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Johann Georg Hamann

Johann Georg Hamann

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Johann Georg Hamann was a noted German philosopher, a main proponent of the Sturm und Drang
Sturm und Drang
Sturm und Drang is a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s through the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism...

movement, and associated by historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin
Sir Isaiah Berlin OM, FBA was a British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas of Russian-Jewish origin, regarded as one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century and a dominant liberal scholar of his generation...

 with the Counter-Enlightenment
Counter-Enlightenment
"Counter-Enlightenment" is a term used to refer to a movement that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th century Enlightenment...

.

Biography


He was destined for the pulpit, but became a clerk in a mercantile house, and afterward held many small public offices, devoting his leisure to study. He wrote under the nom de plume of “the Magus of the North” .

Philosophical arguments


His distrust of reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 and the Enlightenment (“I look upon logical proofs the way a well-bred girl looks upon a love letter” was one of his many witticisms) led him to conclude that faith in God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 was the only solution
Solution
In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...

 to the vexing problems of philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

.

Influences on Hamann


Hamann was a Pietist Lutheran, and a friend (while being an intellectual opponent) of the philosopher Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

. He was greatly influenced by David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

. This is most evident in Hamann's conviction that faith and belief, rather than knowledge, determine human actions. Also, Hamann asserted that the efficacy of a concept arises from the habits it reflects rather than any inherent quality it possesses. Hamann famously used the image of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, who often proclaimed to know nothing, in his Socratic Memorabilia, an essay in which Hamann critiques the Enlightenment's dependence on reason.

Hamann's influence


Hamann was one of the precipitating forces for the counter-enlightenment
Counter-Enlightenment
"Counter-Enlightenment" is a term used to refer to a movement that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th century Enlightenment...

. He was, moreover, a mentor to Herder
Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the periods of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, and Weimar Classicism.-Biography:...

 and an admired influence on Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was an influential German philosopher, literary figure, socialite and the younger brother of poet Johann Georg Jacobi...

, Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

, Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

 and Mendelssohn
Moses Mendelssohn
Moses Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the renaissance of European Jews, Haskalah is indebted...

. Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss theologian and priest who was nominated to be a cardinal of the Catholic Church...

 devoted a chapter to Hamann in his volume, Studies in Theological Styles: Lay Styles (Volume III in the English language translation of The Glory of the Lord series).

The character of Hamann's writing


Hamann's writings consist of small essays. They display two striking tendencies. The first is their brevity, in comparison with works by his contemporaries. The second is their breadth of allusion and delight in extended analogies. For example, his work Golgatha and Scheblimini! By a Preacher in the Wilderness (1784) was directed against Moses Mendelssohn
Moses Mendelssohn
Moses Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the renaissance of European Jews, Haskalah is indebted...

's Jerusalem, or on Religious Might and Judaism (1782). His work was also significantly reactive and reparative: rather than advance a “position” of his own, his principal mode of thinking was to respond to others' work.

Music


Hamann was a lutenist, having studied this instrument with Timofey Belogradsky (a student of Sylvius Leopold Weiss
Sylvius Leopold Weiss
Silvius Leopold Weiss was a German composer and lutenist.Born in Grottkau near Breslau, the son of Johann Jacob Weiss, also a lutenist, he served at courts in Breslau, Rome, and Dresden, where he died...

), a Ukrainian virtuoso then living in Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

.

Editions


Fragments of his writings were published by Cramer, under the title of Sibyllinische Blätter des Magus aus Norden (1819), and a complete edition by Roth (7 vols., 1821-25, with a volume of additions and explanations by Wiener, 1843). Hamann's des Magus in Norden Leben und Schriften, edited by Gildemeister, was published in 5 vols., 1857-68, and a new edition of his Schriften und Briefen, edited by Petri, in 4 vols., 1872-74.

Further reading


  • W.M. Alexander, Johann Georg Hamann: Philosophy and Faith; (The Hague) 1966
  • Frederick Beiser, The fate of reason: German philosophy from Kant to Fichte; (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press) 1987 ISBN 0674295021
  • Betz, John, After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J.G. Hamann (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell) 2009, ISBN 9781405162463
  • Robert Alan Sparling, Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project; (Toronto: University of Toronto Press) 2011, ISBN 9781442642157


External links