin not in the 
excitement caused by sensations emanating from 
the outside, but from representations previously 
acquired, these being aroused by the approach of a 
new representation which has points of contact 
and attachment with the former. Existing ideas, 
asleep in the soul, mount guard, as it were, around 
consciousness, ready on the one hand to repulse 
ideas which do not meet with approval, or at least 
to let them pass by with indifference; on the other 
hand, disposed to welcome those which appear 
as friends, bearing marks, so to say, which will 
render intimacy and union easy. Ideas already 
assimilated by the mind prepare for new assimila- 
tions. Like so many magnetized points they at- 
tract those ideas which ask to enter consciousness, 


making it a condition that these, in their turn, shall 
be affinity between what is already known and what 
is going to be learnt. 

This way of viewing mental progress and the 
increase of knowledge is big with pedagogical con- 
sequences. Apperceptive attention should be active 
during the whole period of study. It illuminates 
every part of instruction. Interest will favor it 
~a'hd come to its assistance ; it is from the theory of 
apperception, combined with that of interest, that 
Herbart evolves the greater part of his methods of 

Thus, his first recommendation is that the teacher 
should not present to the child anything quite new 
to him. We must not teach ex abrupto. There 
must always be connective links and relations be- 
tween what one is now teaching and what has been 
previously taught. New impressions, suddenly 
made, create intellectual disturbance, produce violent 
sensations of shock. The links of consciousness are, 
in consequence, broken, the movement of mind 
checked. There is no true instruction except when 
a new notion is introduced exactly in its right 
place in the series of notions already fixed, when 
it forms one of the loops in the tissue, one of 
the rings in the chain. A mind cannot be dis- 
cerned at all amid a mere collection of fragmentary 


pieces of knowledge, a heap of stones placed haphaz- 
ard one upon another. Mind derives its substance 
only from the coherence of the ideas it contains ; it is 
like a mosaic, of which all the little stones are closely 
adjusted and tightly compacted together to form a 
complete structure. 

Since old knowledge must blaze the pathways for 
new knowledge, the point of departure for regular 
instruction is none other than the personal ex- 
perience of the child: all that he has learnt by 
himself, at home or at school, in his walks or play. 
School lessons only intervene to supply the gaps in 
this slender and limited experience ; this it is which 
supplies the true starting-point for the teacher's 
efforts. Knowledge of nature and of humanity 
began for the child in his first manifestations of 
interest, empirical interest and sympathetic interest ; 
and it is by utilizing the beginnings of spontaneous 
instruction that the teacher will succeed in inspiring 
a taste for the sciences, insuring a full instruction, a 
many-sided and harmonious culture: on the one 
hand, those natural sciences with which Herbart 
associated mathematics, and on the other, the sci- 
ences of humanity, history, languages, and literature. 

When once school studies have begun, many pre- 
cautions should be taken to facilitate the play of 
apperceptive attention and to sustain interest. The 


general rule, which Herbart holds to be the chief 
rule, is that the teacher, before beginning to instruct, 
should busy himself with placing the minds of his 
pupils within the circle of ideas related to the special 
subject in hand. The pupils come to the class in a 
mood of indifference or mental distraction. They 
are no longer thinking of the studies of yesterday; 
they have forgotten them. At home and in the 
street they have been thinking of other things, and 
during their recreation their minds have been 
wandering. It is, then, necessary to bring them 
back to the line of thought, to prepare them to 
profit by the lesson. Their intellect is not like a 
clean slate upon which chalk will write any ex- 
pressions whatever without difficulty. In the first 
place, let all ideas, all preoccupations, be excluded 
from their minds which might bar the way to the 
knowledge which we are going to put before them. 
And next, let us awaken those ideas which, since 
they are related to the approaching lesson, will 
render a comprehension of it more sure and easy. 
Representations which are asleep in the mind are 
like the force which sleeps in an electric current: 
turn a button, and light leaps forth. But to cause 
light to spring forth in the intellect, that is to 
say, to awaken interest and fix attention, is not so 
simple an operation. The master will have recourse 


to various expedients. In the first place, he will 
take care that the topic which he selects is con- 
nected with those that he has treated previously. 
It would be dangerous to jump suddenly from one 
subject to another. Concepts that have taken pos- 
session of the soul do not willingly yield their place 
to intruders. In the next place, in order that the 
connection which exists amongst the subjects studied 
may be established also in the mind that studies 
them, the master will take pains from the very 
beginning of to-day's lesson to recall the ideas pre- 
sented in yesterday's lesson. He will announce and 
recapitulate beforehand what is going to be said, 
and also what is going to be read. Then, thanks to 
all these precautions, and above all, if he knows 
how to express himself simply and vividly, as Her- 
bart counsels, in popular language, avoiding the use 
of too many new and technical words, he will succeed 
in arousing curiosity and a kind of expectation. 
Thus the intellect of the pupil, inclined in the right 
direction, will be disposed to listen, and the instruc- 
tion, thrown on to a well-prepared soil, will bear 
the fruit which he expected. 

The above are, however, only the preliminary steps 
in the scientific (too scientific) system of didac- 
tics expounded by Herbart. On the ' ' moments " and 
"modes" of instruction, on the order of the studies, 


he held views that are extremely complicated; 
nevertheless, of these we must try to give some 
notion. Seeing that these courses of instruction are 
now a hundred years old, they consist, no doubt, 
largely of lifeless abstractions, of empty generaliza- 
tions, set forth with minute but fruitless attention 
to order. Yet sometimes, when you have cracked 
the shell of the almond and taken away its rough 
envelope, you find solid and palatable fruit, on 
which you feast with pleasure. 

According to Herbart, there are four moments or 
steps to pass in instruction. Since he himself felt 
that the distinction he draws is not very clear, he 
varies and multiplies expressions to distinguish these 
stages, without finding possible fitting and exact 
terminology. Thus, for instance, he says that the 
four stages of instruction are clearness, association, 
systematizationj and method. Elsewhere, translating 
his thoughts into other terms, he proves that teach- 
ing should successively show, associate, teach, and 
philosophize. Some of Herbart's disciples, little 
satisfied with this terminology, in their turn hold 
that distinction must be made between intuition, 
comparison, abstraction or generalization, and finally, 

From another aspect, to complete the description of 
Herbart's scheme-table, if there are four moments or 


periods in instruction, there are three modes, or three 
methods, to be used, more or less, during each of the 
four moments of instruction ; viz., descriptive method, 
analytic method, and finally, synthetic method. 

Let us say it at once : the mistake of Herbart, as 
of all philosophers who carry abstraction too far, 
is to desire to subject the differences amongst real 
things to an arbitrary and fictitious unity, and in 
consequence to establish amongst studies an in- 
flexible and unbending order. Is it quite certain, 
as Herbart believed, that all branches of instruction, 
instruction consisting of concrete facts, such as 
natural history and geography, instruction by reason- 
ing, such as geometry and algebra, lend themselves 
to a uniform and unvarying treatment? How can 
the course of instruction be always the same, when 
the roads to be pursued are so different ? Since, for 
the construction of the sciences there are profoundly 
distinct methods, how can there be only one for 
instruction in them? Herbart, like Pestalozzi, 
" mechanics" instruction. He plans the order of 
lesson-giving on an invariable pattern ; and by dint 
of commands, prescriptions, regulations, he runs the 
risk of compromising the originality of the teacher 
and the spontaneity of the scholar, of suppressing, 
in short, life and liberty in instruction. 

1. On certain points, however, it is impossible not 


to agree with Herbart; for example, in regard to 
what concerns the first step in instruction, clear- 
ness. We must comprehend in that all the light 
that a direct view, "intuition," in a word, throws 
on a subject. Intuition is the prelude necessary for 
every study, and Herbart speaks of it with enthu- 
siasm. Intuition, he says, opens before the child's 
eyes large and vast spaces : his gaze, when it has 
recovered from its first surprise, distinguishes, ana- 
lyzes, associates, is active in every way ; then it stops, 
it rests, and then begins again. Touch, and the 
other senses now act in their turn. Sensations are 
multiplied, ideas come in a crowd, experiences 
begin and bring new thoughts: " Everywhere there 
is life, life full and free, everywhere delight in be- 
holding the multitude of scenes which are unfolding 
themselves before the child." 

But to the free intuition of the earliest years 
should succeed the intuition, so to speak, of the 
learner, the intuition provoked by the teacher. 
Thus, in teaching history, we shall make use of every 
means for representing to the eyes by way of sensa- 
tion the things belonging to the past : portraits of 
great men, images, and pictures, walks through 
museums, visits to monuments, to ruins of ancient 
castles, not forgetting the reading of works contem- 
poraneous with the epoch studied, especially poems, 


for these illuminate the bald narrative of facts. In 
geography, the district where teacher and scholar 
reside, and the surrounding neighborhood, will be 
the point of departure, and from this, little by little, 
the horizon of the imagination will stretch right 
across the world. In physics, before any direct 
teaching, we must cause the children to observe the 
simplest of the natural phenomena; we shall point 
out to them mills and the movements of the clock; 
we shall give them electric toys. In natural science 
we shall accustom them to make collections of plants 
and insects; if they cannot see the animals them- 
selves, we shall put into their hands books with 
pictures representing the zoological types; before 
talking of the tiger, we shall make them recall what 
they know of the cat. There is no science, not even 
the science of mathematics, in which this intuitive 
initiation is not both necessary and possible: we 
shall let the children practise measuring distances, 
counting objects ; in geometry, we shall develop their 
imagination by constructive plays. And this prepa- 
ration through the senses for abstract reasoning in 
the future will begin very early. Herbart required 
that even in the child's cradle, different models 
of triangles l should be put before his eyes, the form 

1 Herbart substituted the triangle for Pestalozzi's square, as 
elementary geometric form. 


being made with brightly shining nails, which would 
attract and fix his gaze. 

It was perhaps superfluous after Pestalozzi, it 
certainly is so after Herbart, to recommend intuition 
and object-lessons. But Herbart has this special 
merit, that he sets forth clearly in detail every ques- 
tion which he examines; he specifies everything 
with remarkable exactitude. At this point, for in- 
stance, he takes pains to observe that on the one 
hand, immediate intuition is always cut short in 
some direction or other, since it is closed in by the 
limits of time and space; it must, therefore, be 
completed by description; and, on the other hand, 
intuition is always complex, the object being com- 
posed of different elements ; it must, then, be rendered 
clear and simple by analysis. 

