Johann Georg Hamann

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Hamann, Johann Georg

 

Born Aug. 27, 1730, in Königsberg; died June 21, 1788, in Münster. German philosopher, critic, and writer.

Hamann studied philosophy, theology, and philology in Konigsberg. His Sibylline Letters (published, 1819) are written in the form of oracular pronouncements. He was called the “Magus of the North” for his obscure style and his aphorisms, reminiscent of prophesies. His autobiography, Thoughts on the Course of My Life (1758), contains mystic meditations on the meaning of the Bible and especially the book of Ecclesiastes. Unlike proponents of the Enlightenment, Hamann regarded artistic creation as an unconscious process.

In philosophy Hamann was an adherent of the theory of immediate knowledge. Criticizing the rationalism of the Enlightenment, especially the philosophy of Kant (Metacritique of the Purism of Reason, 1784; published, 1800), Hamann developed a mystically colored intuitive dialectic. Rejecting the rationalistic method of thinking, Hamann revived the notion of the coincidence of opposites as the general law of being. He stressed the role of emotion and form in poetry, which he considered to be the original language of the human race, predating prose. His works on language, poetry, and aesthetics contain polemics against the language theory of J. G. Herder. Hamann influenced the German literary trend of Sturm und Drang and the philosophical and aesthetic ideas of German romanticism.

WORKS

Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1-6. A historical and critical edition by J. Nadler. Vienna, 1949-57.
Hauptschriften [vols. 2, 5, 7]. Edited by F. Blanke and L. Schreiner. Gütersloh, 1956-62.

REFERENCES

Kozhevnikov, V. A. Filosofiia chuvstva i very v ee otnosheniakh k literature i ratsionalizmu 18 v. i k kriticheskoi filosofii, part 1. Moscow, 1897.
Asmus, V. F. Problema intuitsii v filosofii i matematike, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
Unger, R. Hamann und die Aufklärung, 2nd ed., vols. 1-2. Halle, 1925.
Metzke, E. J. G. Hamanns Stellung in der Philosophic des 18. Jahrhunderts. Halle, 1934.

N. P. BANNIKOVA, R. M. BASKINA, and G. M. FRIDLENDER