Hamann, Johann Georg

Hamann, Johann Georg

(yō`hän gā`ôrk hä`mən), 1730–88, German Protestant theologian, b. Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Although opposed to the rationalism of Kant and the German Enlightenment of Herder and Lessing, he was highly esteemed by the leading thinkers of his day. He was an advocate of religious immediacy, stressing the rights of the individual personality and the importance of inner religious experience. For Hamann, faith was the faculty of perceiving God's acts in history and His works in nature. Because of the aphoristic and occasional nature of his writings, he was called "The Magus of the North." His works, chief of which are Sokratische Denkwürdigkeiten (1759), Aesthetica in nuce (1761), and Golgatha und Scheblimini (1784), greatly influenced Søren Kierkegaard.


See studies by R. G. Smith (1960), J. C. O'Flaherty (1952, repr. 1966), and W. M. Alexander (1966).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Hamann, Johann Georg (2007), Writings on Philosophy and Language.