Herbart attaches great significance to the method 
of description. When the child has seen all that he 
can see, it is necessary for the teacher to enlarge the 
circle of his ideas by relating to him historical events, 
by talking to him of regions which he cannot ex- 
plore; he must extend the child's experience in 
space by descriptions, in time by narrations. 
Herbart far prefers oral exposition to the narrations 
and written descriptions that abound in books, 
provided that the teacher can manifest some skill 
in speech. In order that the description of a coun- 


try, the recital of an event, should interest and lay 
hold of the mind, the teacher must know how to 
put color and life into it ; to do this he must borrow 
analogies and comparisons from objects known and 
already familiar to the child. Intuitive elements 
should mingle, as far as it is possible, continually in 
instruction. We should be careful to arrange for an 
agreement and easy union between what is recounted 
or described and the facts of experience. For ex- 
ample, in history lessons, we should not carry the 
imagination back to a far-distant past all in a trice ; 
we should cause it to ascend gradually to events 
that happened not very long ago, by following the 
life-thread of aged people who surround the child. 
A well-given historical description should cause, in a 
way, an illusion of present time ; and we must bring 
about this result, that the pupil imagines that he 
really sees, that he has before his eyes, the people 
and the events about which we are talking to him. 
I Analysis, like description, is a mode of teaching, 
and one cannot do without it even during the first 
period of instruction. It is necessary for the purpose 
of disentangling the confused mass or, so to speak, 
the chaos of intuitions which the child has accumu- 
lated. However clear and captivating these intui- 
tions as a matter of fact may be, they are never 
absolutely simple; complex and entangled, they 


have invaded in confusion the mind of the child, who 
sees and looks, but does not know how to observe. 
If impressions arising from the free experience of 
the child have the advantage of being personal and 
vivid, they have the defect of following one another 
without order, of being mixed up, confused one 
with another; they float in the mind at haphazard, 
without logical connection. It is the province of 
analytic instruction to remedy this twofold mischief. 
In the first place, it is analysis which will distinguish ^ 
and arrange diverse intuitions by singling out the 
objects from which they have been derived; which 
will help the child to make, so to speak, an inventory 
of his intuitive knowledge of the wealth which he 
has thus far appropriated. In the second place, 
analysis will decompose each intuition ; it will make 
out a list of its elements, and will enumerate the 
qualities even of these elements, such as number 
and form. Analytic instruction is then, as it were, ~~*f*< 
the first step of instruction; it should introduce" 
every exposition of a didactic nature. The teacher 
intervenes then only with a view to leading his 
pupil to see himself in his own experiences; the 
inverse of what takes place in synthetic instruction, 
when the teacher transmits knowledge which tran- 
scends the scholar's own experience, either in the 
world of nature or in the life of mankind. Let us 


add that analysis has to play more than one role 
in order to unravel the bundle of primary intuitions ; 
it will be found useful and necessary during all the 
steps of instruction. However different it is from 
synthesis, neither mode of instruction should ex- 
clude the other ; the two should always be associated. 
2. The second "moment " of instruction is that of 
association, work in comparing which leads the stu- 
dent to apprehend the relations between intuitions. 
From this time, the extension given to experience by 
descriptions, thanks to experience, are broad and 
numerous; thanks to analysis, they are clearly 
defined. The ground is thus well prepared for the 
ascent to general ideas; these become detached as 
isolated notions approach each other. Pestalozzi 
was little but a "man of intuitions/' incapable of 
generalizing with exactitude. Herbart, on the 
contrary, said of himself that he was "a man of 
concepts"; that is to say, of general notions. And 
all instruction worthy of the name presupposes this 
ascent of the intellect from the particular to the 
general, from intuition to concept. Thought, in- 
deed, has no real existence, so long as it is limited 
to gathering particular notions; it must lead to 
the conception of rules, laws, principles. Kant 
had already said, "Concepts without percepts are 
empty, but percepts without concepts are blind." 


In every concrete reality there is embodied an 
abstract notion which must be disengaged, the 
universal and essential must be extracted from 
the unity of individual things. The second effort of 
instruction must aim at forming such concepts, and 
here again it will not be a question of formal instruc- 
tion. The best method is that of conversation and 
interrogation. The child will be practised in finding 
similarities and relations, amongst the notions which 
he possesses, for himself. If he makes a mistake, 
and if he lets himself be deceived by relations more 
apparent than real, he must be set right. It is in 
the act of guiding him that we shall lead him gradu- 
ally to conceive for himself abstract and general 

3. It is more troublesome to render an account 
of the third step in instruction, the step described 
as systematization. It would seem, however, that 
Herbart means by that a systematic exposition given 
by the teacher. Here the synthetic method at last 
appears. Until now the master has kept the pupil 
contributing, and has confined himself to guiding 
him in his business of analysis and generalization, 
while teaching him how to develop and define what 
was already in his mind. Now he expounds at 
greater length ; he teaches what the pupil could not 
discover for himself. And how much wise, practical 


advice might we gather from the works of Herbart 
on this part of instruction, if space permitted ! For 
example, he puts the teacher of history on his guard 
against an error common amongst beginners, of being 
"diffuse," of losing himself amongst details. In 
geography he requires an exposition of facts after 
the manner of travellers, that is to say, in exact 
and vivid language. From all teachers, in short, he 
asks vivid and attractive instruction. Whatever 
may be his confidence, a confidence somewhat 
bigoted in the mechanical efficiency, so to speak, 
of the methods he suggests, he upholds the personal 
qualities of the teacher ; he requires of him talent, 
that he be a good speaker. He knows how deadly 
is the abuse of a dogmatic instruction which fetters 
the activity and initiative of the child. Such instruc- 
tion he compares most ingeniously to a long, fine, 
and flexible thread, which is broken by the striking of 
the clock at school, and knotted together again when 
the clock strikes afresh; which, unwinding slowly 
year by year, fastens and binds the child, without 
leaving him either freedom of movement or repose 
of mind. Moreover, synthetic instruction must be 
employed with discretion, and it must be made 
living and fruitful by constant return to perception, 
to experience. "To desire to shut out experience 
and social life, in order to confine the child in a class- 


room, condemning it to find instruction from books 
alone, or from the dull lessons of a master, this," 
said Herbart forcibly, "is to affirm that one can 
do without the bright light of the day and be 
satisfied with the feeble glimmer of a candle." 

4. The four moments of instruction overlap and 
complete each other. The last is the inverse of the 
first three, which had the common feature of pre- 
paring for and developing theoretic instruction; it 
brings us back to practice. For the rest, one cannot 
see why, in the strange terminology of Herbart, 
the word "method," or the term "to philosophize," 
is introduced into the business at all. 1 The last 
stage is, in fact, only an affair of application or 
of practical exercises. The teacher has finished his 
lesson, he is silent. It now behooves the pupil to 
again do something, to show by his personal work 
that he has profited by the instruction which he has 
received, that he can move at ease amongst the 
notions now acquired, that he can handle them 
successfully, that he is ready to use them profitably. 
He will show this in reviewing them, in original com- 
positions, in the solution of problems, or in various 

1 It is true that Herbartians sometimes interpret this fourth 
operation in a sense which may justify the expression " to philoso- 
phize" ; it then consists in uniting the particular subject of the les- 
son to the general system, and to the whole circle of knowledge 
of the same kind. 


kinds of written exercise. Here, as always, uniting 
his theory with advice regarding technical details, 
Herbart tells us that written exercises should not be 
too long, too easy, or too difficult; that we must not 
impose on our pupils too heavy tasks to be done at 
home; that compositions will be of service only if 
they are based "on a rich store of exact ideas," 
which have already been placed at the pupil's 

But let us stop before we exhaust the subject. 
We have said enough to make both the virtues and 
defects of the pedagogy of Herbart plain before all 
eyes. We cannot deny to him the merit of having 
constructed a complete system, with relationships 
well planned, full of symmetry, all the parts holding 
together, leaving no gaps. We certainly do not 
do justice to this vast conceptual whole when we 
limit ourselves to presenting in a short and dry 
review only the skeleton of a mighty and very Active 
organism. To appreciate Herbart's pedagogy ac- 
cording to its merits, it is necessary to turn to the 
original sources. But we must yet recognize that 
Herbart, in his laborious effort, has sometimes 
taken great pains to say over again in systematic 
form truths known to all the world. It will be 
readily granted that in his pedagogy there are su- 
perfluous arguments and a measure of artificiality. 


How can we resign ourselves to thinking that such 
a complicated method, such rigorous regulations, are 
the last word in the art of educating human beings, 
that the mind must be enmeshed by the inflexible 
threadwork of the manifold operations of the four 
"moments" of instruction, and that, in a word, edu- 
cation must cost all this ? Is it not possible that 
Herbart has confused the course of instruction with 
the evolution of science ? Science, indeed, takai its 
rise in experience, advances next to general laws, 
and finally coordinates its generalizations in a 
system embracing all science. But to form and 
instruct a mind, is that necessary which builds 
science ? Notice besides that according to Herbart 
the four periods of instruction ought to reappear 
invariably in every study. What ! even in reading 
and writing ? In each of his lessons, and within the 
time-limit of class instruction, the teacher must 
pass always through four successive series of exer- 
cises. 1 That is absolutely impossible. 

1 In one of the very interesting discussions conducted by Pro- 
fessor Chabot with the pupils of the normal schools of Lyons, we 
made notes of a lesson-plan prepared according to Herbartian 
method: Subject of the lesson, "Courage" : (1) First stage of in- 
struction, clear ideas or perceptions : an act of courage by a pupil 
of the school or an inhabitant of the town, who, for example, has 
thrown himself into the water to effect a rescue, who has stopped a 
horse, etc. (2) Second " moment," comparison : other courageous 
acts will be put side by side before the mental vision of the pupils 


We have not said all, far from it, nor have we 
pointed out all the refinements in the pedagogical 
instruments of Herbart. We have not spoken of 
"reflection" nor of "concentration," two opera- 
tions of the mind which he expressly distinguishes : 
concentration (Verliefung), of which the disciples 
of Herbart make great use, consists in uniting all 
subordinate ideas to one chief idea; for instance, 
grouping all the events of an epoch around one great 
historical name ; reflection (Besinnung), calling forth 
again ideas already imprisoned in consciousness; 
nor of ideas "called forth" or "spontaneous" ideas, 
the former demanding an effort, and appearing 
chiefly during lessons, the latter being freely self- 
aroused in consciousness; nor yet of syntheses 
that unite, and syntheses that construct. . . . 
We should never end. Herbart is the father of that 
heavy and pedantic methodizing which has caused 

with this particular act, acts of which they have heard reports, 
those of soldiers on the battle-field, firemen at a fire, doctors in an 
epidemic, etc. (3) Third "moment," system: courage in gen- 
eral is defined. (4) Fourth "moment," method or "philosophiz- 
ing" : courage, the particular virtue, is united with the whole group 
of virtues; or, if the other interpretation of the fourth stage of 
instruction, as marked by Herbart, is adopted, the pupil will 
be asked how, in such or such a given circumstance, he himself 
would show his courage. See, also, in the Revue pedagogique of 
June 15, 1903, an article in which M. Chabot explains the manner 
in which M. de Sallwiirk applies Herbart' s method in a liberal 


the production of so many big, useless, and fruitless 

But, to compensate, how many useful researches 
has he not inspired? He has forced a legion of 
disciples to reflect; some are fervent and docile, 
others are independent, and in their turn innovators. 
If he has not succeeded in establishing a definite 
system of instruction, he has at least proved the need 
of one. If he has applied and misapplied the ideas 
of connectedness and unity, that was not in order 
to establish mechanical teaching ; it was, on the con- 
trary, to penetrate to that well of life, interest, in- 
terest which can be maintained only by connected- 
ness of ideas. Advance in instruction, indeed, is 
measured by this : that new ideas penetrate deeply 
into the mass of already existing ideas. Thus, 
although girt about, as it were, with a formid- 
able armor of logic, the theory of Herbart is sim- 
ple, wise, and well-balanced. He is, more than all 
else, a man of a free spirit, who, within the rigid 
lines of his method, desires to introduce life and 
movement. Was it not he who said that a man could 
work serviceably in the education of others only 
on condition of working at the same time at his own 
education ? He desires young and enthusiastic edu- 
cators. Away with melancholy and morose disposi- 
tions. Education is not the business of such men. 


Herbart would have been unfaithful to his prin- 
ciples, and to the idea of " manifold interests/ 7 if 
he had narrowed the field of studies open to the 
child. He did not discuss, like Herbert Spencer, J 
the question of finding out " which kind of knowledge [ 
is the most worth." He did not ask it, because he 
admits that all are necessary to form a complete 
man. He is already on the side of the theory of 
an all-round education. And as well as seeing in 
this universality of studies the condition of mental 
equilibrium, he has yet another" reason for recom- 
mending it, one of the gravest reasons: education 
has no right to hinder or limit in advance a man's 
future activity, and in consequence to narrow the 
attention of a child by keeping it on special studies. 

Shall we object that the intelligence of all pupils 
does not lend itself equally well to all kinds of instruc- 
tion? No; for Herbart considers that no study is 
above the reach of children, if one knows how to 
choose the opportune moment for beginning it, if 
one takes care to begin early,"to present it skilfully, 
according to the law of evolution natural to the 
mind. It is an illusion to believe, for instance, that 
mathematical aptitude is naturally more rare than 
any\pther. It is so, in fact, because preparatory 
elementary work has been too much delayed and 


Every subject, then, should be taught, as 
Comenius already desired, and all subjects to all 
children in all schools. The same subjects for in- 
struction will appear on the programme except 
Latin and Greek in primary schools as in the 
schools for secondary instruction. There should be 
no difference in the nature of the studies from one 
grade to another of education; that should occur 
only in their proportion. The same things should be 
taught everywhere, but in the school only the surface 
be skimmed; in the gymasium (grammar or high 
school) the depths should be sounded. 

The concrete, positive sciences, realien, the 
Germans call them, the humanities, equally with 
the natural sciences, are the basis of instruction. 
The study of ancient languages is not an essential 
element. Herbart certainly was a lover of Greek; it 
is known that he put the Odyssey into the hands of 
children at ten years of age, that he used it as a 
first reading book, and that he did not believe that 
there was a better means of forming the mind than 
to continue this study for ten months or more. 1 
He liked Latin less, the writers of Rome not being 
suitable, in his opinion, to initiate the child into the 
classic ages. This initiation into classic ages weighed 

1 " It took us a year and a half to read the Odyssey." See 
the reports to M. de Steiger, 1797-1798. 


with him far more than a philological study of dead 
languages: " Latin and Greek/' he said, "a source 
of torment for pupils, a necessary evil in secondary 
schools now, ought to disappear entirely from the 
curriculum of the schools, if we could acquire with- 
out knowing these languages an exact view, a living 
representation, of antiquity." Without doubt, the 
classic writings are the immortal models of beauty, 
purity, and style, and the progress or decadence of 
modern languages is linked with the maintenance 
or suppression of the study of ancient languages. 
But Herbart at the same time called attention to 
the fact that this is not the business of the school, 
that it does not fall to most men to look after the 
fate of their language, and that the aim of school 
studies is only to attend to the function of literature. 
Greco-Latin studies will be, then, in the future, 
only the favorite task of a few privileged educators. 
"Let us put aside the superstitious belief that to be 
really cultivated a modern man must be able to 
decipher Greek and Latin texts." The labor 
required by a study is rewarded for its pains only 
in the case of those who display a marked apti- 
tude and a firm intention of reaching a high degree 
of culture. "Also, it is necessary to begin this 
labor early, at seven or eight years of age, before 
the circle of ideas closes." Languages, ancient or 

H K/ryriA H- L 81 

modern, all systems of symbols, are a burden in 
teaching; we should endeavor to lighten it by 
interest in the things which the signs represent. 
Greek should be studied before Latin, a con- 
sequence of the principle that pedagogical evolution 
should correspond to the historical. For the same 
reason, modern languages will not be learnt before 
ancient: "this would be to put the cart before the 
horse." The study of texts should be connected 
with the study of ancient history; this is the only 
possible basis for a really pedagogical study of 
Latin and Greek, a consequence of the principle 
of connectedness amongst ideas. And thus the old 
humanities, subjects which are not necessary to 
every one, but which will remain the ideal of a few, 
should be given their right place. No one has 
felt more fully the value of classic culture than he 
who, with deep insight, said : "Who, then, has really 
received classic culture? Only those who praise it. 
. . . For it could not be granted that those who 
malign classic culture can claim to have received it." 


"THE worth of a man," said Herbart, "is measured 
not by what he knows, but what he desires to do." 
That is the same as saying that moral culture, cul- 
ture that forms the will, is still more important than 
intellectual culture, the source of knowledge. In- 
struction is of value only when it tends to moral 
ends. The moral idea ought to dominate all in- 
struction. in flp aiipremfl end of education. 

Now, in the system of Herbart, instruction and 
education are found commingled, united in one. 
Will depends on knowledge. If each act of the will 
is only an idea in action, an idea energized (idee- 
force) according to the expression dear to M. Fouill6e, 
moral character itself is only a collection, a group- 
ing, of ideas that tend to become active. Whoever 
forms enlightened men, forms at the same time 
moral and virtuous men. Thinking rightly is the 
source of willing and acting rightly. 

Moral culture does not the less lay claim to 
special attention, and Herbart has considered it 
apart in a series of chapters in which he scatters 



delicate observations and judicious counsel from 
full hands. Herbart, who had a blind faith in his 
theories and systematic notions, is most valued by 
us for detail in special subjects and wealth of prac- 
tical observations. ^Tn trying to summarize his 
views, we are liable to distort them. We ought to be 
able to cite these pages, so profoundly thought out 
in their entirety; for in them the question of moral 
education is discussed in all its heights and depths ; 
and the goodness of heart of a talented thinker is 
revealed with a sweet seriousness. 

Moral as well as intellectual culture has its point 
of departure in the experience of the child. Her- 
bart, without doubt, has no wish for the " natural 
man " of Rousseau's type. He makes the just obser- 
vation that the word " nature" is vague and equivo- 
cal, since both stoics and epicureans could appeal to 
it in theories of morals quite opposed to each other. 
But he still less desires a " school man," one who 
has had no contact with moral realities, who has not 
steeped his soul in the relations of social life. " The 
world and nature do much more for the pupil than 
education, properly so called." The moral experi- 
ences of the child, like his intellectual experience, 
is narrow and limited. The relations that he can 
establish within the circle of this family or the school 
are necessarily inadequate; they dispose him to 


develop only one sentiment, to the exclusion of all 
others, love of family at the expense of love of 
country, or the latter at the expense of love of 
humanity. It is indispensable, then, that instruction 
should widen the field of experience, and that a 
" many-sided interest" should help to enlarge the 
heart, fight the tendency toward social exclusiveness, 
and form a full and complete soul. And again, 
this is also necessary to correct the bad effects of 
experience, to provide a remedy for the egoistic 
feelings, antipathies, aversions, which may be 
bred by the chances of life in school and family, 
for the scars and bruises, caused not seldom by the 
earliest relations of the child with its parents or 
tyrannical masters, and which hinder the upspring- 
ing of sympathetic interest. 

But before moral culture can begin with advan- 
tage, there is a preparatory and provisional period, 
that of the " control of children" (Reg wrung der 
Kinder), of what is called by us discipline. 1 For- 
merly, discipline might have been considered as the 
whole law of education, in days when teachers 
believed they had only to oppress and constrain 
dispositions rebellious and wholly bad. Herbart, 
who considers that wickedness in children proceeds 

1 Let us note that Herbart reserves the word " discipline " (Zucht) 
to designate " moral culture." 


for the most part from defects in parents, and who 
aspires to form an inner man capable of self-govern- 
ment, permits discipline and coercive measures only 
during early years. It should last only for a season, 
and should give place as soon as possible to real 
education, for which it should, moreover, prepare. 
Its end is to maintain provisional order. It pre- 
vents the child from injuring itself, and from being 
unbearable to others. It imposes passive sub- 
mission while awaiting the birth of the will. It is 
necessary because of the petulance and lack of re- 
flection of young children. It renders the first 
instruction possible; for one cannot instruct in- 
subordinate and undisciplined children. It works 
for the present ; education works for the future^ 

The discipline recommended by Herbart is in no 
way severe or oppressive. It should be already 
steeped in the liberal spirit that will animate educa- 
tion. Herbart, we may be certain, was a kind, 
sweet-tempered, and patient genius. If he consents 
to authorize threats, watching, punishment, he 
introduces into the application of these disciplinary 
agencies all kinds of restrictions, which soften their 
severity and guard the spontaneity of the child. 
Upon occasion, however, he can advise vigorous 
though not angry repression, when, for instance, it is 
a question of falsehood, of which he had a horror. 


Threats, he recognized that they are often 
ineffective, even when they are regularly followed 
by deeds, and parents or masters do not, before the 
tears or entreaties of the child, weakly retract them. 
And above all, he desires that refusals and pro- 
hibitions be reduced to a strict minimum. They 
should leave a free field for the need of activity in 
the child, on every occasion when no danger is in- 
curred by giving him a loose rein. 

Superintendence, he permits that, too, but with 
all sorts of restrictions. At the bottom he dislikes 
it. "I dare hardly say what I think about it." 
He will have no companion, no severe tutor who 
follows the child step by step, who holds him like 
a slave by a chain, who robs the child of all liberty 
by sacrificing to him his own. Excess of superin- 
tendence has, besides, this drawback, that it 
stimulates the child to employ trickery and subter- 
fuge. He recalled that during the years of his own 
tutorship he had been merely the guide and benevo- 
lent friend to his pupils, that he had placed confi- 
dence in them, and never hesitated to leave them to 
themselves, to their games and sports. " Children/ 7 
he said, "must be exposed to danger, if one wants 
them to become men." Those who growup under the 
tyranny of a superintendence that is strict, constant, 
and indiscreet, will possess neither courage nor self- 


reliance. They will lack spirit and initiative. 
The strong, firm character which we should develop, 
and the formation of which is the essential end of 
moral culture, is prepared only by action, by ex- 
ercise of the will. Discipline, then, must not make 
an improper use of police-like superintendence ; it 
must be prudent, do nothing which will hinder the 
earliest manifestations of the will, and finally, while 
governing the child, it must prepare him to govern 

Punishments, Herbart thinks them necessary. 
But he distinguishes between several kinds : those 
which are the instruments of government, others 
which are of use still after a liberal education has 
begun. There are, in the first place, disciplinary 
punishments, those which insure order, which oblige 
children to remain quiet: all sorts of privations, 
privations of food, liberty, and even corporal chas- 
tisement. The Germans have never had much 
delicacy about this matter, and Herbart does not 
absolutely reject the old customs. The rod and 
hands tied behind the back do not shock him. 
"It is not bad for a child to recall that he was 
whipped when little." But to purely disciplinary 
corrections should follow those which have educative 
virtue, and which will render the child prudent by 
habituating him to calculate the consequences of his 


acts. These are the punishments which Herbart 
calls "pedagogic"; and it is worth noting that the 
famous theory of Herbert Spencer on natural 
punishment, the consequences and reactions of our 
acts, exists already in germ in the writings of Her- 
bart. 1 The gormand who has eaten too many 
dainties should take a bitter medicine to cure his 
indigestion. The neglectful child who has soiled his 
Sunday garments should be obliged to do without 
them. . . . There is, finally, a third and higher 
kind of punishment, in which a moral idea appears : 
punishment which the culprit accepts, when he is re- 
pentant, as a deserved expiation of the sin committed. 
Herbart, to tell the truth, considers discipline 
only as a necessary evil ; the proof of this is that, if it 
were possible, he would remove the burden of it from 
the educator. It is an inferior duty, not suitable to 
the high calling of men who take charge of the instruc- 
tion of the child. The educator is, in his way, an 
artist ; and if a painter, a sculptor, can only rise to 

1 This is fresh evidence of the regrettable condition that in the 
science of education there is no understanding, no continuity of 
effort amongst the workers of different nationality, the conse- 
quence being that one of them believes he has discovered a theory 
that is more than half a century old. Mr. Herbert Spencer, in 
writing to me, has stated that before composing his remarkable 
essay, he had read neither the Entile of Rousseau, nor any work on 
education except a bad commentary by the Englishman, " Biber, " 
on Pestalozzi. 


perfection by means of a concentrated force of genius, 
entirely absorbed in its art, freed from all the ac- 
cessory and inferior work of his trade; so it is 
desirable that a teacher whose mission it is to educate 
the inner being of the child, should not have to dis- 
sipate a part of his mental power and energy on the 
cares and anxieties of discipline. 

The government of children approaches to moral 
education when it is based upon and supported by 
"authority" and "affection": two auxiliaries the 
action of which is so much the more important, 
since by permeating discipline they tend to render it 
useless. That is, again, another reason for preferring 
domestic to public education. 

What teacher could rival parents, who would lay 
claim to excel or even equal them in matters of 
authority and affection? If authority is naturally 
vested in the father, does not the mother claim first 
place in affection, "the mother who, at the price of 
endless sacrifices, succeeds in discovering the needs 
of her child better than any one else could do, who 
communicates with him in his first speech, of which 
she alone has the secret, who, favored by the re- 
finement of her feminine nature, knows how to find 
the familiar accent which harmonizes with the tender 
feelings of the child, and whose gentle control, if it 
is not clumsily exerted, never fails of its end" ? 


From a stranger, from any educator whatever, 
it is evidently not possible to ask the same love, the 
same penetrating force of affection. How could the 
passing teacher exert the same ascendency over his 
pupils as the abiding family, which from birth has 
wrapped the child in tenderness, in a sustained 
bond of feeling and habit ? Authority and love are 
not the less at school than at home precious co- 
workers with discipline, so far as the school can 
make use of them, and they will endure, forming a 
solid base for true education and moral culture. 

The period arrives, in fact, and we hasten 
toward it, when government should disappear; 
or at least should relax its imperious authority, in 
order to give place to an education which will pre- 
pare the child to direct himself. It is here that Her- 
bart reaches the culminating point of his pedagogical 
doctrine, the part that is most essential and impor- 
tant in his system. The child should be freed as 
soon as possible from the swaddling-clothes which 
outside influences have woven, in order that he may 
become an autonomous being, a moral person, who 
draws from internal forces his rules of conduct and 
moral laws, without having, henceforth, need to ask 
them from external guardians. " Education would 
be a tyranny if it did not lead toward freedom." 

But just as it was impossible to understand Her- 


hart's theory of instruction without a preparatory 
review of his psychology, so a glance at the principles 
of his ethics is indispensable for finding the key to 
his pedagogy of morality. 1 

Herbart moralizes outside the beaten paths. 
His moral theories are exceedingly personal, closely 
associated, in fact, with his system as a whole. He 
aspired, he says, to continue and complete the prac- 
tical philosophy of Kant, and while doing so to cor- 
rect it ; in reality he demolishes it, leaving nothing 
standing. His ethics, in fact, is a morality with- 
out free will, a morality without obligation. He 
admits neither transcendental liberty, nor the cate- 
gorical imperative, the very foundations of morality 
such as was conceived by the author of The Criticism 
of the Practical Reason. Transcendental liberty, 
considered from the pedagogical point of view alone, 
and understood not purely as a dream, renders all 
education useless and impossible, just as much 
as an absolute fatalism would do. It may be 
taken for granted that the fatalism of Spinoza, since 
it views all things as ruled a priori by the decrees of 
an inexorable destiny, condemns to failure all educa- 
tional effort. But it is interesting in other respects 

1 See the remarkable articles of M. Dereux : " On the foundations 
of morality according to Herbart," in the Critique philosophique, 
for December, 1888, and January, March, and May, 1889. 


to prove that Kant, too, with his strange conception 
of a super-sense freedom, independent of experience, 
active before time began and beyond time, sterilizes 
and paralyzes the power of education. How affect 
a being whose destiny has been fixed beforehand by a 
mysterious will, by a miraculous coup d'etat, causing 
in advance a break in empirical determinism, in 
the chain of human actions? When a man 
enters into this world he has already voted for 
good or evil in his future actions. Nothing will be 
able to influence him. The man who thinks he can 
be made better is only dreaming. One man can 
no longer affect another; instruction, warning, pun- 
ishments, these accomplish nothing. If, then, 
transcendental liberty has the power to modify a 
man's acts, independently of all reason and well- 
reflected motives, it is clear that the characteristic 
feature of the ethics of Kant is nothing but em- 
pirical determinism, hanging, one knows not how, 
fronTa first postulate of metaphysical freedom ; and 
consequently it destroys all attempts at reform and 
moral progress ; it denies the possibility of education. 
Herbart, a realist in philosophy, could not admit 
in any way such an arbitrary and unreal hypothesis 
as that of transcendental liberty. Neither is one 
surprised that he refuses to bow down before the 
categorical imperative of Kant, and, in general, 


before any idea of moral obligation. To believe 
in obligation, that is to say, in a command addressed 
by reason to the will, we must begin by believing in 
reason itself ; for the same argument there must also 
be a will. Now, we know that the psychology of 
Herbart does not admit any primitive faculty; 
reason and a moral conscience he excludes as much 
as intellect and sensibility; there is nothing but a 
confused mass of representations, and, as it were, 
a dust-cloud of ideas, the confusion of which allows 
'the construction of mental unity, a form of activity 
not granted by nature. The child, then, is bor 
without moral ideas, as without will. Practical / / 
reason, as well as theoretical reason, arises gradually / 
from objects represented in consciousness, and from 
the relation of these objects. It is in no way a first 
principle, a fundamental law. It is deduced and 
derived. In consequence, duty (of this Herbart 
does not even pronounce the name) is no longer the 
sovereign rule of our actions, established on an idea 
of the good. Good in itself does not exist. Moral- 
ity, like understanding as a whole, is only the re- ' 
sultant from a series of operations, the product of 

It would seem, however, at the first glance, that 
Herbart admits a different conception. He speaks 
of a moral ideal, and he distinguishes five ideas as 


being the elements of it. But these ideas, as we 
shall see, are neither anterior nor superior to ex- 
perience; they spring from it. They are the effect 
rather than the cause of morality. It is not they 
which determine us to be virtuous ; but it is because 
we are virtuous that they take shape in the mind. 
That is to say, that a good man forms a conception 
of them as the ideal standard for his actions, by a 
sort of abstraction from his virtues; but it is not 
they which form the good man. 

Let us enumerate and define these five moral 
ideas, which Herbart separates absolutely from one 
another, and which he considers irreducible. They 
are, indeed, not simple notions. In Herbart's phi- 
losophy there is nothing simple except the soul, 
which is unknowable and inert. Everywhere there 
is connection, relation, function. Thus the first 
moral idea, inner liberty, is only a relation between 
the judgment and will when they agree. A desire 
is conceived; the judgment approves of it; con- 
sciousness of this harmony is liberty, as Herbart un- 
derstood it : not an independent power which weighs 
different motives and selects, but simply the pressure 
exerted by one idea over another to bring about an 
action. The mind is then at peace with itself. The 
man who acts deliberately in conformity with his 
thoughts, is free inwardly and subjectively. 


The notion of perfection takes the second place, and 
is again only a relation between two ideas, two acts 
of the will, of which one surpasses the other in no- 
bility because it is the better of the two ; in intensity, 
if it is the stronger; in extension, if it comprehends 
a greater number of objects; finally, in concentra- 
tion, if it firmly coordinates this diversity of objects. 
A mathematical bent of mind always directed 
the speculations of Herbart, and moral perfection, 
one can see, is for him only a question of quantity, 
we were going to say of dimensions, in the amount 
and force of will power. 

However that may be, the first two moral notions 
concern only the relation between acts of "will in one 
and the same person ; they belong to what is known 
as individual morality; they concern personal 
progress, of which the maxim is, "Make yourself 
perfect." The three other ideas good-will, law, and 
justice regard, on the contrary, social morality; 
they presuppose will relationships between two or 
more different persons. Let us place ourselves in the 
presence of our kind; if our own will conforms 
to the will of others, if we desire that this external 
will finds satisfaction and reaches its end, we have 
then a kind or benevolent notion. If of two wills 
desiring the same object neither will yield, there is 
a conflict; this conflict is disagreeable, contrary to 


order ; it must be avoided, the struggle ended ; that 
is the notion of law (droit). Finally, if the strife has 
not been adjusted, if one person has transgressed his 
rights, the order that has been disturbed and injured 
must be restored, and agreement between the wills 
be reestablished, thanks to the sanctions and com- 
pensations which render to each what belongs to 
him : that is the notion of justice. 
. We need not delay to criticise this particular 
classification of moral concepts: what is alone of 
importance to us, is to prove that they claim in no 
way to be the first principles of moral conduct. 
They do not derive their force from a direct and 
original revelation to consciousness. If one might 
compare them with the " Ideas" of Plato, for they 
also are models or examples of moral beauty, they 
are not reminiscences, reflections of a world of super- 
sensible realities. They are purely mental construc- 
tions, and follow upon action more than they deter- 
mine it. Just as representations, when associated, 
form the intellect, so acts of will, when repeated, 
construct the moral ideal. There is perfect par- 
allelism between the development of theoretic reason 
and of practical reason. We begin by action ; then 
we reflect, and from reflection come the great ideas 
which henceforth give direction to human conduct. 
Once conceived, in fact, they contribute to en- 


lighten our judgment, and in a certain measure they 
become the agents of moral culture. They are 
lighthouses which illuminate the pathway of life as 
long as a man acts ; they do not shine when he starts, 
but their light accompanies humanity on its march. 
Since it is not in moral ideas, as Herbart under- 
stands them, that we must seek the principle of 
virtue, where shall we, then, find it? He replies 
without hesitation, in an aesthetic necessity. In his 
view, the good and the beautiful are not sep- 
arable. A moral judgment is an aesthetic judg- 
ment. That is a singular conception, which was 
suggested to Herbart, so it would seem, by the 
theory of music. He was a good musician, as we 
have already said, and it was the study of sound- 
relationships which in part suggested to him his 
theory of the relationship of acts of will. According 
to him, aesthetic judgments are absolute. They 
do not require demonstration. They assert them- 
selves with complete authority. "If we ask a pro- 
fessor of counterpoint for a demonstration of the 
beauty of a sound, he could only laugh, or perhaps 
pity the stupid ears which have not already ap- 
preciated it." Moral judgments, since they are 
aesthetic, have the same character. They need only 
show themselves to secure our approval, to exercise 
over our resolutions a gentle constraint. They per- 


suade at once. "As soon as an aesthetic judgment 
springs up in the soul, it is felt as a force. This is 
the gentle pressure that mankind calls conscience." 

We are explaining Herbart's theory, not criticising 
it. To how many objections is he not exposing him- 
self in attributing to taste, to aesthetic judgment, 
the authority which his system did not permit him 
to require from moral law, from a command of the 
reason, resting'upon a notion of the good, or of duty ? 
It will suffice to put forward only one such objection : 
that this authority appears very precarious, very 
fragile, and without any assured efficacy. How 
could a judgment pronounced by taste become 
a principle of obligation? How could an appre- 
ciation of beauty suffice to determine action? 

Still, accepting Herbart's theory as it stands, more 
ingenious than solid, let us try to understand how 
this theory of a morality interchangeable with 
aesthetics, can be reconciled with the great principle 
of educative instruction. Moral education, let us 
not forget, is in direct and strict correlation with 
intellectual education. In order, then, that moral 
education, thus accepted, be possible, aesthetic 
judgment must itself be formed by instruction. At 
first approach, it appears as if there were here two 
distinct theories, and that to reconcile them would 
be a matter of some difficulty. This is the fashion, 


however, in which Herbart explains the possibility 
of such a union, of the required articulation. To 
form the aesthetic judgment, certain mental states 
must be brought about. Objects must be clearly 
represented and sharply defined; also calmness, 
order, and stability must reign amongst representa- 
tions as they succeed each other. In a word, char- 
acter has to be formed. Now, character is a system 
of regular representations, desires, and acts of will, 
all firmly united, the result of instruction that is 
solid and full. 

Character consists of a man's desires, and he 
desires what he persistently thinks about. ^Jn^. 
struction, then, is the principle of the formation 
of character. _It is true that other elements con- 
tribute to the good functioning of voluntary activity. 
Herbart admits that assurance and courage are, in 
part, the effect of our physical constitution, of good 
health. " Feeble and sickly natures feel themselves 
dependent; robust natures alone dare to exercise 
their will. " It is for this reason, also, that he 
deems he may say: "A man usually has more char- 
acter than a woman, just because he is superior to 
her in physical strength." 1 It is not, therefore, 

1 To appease the self-respect of women, let us quote another 
passage: "Man is often inferior to woman; as regards wisdom, 
she can promptly distinguish and note in social relationships things 
that are barely perceptible and escape the observation of men." 


less true that the education of character depends 
especially on the education of ideas, and that teach- 
ing plays much the heavier role in moral culture. 

That is why the child, in his first years, and while 
still ignorant, has no character, or at least possesses 
only that inferior form of character called by Her-s 
bart (who is always drawing distinctions) objective. 
Objective character consists of the whole of the 
desires, fancies, caprices, and passions to which the 
organism gives birth before the thinking will has 
made its appearance. In this fluid state of child 
nature, at a time when representations, as ill ordered 
as the waves of the sea, rush after one another, 
covering each other in confusion, the real character, 
what in the terminology of Herbart is called sub- 
jective character, cannot yet grow firm. That will 
reveal itself only when reflection and reasoning 
power control and rule the capricious and incon- 
sistent desires of the child, by uniting his ideas in 
permanent groups. 

It is fixity of ideas, rigorous association, that 
insures force of character. To designate this per- 
sistence of the same representations, Herbart in- 
vented the expression " memory of the will." The 
term is neat and expressive, but possibly only the 
term is new. The memory of the will, that is to say, 
a will always in harmony with itself, as opposed to 


wills wavering and failing, or, again, a disposition 
to desire always the same things upon the same 
occasions, is not this what the old psychology called 
custom? There is no character so long as there is 
no persistency and constancy of ideas. Herbart 
mistrusts dispositions that are unsteady, and there- 
fore light. He speaks in a joking way of those young 
men who to-day take six courses of study, to-morrow 
will work alone, and the next day set out on a 
journey. What he approves in the child as a con- 
dition favorable to successful education, is a dis- 
position to will strongly, even when this is accom- 
panied by a measure of obstinacy. 

If calm, reflective minds make strong characters, 
something else is, however, yet wanting to complete 
a moral education: there must be action. And 
here Herbart seems to hesitate between his funda- 
mental principle, instruction, and a quite different 
conception, the importance of exercise, of the part 
played by action. If the child is developed merely 
passively, under a system of constraint, he will 
reach manhood without possessing character. In 
consequence, it is right to give free course to the 
energy and initiative of the child. To help him to 
morality, we ought not to depend on precepts 
confided to the memory. A maxim is efficacious 
only when it has been, so to speak, lived, when per- 


sonal action has given it life, and it has become, 
in a manner, a fragment of our autobiography. 
The child who, from his earliest years, has been ac- 
customed to give water to the thirsty, or food to the 
hungry, is prepared to formulate this general rule 
of morality: " Render aid to your neighbor when- 
ever he has need of it." And, in an inverse sense, 
a defect of character proceeds only by a fault re- 
peated several times. 

Herbart, in his pedagogy of morality, does not for- 
get his pedagogy of the intellect. Thus a many- 
sided mterestTappears to him to be one of the es- 
sential conditions of morality. A mind unfurnished 
with a rich store of ideas is exposed to egoism : its 
limited knowledge leaves the field open to base 
desires. We are certainly not going to contest that 
morality may expect to advance with instruction 
and with the widening of the circle of ideas; but 
we ask, nevertheless, whether Herbart does not 
propose for moral culture an unattainable ideal, in 
making variety, extent, and multiplicity of knowl- 
edge a condition of virtue. Does not that exclude 
from the moral life all whose condition condemns 
them to remain more or less ignorant or men of 
partial culture? An aesthetic morality having as 
foundation universality of knowledge, is that a 
morality suited to all the world ? One may doubt it. 


Just as the ancient Greek philosophers moralized 
only for the privileged classes and forgot the slaves, 
so Herbart, in his conceptions of morality, appears to 
have in view only a society of scholars: a morality 
that will serve only the select few. 

An esthetic intellectualism, that might be a 
definition of morality, according to Herbart. We 
cannot speak to him of sentiments as sources of 
virtue, for sentiments have their origin in ideas. 
It is no longer true to say with the ancient moralists 
that " great ideas spring from the heart." It is 
the contrary that is true : it is the heart that grows 
warm and animated under the influence of ideas. 

But, whatever may be the confidence professed 
by Herbart in the moralizing value of an instruction 
which conforms to the rules traced out in his " di- 
dactics," he does not the less distinguish special 
methods of moral culture. There are, in fact, 
precautions to be taken to insure the regular devel- 
opment of ideas, and possibly, at times, his reflections 
will appear to us to contradict the fundamental 
principle of his system, and lead him to search else- 
where than in instruction for the conditions of 
moral education. 

To follow the same order and plan adopted by 
Herbart, we shall distinguish with him six things to 
be done hi moral culture. This is the list of them : 


(1) support the child; (2) incline him to act ; (3) es- 
tablish rules ; (4) maintain in his soul calmness and 
serenity; (5) stimulate his intellect with approval 
and censure ; (6) warn and correct him. 

To tell the truth, that is an arbitrary enumera- 
tion rather than an exact and rigorous classification. 
They are like six somewhat frail points of attach- 
ment, on to which Herbart hangs all the prescrip- 
tions suggested by his great anxiety for the training 
of character. They are not all new, far from it; 
and Herbart is the first to acknowledge that often 
he is only deriving inspiration from old traditional 
experience, experience that centuries of reflection 
have established and rendered trustworthy. 1 

The first rule of this scheme of moral culture seems 
like a prolongation into education of the need of 
discipline. We must, in fact, continue to "control" 
(tenir) the child ; that is to say, to keep order, lest 
disobedience and disorderliness interrupt and ob- 
struct the course of personal education, and the 
child, in using his liberty, oversteps the prescribed 
limits. Above all else, dissipation and indolence 
are to be combated. In consequence, one must take 
care that the child is always occupied, and the best 

1 Herbart had none of the empty vanity 1 of an inventor : 
"Humanity," he wrote, /'has already gathered along the road 
a great number of truths; it is our part to profit by them." 


occupations are those which he chooses for himself, 
in accordance with his tastes : serious occupations, 
other than play; for games quickly weary him. 
One must take pains to profit by good tendencies in 
the natural character of the child, in order to 
strengthen these, the first germs of morality. We 
shall rarely command him, and only in cases of ab- 
solute necessity. By uniformity in the manner of 
life which we prescribe, we shall endeavor to pro- 
mote the development of the memory of the will. 
A teacher equable in temper, always calm, and in full 
control of himself, who does not pass from excessive 
indulgence to excessive severity, will contribute to 
inspire analogous qualities: tranquil and patient 
moderation in the child. Finally, authority and 
affection will continue to play an important r&le 
both at home and at school; the child must have 
a lively sentiment that the approval of parents and 
masters is a possession which he can either keep by 
deserving it, or risk to lose. 

In the second place, moral culture exercises the 
child in doing. It teaches him what he must bear 
and suffer, in order to possess what he desires or 
do what he likes. It teaches him, at the cost of his 
own experience, "that the flame burns, the needle 
pricks, that falling is dangerous." In a word, it 
habituates him to control himself, by furnishing 


him with opportunities of choosing between differ- 
ent motives for action. But here one is tempted 
to stop Herbart, and to ask him whether his psychi- 
cal mechanism, seeing that it covers voluntary acts 
as well as manifestations of thought, permits him 
to speak of choice or of option. In very fact, there 
is no place in his moral mechanism for free self- 
determination. It is no longer a question of liberty 
to compare different grounds of action, and after 
reflection, decide for one or the other. There are 
present only different groups of ideas and a struggle 
or conflict between them. It is the strongest element, 
the dominant group of ideas, which comes off victor 
and leads to a decision. To this Herbart will reply 
that it is precisely the business of instruction to 
cause certain ideas to prevail, and, in consequence, 
it forms in us the only real liberty, which is none 
other than harmony between what we think and 
what we wish. 

The third point in moral culture consists of es- 
tablishing " rules" and maxims of conduct. Here 
is the place for dogmatic instruction in morality. 
The five moral ideas may now begin to exert their 
sway over conduct. Just as it is imprudent to 
reason with children at an age when they themselves 
cannot share in an argument, so now it becomes 
necessary to discuss with them and to show them the 


consequences of their actions ; to make them, indeed, 
understand what is the advantage to them of obe- 
dience to the general rules by which they ought to 
feel bound. 

Moral culture should be inspired by the notion 
that peace of mind, if it is the end of virtue, is also 
one of its conditions; and hence arises the neces- 
sity of maintaining "calmness and serenity." This 
end will be attained by encouraging the natural 
gayety of the child, by seeking every means of keep- 
ing it good-humored, by letting it live its child life, 
by excluding the wearisome and fruitless studies 
which hamper the free movement of his mind. 
Above all, we shall be careful that his desires do not 
degenerate into passions through excessive stimu- 
lation, and for this reason we shall permit to them 
only a moderate measure of satisfaction. At need, 
we shall remove the desired object. We shall direct 
the activity of the child toward the study of the 
arts, music, and painting ; and if he lacks talent, we 
shall fall back on other occupations, collecting 
plants, insects, or shells, gardening, or cardboard 
modelling, or even carpentry. Herbart favors man- 
ual work. Emile as carpenter is not a displeas- 
ing sight to him. "All men," he says, "should 
learn to make use of their hands, for the hands take 
honorable rank by the side of speech in elevating 


men above the animals." In such ways we shall 
find means of diverting the child from disturbing 
passions, passions which darken the mind at the 
period when a calm and quiet spirit, ready always 
to conceive clearly, is alone in a fit condition to form 
aesthetic judgments. 

When Herbart recommends recourse to approval 
and blame, his fifth rule, it appears to us that 
he is departing from his system and destroying its 
framework. In fact, he calls to his aid a foreign 
agency : the judgment of others. Is it really true 
that the child is unable to attain to virtue spontane- 
ously, by himself alone, by the energy of his char- 
acter, influenced solely by instruction? We must 
support him on the right path ; by censure and by 
the punishment which follows thereon, we must recall 
him to it ; above all, he needs for Herbart desired 
that all men should grow up " without one word of 
deserved blame falling on their ears" that ap- 
proval and its consequent rewards should have influ- 
ence on his resolutions and conduct. Let us not 
reproach Herbart with a happy contradiction, which 
makes him admit that one can, and one should mor- 
alize the child by praise and by reprimand ; measures 
which will succeed only when the master has known 
how to win the esteem and affection of his pupils. 

The sixth and last mode of moral culture is hardly 


distinguishable from the previous one : " Warning and 
exhortation" ^'approach very closely to reprimand, 
and also to correction. Herbart considers, however, 
that one can give advice without adding reproach, 
and that correction is profitable only when gentle. 
The child must be handled humanely ; we must feel 
all the noble and good that there is in him, and avoid 
all harshness, not only in acts but also in speech. 
Moral culture, as defined, is "a continuous treat- 
ment" : the personal work of a master who employs, 
above all else, benevolent methods, who knows how 
to make himself agreeable to a child, and to please 
him by the interest that he manifests in him ; who does 
not forget that it is a matter not so much of bend- 
ing the will but of forming it, having regard to the 
reasonable being who one day will develop from 
a creature yet feeble in regard to ideas, weak and 
unstable in its will; who, in short, knows how to 
adapt himself in his role as teacher to that fine 
epigram: "We love the child; but in the child we 
love the coming man." 

Herbart had a multiple mind, called by English 
people many-sided, by Germans veilfdltig. He saw 
things on all sides. He turned a question round 
and round, on all its faces. We are not surprised 
then, when, in the laborious and troublesome re- 
construction of a moral education of which he had 


destroyed the classic foundations, after having had 
recourse to all sources of instruction, even to all 
the sciences, and above all else, to aesthetics, Her- 
bart turns to religion, to what he calls " religious 
interest." He by no means founds morality on 
religion, but religion appears to him as a friend and 
protectress of morality. He does not say whether 
we could do without religion ; but if the case stands 
so that we think we ought to have recourse to its 
support, then it is useful and effective; there is, 
however, one condition : it must be accepted in its 
noblest sense. Herbart knew the perils and the 
excesses of religious faith, and he denounces them. 
He commends a religion of the inner man, stripped 
of vain practices. He ridicules children who kneel 
after the fashion of little girls, holding a prayer- 
book in their hands with the air of young saints. He 
scourges the religiou4iypjaerites who think to cover 
and excuse bad deeds by acts of devotion. In his 
opinion, religious instruction is a general instruction 
which underlies and permeates all particular faiths ; 
which is essentially Christian, and yet preaches 
love for those even of a different faith. Religion, 
as conceived by Herbart, is indeed wide and tol- 
erant; for he requires that it should be strength- 
ened in instruction in the classics by reading the 
Dialogues of Plato; and also that religious instruc- 


tion should be united with instruction in natural 

What Herbart expects from religious instruction 
is that it should assist the teacher to fight against 
egoism; that it should develop the feeling of hu- 
mility in the child, the feeling of the dependence 
of individuals in their relationship to nature and to 
a Supreme Being. As to the time when it is right 
to begin religious education, about this he hesitates 
and remains vague; we must, he says, if we wish 
to make deep impressions, neither hasten it nor 
delay it too late. He is very emphatic, and in 
advance of modern ideas, when he relieves teachers 
of the care of the religious instruction, which then 
becomes the duty of the family and of theologians, 
that is to say, of the ministers of the various sects. 
"The church," he says, "may maintain relations with 
the school, but it must not dominate it." That 
is not yet to separate them ; but it is already a first 
step on the road to enfranchising the laity. A sepa- 
ration which he proclaims necessary, from the present 
in any case, is that of religion and science. It is 
doubtless necessary for the soul to have the right 
to rest in peace and unity in its religious belief; 
but it is also necessary that scientific speculation 
should follow its course on its own account with 
freedom, without uneasiness, and without hin- 


drance. Philosophy is neither orthodox nor 
heterodox; it has its own field; it works outside 
dogmas; and religion cannot claim either to hinder 
the activity of the reason or to bind the forces 
of nature. 

IF the worth of a thinker may be measured by the 
number of works suggested by him to disciples and 
critics, I can well believe that Herbart has no rival. 
There is a Herbartian library, the wealth and extent 
of which is not equalled even by the Pestalozzian 
library. Around the work of a single man a whole 
literature has grown up. In his Encyklopddische 
Handbuch der Pddagogik, M. Rein, the noted pro- 
fessor at Jena, devotes nearly 200 pages to the bibli- 
ography of the subject, and he reckons that no less 
than 2234 books or pamphlets have been published 
on Herbart in Germany and Switzerland alone. 
According to Mr. Felkin, the English translator of 
Herbart, there are actually about ten periodicals 
devoted to spreading the master 's doctrine. A 
whole legion of commentators, moralists, psycholo- 
gists, philosophers, and teachers have risen up to 
interpret the ideas of Herbart, to popularize them, 
to carry them farther and put them into practice; 
sometimes to correct and oppose them. 



But if the ideas of Herbart have made a remarkable 
stir in general philosophy, it is in the field of educa- 
tion that the impulse given by him has been specially 
powerful and promises to endure. This writer, al- 
most unknown amongst us, has become amongst 
his countrymen the hero and ruling spirit of modern 
education. He has formed a school. His disciples 
have multiplied, and for fifty years now they have 
succeeded each other from generation to generation, 
unceasingly, in the chain's of pedagogy, at the Ger- 
man universities, in gymnasiums (grammar or high 
schools), as well as in normal schools and primary 
schools. We have read again recently in a Swiss 
journal, VEducateur, this significant passage, "If in 
Germany Pestalozzi was the founder, his successor, 
the philosopher Herbart, has been the logician and 
organizer of modern pedagogy ; and his methodical 
work, having rendered service to first one and then 
another distinguished man, still maintains its place 
intact and full of energy, sanctioned by a hundred 
years of experience and success." 1 

It would, however, not be exact to say that the 
followers of Herbart have maintained the system of 

1 UEducateur, the organ of the pedagogical society of Latin 
Switzerland, February 28, 1903. The chief editor of this journal, 
M. F. Guex, director of the normal schools of Lausanne, is himself 
a convinced and practical Herbartian, who applies in his schools 
some of the methods recommended by Herbart. 


the master in its integrity. They have rejected cer- 
tain parts of their heritage which are obviously out 
of date ; they have modified others, either develop- 
ing or amending them. They have in their mitigated 
or improved Herbartianism remained faithful only 
to the dominant ideas of the head of the school. 
These have been applied and explained, and to tell 
the truth, we know and understand Herbart better 
when we have read his successors, be it only through 
the exaggerations into which, at times, they have 
let themselves be drawn, where the errors of his 
doctrine appear writ large and in full relief. 

For example, two of the most brilliant representa- 
tives of the Herbartian school, Ziller (1817-1883) and ) 
Stoy (1815-1885), obeyed a common inspiration, for / 
the rest, with differences and many personal opinions, / 
they were original and inventive, and thus have 
contributed the most to popularize the methods of 
Herbart. In spite of their disagreements and the 
differences which separated them, we find them 
in 1868 collaborating at the foundation of a great 
pedagogic association, Verein filr wissenschaftliche 
Pddagogik, the title of which indicates its aim, 
an aim dear to Herbart, to establish a scientific 
pedagogy. Also they were not content, either of 
them, to write books, give lecture courses, and 
revivify the ideas of Herbart: copying what he 


attempted at Konigsberg, they have exerted them- 
selves to organize and direct institutes of education, 
pedagogical seminaries. 

Herbartianism in Germany is a religion, with its 
orthodox and heterodox members. Ziller, in fact, 
was neither the one nor the other : he was simply 
an independent Herbartian, who added to the com- 
mon stock a certain number of new things. Stoy, 
and after him his successor at Jena, Dr. Rein, are to 
be considered rather orthodox Herbartians, faith- 
ful preservers, fervent guardians of the doctrine. 

It was in 1862 that Ziller established at Leipzig 
a pedagogical seminary, which continues still, and 
/ to which is attached a practice school. The titles 
of his books indicate the Herbartian tradition and 
recall its terminology : Introduction to General Peda- 
gogy (1856), The Government of Children (1857), Prin- 
ciples of the Doctrine of Educative Instruction (1865). 
Ziller, like Herbart, believes that in municipal schools 
instruction may and should be essentially an instru- 
ment for eiliisaJin^ni^^ It is to jus- 
tify this claim that he discusses one by one the selection 
of the subjects of instruction, their rank and coordi- 
nation, "in order to arrive at the most perfect grasp 
of science, the highest moral ideal." Ziller certainly 
makes great mistakes, and it is not quite without 
reason that he has been severely criticised and almost 


mishandled; and Stoy as well, in the articles by 
M. Buisson in the Dictionnaire de pdagogie. Even 
in Germany the critics have not spared him. Stoy, 
although he was a Herbartian too, treated him 
as a " Visionary." "All that is good in Ziller," said 
Stoy, "is not new, and what is new is not good." 
Emancipated disciples generally dispute thus with 
each other within the lines of the doctrines of a great 
master. ... It is easy to gibe at the concentration 
plan invented by Ziller, which consists in making 
literature, or perhaps sacred or national history, 
the centre of instruction. He connects all the other 
studies of each school year with a study in literature 
or history : the first year, with twelve fables or stories 
from Grimm; the second year, with Robinson 
Crusoe; the third year, with the story of the Pa- 
triarchs, and so on. That these methods are old, 
I grant you; but the end sought by Ziller 
though he may not have discovered the true means 
of reaching it is not, therefore, the less worthy 
of attention and praise. Who can fail to approve 
of the effort he made to systematize instruction, to 
articulate firmly one with another its different parts 
in a unified plan and in harmonious relationship. 
Too often teachers and especially is this the case 
in the curricula of our French schools pile to- 
gether pell-mell all the subjects of instruction with- 


out troubling themselves about establishing con- 
nections, or making them converge to a single goal. 
There is succession and juxtaposition of studies, 
but there is no coordination. Each professor follows 
his own path, teaches his own science, without 
troubling himself about what his neighbors are 
doing. Each pupil passes without transition from 
one study to another, from the flowery paths of 
literature to the rough ascents of science. We must 
honor Ziller that, in dismay at such scattered studies, 
he tried to apply a remedy by unifying and fusing 
together the two groups which Herbart had already 
marked out : the sciences of humanity and of nature. 
Ziller, moreover, gave several reasons for this co- 
ordination being necessary : two of them are psy- 
chological and one is moral. The self is a being that 
constantly grows larger; its individuality is estab- 
lished and its personality developed] thanks alone 
to unity amongst the experiences and to the in- 
struction which it receives. There can be no cohe- 
sion in mental life if there is no cohesion amongst 
the studies. In the second place, the condition 
necessary for progress in instruction and education 
is that interest should be aroused; and since it is 
certain that there is hardly a child who has not a 
natural taste for at least one subject or another, 
one must connect all the other studies to this fa- 


vorite, in order that interest may radiate from the 
first to the second, and thus onwards. But above 
all, there is a moral reason to be added on the side 
of concentration and unity in teaching. Instruction 
being the true principle of moral culture, it is only 
when the knowledges have been unified and incor- 
porated one with another, that we can hope to pro- 
duce that unity of will and action which constitutes 
solidity of character. In consequence, we must 
avoid that overburdening, that incoherence and 
breaking up of curricula, the result of which is to 
scatter efforts, to disperse the attention of pupils, 
and to make out of them amateurs who apply 
themselves to everything in a superficial way and 
penetrate deeply into nothing. 

What Ziller had done at Leipzig, Stoy repeated at 
Jena; he also established a pedagogical seminary, 
das pddagogische Universitdts-seminar } whichuudeTthQ 
direction of Dr. Rein is still prospering, and bringing 
together a large number of pupils. Stoy was a pupil 
of Herbart at Gottingen, and he gathered from the 
lips of the master himself the principles of education 
which he developed in his classes and in his works, 
the Philosophic Propedentics and Encyclopedia of 
Pedagogy (1861), a second edition in 1878. Like 
Herbart, he excludes abstract rules and technical 
terms from the beginning of the studies ; he requires 


that the child make at first an abundant provision 
of sense-perceptions. To aim at forming the mind 
without previously assembling a great many notions, 
that, said he, would be "like wishing to play on a 
harp without strings." And it goes] without saying 
that these notions would be closely linked and associ- 
ated according to the Herbartian method. But Stoy, 
nevertheless, did not adopt a concentration plan of 
studies, such as Ziller formed, on which all the sub- 
jects of study had to be grouped around the Holy 
Scriptures or secular history. Let us add that Stoy 
recalls his master, Herbart, even in his manner of 
writing ; that the reader is lost in the mazy windings 
of his expositions and subtle distinctions; that he 
reaches the point, as some one has said, "of confusing 
the most simple things"; and in brief, after reading 
him, one may ask how the head of an institution, a 
professor, could descend from these clouds of abstrac- 
tion to set foot amid the realities of practical teaching. 
M. Rein succeeded Stoy in 1885, and he has con- 
tinued the Herbartian propaganda. In the kind 
of pedagogical laboratory directed by him at Jena, it 
is chiefly to primary l teaching, to the schools of the 
people, that he applies his methods. M. Chabot, 
who recently visited the seminary at Jena, found 

1 The school annexed to the seminary at Jena is an elementary 
school, comprising three classes, of ten pupils each. 


M. Rein, with his collaborators, occupied in giving a 
lesson on the prophets of Israel, and trying to render 
this history interesting, intuitive, and intelligible 
to children of seven to eight years of age. 1 Dr. 
Rein appears to us a wise teacher, very sensible and 
practical, and also very energetic. He has put to- 
gether eight volumes, corresponding to the eight 
years of the elementary school, in which all the 
material of teaching is expounded. He has ac- 
cepted with conviction, and applies successfully, 
the greater part of the methods and processes for 
exciting attention thought out by Herbart. Every 
well-conducted lesson must begin with a prepara- 
tion, just as every play begins with an explanation. 
The teacher first refreshes the memory of the pupil, 
recalling ideas familiar to him, so that they may 
meet the new ideas, and that something from within 
may come, as it were, to greet and welcome what is 
approaching from the outside. 

Herbart lives again in his disciples, not only 
because they receive from him the general inspira- 
tion for their pedagogy, but also seeing that they 
imitate him in a taste for formulae and systematic 
distinctions. Is it necessary, for example, to invent, 
as Dr. Rein has done, the term method wholej to 
explain to us that there are in every study distinct 

1 M. Chabot, op. cit. t p. 61. 


divisions which can be approached only in sequence ? 
Is it necessary that he should give us as many as 
four reasons to prove the necessity of indicating at 
the beginning of each lesson the subject about to 
be treated ? . . . But Herbart would not have dis- 
allowed these slow, heavy modes of thought, he who 
complained of the lightness of the French intellect, 
about which he said that "it does not permit labor- 
ing over and exhausting a question." 

It is possible to be Herbartian in education with- 
out adhering to the errors in Herbart's psychology. 
Such a disciple, for example, was Otto Frick (1832- 
1892), who undertook to introduce the ideas of Her- 
bart into secondary teaching, but who absolutely 
repudiates his empiricism. Frick directed at Halle 
the celebrated school founded by Francke in the eight- 
eenth century, which, originally intended to receive 
poor orphans, has now become an enormous insti- 
tution ; it comprises all grades of teaching, and has 
gathered together as many as four thousand children 
or young people. It was for the higher classes, 
especially, that Frick elaborated curricula courses 
and model lessons, all permeated with the spirit of 
Herbart. But he does not admit that the mind is an 
empty re'ceptacle, in which experience stores ideas. 
Frick, on the contrary, attributes to the soul a very 
rich, innate content. 


We can give only a glance to the history of Her- 
bartianism in Germany. Without speaking of the 
pure psychologists directly inspired by Herbart, Dro- 
bisch, Nahlowsky, Lazarus, Steinthal, and others, 1 
how many other noted Herbartians should we not 
have to mention amongst German philosophers who 
have engaged in educational matters ? The philoso- 
pher, Karl Lange, the apperception theorist and 
Director of the School at Plauen, is he not Her- 
bartian? He, too, has insisted on the strict de- 
pendence of education considered as end, on 
psychology as means. Lindner, whose Empirical 
Psychology (1858) translated into English has 
contributed to extend in the United States of 
America the ideas of the teacher of Konigsberg, 
is also Herbartian. There is Beneke, too (1798- 
1854), he who has opposed the tyranny of Kant's 
imperative, adopting the theory of Herbart 
concerning the derived character of pain and 
pleasure, and the intellectualism of emotional 
states. 2 

1 See the Contemporary German Psychology of M. Ribot. 

2 One ought also to mention Waitz (1821-1864) and his Gen- 
eral Pedagogy (1852). Amongst living men we should not omit 
M. de Sallwiirk, director of the seminary at Karlsruhe, who has 
published a fine edition of the pedagogical works of Herbart. 
He criticises Herbart willingly, but is, nevertheless, penetrated by 
him. See, for example, his last work : Home, World, and School, 
Wiesbaden, 1902. 


For the rest, it must be said that the ideas of 
Herbart have spread slowly, even in Germany. It 
was not until thirty years after his death, three- 
quarters of a century after the publication of his 
General Pedagogy, that public favor turned to him. 
It took time for him to be understood and appre- 
ciated. He was not one of those who, like Rousseau 
or Herbert Spencer, attract immediately the atten- 
tion of people by passionate eloquence or incom- 
parably clear, lucid exposition. A system so compli- 
cated, so wrapped in mystery and shadow as that 
of Herbart, could reach success only slowly. 
But once set on foot, the movement - made rapid 
and brilliant progress. To-day the Swiss and 
German schools in which humble teachers bend 
their talents to study and apply the pedagogical 
precepts of Herbart may be reckoned in thou- 
sands. In 1881, at a German congress on ele- 
mentary teaching, a director of a normal school 
was charged with a report on the following 
question: "Should pedagogy in normal schools be 
based on the system of Herbart?" The reply 
was emphatically in the affirmative. It was 
the same at a congress of directors of gymnasiums 
in 1883. On the agenda for the day had been 
put the following subject: "How far can the 
pedagogy of Herbart be applied in secondary 


teaching?" The conclusions were here also most 
favorable. 1 

People have sought to find the causes of this ex- 
traordinary success. It has been said that even 
the errors of Herbart have contributed to it, and 
that they were of a nature to win for him the favor 
of his countrymen, who enjoy abstruse and abstract 
conceptions. But it is not only in Germany that 
Herbart has met with admirers: in America, 
amongst a people whose intellectual character is, 
however, very different, he has found disciples as 
enthusiastic. There is little relationship, it would 
seem, between the laborious genius of Herbart and 
the intellect, clear, but at times rather superficial, 
of the Americans. Yet the fact is certain that, in 
the United States, Herbart is the fashionable peda- 
gogical authority. Dr. W. T. Harris went so far, ten 
years ago, as to say, " There are more adherents of 
Herbartian pedagogy to-day in America than in 
Germany itself." 2 This success, which spreads over 
two worlds, this growing popularity, cannot other- 
wise be explained except by real merit in the thinker 

1 There were, however, some discordant voices in this concert 
of approval, notably that of Dittes, who, in 1881, in his Pcedagogium, 
attacked Herbart, amongst other things, for the insufficiency of 
his statements regarding the relation of instruction to moral 

2 Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1894-1895, p. 322. 


who has won it. If Herbart has gained a hear- 
ing, it is by the incontestable might of his concep- 
tions. It is also because he has a system, a system 
rich in formulae : one knows the authority, the fasci- 
nation, exerted over men's minds by the despotism 
of a systematic doctrine. Human indolence gladly 
reposes on the soft bed of a ready-made doctrine, 
in which everything, even to the smallest details, 
has been foreseen. 

It is now fifteen years since the popularity of 
Herbart took birth in the United States, and his 
doctrines were acclimatized there, so that the Ger- 
man teacher became almost an idol for a certain 
number of his brethren in America. In the first 
rank we note M. de Garmo, director of a college in 
Pennsylvania, 1 who has translated several books on 
r Tlerbartian pedagogy: the Introduction of the Peda- 
gogy of Herbart, by Chr. Ufer, and Lindner's Em- 
pirical Psychology, and who has himself devoted 
to Herbart, in his list of Great Educators, a work 
full of research. 2 It is from Germany that M. de 
Garmo derived the spirit of Herbartianism with 

1 M. de Garmo is now Professor of Education in Cornell Univer- 
sity, Ithaca, N.Y. TRANS. 

2 Herbart and the Herbartians, 1895. M. de Garmo is the inde- 
fatigable popularizer of the theories of Herbart. He has pub- 
lished in the pedagogical reviews of the United States a large 
number of articles on the subject. 


which he had thoroughly steeped himself, when he 
was following the lectures of Stoy at Jena, or when 
he was the colleague of Frick at Halle, where he 
taught for two years. But before de Garmo, others 
had broken a pathway. 

In 1889, Miss M. K. Smith translated the Psychol- 
ogy of Herbart. In 1892, the same year when 
there was founded at the end of the annual Educa- 
tional Congress held at Saratoga by the National 
Educational Association, the Herbartian Club, with 
one hundred members, Dr. C. A. McMurry, Pro- 
fessor of Pedagogy in the University of Illinois, 
published the Elements of General Method, in 
which he set forth in a sympathetic way the 
views of Herbart, as interpreted by Ziller, Stoy, and 
Rein. No book could explain better than this of 
Dr. McMurry what has attracted Americans to the 
pedagogy of Herbart. What they desire, above all/ 
to derive from him, is the tendency to widen the field 
of studies, to form minds rich, well-furnished with 
substantial knowledge, rather than penetrating and 
refined minds; it is a well-considered intention to 
break with the old routine, with the formal culture 
which we used to require from a small number of 
studies, chiefly languages or mathematics; the cur- 
rent now sets toward studies which offer the most 
content, history and the natural sciences. Dr. 


McMurry opposes energetically what he calls the 
superstition, the fetichism, of "studies of pure form. 7 ' 
What has further won over the young and modern 
American spirit is the fact that Herbart was the 
philosopher of interest, of attractiveness, and that 
he opposed asceticism in education. It is not at 
New York or at Chicago that people resign them- 
selves easily to believe that the earth is only ai 
"valley of tears," and that instruction is so 
much the more profitable as it is disagreeable and 

We could multiply examples. Is not Colonel 
Parker, the Director of the Normal School of Cook 
County, a man very noted in America, also in- 
spired by Herbart, notably, in his plan of "con- 
centration" of studies? 1 The term is the same, and 
the method analogous. And can we not also con- 
sider as enrolled under the Herbartian flag, W. James, 
the most celebrated of the psychologists of the 
United States? In his recent book, Talks on Psy- 

1 Colonel Parker died in 1902. He was then Director of the 
School of Education in Chicago University. It seems only fair 
to his memory to state that he expressly repudiated the idea that 
he was a follower of Herbart; in general educational theory he 
was nearer to Froebel. His plan of concentration differed widely 
from that of Ziller and Rein, there being no single centre of studies, 
the centre he adopted with insistence and persistence being the 
child. See Pedagogies, by Francis Parker, in the International 
Education Series. TRANS. 


chology, 1 we find the name of Herbart often cited, 
and some of his favorite theories reproduced: that 
there is no general training of a hypothetical faculty 
ofmemory, thatthere can be only special cultiva- 
tion of particulargroups of associated meqiorigs^that 
th^value oHnat.riip.tion lies in correlation, in a con- 
of views to old knowledp;e T and 

lastly, that interest in the law of instruction^under 
this condition, however, that a seeking after"attrac- 
tiveness does not render education too pleasant and 
too^_soft 1 and that, without suppressing effort, it 
aims only at rendering it possible ancfeasy. 

Germany and the Urnted~~States~ are the twa 
centres from which Herbartian influence radiates. 
But little by little it is penetrating into all the coun- 
tries of the world as far as Japan. In England the 
translations of Mr. and Mrs. Felkin have won many 
disciples; this is proved by different publications: 
the humorous volume of Professor John Adams, 
The Psychology of Herbart applied to Education; 2 
the recent little book of Professor Darroch, Herbart 
and his theory of Education? despite its critical tone ; 

1 Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on some of 
Life's Ideals, by William James, New York, 1899. 

2 The Herbartian Psychology applied to Education, by John 
Adams, London, and Boston, U.S.A., 1898. 

3 Herbart and the Herbartian Theory of Education, by Alexander 
Darroch, London, 1903. 


and as is shown by such testimony as that of Mr. 
Oscar Browning, "Herbart is a psychologist of first 
rank, one might say the founder of modern psy- 
chology." l The translations of Mr. Felkin have 
largely contributed to this diffusion of Herbartian 
doctrine in the Anglo-Saxon world, everywhere where x 
the English tongue is spread ; thus it happens th#t 
in Australia, the Calendar, the Annual of the "Uni- 
versity of Adelaide, for 1903, announces a special 
study in the pedagogy of Herbart among the courses 
of mental science, and that "the students will read 
the Science of Education in the volume by Felkin." 

In Italy as well, the works of Herbart have not 
failed to attract attention. From 1886 Professor 
Fornelli, of the University of Bologna, was publish- 
ing La Pedagogia secondo Herbart e la sua scuola; and 
in 1900 appeared La Pedagogia di G. F. Herbart, in 
which Mr. Luigi Credaro, Professor at the University 
of Pavia, comments sympathetically on the theories 
of the Universal Pedagogy. 

We must admit, then, that in France the great 
German educator has been too long neglected. Very 
few French philosophers are acquainted with him, 
although it might be possible to prove that some- 
thing from his doctrine has crept into the writings 
of M. Fouille*e or of M. Paulhan, and those who 

1 Preface to the translation by Mr. Felkin, p. 11. 


know him have not always given him fair play; for 
proof of this, the too severe conclusion to the articles 
by M. Dereux already mentioned, or M. Auerbach in 
the Dictionary of Pedagogy, edited by M. Buisson. 
Herbart has found a better welcome from M. Pin- 
loche, to whom we owe a translation, unhappily 
fragmentary and incomplete, of the General Peda- 
gogy, and of the Sketch; and above all, from M. 
Mauxion, who, after having studied the metaphysics 
of our author in his doctor 's thesis, 1 published in 
1901 under the title, Education by Instruction and the 
Pedagogical Theories of Herbart, a substantial and 
solid work, to which more than once, in the course 
of our own studies, we have had recourse for light 
and information. 2 

What will become of this almost universal move- 
ment, which has carried Herbart's name to all 
quarters of the globe? We are convinced it will 
last and proceed still farther, that a day will arrive 
when there will be found in other lands besides 

1 The Metaphysics of Herbart, and the Critique of Kant, Paris, 

2 To complete the list, let us mention also the volume entitled, 
Theory of Education according to the Principles of Herbart, Paris, 
Delagrave, 1884. The author, M. E. Roerich, has at least the 
merit of having been the first in France to call attention to the 
pedagogical writings of Herbart. A very kind welcome and sum- 
mary was accorded this little work in the Critique Philosophique, 
1886, t. I, p. 304. 


Switzerland and Germany, even in the village 
schools, hard-working teachers who have recourse to 
Herbart for safe guidance, or at least for sugges- 
tive inspiration, fitted to sustain them in practical 

People will then certainly not concern themselves 
with his mathematical dreams. They will no longer 
talk about the strange comparisons which the author 
of Letters to Professor Griepenkel was enjoying, when 
he said, "The essential element in childish curiosity 
consists in forming the 'vault/ or the 'point' of his 
ideas;" or again, "In order to succeed, instruction 
should arouse in the mind of the pupil ideas which, 
one by one, round themselves out to a 'vault/ or 
sharpen themselves into a 'point/" He indulged 
himself with the greatest delight in these geometrical 
analogies ; evidently they have no value, but to him 
they appeared "like a treasure, inexhaustible in 
their results." They are mere empty redundancies, 
happily not an integral part of the body of the sys- 
tem, dross which can be easily separated from the 
fundamental conceptions of Herbart, which are thus 
rendered more clear and luminous. 

Also, and the best of his disciples have set us 
the example, we shall gladly cast aside his chief 

;5rror concerning the nature of the soul, which de- 
Drives it of all self-activity, of all innate or inherited 


power. It is not necessary to have recourse to pro- 
fessed philosophers to refute a theory universally 
condemned, which common sense rejects as con- 
trary to evidence. It seems as if it was to Herbart 
that Proudhon was replying when he wrote in his 
too much neglected book, Justice in the Revolution 
and in the Church: " Just as an external communica- 
tion could not by itself create intelligence and cause 
winged ideas to dart forth in myriads without the 
intellectual preformation which makes concepts pos- 
sible, so also the events of social life would have 
vainly sought to unfold themselves ; without a cer- 
tain preformation of the heart, that secret command 
laid by man on himself, which is the origin of justice, 
could not have come to pass." 

How many other criticisms would one not be 
obliged to make regarding even the pedagogy of 
Herbart in his endeavors after system ? He would 
establish unity of mental life on the unity of science, 
the former being, according to him, only a reflection 
of the order and interrelationship of the knowledges. 
It is relatively easy to establish this interrelation- 
ship within the framework of a simple science, and 
we must honor Herbart for having insistently de- 
manded this. But how can we follow him to the 
end, when he nourishes the beautiful illusion of 
making one system of all the sciences, the sciences of 


man and of nature ? How coordinate, for example, 
the study of historic facts with that of mathematical 
reasoning, or again, the teaching of grammar with 
that of geography ? A vain dream of unity, an illu- 
sory hope of concentration and uniformity, led both 
Herbart and his followers astray. When it was 
evident that each science has its methods and its 
own laws, and that, in consequence, those who teach 
it ought to take into account its special character, 
they believed it possible by spurious connections and 
superficial welding together to mix and melt to- 
gether all the subjects taught, and throw into the 
same mould all methods of instruction. Unity, 
desirable in so far as it is possible, is a dream when 
made absolute. The Herbartians have taken the 
paradox of Jacotot, "All is within all," too seri- 
ously. And supposing that it can be realized, there 
is yet to prove that the cohesion, when it has been 
established amongst the mass of knowledges, can in 
some way be transmitted from the object to the sub- 
ject, and there bring about mental unity, without 
the help of general consciousness and native reason- 
ing power. 

But these criticisms, and others besides, it would 
be easy to lengthen the list, cannot cause us to 
forget the many other grounds on which Herbart 
deserves to occupy a place in the first rank of educa- 


tors. His work stands, in our opinion, as one of the 
most powerful efforts ever put forth to make "all j 
beings with a human face " men worthy of the name, \ 
and to introduce into the art of education the spirit / 
of philosophy and of science. 

^He had faith in education, and this well-con- 
sidered and philosophic faith was an active faith, 
which he testified and proclaimed by fifty years of 
reflection. No, not in vain did he devote a long life 
to the study of pedagogical problems, bringing to it 
not only the resources of a free and profound in- 
tellect, but all the warmth also of his heart. He 
was before all else skilled in reasoning, but the 
abstractions with which his volumes are replete are 
based on observation and experience. Reflective 
and scrupulous to excess, in both his writings and 
his actions, he took up his pen only when he 
believed he had reached the truth. And just as 
under the stiff formulae in which he enclosed his 
thoughts there moves a spirit that is very supple 
and resourceful, so under an appearance of cold- 
ness there is hidden a generous soul, which at times 
reveals itself./ He has his moments of sentimentality. 
Might we not think we are listening to one of the 
reveries of Rousseau on Emile and Sophie in such a 
passage as this? "The greatest of all festivals for 
the educator is the marriage of his pupil ; the mar- 


riage-bed is the end and the glory of every educa- 
tor. . . ." lEducation, in the opinion of Herbart, is 
not a trade like other trades; it is a sacred mission./ 
All who engage in the education of their kind, if ever 
so little fitted for their task, believe themselves below 
its claims ; and when they think of the difficulties of 
the work which they undertake, of the responsibili- 
ties which they incur, they experience, as it were, a 
shudder of emotion. Herbart had known this shud- 
der. He placed all his hopes of a better humanity in 
education; and that is why he expressed the wish 
that in each society, in the most secluded village, 
just as there is a doctor for the health of the body, 
there should be also an accredited teacher for the 
health of the soul. He should pay visits to the 
families and give them advice, and act as consulting 
educator, watching over the intellectual and moral 
progress of the young generation^ 

Herbart had faith in instruction, and on this point 
also he was before his time. Certainly it may be 
objected that education by instruction is but a 
dream, so long as instruction cannot be pushed far 
enough and produce all the fruit expected from it 
for the common people ; and it is for this reason that 
he himself used to say, "The destiny of the world 
depends on a small number of people." But why 
not count on a better future, when, in a school of 


universal science, virtuous characters will be formed 
in all men ? Herbart was right, as compared with 
Locke, who declared that, " Instruction is but the 
least part of education" ; this, doubtless, was because 
he did not comprehend instruction in the large 
meaning of Herbart. He is right when compared 
with Herbert Spencer, who, indeed, also made the 
great mistake of denying the educative power of in- 
struction. He will be proved more and more right 
in the future, because progress henceforth is bound 
up with an increasing spread of instruction, and with 
the development of science. 

Herbart had, before all else, a mind clear and free. 
He considered that "the clear comprehension of 
things" is the principle of all education. If he 
rejects the "categorical imperative" of Kant, it is 
because he sees in it a survival of the old dogmas 
which claimed to intimate commandments to men 
without giving reasons. Morality, in his opinion, 
should no longer be a "barricade " : it is a reasonable 
call to complete living, to an expansion, full, free, and 
unrestrained, of human nature, under the guidance 
of interest and charm. We must not believe that 
Herbart, in favor of this guidance, suppresses effort 
in life. If he asks less of the child and pupil, he 
imposes more on parents and masters. Let us con- 
fess that, if until now current pedagogy has demanded 


a great concentration of effort on the part of those 
who study, that might well be partly to decrease to 
the same degree the burden and ease the pains of 
those who teach. What is in any case certain is 
this, that the scrupulous application of the methods 
of Herbart, with the obligation of carefully prepar- 
ing each lesson, of adapting the instruction to the 
actual state of the mind of the person who receives 
it, of seeking and maintaining interest everywhere, 
this demands on the part of the teachers at the 
same time more talent, more knowledge, and more 

Herbart's own psychology forbade him to be an 
adherent of the doctrine of evolution, since, accord- 
ing to him, the soul enters into the world naked. 
His theories, then, seem little favorable to the 
notion of a progress natural and, so to say, pre- 
destined, produced in the race by the accumulation 
in each generation of successive acquisitions, and 
transmitted in a natural way from one generation 
to another. But, in return, and just because they 
eliminate from humanity thp notion nf hereditary 
development, the philosophical conceptions of Her- 
bart favor and render necessary tfre personal prog 5 - 
ress ol tne individual. Man is horn without in- 
tellectual patrimony, without moral capital. His 
business is not to cultivate quietly the garden of his 


father; he has everything to acquire. He will be 
whatever the continuous toil of his life makes of 
him. And is it not thus that the modern spirit tends 
to represent the ascending course of progress ? no 
free grace from above, not even help from nature, 
although on this point Herbart was too exclusive, 
in a great measure, if not entirely, it is the individual 
building himself, by his own efforts, with the help of 

In working for individuals, Herbart worked for 
humanity. "Germans," he said, "have no father- 
land;" things have changed since then, and Germans 
have regained their prestige. He considered him- 
self not a man of one nation or one race only. He 
constructed philosophic theories for all men, for men 
of the future, for citizens of a society to appear which 
would unite all human beings in peace and love. 
The five moral ideas which he defined, rules of in- 
dividual conduct, would, in his opinion, give birth 
by deduction to the same number of social ideas, 
which would rule over nations and over the world. 
Thus he foreshadowed how, by the end of a gradually 
expanding flood of instruction, a golden age would 
be established and spread its power step by step ; an 
age in which conflicts should diminish, benevolence 
govern men's actions, right and justice be uni- 
versally respected, man attain to perfection; thus, 


finally, the mass of mankind should share in the 
same ideas and the same sentiments, and the whole 
of humanity form but one society, a society which, 
to use his noble expression, "should have one soul." 


THE pedagogical works of Herbart have often been pub- 
lished in Germany, either complete or in part. We cite only 
the most important editions : 

Schriften zur Pcedagogik, Vols. X and XI of the uniform 
edition of Hartenstein, which comprises 13 vols., Leipzig, 
1850-1852 ; the 13 volumes appeared in Hamburg in 1883. 

Pcedagogische Schriften, with a biography of Herbart by 
F. BARTHOLOMAI, 2 vols., 1877. 

Still another edition was published at Leipzig, in 1878, by 
Karl Richter. 

STOY, Encyclopaedic der Pcedagogik, 2d edition, Leipzig, 1878. 

ZILLER, Einleitung in die allgemeine Pcedagogik, Leipzig, 1856. 
Grundlegung zur Lehre vom erziehenden Unterricht, 1865. 

REIN, Pcedagogischen Studien, 2 vols., Vienne. 

STRUMPELL, Das System der Pcedagogik Herbarts, Leipzig, 

English and French Works : 

DE GARMO, Herbart and the Herbartians, London, Heinemann, 
and New York, Scribner, 1895. 

McMuRRY, The Elements of General Method based on the 
Principles of Herbart, Bloomington, 1892. 

LANG, Outlines of Herbart's Pedagogy, Kellogg, New York, 

VAN LIEW, Life of Herbart and Development of his Pedagogical 
Doctrines, London, 1893. 

JOHN ADAMS, The Herbartian Psychology applied to Educa- 
tion, 1 vol., London, 1898. 



HENRY and EMMIE FELKIN, The Science of Education, its 
General Principles deduced from its aim and the (Esthetic revelation 
of the world, London, 2d edition, 1897. Letters and Lectures on 
Education, London, 1901. 

A. DARROCH, Herbart and the Herbartian Theory of Education: 
a Criticism, London, 1903. 

French Works : 

EDOUARD ROSHRICH, Theorie de Veducation d'apres les prin- 
cipes de Herbart, 1 vol., Paris, Delagrave, 1884. 

A. PINLOCHE, Traduction des principals ceuvres pedagogiques 
de Herbart, 1 vol., Lille, 1894. 

M. MAUXION, L'fiducation par ^instruction et les theories 
pedagogiques de Herbart, 1 vol., Paris, Alcan, 1901. 

DEREUX, Articles de la Critique philosophique, sur le principe 
de la morale d'apres Herbart, 1888 et 1889 ; articles de la Revue 
pedagogique, 1890-1891. 

Swiss works : 

F. GUEX, Le P. Girard eleve de Herbart, a booklet, Lausanne. 
1892. Herbart et son ecole t by same author, in Vfiducateur, 
Lausanne, 1903. 

Italian Works : 

FORNELLI, La Pedagogia secondo Herbart e la sua scuola, a 
booklet, Rome, 1886. By same author, II Fondamento morale 
de la pedagogia, secondo Herbart e la sua scuola, Rome, 1887. 

LUIGI CREDARO, La Pedagogia di G. F. Herbart, Rome, 1900. 


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